What is a good education?
What do you need to know to live a fulling life?
· Knowing yourself (talents, weaknesses, personal philosophy and goals)
· Knowing how to find out about something you are curious about (using technology, books, and people to get the information you want)
· Knowing how to cope with stress
· Knowing how to take care of your body and how to be safe
· Understanding relationships and the chemistry of attraction*
· Knowing how to ask for what you want. (Having excellent communication skills and the confidence to use them)
· Having life skills like cooking, cleaning, budgeting, driving, reading a bus schedule, using a computer.
· Knowing that the world is an amazing place filled with amazing people who do all kinds of things and that you can do any of those things if you really want to.
How do you achieve this education? One way is to actually be with your kids and have time to have conversations with them; lots and lots of conversations. Educating your kids requires that you be there reading to them, taking them places, introducing them to different people, talking to them about physical and emotional health but more importantly modeling it for them. Modeling behaviors you want to see in your child is VERY effective. Model for them a person who loves learning by reading and being excited when you learn something new. Talk to your kids about what you are curious about and what you are investigating. Expose your kids to the world though books, travel and the internet. Show your kids all different kinds of things (art, music, theater, technology, sports, animals, gardens, buildings, machines, war, homelessness, world religions, world cultures). Let them direct their own learning content by noticing what fascinates them. Pay attention to what interests them and bring them more of it. But most importantly, let them play. The time the spend playing is maybe the most important “educational” time they will have everyday so protect it and encourage it.
As they get older, locate mentors for your children in the fields they are interested in. Internships and volunteers jobs become very important, because it allows children to actually work in the area they are interested in. It’s much easier to make good decisions about a career if you have actually done some of the work. If kids have this kind of education then they will be able to discover their own passions and they will be able to learn whatever they want. If they want to go to college they will.
All of this can happen very naturally at home with an engaged parent but what if a lot of this has to happen at school? What if both parents work full time jobs and only have a few quality hours a week with their kids? What would a school look like if its soul purpose was to nurture and grow young adults who had a broad exposure to the world and had focused their learning on their unique talents and passions. What if these same directed young people also had life survival skills like stress management, communication skills, and knew how to live on their own. It seems their potential would be nearly limitless and they would enter college or the work force truly ready and fully engaged.
I envision a school where young people are educated from a place of respect and good expectations. I hope for a place where the main goal is to help kids discover themselves and the world.
This kind of school would require more focus on the individual but much of it could be done in a classroom. First you teach young kids all about the world (books, field trips, hands on projects, PLAY, internet). When they discover something that lights their fire, let them immerse themselves in that topic for as long as they want. Your job is just to be a facilitator by finding them resources (books, documentaries, movies, field trips, project supplies) to investigate their passions. Some children may choose to work/learn in small groups while others will prefer to work alone.
Then as they get a bit older you teach them about themselves (health, relationships, communication, Meyer-Briggs, survival skills), while continuing to let them explore their interests. Finally, as they start to mature, help them puzzle out where they fit into the world by helping them find internships, mentors, volunteering opportunities, or through personal projects.
I think this education would "produce" young adults who have direction, confidence and outstanding talent. Our kids have so much potential. It's our job to help them bring it to fruition through an education based on dignity and a celebration of the individual.
I spoke at my son’s high school graduation last year and I think what I said at the end of the speech, sums up, very well, what I think a good education is. Here is what I said:”… I’m not going to tell him to go out into the world and become successful because I believe he already is. He already knows how to be a good neighbor, an involved community member and a lifelong learner. These things, in my opinion, are the hallmarks of a good education.”
*Turns out even if you know about the biology of attraction, your brain still turns to mush when you are in love. But perhaps having that knowledge will help you forgive yourself later. :)