We live in a one-size-fits-all system of educating our children. It's similar to a manufacturing plant where we place our children on the conveyer belt of school, move them along from grade to grade while the teachers shape them at each turn, remove or ignore the kids that aren't the right shape, and then finally spitting them out at the end, hoping that they find success. And if they don't -- oh well, it was probably the parents' fault, anyway, right? The lucky few arrive in fair condition to meet the expectations of the world around them. However, most arrive wide-eyed and scared, unable to find their footing or figure out who they are. They are not prepared for a world that requires them to think creatively, question the status quo, or feel much of anything at all, since FEELINGS are not part of what is measured inside the manufacturing plant. Even worse, some children are so traumatized by their conveyer experience that they lost hope and gave up somewhere within the machine. These kids were left behind and forgotten about inside the system. Tossed aside like an M&M that came out square and not round. And nobody seemed to care. Nobody.
So, what went wrong? Where is the problem? Here is where one, very small, four letter word comes in. LOVE. And by love I mean compassion, connection, meeting the student where he is, understanding the social and emotional lives of our children, caring about their inner world, their external world and their relationships. Our current education system is lacking all of that. Nobody seems to care about the emotional state of our children. Why? Why is that? We all have emotions and a vast inner life. Don't we? Did I miss a meeting or something? And, at the end of the day, as an adult, do you measure your own success only by how much knowledge you've acquired and how much money you have in the bank? If I had to bet I would say you would include your happiness and your emotional state as part of the answer. Am I right?
I once read a book by the late Leo Buscaglia, called Living, Loving, Learning. It was written in the 1970s and still resonates with me today. In it, Mr. Buscaglia states, "Maybe the essence of education is not to stuff you with facts, but to help you to discover your uniqueness, to teach you how to develop it and then to teach you how to give it away." He went on to say, "Imagine what this world would be like if everyone had the opportunity to be encouraged to be a unique human being. Unfortunately, the essence of our educational system is to make everybody like everyone else." He then quoted Leonard Silberman when he wrote, "Affect is what is lacking. Schools are joyless and mindless places that are strangling children and destroying creativity and joy."
I don't understand why we consistently measure the success of a student by their ability to spew out facts, dates, regurgitate the teacher's knowledge and score high on standardized test scores. Why do we measure success by final exam grades, AP scores, and college acceptances? If our purpose is to send out emotionless drones who can regurgitate acquired knowledge then I want no place at that table. I'm not eating that!
What our kids are missing is a sense of acceptance, tolerance, compassion and connection in their schools. They lack love in the classroom. In most cases, the world's most outstanding examples of excellence--be it academically, artistically, or through the far-reaching (but harder to define) qualities of compassion, humanity, vision, and caring--are often found in students whose individual gifts and talents were nurtured individually, compassionately, and on a case by case basis. Not happening in our current manufacturing plants known as public schools. But love in the classroom is happening in some, private smaller schools. And to them I say thank you for embracing the lovin'!
What I want to do is completely shatter the manufacturing plant and start over.
It's an outdated, useless system -- killing the creativity, curiosity and joy of our children. I want to start with a foundation of LOVE and build a new system from there. And, like Leo, imagine a world where everyone had the opportunity to be encouraged to be a unique human being. Just imagine that.
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