Saturday, July 01, 2006

One father

One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.
- English Proverb

This proverb was obviously cast by someone who had a father who was a mentor, a guide to life skills and a friend. Someone who had a kind heart and a loving hand.

Not so many children have such fathers today because the fathers don't have enough time to devote to their children and because they don't have the fathering skills to pass along themselves. "Love," to many fathers, is parcelled out in "quality time."

Children do not understand the concept of quality time. They understand "time," counted in minutes. They also understand when their fathers are teaching them something of value and when they are merely filling in the time with various forms of purchased entertainment.

What should we expect of a schoolmaster? The general guideline is that the teacher will escort the child through his or her intellectual development. Lipservice is sometimes given to the child's physical development, but as few teachers are trained to have any understanding of physical development of children and the skills they need to develop, not much should be expected.

That leaves the social and emotional (psychological) development of the child. Many parents cry that it's the job of parents, not schools, to guide the social and emotional development of their children. Right. So why do we have so many young adults with underdeveloped or maldeveloped social and emotional skills?

The simple reality is that most parents have no idea, when they have their first child, what that child will need to develop in a healthy and progressive manner. Some still don't have these skills when they become grandparents. They can't pass along what they don't know.

Many people are quick on the draw to condemn parents of teenagers who have "gone wrong" for their poor upbringing. Some say the kids must be "bad seeds" because the parents provided all the comforts and love that anyone could expect of a parent.

There is no doubt that children need love. They also need life skills, more than are taught to most children. Since young adults seldom have sources available for such skills, they can't teach their children what they don't know themselves.

What we do have are expert psychologists, therapists and psychiatrists who can help damaged people put themselves back together. A small number are even in prisons, which are notoriously filled with socially underdeveloped and maldeveloped inmates.

Someone needs to put two and two together or we will never reach four. We exercise our expertise in fixing broken people instead of preventing them from breaking in the first place.

Social and emotional skills need to be taught to children. Ideally they should be taught to growing children so that they have enough to use themselves and to teach to their own kids when they are young.

We don't need to wait until our society is in total disarray before trying to rebuild it. We can fix our problems by teaching the teachers, who will then teach the children who will one day be parents themselves. Or, the teachers can teach new parents, who will in turn teach their children.

Nothing improves by pointing fingers, building prisons and training more psychologists. Our moeny would be much better invested by putting the expertise into classrooms where young adults are learning to be teachers.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to provide the plan we can use to make the necessary changes.
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