Saturday, February 03, 2007

We Need To Teach

"Everybody has talent, it's just a matter of moving around until you've discovered what it is."
- George Lucas, movie producer and animation innovator

Doesn't that make sense? Lucas, an inventor and producer of dreams in reality, learned that as an adult. In general, that is not a lesson that children are taught.

Innovation--just being different--is a risky business. Society mediates against those who are different. They don't have ladders to climb. They must create their own mountains, then scale the precipices themselves. When they reach the top, they need to market themselves so that others will know what they have accomplished.

Our society is designed to produce followers. Which suits business fine because they treasure employees who will follow the role model they have described. In a society whose work habits, clothing styles, cosmetic usage, hair styles and even morals and ethics are dictated by business, the economy revolves around followers.

Young people who move around to discover their strengths receive little support or encouragement in a broad sense. Business does not like movers, unless they are winners from another company that choose to move to their own business. Moving out is not encouraged, nor is moving up (again in a general sense).

Our education systems prescribe a set curriculum and schools test to ensure that students have attained comptence in the skills and memory of the knowledge to be tested. The objective, we are told, is to ensure that each child receives the same minimum level of skills and knowledge within the public school system.

This objective is worthy to an extent. Yet we still have many young people leaving school without knowing how to read or write at a functionally acceptable level. And we have persistant discipline problems and troublemakers in school who become owners of business empires or great artists by middle age.

In a time when moving around to find your strengths is difficult in most communities and the base of general knowledge grows much faster than it can possibly be taught in schools, we need different ways of doing things.

First we need to teach life skills so that students know how to cope with rapidly changing work and even personal environments. We need to teach children where and how to find the knowledge they require, rather than simply acquiring a little of it for particular classroom projects.

We need to teach social skills to every child so that the "equality of opportunity" to which we pay homage can become a reality where each adult knows how the systems of life work. Opportunities in life mean more than laws and competence with curriculum.

We need to teach emotional (psychological) skills so that each person understands the needs that we all have and knows how to manage their own. They will also know how to recognize problems in others and take steps to intervene to help where advisable.

We need to learn how to help each other and that asking for help is perfectly acceptable. We need to learn that it's in our community's best interests for everyone to be socially and emotionally stable so that we have no hesitation about helping others because we know that the whole community will benefit. And that helping others in need is socially correct.

We need to put into place values where everyone understands that they do not have to be self-sustaining islands of independence, but instead should be part of the community in which they live. A community improves where everyone contributes to it and this will not happen so long as everyone believes that they must look out for their own best interests because no one else will.
We need to learn trust and honesty before we buy our way into chaos and perpetual war. Trust and honesty will be learned if and when they are taught as values and norms of society.

If most people cannot move around freely to discover their strengths, as George Lucas did, then we must provide similar opportunities within school and home environments. This can happen, but only if we teach the necessary skills and knowledge to everyone.

Right now we have the skills and knowledge, but it's wrapped up in psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists who make their living by trying to patch up people who are emotionally and socially broken. The skills and knowledge are in the wrong hands. They need to be in the hands of teachers who can convey them to every child.

Let's stop forever trying to fix broken people. Let's give them what they need to prevent them from breaking in the first place.

The place to begin is within the education systems. Then it will move into homes.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine a light forward in an increasingly dark tunnel that is our future.
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