I remember my first-grade teacher asked all her students what they wanted to be when they “grew up.” Some would say, “I want to be a firefighter!” Another would say, “I want to be a doctor!” And then the teacher would ask, “Why do you want to become a firefighter, Max?”
“Because I want to help people to get away from the fire and then put the fire out!” Max replied.
A few things to note about his answer: He did not mention money. He did not mention status. All that he mentioned was that he wanted to help others or contribute to society. I feel that most kids are exactly like Max, for they want to be productive in our society and to improve or better things. For some reason, we tend to forget the dreams we had as children and that deep down most people genuinely, unconditionally care about one another—they have just forgotten.
But after first grade, we teach them about money, status, rich, poor. We teach them what is ugly, what is pretty. We teach them our own sickness because that is all we know. I feel the best thing anyone can teach another is to question things, think for themselves, and to become their own leader, because—like it or not—we are all leading/managing ourselves and our families.
Our education today is focused on teaching for tests. Why? If the students do well on these tests, the schools gets the funding they need. Some have described this type of education as “cookie cutter teaching.” I believe every child is a genius in his or her own right; the question is: What are they a genius at? Instead of cramming this crap we call an education down their throats, maybe—just maybe—we could put them through tests that actually do something for them, like aptitude tests. What are they naturally skilled at? What are their strengths and weaknesses? We need to complement their strengths and help them with their weaknesses by encouraging them! Too many kids are being held back because of things that are out of their control, such as writing difficulties or speech impediments, etc. We criticize them and tell them that if they do not improve, they may be held back or unable to participate in other school activities like joining a sports team or marching band. But what if the child in question is a genius when it comes to sports or music? We just banned this child from playing sports or music because he can’t write well or speak well. We have completely crushed this child’s self-esteem and have taken away the thing the child loved doing most. Now all his other grades start to slip and as a result he may drop out of school.
Some of our children can’t seem to sit still or stay focused in the classrooms. We have labeled these high-energy children as having ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). They tell us that this is a condition and that it needs to be cured. I think they are wrong; if you are blessed to have a child that they call an ADHD child, find out if they like dance, sports, or anything that would allow them to utilize their energy, because doing these types of activities helps them to think.
Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson (he was knighted in 2003 for services in education) states that our current system of teaching kills creativity. He states that we really don’t know what skills will be needed in the future, but creativity will ensure our children can embrace it and shape it. He is challenging the way we’re educating our children and that we must acknowledge the multiple types of intelligence.
So where do kids go who drop out of school? Well, they were not accepted at school, so what groups tend to accept people for who they are? Here is a small list to give you an idea:
• gangs, as long as you are initiated and do as you’re told, your job description is anywhere from selling drugs to murder.
• cults, which take liberties and control almost all aspects of your life.
By now, I am sure you start to realize that in order to be accepted you have to submit to others—the opposite of thinking for yourself.
There are people who have dropped out of school and have gained world recognition: Jenny Craig, George Foreman, Debbi Fields—and this list goes on and on. The difference, I believe, is that these individuals were taught how to think for themselves and either got some leadership training or self taught the leadership skill (which I believe we can all learn).
I know what you’re thinking: We all can’t be Jenny Craig; we all can’t be George Foreman! But we all can do something we are good at, and when you’re really good at something, it makes you happy, regardless of how much you’re getting paid. But lately we have been chasing the dollar; both parents have to get a job just to survive. The dollar is evaporating in value right before our eyes. I hope we will stop worshiping money and start doing things we love to do, to utilize the skills that make us most productive and helpful, because that may have been the dreams of our children to begin with.
David Torik lives in San Luis Obispo. Send comments to the executive editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.