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The Very Best Gift You Can Give Your Child
Many people through the ages mastered the art of self education
The Ability to Self Teach and Learn From All Arenas of Life
We often wonder why our children fail in almost everything, just as we failed and our parents failed before us. We stumble through a changing world like a blind person fumbles through a labyrinth. We wonder why nothing works for us while we doggedly pursue our goals, which forever seem to be just out of reach like the mythical grapes that the fox tries, but always fails to reach. The whole problem can be summed up like this. We have not been given the proper tools with which to handle a wide variety of variable problems that life has to offer us. In the wild, it is adaptation to changing conditions that is the winning solution in evolution. In this context, what we require is to “think and act outside of the box” to use an old cliche that is appropriate here. From an early age we are conditioned to perform in a certain rigorous way that is usually individually counterproductive, but keeps business going as usual, even when we know something is dreadfully wrong.
The education process today by and large teaches us our role in the greater machine of production and consumption. However, if for one reason or another, one falls out of place, then they are as helpless as a newborn babe in a new and unfamiliar setting, having no education to fit the new circumstance. This is evidenced when people who worked the same job for a long time suddenly find themselves out of context when that ends. Many resort to the only thing they know in an economy governed by money; that is, looking for a handout to tie them over to a new gainful circumstance. Though we know that something is wrong, many people are challenged to be able to put a finger on it. What's at stake is the world and everything in it. There have been notable people in history who have broken out of their mold and raised themselves to a whole new level of understanding, which they then conveyed to the world. These are people who adapted instead of collapsing into lassitude for lack of an alternative. But there are alternatives that abound all around. One needs only to literally reach out and seize the moment. It may not be a new job. It does not have to be a life of waiting for the next hand out. You may have to learn new ways from scratch.
Whatever a person learns for the rest of their lives is set early in life from the ages of two to five, and then diminishes to the age of puberty when other primordial drives kick in and overwhelm most everything else. The best educational years are thus set on average between ages two to ten with the emphasis on the earlier years. In the period of two to four, the child grasps language and all its intricacies. Prior to two, they are learning to use their senses and body. They also pick up on everything around themselves from all the senses. In the past, Mongolian children learned to handle knives to process meat at the age of two when they assisted the group to survive the harsh climate. Some would see this as child labor and condemn it outright. In Africa, children not much older can swim and catch fish in their bare hands. So there is no question that they can learn meaningful tasks at an early age. In our culture, we pretend to be against child labor, while at the same time turn a blind eye to the same thing in our midst both at home and abroad. But if we are to give our children a real leg up in life, they need to be encouraged to have an open, curious and inquiring mind. They should also be taught the ability to self-educate and express their natural intrinsic interests. That is the prerequisite for the development of a person with full capabilities that will continue to flower late into life.
But in the modern context, how much of this is being done? Unfortunately, almost nothing. Free inquiry is often discouraged and large numbers of children are made to fit a formula that does not fit anything except an abstract average or the requirements of the demands of the labor force later when they graduate the schooling system. Given the wide diversity of individuals, there is very little that can be described as average or normal. We must ask how much uniqueness and diversity is stamped out in the process. If we take the example of residential schools forced upon First Nations as an example, we find children that were once forcefully removed from their social context and reeducated to fit the desires of the conquerors. They lose the contact with and are alienated from their ancestors and nature to learn what the new overlords determine that they needed to know. The shock was often too great, discipline severe unto death and when they “graduated” discrimination and prejudice kept all but a few out of the new societal circumstances.
Outside of residential schools and in the general school system, something similar is being done, though it is much more subtle. Education is far from complete and usually consists of a blanket program to which everyone must adapt, win or fail. Almost all fall short and end up thinking themselves inadequate and inferior. In the broad context of that process, free inquiry is discouraged so that a general and abstract state supported agenda and quota can be fulfilled in an allowed time. After all, the role that almost all of these students are to fulfill is to be a small cog in a vast productive and consumerist machine. There is little room for originality, innovation and free thought. The seeds of these must be planted early in most cases in order for this to take root and develop. Thus, the best gift that you could give a child early on is to encourage free thinking and asking questions that you yourself may have to find answers for. If the child shows a leaning to art, science, maths, writing, music, physical culture or some other attribute, this needs to be supported, but not forced. If we consider ourselves falling short in life, we cannot enforce some agenda in order to get vicarious satisfaction from the success of our children.
If something is forced on the child to the point of alienation, this will succeed only in driving the child away from what one intended. The object of interest that once was an attraction becomes its opposite; a tedious chore from which to escape. This is a carefully balanced form of education that feeds natural curiosity instead of forcing an agenda of expectations. At its heart is the idea that the young person is competing against no one but themselves; to become better than they were the last time. In this condition, they will actually begin to teach themselves and self-educate. Comparisons with others that appear better only engender envy and covetousness. On the other hand, if the youngster is naturally drawn to some example and wants to do something similar, then encouragement without judgment is good.
Perhaps one of the very best forms of education that can be received, is contact with nature in the raw. It can be a resource in times of difficulty and a revelation unlike anything encountered in the city. This should by all means, begin early in life. Gaining familiarity with nature in all its aspects, seasons and times is something that can last a lifetime and be an alternative. Mankind has lived in a natural context for almost all of historical existence. Despite our mainly urban existence, we are still completely dependent on nature, so an education in bush craft, agricultural activity, observational naked eye astronomy, sea faring and mountaineering would all be great learning experience. Coupled with other interests, a person can become well rounded and capable of self sufficiency.
A person who is genuinely interested in something will learn what they need to know regardless of the encumbrances they find blocking their path. This is where the universal skill of self educating can come in and it can be interdisciplinary, covering all facets of life. We find these people all around us; those who have little or poor schooling, who excel greatly in what they do. They stand as an example of what can be done despite limitations.