Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What's wrong with kids these days?

A recent letter I wrote to our local paper was chosen as Letter of the Week! My pen (gift from the paper) arrived today!

Columnist David Brooks writes about the odyssey years, the years of wandering during young adulthood. He claims this wandering is a sensible reaction to the uncertainties of the modern world.

I think he comes closer to the truth when he quotes, “Young people grow up in tightly structured childhoods, but then graduate into a world characterized by uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering.”

How do we prepare our children for life in a world of uncertainty? By putting them in a highly structured environment for 13 or more years; by teaching them many facts, facts that are at their fingertips in this wired world, which they know how to navigate better than their elders.

We separate them from the fluid world so they don’t get the chance to figure out how they are uniquely qualified to serve the world and live a fulfilling adulthood until they are on their own. The system doesn’t encourage the creativity and innovation we need in the world today. Do children have the opportunity and encouragement to enable them to find their gifts?

If we can figure out how to structure childhood to give children a basic smattering of facts, to learn how to find out what they need to know, and, most of all, to nurture their individuality and give them the freedom to figure out where they will fit in the world, we might find that young adults had a tremendous amount to give to this troubled world.

A friend wrote me that on reading my letter her husband was convinced that they should homeschool, even though he had never considered it before.

This is, in fact, my philosophy of why we homeschool. In it's current incarnation, I do offer my kids a fair number of facts, but not for more than an hour a day or so, and they have most of the rest of the time to explore their own interests. This is what works for us now, but as time goes on my kids may need/demand something different.

I believe that every child should have the opportunity for a childhood like this, not just those whose parents have the time to nurture their individuality. I don't know what this model looks like in an institutional/mass setting. It is not a simple change by any means, but an important one. If I figure out how to work toward it for society, you'll hear more about it here.

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