There seems to be no shortage of grown-ups who will tell you they didn’t learn “nuthin’” in school and how they could have gone on to be so much more if only someone had shown an interest in them or shown them the right path. And so it beggars belief that these same people are happy to entrust the education of their children to the same school system and yet claim to want more for their kids than for themselves.
What is clear is that most countries’ educational system are misnamed, as their primary goal is to prepare young people to become good workers and consumers in the current economic system. It is not interested in educating people to do any more than the minimum to become producers of wealth – not for themselves, of course, but for the companies they work for and to make sure they can give more to the state than they get out of it. To people who understand this, it is not surprising that today’s generation of high school leavers and undergraduates have serious difficulties communicating in their own language and grasping the most basic principles of science and math.
The leading lights of research in the arts and sciences often comment on how they needed to unlearn what they were taught at school in order to see the world the way it really is, and to make progress in their field. The one thing that school teaches well is obedience – something you’ll need in order to stick at your jobs and take orders every day for the best part of your life, not complain when your taxes are spent on bailing out irresponsible banks and to follow the orders of anyone in a uniform regardless of whether you know it to be right or wrong. That’s right, schools are great at stopping you from using your brain.
Being aware of this, a good parent will do their best to give their child a chance of education in spite of having to go to school. In order to do this, the parent needs to instill two basic foundation blocks: In reverse order, the second is determination. Nobody ever ran a marathon by taking one step and giving up. Magellan didn’t turn back at the first sign of difficulty. There are many ways that you can instill the notion that perseverance and determination usually pay off. Video games get a bad rep, but they can do a good job in this respect. Teach your child how to play chess. After every game, discuss how they could have played better. Don’t let them win, even if it takes years for them to beat you. Teach them to apply the same attitude to sports, learning to read, learn a foreign language, doing arithmetic, memorizing things.
Determination and perseverance alone won’t allow the child a chance to educate themselves though. This needs to be done by encouraging them to question everything. Yes, including authority and especially your authority as a parent. Understand that your authority comes from your greater knowledge of the world and through having their best interests at heart. Teach them to question the answers they receive logically. When they ask why they have to go to bed at a certain time, don’t fob them off with “because I say so” or “because children need to go to bed on time”. These are non-answers and should be challenged. Explain clearly and logically. Pretty soon this attitude will lead them to question other things and their education will begin. They start asking why birds can fly but people can’t, what the moon is and where the hot air in mommy and daddy’s hair dryer comes from (be warned – this type of question can result in your current hair dryer ending up in pieces on the floor and you looking for a new one).
Through questioning everything logically and being determined and persistent, they will learn everything that their school doesn’t teach them. They will understand the origins and true meaning of respect, how to get on in society and how to take care of themselves and their families in future.