Scores of brilliant people have written far more eloquently than me on the topic of children’s “education.” You have, of course, the exceptional Ivan Illich with his Deschooling Society; John Dewey and his beautiful Experience and Education; and John Holt’s profound How Children Learn.
I’m less challenging these intellectual giants and more proposing a list of educational threads I’ve picked up on during my several years working with children of all different cognitive, physical, emotional, and social abilities. You can call them “life lessons” or “words of wisdom.” In any case, I offer them with the hope of sparking dialogue about what developing children should learn if we wish them to grow into capable, compassionate, thoughtful, mature human beings.
Enough of that. Here we go.
Children can and should learn that:
- Empathy is a virtue. It’s best to practice it often.
- All the animals you see out there dream just like us humans.
- Abundance is natural, it’s nature’s way. Scarcity is something English capitalists cooked up to fatten their wallets.
- Technology should serve us humans, not the other way around.
- “Throwing things away” really means “taking things somewhere else.” And “taking things somewhere else” usually means taking them to the backyard of somebody who’s poorer than you.
- Every material thing you see came from a part of the earth and must eventually return to the earth. Take the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example.
- San Franscisco is a city that makes its residents compost their compostables. How sustainable. It’s also the reigning world capital of “planned obsolescence.” The definition of unsustainable. Therein lies the irony of modernity.
- Indigenous peoples are wise and have developed their way of life on earth over millennia. Billionaire 20-somethings are unwise nor have developed techie fixes that benefit them alone.
- There are so many reasons to do good deeds beside acquiring more Snapchat friends.
- Curiosity is part of being a human being. It’s fostered by allowing you to freely explore the world around you. Schools, on the other hand, are really good at taking you out of the natural world and squashing your innate curiosity.
- Throughout history, humans told fantastic stories that featured local land, plants, and animals as central characters. This served to embed life lessons in the natural landscape. Thus, each time people passed through story-embedded parts of the landscape, the land evoked stories related to life lessons. Pretty cool, right?
- There is nothing “artisanal” about firewood. It’s firewood.
- Children, like you, can contribute to your family’s health and happiness. Traditional Nordic peoples teach children to chop and stack their own pile of firewood,. They then use the child’s firewood to heat their home. This allows kids to see how they themselves can help the family.
- Patience truly is a virtue, especially the kind that involves seeing a project through to its end.
- Life is best lived directly rather than vicariously. For example, playing a musical instrument with friends is so much more lively than attending a concert or listening to a record.
- More generally, doing is so much better than having.
- Foods that come from right out of the soil or off of branch are the tastiest and best for you.
- Being a good friend means listening, helping, and caring for someone who is not you.
- You are worthwhile. You’re good enough and smart enough. And gosh darn it, you’re no better and no worse than anyone else.
- When people say they want to “monetize” something, this means they lack a soul.
- When people say they’re only interested in “making money”, what they really mean is they are only interested in prostituting themselves.
- People lived just fine without indoor plumbing, electricity, and yes, even wifi.
- When you grow up, people will harbor nostalgia for obsolete technologies (e.g., cassette tapes, Edison bulbs). This is silly, sentimental consumerism. Don’t succumb.
- Cars didn’t always exist. Question why they still do.
- When your mother says she “needs mommy wine” or some “mommy alone time”, she really means is, “why is your school closed today?”
- People who take “duck face selfies” were never really wanted by their parents.
- Learning occurs when you experience the world. Education occurs at school, a conveyor-belt process not unlike how Italian people make sausage.
- When you walk or bike to get places, you’re an active participant in your life. When you sit in a car or bus or train or plane, you are a passenger, a passive watcher of your life.
- 200 species of plant, insect, bird, and mammal become extinct each and every day. Too bad Trump isn’t one of them.
- Digital screens are no substitute for the real, physical world.
- The greatest, most special, awesomeness, most spectacular moment is right now.