Thursday, January 7, 2010

How to hit "reset" & start again (3)

3. Stop promoting activities that focus on: over achievement, competitiveness and "you can make a difference in the world-itis" in children.

Children have been deprived of both their proper upbringing and their carefree childhood. This is true of white, black or any other race, boy or girl, rich or poor, advantaged or disabled. Children are pushed by their parents and/or caregivers, schools, peers and society at large to be every increasingly pressured and over achieving. As they grow older (and I'm still speaking of young children) they start to feel the burden (often self generated but as a result of external influences) to be "destined" to "make a difference" and "better the world."

Geez Louise, let's look at the facts. It's been two thousand years since Jesus Christ (who did change the world) and not a single generation of individuals have thought that he or she is "destined" to "make a difference" and "better the world" until the 1960's. Think about it. All of the advances made (the genuine ones, not the false ones) up until the 1960's were done by that vast nameless army of people who led ordinary lives, including ordinary childhoods. They did not have the array of media blaring at them (electronic babysitters and life attitude distortions) from the moment they were born. Most of them participated in the household or at work as children, learning the skills of mommy and daddy as they were still able to be children at play. Most of them realized that Jesus Christ changed the world, and that they did not have to do so again, being little saviors and "touching others for a difference." Children were allowed to be children yet, at the same time, they had worthy and genuine adult participation where appropriate.

It was an entirely different world, that world before the 1960's. Children's heads were not filled with "Baby Einstein" and pre-school "preparation...." if they knew how to count and read before they entered school it's because they read the comics with their fathers. Children did not have dance classes, competitive sports, and the whole spectrum of "talents" that are crammed into them at the earliest of ages. I don't even have to mention how body conscious and fashion conscious children at the earliest ages have been forced to become. Childhood has vanished and it is a pressure cooker instead.

Yet at the same time when children do start to have real concerns about adult family matters, they are not gradually involved in the way they used to, rather like apprentice adults. On the farm they would start to learn adult activities and cares, but at a level they could handle. It seems the only way adults today treat children like adults in training is to 1) sexualize them or 2) make them fend for themselves.

Children are kept in school far too long for dubious reasons. Yes, I agree that high school graduation is essential and yes I feel that college is a key to future success, up to a point. But what used to be a liberal arts education (or in some special schools, a science/engineering orientation) has turned into a combination of 1) social thinking propaganda instead of education and 2) turning out cooperative little cogs for whatever is the popular money making field of the day (does "computer graphics" and "web design" sound familiar?) High school children have far too much homework and not enough solid classroom learning. Parents are unavailable or unwilling to devote time to home study requirements. College has become a strange place of getting "higher" rather than higher education, and part of this is because children are infantalized regarding their participation in the adult world of work and decision making, so they cut loose as adults where they can, which is in going crazy. I graduated a semester early from university because I considered it such a total waste of my time, and I had an actual semi-serious curriculum, yet it was still filled with so much education time wasting. Professors just fill in their own blanks instead of teaching what needs to be taught.

Worse, in surveys conducted year after year, that track what professions or goals (such as being a parent) that children prefer, most recently children no longer "want" to be anything but "famous." So now we have higher education, however shaky its quality, and children increasingly want less of those professions and more to be "rich and famous."

I really want to address education separately, but I mention it here so I can show you the entire pattern of my concern. Pre-school children are raised believing they have to start accumulating talents, wonderfulness, and worthiness through endless activities and works, and that continues non stop until they are in their early to mid-twenties. They are put under great pressure to learn, achieve and even "play hard," and to be popular and "hot," while at the same time they are getting the crappiest education I've ever seen in my lifetime. If I were a young person today I'd want to put on my Doc Martens and kick just about everyone in the behind for this disaster.

I'm sick at heart and sick to the gills of reading about teenagers and younger committing suicide or having mental illnesses that everyone blames on everything but the truth, which is that they were put under too much pressure to "perform," from the earliest age. If you went back in time and spoke to anyone in let's say the nineteenth century, from the poorest person to Queen Victoria herself, and told him or her that you know that "your child will someday make a difference in the world" and that it is their "destiny" to be a great "achiever" and "contribute his or her talents to the world," they would not know what you were speaking of and would think you were mad (as in demented). Even aristocrats of that time did not grow up thinking they would "make a difference in the world." That's something you moderns have to get through your heads. Even the most privileged and influential people prior to this century did not grow up themselves thinking they will "save some part of the world."

Instead, people lived their lives. Some had callings, such as for the military, the clergy, or for professions like medicine. Most wanted and focused on having and supporting a family. No one was running around thinking that they had even a tiny responsibility to "change the world." They were the well balanced ones; what we have today is megalomaniac inflation.

I am not being too strong in that diagnosis. It used to be that an extraordinary person was one who raised a family and was a stable and reliable influence in their local town and community. Ordinary people who, like brick building blocks, form a whole are the ones who collectively "change the world," but change the world not in the sense of being some sort of over achieving superheroes in possession of "enlightenment" or "caring," but of providing the foundation, the grass roots, of children growing into well rounded and educated/skilled and/or able bodied adults.

I continue to be astonished as I see decade after decade of increasingly taking it for granted that someone is "the one," who "can make a difference," and that bull crap being digested by children. It is not a coincidence that this false and grandiose perception increases in direct proportion that humans lose their traditional faith and humility in front of God. Hitler was grandiose and he "changed the world," and was that a good thing? Excuse me for going with the obvious example but it's one that I know everyone from every culture can understand. How many people, really, "change the world," and for those that do, are those good changes? Historically the answer has been "no."

We have an example of a good person who changed the world, but his participation was unexpected, not "destined," and gained through just what I am describing: a normal, though well to do person, leading a well educated and well experienced life, and then responding to the call when his fortitude and commitment recommended him accordingly. That person was General George Washington, who led the Army of the Revolution and then became first President of the United States. He changed the world not because he became a general, or even the President, but because he fathered the ongoing birth of this great democratic republic, when such a deed in such a place was not only difficult but totally new territory. Thus George Washington "changed the world" not through agenda to change the world, but because an average, though financially advantaged, man had the character to step into a role that opened in front of him. He, like everyone else of those times, was not groomed and pressured and clucked over by helicopter parents telling him how he is "special" and "filled with gifts for the world."

Wake up people. Life is life and the world is the world, and it inches forward as the cumulative effect of billions of people simply leading their lives and making their choices. There are not these millions of prodigies, of indigo children, of "destined to make a difference" children, of whatever corn ball New Age label you want to give it, all waiting to give the levers they have been "destined to wield" to "change the world." Most people who think like that end up changing the world like Pol Pot.

So now let's leave the stratosphere and get back to reality. The "greatest generation," those who were adults in the 1940's, each and every one of them grew up thinking they were an average Joe or Mary, but with aspirations. These aspirations were to be well dressed, housed and fed, to have some sort of health care and education, to have a way out of the economic downfall of the Great Depression, and most of all, to provide something even better than they had for their children, and for their country. They did not attend dance classes, or T-ball, or take endless childhood "enrichment" classes (and I'm not saying not to do those at age appropriate times for fun and character building). What I am saying is that they were the greatest with NONE of those supposed "talents" and "gifts" "for the world."

Take the pressure off of children, child by child, home by home, school by school, for the love of Pete. More traditional solid education of liberal arts, faith and reasoning, and the basic skills, and more meaningful play and recreation, less isolation and fending for themselves by lazy, busy or absent parents, and less ridiculous notions that they have some sort of burden to "change the world." They don't and they can't. The sooner everyone regains that humility the better. Heaven is packed with people who did nothing else but live ordinary lives of simple goodness, none of them even saving a "hair" of the world's head, or offering even one "gift" of their "specialness" to the world. Sad to say the most special people alive today are those able to be ordinary Joes and Marys and who can actually raise a child to ordinary, well adjusted and optimistic adulthood.