I homeschool my son and we frequently find ourselves at the children’s museum. They have a play-place all set up for outdoor camping fun. There’s a play house that looks like a tree fort, stuffed animals and birds, a campfire made from pillow logs and rocks, a boat where you can sit and fish for trout with magnetic fishing poles. It’s my son’s favorite part of the museum, which isn’t surprising since he loves camping and fishing.
One day we were there pretending to camp when a group of school kids breezed in and started playing. The kids had all just settled down into activities when the teachers came and whisked them away to another area, whereas we’d been there an hour and stayed another hour thereafter. It immediately struck me: Schools have set us up to be a nation of harried, distracted adults. And for what?
Our school system, as it stands today, was developed for the Industrial Revolution.
Farm kids (who were used to spending half the day watching bug life in meadows) needed to be taught how to live at the pace of a factory. Industry needed workers who were efficient and didn’t try to think for themselves. Schools taught by rote and imposed an unnatural schedule on once-natural lives. Discipline became of the utmost importance to keep future factory workers complacent and obedient. And the schools of that time served their purpose. Our nation thrived and grew. But a growing nation is no longer a rich one.
Raising kids for the Industrial Revolution is a model that so longer serves us.
Endless growth of industry is killing our Earth. Global climate change threatens to cause the extinction of the human race. People are shifting their buying patterns away from big-box stores and big corporations. People are buying less and from smaller, more forward-thinking companies. We need to raise our children to thrive in this new environment. We need to raise successful entrepreneurs.
Our schools need to be reimagined if humans are going to survive.
For humans to thrive, we need schools aimed toward producing creative humans who come up with innovative solutions. We need confident, self-driven adults with long attention spans. We need a society full of entrepreneurs.
But how can we achieve this?
By giving children long spaces of free time to explore and tinker, to observe and create. We need to expand arts and humanities classes. We need to give children less instructions and more time, freedom, and personal attention.
We also need to raise happier people. Schools don’t teach us to be happy. And unhappy people won’t be productive members of society. I vividly remember the anxiety of trying to get to my next class with just seven minutes to go to the bathroom and get books from my locker. I was shy around large crowds of people and often bullied. Schools need to be run at the pace of living and the school experience needs to take into account the many personalities and psychological needs of every single child.
My family’s answer to this is homeschooling, but it won’t be everyone’s answer.
We need to modify our school system so that our society can meet the needs of a changing future before it’s too late. If our schools were set up differently, I would love to send my son there for at least part of the day. But, as an entrepreneur myself, I’m grateful that I can apprentice him to my business now and teach him the ins and outs of running his own business from the very beginning. The more adaptable, innovative, and resilient the next generation of adults is, the greater our chance of survival as a species.
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