With freedom comes responsibility. As human beings, whether we completely understand or even agree with the concept, we each have a sacred responsibility to ourselves, to our friends and family, to our community, and to our planet. This among a multitude of other life lessons is at the very core of Deep Root Center's mission.
If you listen to pundits, as well as many grandparents out there, this last generation has become increasingly “allergic” to responsibility, are highly undependable, and are brats. Most of their negative observations about our youth, unfortunately, are correct. However, I will argue, for the most part, it is not their fault. (Ha,ha,ha --- see what I did there?)
Our culture embraces and touts the concept of freedom (Bill of Rights, Constitution, Declaration of Independence, etc) while offering systems of control, coercion, reward and punishment, intimidation, and limitations. This is what our kids respond to and understand, because they have been initiated into the formula with unending and constant messages, from the moment they were born, that tell them: do good things and get a reward; do bad things and get a punishment (oh, by the way, that is the way you can get attention); don't think for yourself, just follow instructions; and, please just stop being weird!
These messages impact our youth's ability to become intrinsically motivated individuals on two very important levels and both are directly related to their ability or willingness to respond in a mature manner.
Many kids have learned, over time, to avoid culpability for any wrong doing, accident, or misfortune by assigning blame to another person, or circumstance. This lesson comes directly from the reward and punishment paradigm of our society. Simply stated, if you do something wrong you will get punished. Our kids are accustomed to being “yelled” at, for any indiscretion, before being able to offer an explanation. They also often have a very skewed sense of authority, because as a child they only understand the horrible feeling they get when they are reprimanded. Yes, for a kid it is all about them, simply because they are developmentally--- children.
As practitioners of self-directed learning, we often find that the environment of free choice we offer is an enticing slice of heaven for many youth, however, for the most part, completely misunderstood. They get the freedom part of the equation --- they know they are free to say “no”, free to choose what they will participate in, free to play, free to socialize, free to explore their interests, that we will not tell them what to do (except, clean up their messes), and they know they are free to use any of the resources, equipment, and supplies at DRC.
Taking charge of their learning, in a positive and engaged manner, oftentimes, seems to be the component they can not quite grasp, at first, because they have internalized the boundaries and limits of knowledge that standardized education places on learners. When we ask a new DRC member what they would like to learn, they often regurgitate the list of subjects that they were taking before. Even when questioned and offered the whole world, they revert to that standard list of classes. Then, when these particular classes are offered as an option, these students refuse to attend the classes, because the subjects truly do not reflect what they are interested in.
Sometimes, we are faced with a student who is struggling because they have realized that taking responsibility for their life is, in reality, hard. They are discovering that they actually have to work to change their attitudes, to explore new options, and unearth new interests and passions. And, sometimes, all that growing, changing, and learning suddenly feels like they are wearing clothes that are one size too small. It is, in fact, perfectly uncomfortable, which is when they take a step backward into their cozy former habitat where shirking and blaming make life so much easier.
When I am feeling frustrated and discouraged, I have to remind myself that choosing to be a self-directed learner is, in itself, a declaration of ownership. And, each student will travel their own unique path towards taking true control of their education, which always involves a varying amount of decompression time, some backsliding, as well as unending care, encouragement, and a few well placed challenges from trusted mentors and adults in their own private circle of support. I wholeheartedly believe in every one of them, as well as this amazing process. Each of these kids will, eventually, own it all: freedoms, decisions, behaviors, and the outcomes (both the good and the less desirable).
A Family Friendly Fundraiser
The Circle K Club at SLU is holding a “4 Square” fundraiser at the Leithead Field House in the Augsbury Complex at SLU this Friday, April 8th at 7PM.
Join the Circle K and the DRC Crew to raise money for our fee reduction program which allows everyone who desires, no matter their financial situation, to become a member of Deep Root Center.
We are still searching for folks in the community who would like to facilitate workshops at DRC this summer. Please get in touch if you have some ideas.
Several of our students are looking for a higher level math class. Please let us know if you can volunteer 1-2 hours each week to teach an interactive, engaging math class for 13- 15 year olds.