As human beings, we all come into this world as scrappy, fierce, and focused little sponges ready to soak up, and, yes, even do battle for every bit of skill and knowledge that we crave. This phenomenon, we call self-actualization or motivation, does (will) not disappear at any point over our lifetime - unless we are actively taught to hate learning.
I see it over and over – kids who have spent their first - four or five years joyfully discovering new concepts and ideas through play and independent exploration, suddenly grow to be morose, disengaged, needy, and completely unmotivated. Either they quickly submit to become obedient cogs within the coercive system purposely designed to teach them the bare minimum to survive in said system, or they rebel, resist, and otherwise “misbehave.” Whichever, the result is the same; the process, effectively, extinguishes their shining little lights.
All the “new” technology, methodology, pedagogy, along with their acronyms, despite the hype, have not changed the basic system. Providing STEAM and STEM activities and opportunities, which are designed and presented by teachers and other professionals, doesn’t make kids more creative or “smart.” After you look beneath those bright and shiny (expensive) bells and whistles, you will find that kids are still limited by explicit directions and rules. Nothing new here folks – they are still learning to color inside the lines and following conventional thought patterns.
No, a thousand times, no! Our schools are (were) not devised to provide what these kids need to thrive and become unique, happy, productive, and compassionate citizens of the world.
Over the years, I have heard parents say – “if we can get him beyond this rough patch, he’ll be fine.” Or, “she is going to school now, we’ll just keep pushing her to finish.” What they don’t understand is that by forcing them to participate (until they absolutely refuse or create serious behavioral trouble) in a regimented system that does not recognize their true brilliance or allow them to be original and innovative, or seek out information in their own way – they are smothering that inner spark.
As a consequence, I have students who find their way to Deep Root Center in their mid to late teens – many of whom despise learning. Their inner fire is barely smoldering. They resist new ideas, concepts, and change. They are shut down creatively. And, possibly the most disheartening result, they refuse to take responsibility for their own lives. In some cases, it literally takes years of mentoring support in our safe, non-coercive environment before that tiny remaining ember of curiosity begins to glow again. Only, then are they able to recognize the barriers they have erected and begin to tear them down one misconception - one illusion at a time.
Let me be clear, the challenges the NoCo faces (see Trajectory, last week’s blog) are not, necessarily, about the lack of educational opportunities. Instead, I believe this closed-minded culture of apathy, disengagement, and disenfranchisement has been created, by allowing our children – our bright, inquisitive, passionate, imaginative little stars - to effectively be contained and constrained within societies tiny little box of paltry expectations.