I am constantly amazed by the inconsistencies and incongruities I witness in young children. Four and five year olds are informed about the world in ways that I was not until my mid-twenties. However, they are still small children, and behave consistently with age appropriate meters that were set long ago.
Pop-culture is their teacher. Our babies are fed a diet of grossly skewed, slanted, and inappropriate content from the moment their eyes can focus on the closest screen. The implicit messages of entitlement, competition, jealousy, racism, misogyny, hate and mistrust for the “other”, and self-loathing are all presented as perfectly normal.
Kids (especially boys) observe at a young age that emotional and empathetic responses are scorned and ridiculed. Their cultural experiences with equality inform them that derision is how you treat people who are different, coercion and manipulation are how you get what you want, and, that control of others (and the environment) is the ultimate goal.
Our culture teaches that the acquisition of power is the fundamental objective in our modern world. Is it possible to replace this indoctrination with aspirations of love, peace, and kindness by explicitly teaching the three “E"s– emotion, empathy, and equality?
I believe with all my essence that it is indeed a reachable aspiration, because, I am so very privileged to witness the sharing of warmth, gentleness, consideration, and concern every single day. A few weeks ago, during our summer programming, one of DRC's newest Seedling student members was visiting for the day. We were all discussing the one rule at Deep Root Center: Respect yourself, each other, and this space. I asked the kids what respect means to them and this particular five year old spoke up clearly and said, “it means to take care of each other.” I was bowled over and told this child that his definition was possibly the best one that I had ever heard.
The one absolute truth that is often lost in our race towards completion of one more day - bedtime, without a minor catastrophe (or emergency room visit), is that our kids are sponges; they learn through osmosis - absorbing our attitudes, behaviors, mannerisms, facial expressions, prejudices, and our treatment of everyone from a family member, to the check out clerk at the grocery store. These fundamental familial (community) experiences override every single detrimental media message they are bombarded with daily.
Children who are exposed to and included in our “negative” emotional responses, will learn that feeling angry, sad, distraught, pained, or frustrated is a routine, healthy reaction to something that is maddening, sorrowful, discouraging, painful, or exasperating. Young people who are allowed to live their lives without coercion and are able to observe respect and empathy in action, will take care of others. Kids who live along side people with a diversity of skin colors, religions, gender identities, and ideas are more likely to accept and treat everyone as an equal.
Embracing the three “E"s and approaching life counter to societal norms and expectations is not a privilege afforded to few – it is a conscious decision that has powerful and reproducible results.
The DRC Team will be prepping for the academic year this Monday – Wednesday and our first day will be Tuesday, September 6th.
If your child is dreading the start of a new school year, if they are miserable, antsy, and anxious, there is another option – open your mind to what education can be. DRC has been described as life-changing by many of our families. Check us out and tell us your story. We are here for you.