When it comes to some deep reflection about the relationship with my children a significant realisation is that in most of the social conditioning I was brought up with was that the adults were the ‘Ones who know? And the children were the ‘Ones who don’t know ‘ and the job is to assist them to ‘know’.
Ok yes I am using quite a few ‘commas’ as I am writing this I am realising that these words and phrases beg some questions. But I am pointing to an underlying principle that sits under very very many things. This principle, which by the way, I do not adhere to as an absolute, says that there are those who know and those who don’t know and it is the job of those who know to make sure those who don’t know find out. And the ‘knower’ is usually the expert who imparts their knowledge to the unknower.
We see this model everywhere. We go to experts, the doctor, the lawyer, the accountant, the consultant and we expect and indeed hope that they have knowledge that we don’t. In fact we bank on it. And we believe that these experts and their knowledge are admirable things. We pay them good money for their knowledge and often, especially when they save our taxes or treat an illness we are full of gratitude. In large part the entire system respects learning and expertise but this admiration is skewed towards expert knowledge. This is where we start to see the divergence. As the emphasis on factual knowledge in its entirety leads to an overreliance on its existence.
This over reliance ends up with the baby being thrown out with the bathwater. We start to think that accumulated factual knowledge is in the end goal over and above other kinds of knowledge.
I expected that you are nodding your head maybe and agreeing. As it sounds so simple to grasp. Its obvious right?
So why then does this skewed emphasis continue to dominate the way we think and behave with education? I can give no simple idea for this as it is a complex matrix. And for this part of the book I want to keep on course so I will touch on this more later.
What I have noticed is how this influences how I am conditioned to show up around the learning of my children. It permeates many of the moments where we interact. It’s as if the presence of the facts reassures me. What is nine times nine? If I hear 81 then somehow I feel better than if I hear any other number. Disappointment? Of course it is silly of me. But it just plain annoys me when I catch myself out. Where is my faith? Am I imagining that if the wrong answer, which is in inaccurate knowledge, persists my child’s future well-being will be compromised?
I understand the instinct. And from an evolutionary perspective this kind of instinct and the reflex associated with it does make sense. If in our past learning somewhat simple facts often meant the difference between survival or death. That the wrongly notched arrow might mean failure of defence and so getting nobbled by a sabre toothed tiger, or done in by a rival tribe. That I understand. So inside me an ancient part of my human beingness can be very invested in making sure my child knows certain pieces of information. And in our modern time don’t high suspense movies often pin the survival of the protagonist on some piece of knowledge that the hero or their side kick produces at the last moment, dragging them all from the jaws of the bad guy / death / failure? We still play this out as entertainment.
And don’t we have to ensure as fast as we can that our children learn certain things? Don’t run on roads? Play with razor blades? Jump into fires and so on? Of course we do.
But what I am talking about here is really about a part of our mind and consciousness that only has relevance in certain contexts. And being able to work out the relevant context is what makes the difference as to what human toolkit I can bring to bear and in what situation. And that has a direct influence on the experience of the learning of my children, and me.
In my view the key drivers of the most education and parental commitment to it is survival orientated within a competitive framework. And if this is the educational context being held then it means that everything learned by the children has to be tested against its usefulness to increase their chances of winning the competition of life, surviving in other words. Be it getting into university, getting a job and so on.
And in many cases in the parts of the world where extreme poverty is the fate of many unless they can find a way out, this is a compelling way to look at education which often is the only path.
But in our developed economies this view does not make sense as an absolute position, using a variety of measures to asses it.
So as I sit here writing this I am aware of all these different parts of my parental, father self. And this awareness has come from an ongoing and somewhat messy self-examination. It is an ongoing part of being an ‘alternative’ parent which the zeitgeist says I must be given all the shunning of the familiar common and approved of we have done.
But when it comes to travelling this road the toughest part is not others, or society or those who would tell us we are mad, wrong and silly. The toughest part is having to examine your own conditioned parts and figure out how to get as free of them as you can. For until we do it is impossible to know what drives us in what situation. And that means we are in the dark much of the time.
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