The word “education” comes from the Latin, educare, meaning to lead out. To lead out of what and into what is the question that parents and cultures and civilizations have always had to consider. Each child that is born is in a sense a million years old because that child comes with the DNA, genes, and instincts inherited from at least that many ages of evolution. A child is also born into a culture, and that culture will determine how those inborn characteristics will be expressed in the family and society.
Our American culture places emphasis on each child becoming a producer and a consumer. Our children are taught from an early age that they will be acceptable to others if they choose the correct product to make them strong, smell nice, be beautiful, or any of the many other characteristics consumerism finds acceptable. This training, especially by our media, trains children to acquire desirable products, to be good consumers. Our educational system is focused on training children to produce those products, to become employable people who can support themselves and their families. Of course, these are worthy goals. We want our children to be self-supporting and able to have families.
Any parent will tell you, however, that the twenty years it takes to raise a valuable human being requires a great deal more. Every child comes with possibilities, latent talents, and qualities that will enrich our human world. I have known children who could hum the exact pitch of the fish tank motor, a skill that would lead them into music. Other children have shown a talent for math, or for the kind of motor skills that would lead them into sports. Alert parents and teachers notice these possibilities and encourage children to develop in directions that keep them in mind.
Children also come equipped with spiritual qualities, such as empathy and kindness that parents and teachers also need to notice and encourage. Just as with music, math, and motor skills some children have more of these other qualities. Parents and teachers are just as able to notice and encourage the development of these attributes. Folk wisdom has always supported the development of courage, kindness, sharing, service to others, co-operation and compassion, to mention just a few of these.
It is important to our human world that the people who nurture children remember and support the development of these attributes. In a culture so obsessed with acquisition and possession the qualities of the heart are always in danger of being short-changed. When we notice parents and teachers who focus on these important areas of development we need to encourage and appreciate what they do and how they are preserving these important qualities in our lives.
Caption for photo: Finished our book 5 and about to start our junior youth group!
–Dr. Jacqueline Osborne is a practitioner and celebrant of Baha’i principles. She believes in “One Human Family.”