I’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s (the Naked Chef guy) “Dream School” television program about him trying to create a high school that better serves kids who’ve had to really struggle with life. Oliver himself was a high school dropout before becoming famous and winning the TED talk award last year for asking for a TED wish. He really cares about kids, both in the context of food and cooking, his field of expertise, but also in general.
Alas, his “dream school” is mostly just more of the same old same old kind of authoritarian lecturing, and continues to give these young people the message that there is something wrong with them, rather than the problem being with society and the lack of good things in their lives. At one point he says to the headmaster of the school, after hearing about kids “not behaving” (in some adult approved manner), “It’s like waging war everyday!”
And that is indeed the attitude of so many school teachers and administrators, of fighting against the students. Which is just insane, of course. Fighting against people is a sure way to get them to fight back, forcing their nervous system to drop into fight-or-flight mode where the logical area of the prefrontal cortex, as well as digestion and other crucial processes of the human body are shut down, which is quite literally the opposite of helping them grow.
Lawrence Lessig, in his new book Remix, closes his discussion on making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid technology by saying:
We wage war against our children, and our children will become the enemy. They will become the criminals we name them to be. And because there is no good evidence to suggest that we will win this war, that’s all the reason in the world to stop these hostilities…
That message is true no matter what issue we’re talking about. Stop fighting, start asking questions, start listening, and start treating all individuals as being valuable and in need of the best, and they will finally be free to be their best, reflecting the care, compassion, and respect that we give them, rather than returning the aggression, negativity, and disrespect.
It’s up to us adults to change, to take care of the kids, so that they grow up to be healthy, instead of our enemies.
And we can do that immediately by having a zero tolerance policy with our schools and teachers. If the students aren’t loving school, and don’t feel respected, then you can support the students in leaving, and help them create their own educational program that honestly serves their needs for healthy growth, as judged by their feeling of self worth, their motivation to create, and their level of joy.
We could try to fight the schools themselves, but that would be just as useless as fighting the students.
Instead, for real success, we can simply offer our resources to the students directly, and work with them to understand what they are most excited about becoming so that we can help them get the resource they need to get there most effectively.