This I Believe

bruce - santa cruz, California
Entered on April 24, 2006

WORLD AS A SCHOOL

If I knew I had 10 minutes to live, and I had no concern for being judged, criticized or being marginalized and made wrong by others, what would I want to say, publicly, out loud, freely? I mean after I have hugged and kissed and said goodbye to all those close to me, what would I want to say about life?

I’ll pretend I have only ten minutes now. And I will remember what a sixteen year old high school girl named Lynda told me some years ago. “All school ever teaches you,” she said, looking into my eyes, “is that you are never quite good enough. Her words help inspire me now. So, I say this:

“Find a creative, loving, kind, open, respectful way to teach children the things they want to know. Delete the hierarchy of rank and authority between children and adults. Just let that overseer authority go. Transform school buildings to meeting rooms for creative and uncreative people in the community to gather and offer to children exactly what they want to learn. Children, like us adults, learn stuff really quick and easily when what we are learning is what we want to know. If it takes some kind of complicated math to do what we want to do, math ceases to be an obstacle, and becomes, because we are motivated from within, a stepping stone. Reading becomes a meaningful skill instead of an externally imposed assignment that feels like a task instead of a gateway to the next step. Reading and math aren’t difficult. Handling the fear, tension and beliefs about reading and math are.

Get rid of tests and grades and all those tools that require fear, competition, and comparison – separating me from you, and by their very nature, imply children need to be coerced to learn, explore and wonder about things. When you were a child, were you short on curiosity, wonder and desire to explore? Make available to all children, experiences, people and teachings that hold the world open, that inspire and transcend all perceived limits. And the key word is perceived. If it is skateboarding, help them build one from scratch. Help them make a cartoon book. A video movie. A treehouse. A real house. Maybe interview street people, a neighbor, a doctor. Let them be around adults that meet them equally, are kind, have a sense of humor, and can hug freely. Take a long bike trip. Recall, if you can, your own school experiences. What would have worked for you so long ago? If you were not inspired in school, what kind of teachers or experiences might have brought life into you, your life, or the classroom?

I mean, isn’t learning a natural process? Does the world need another Ph.D. or a few more adults and children that bring kindness, I’d add, “Go to another country, another neighborhood, another person whose color and language is different, and say hi. Just say hi.