(Stillness in the Storm Editor) This article touches on a topic that I am researching heavily at this time and is near and dear to my heart. If we want to understand why the world is the way it is, we have to look at how we raise and educate our children.
Alfie Kohn is a visionary developmental psychologist, researcher, and lecturer who is bold enough to question many of the things we accept as a given when it comes to child rearing and education. He says most parents say they want to raise children to become wise, critical thinking, moral people, who question the wrongs of the world and stand for principle and what is right. But how we raise children today does not foster these ideals, Kohn claims. And if we look at the state of society as a whole, he seems to be right.
In short, conditional parenting and outcome-based educational models (like Common Core) are incredibly damaging to a child’s sense of self-worth, empowerment, and mental health. These systems are based on the premise a child is an empty vessel for external programming—that they have no inner drive, desires, or goals, save what is given to them through culture. Within such a system, children grow up—generally speaking—to become disempowered, thoughtless, and mindless people—the perfect unthinking citizen who always does exactly what society tells them they should do. And what’s worse is that an explosion of mental health problems emerged when these techniques became widespread. Prior to the introduction of behaviorism, child suicide rates were almost non-existent—it was unheard of for a child to take their own lives.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. And while almost everyone agrees that children are the future, most parents react defensively when learning that their parenting methods might not be the best. This makes changing the status quo very difficult.
Speaking as someone who has tried to share some of this research of developmental psychology with friends who are parents, most of the reactions I get are very standoffish. In some cases, some people are outright offended that I would even suggest that they could learn more about parenting, sometimes saying, “How dare you suggest I might not know everything about raising my kids! What do you know. You don’t even have kids!”
And on that score, my response is usually, “Raising a child on Earth, at this time, is arguably the single most difficult thing anyone can do. And raising a conscious child who is capable of facing the truth, and becoming an agent of positive change, is even more challenging. But surely we can agree that talking about improving our methods is beneficial?”
In other words, when it comes to raising children, we need not take things so personally. And I think it is productive stance to take is that—even though your kids are not mine—I do care about them as if they were my own.
Imagine a world where everyone had a similar perspective, where we all sought to take care of each other as a grand human family? What would that do to improve things?
Let’s face it, the average person today has no idea what a child needs due to the destruction of the home and family life. Most parents are highly dependent on doctors and social services to tell them how to raise their children—all of which are owned and operated by the State. But the way the State wants us to raise our children is often not in harmony with the ideals most parents are hoping to impart to their offspring.
So while it can be difficult to hear we might need to rethink how we raise our children, I contend it is a conversation we need to have.
Ultimately, the children of this world are going to grow up and become adults—at which point their actions affect the lives of everyone. In this sense, all people have a valid interest in helping their fellow humans raise their children. After all, whether we like it or not, we’re all part of the same human family.
Alfie Kohn has many books available on Amazon; I strongly suggest Unconditional Parenting for an overview of the destructive side of conditional methods (rewards and punishments). The following lecture is also an excellent summary of his philosophy and a great way to expose oneself to these new and seemingly more efficient ways to raise children to become intelligent, moral, capable people.
by Joe Martino, February 7th, 2017
The funny thing about testing in school is that all it truly does is show the understanding an individual has on a certain subject at a given time. Their understanding can change drastically in following months, yet the test score is typically all that matters.
We then go on to judge people by their grades under the illusion that it illustrates their knowledge and qualifications on a certain subject. The sad part is not only how limiting this idea is but how much students stress over such results and judgments. Some can even go as far as feeling their lives are ruined simply because their grades are bad. We can become disheartened and frustrated with ourselves, think we are not smart or intelligent, and even veer away from what we are passionate about simply because of a test score.
What if we all learn differently? What if testing doesn’t really show our understanding of a subject or what if there were better ways of truly evaluating and teaching individuals? Thankfully these types of questions are being asked in a big way these days, as re-evaluating our education system is a hot topic and for good reason – it isn’t effective.
A Challenge From A 4th Grader
Sydney Smoot, a 4th grader, has taken a bold stand against Common Core and her words got the attention of many adults. The young student from Brooksville Elementary in Florida shared her powerful words about the dangerous impact that state standardized testing is having on students.
“This testing looks at me as a number. One test defines me as either a failure or a success through a numbered rubric. One test at the end of the year that the teacher or myself will not even see the grade until after the school year is already over. I do not feel that all this FSA testing is accurate to tell how successful I am. It doesn’t take in account all of my knowledge and abilities, just a small percentage.”
She went on to ask a very important question:
“Why am I being forced to take a test that hasn’t even been tested on students here in Florida, so how can it be valid and accurate on what I know?”
About The Author
I created CE 5 years ago and have been heavily at it since. I love inspiring others to find joy and make changes in their lives. Hands down the only other thing I am this passionate about is baseball.
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