This past fall I took a walk and saw a father and his little boy raking leaves. The father had a man-sized rake and the boy used a little one. They both looked contented gathering up the leaves on their lawn. Naturally the lion’s share of the work was done by the man and the boy was both learning and being included in what his father was doing. The rightness of the activity, of the inclusion and contentedness, was a wonderful thing to see.
Why don’t all children work to their ability, to include them in what is going on? The young one learns real life skills and they are a part of things. Kids want that. When we exclude them, when we alienate them, they go off on their own and occupy themselves with other things.
I remember being four years old and I thought to myself, ‘two plus two,’ and the answer ‘four’ popped into my little head. I didn’t understand how that happened and I wanted to know. I walked over to my father and asked, “How do you think?”
My dad had a bunch of bills spread out on the floor and was working with a ledger book, trying to figure out how he was going to pay the bills and manage the household budget. “Don’t bother me with stupid questions!” he snapped at me.
I walked away stunned and never asked him another question. Never once. He lived a long life and now he’s gone. My mother taught me how to hit a ball with a bat. Not everyone has parenting in them nor should they be compelled to be something they are not. Someone else will take great joy in it.
What should have happened is that he ask me why I wanted to know. On discovering I was playing with arithmetic in my head he could have showed me what he was doing. He could have explained that he didn’t know how thinking works but he still could have included me in adding up the bills and comparing that total with his income. He could have continued working and at the same time showed me how he organized his thoughts.
We can include children in what we do and in the process discover what real-world things they like and are good at. This knowledge would better help us direct them toward a more meaningful life and education.
All schooling from crayons to PhD should be accessible online and paced at the student’s ability to have fun learning. Such presentations and exercises would cater to the mindset of the learner. Billy could be doing arithmetic through a game on his tablet while Mommy is studying architecture. Education should not be compulsory but the opportunity and exposure should be readily accessible. There are reasons people don’t like certain subjects and they should not be forced to endure them. Traditional schools are a waste of time and space. One should be doing real world things and following up with online instruction.
Some people like to clean, others enjoy pure physical labor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Others like to sit and manipulate numbers while others abhor it. It is the great diversity of talents and preferences that make this world thrive. We should each be included in helping things along and be enabled to pursue our interests unhindered. We should all contribute from the time we are able until the time we are unable. No one need be compelled to work more than a couple hours each day, but for many they would gladly do more while pursuing their bliss.
I’m retired now. For thirty years I worked for General Motors as a UAW member. For ten of those years I ran production machinery, for another ten years I operated a forklift truck, and for the remaining ten I taught health and safety classes. During that time I also played keyboards in a classic-rock cover band and earned a college degree. I think I put in more hours now as a husband, blogger, musician, and teacher; all simply following my bliss and mostly for no compensation.
The world could thrive so much more cooperating and including instead of competing and selfishly trying to hoard wealth. And we could have so much more fun doing it.