Personal Growth, and why I think it should be a top priority in all schools…

by F.P Biddle

I think I realized, about a half a decade ago, just what the system was all about. When I say the system, I mean mainly the education system.

I am going to come out with it, right from the start. No beating around the bush. In my opinion, the education system is BS – aka, bullshit. There’s something about the way kids are brought up in schools that bugs the living daylights out of me. Its more an instinctive gut reaction than it is logical reasoning, I suppose you could say, That instinct has been gnawing at me for as long as I can remember, and I am only just starting to make head and tail of it now – three and a half decades into my life.

As the saying goes. Better late than never.

It is hard to explain what I mean when I say that. BS is really the only appropriate word I can use to describe it. Attempts to explain to others my views about education, and namely, schools and how they operate, have been met with fierce indignation and wary side glances which tell me, loud and clear, that I am crazy. Regardless of that, I feel there is definitely some semblance of truth to what I believe, even if I have always lacked the ability to explain it effectively, and in a way that generates some kind of understanding to the receiver.

I seem to make more sense with the pen than I do with my mouth. So I’m going to give it a good shot. Even if it means throwing myself to the wolves and getting ripped to shreds in the process.

The gnawing going on in my gut is persistent as hell. Like an itch I can’t satisfy no matter what I use to tame it. I know we all have that feeling – that school is not all that it is cracked up to be. I have always thought that, even as I plod along like an obedient member of society, and previously conditioned my daughter to do the same. It’s especially hard when you are surrounded by a whole heap of people who believe in the system as if it is the Oracle, and are constantly ramming it down your throat. Send your daughter to school. It is good for them. Its how they learn. It’s the only way to get a good job. It’s the only way they will become successful in life. You know, all that kind of jazz.

That’s what a majority of my circle say. But deep down inside, I have never believed it.  I just don’t buy it, and in this day and age, I am definitely not the only one who holds that belief. The world is awake now, more than it’s ever been before. But the number of people still sleeping outweighs the latter. By a very, very large margin.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I totally understand the perspective from the other side. I really do. I understand the sacrifices made by over-worked and stressed to the max teachers, who willingly spend each day of the week tending to and attempting to teach a curriculum to a dozen or so more children at a time. At the risk of sounding like an asshole, I admit that I cannot stand to be in the presence of a bunch of rowdy kids for more than two hours. So I have serious respect for the teacher who can sit in with children, from morning until afternoon, five days a week, for an entire school year. And for years on end. That is something truly unique. The job seems tireless and a sacrifice unto itself, and I take my hat off to them for doing that.

I also acknowledge the fact that there are definitely highlights within the education system that need to be pointed out. It absolutely has its positives. Of course, children are going to learn something in school. I’m not saying they aren’t. They learn subjects and topics that are going to be invaluable to them in their later years, especially if it is their goal to become a doctor, a scientist, or a lawyer, for example.

It’s not the Curriculum I have a problem with. The thing that bugs me about this system is that it gets the opportunity to drill into the minds of millions and billions of children EVERYWHERE – values and attitudes and strict moral codes that, realistically, don’t amount to much when it comes to dwelling in the real world.

Do you know what I mean? Let me try to explain that further.

I’m going to use my six-year-old daughter as an example. My daughter is an only child. She has spent a majority of the six years of her life with very little social interaction and, as a result, is socially awkward. Her receptive language and behaviour is sometimes akin to that of a four-year old. Last year, during her first year of primary school, she was recommended to a language developement school by her teacher, because she could not follow basic instructions that most five-year olds ‘should’ be able to follow.

She also could not relate to children, and when asked questions, could not understand what was being said to her. Her teacher at the time was lovely. I know she meant well. But just ONE month into the school year, rather than allow time for my daughter to adjust, she began to badger me about getting ‘help’ for my girl, and pointed out that there was something wrong with her. So me, thinking I was doing the right thing, hopped on board and put things in motion. My baby went through numerous assessments and tests, and was diagnosed with a Receptive Language Disorder. What that means, I still have no idea. A $200 dollar fee was paid for this assessment, as well as for an application form for entry into The Language Developmental School. But unfortunately, she missed out on a spot, as this school was apparently very hard to get into.

Now on the other hand, academically, she is the brightest girl in her class. I have been active in teaching her the basics as soon as she could talk, and she has been reading since she was three. Before she went to school, she knew her entire alphabet, colours, shapes, numbers up to one hundred, and how to write her name. So I got a bit of a shock when I realized that a majority of her classmates in her first year possessed very little knowledge about these things.

This is not a judgement, either, on the parenting skills of others. Children have their own pace at learning, and I totally get that. But when it came to my daughter, and looking back on the situation now, I am seeing the picture so much clearer. It irks me that I did not stand up to the teachers at the time, and kindly requested that they leave her be. That’s when I realized that the conditioning and moulding of my daughter had begun. Because she was different , and not exactly how a five-year old ‘should be’, steps were being taken to ‘bring her into line.’

There was absolutely nothing wrong with my daughter to begin with. She was just going to need a little bit more time to adjust.

Today, a mere year later, my daughter has come ‘right’ according to the teachers. She is the highest reader and speller in her class, and has a different set of books and homework to the rest of the class, as it is more suited to her. She is able to relate to children better than previously, and is improving each day.  This was partly because me and her father began to fill up her life with social activities outside of the school. She does Tae Kwon Do, and regularly has sleepovers at her friend’s house.

But I never forgot that lesson. And probably never will. She has been brought in to line, and I should be proud of that. But I’m not.  Why?  Because she was forced to conform. This was a wake up call for me, but rather than take it up with the school, me and her father both decided at that point to do what we can to be the more forceful influence in her life. To instill some strong values in her, in the hopes that she will one day stand on her own, and be the person that she was born to be – and not another moulded product of society. To be a lion and lead, and not just another sheep who conforms because it’s the normal thing to do.

Maybe we are both looking a bit too far ahead when it comes to our daughter. But I would rather attempt to arm her with self-awareness, and wake her up now, than have her get to the age of thirty or forty, and realize that everything she has learnt externally is not the be all and end all of life. Unlearning that is no easy feat. Me and her dad are both realizing that now, as we are currently going through our own awakening as we step into entrepreneurship, a world that I can already see is going to challenge all that we have ever known and believed up to thus far.

We do not want our daughter to go through the same thing.  So of course, it is going to be a gargantuan challenge. After all, it is me and her dad against a global system that has been brainwashing the masses since way before we were both born. You know how that system works, right? From the age of five, all the way up to eighteen years old, our children spend a majority of their lives in a system that is constantly and mercilessly advising them on how to be ‘productive’ members of society. If you go to school everyday, listen to your teachers, get good grades, and graduate, you can’t go wrong. Maybe you will go on to university and rack up a debt of a few hundred thousand dollars to become a lawyer. Maybe you will sit an apprenticeship, and enter a trade. Maybe you will do none of these things and, after twelve or so years of going to school, you just decide to go out and get a job at a factory or something.

Twelve years in a school system, and you have either the following to show for it. A Bachelor’s Degree, a lawyer title and a one hundred thousand dollar debt. A 9 to 5 trade  job. Or you’ve forgotten school completely, and spend your days working in a factory, wondering how the hell you got there.

I know I am being biased. But you know what, I don’t think I’m too far off the mark by suggesting that the example I gave above, about the lawyer, tradie and the factory worker…well, that’s sixty percent of the human population for you. Thats the normal way of the world. It’s how it is, basically. Well done. After twelve years dwelling in the education system, you have now become a productive member of society.

I don’t get it.

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It all starts in childhood.  What are we teaching our children NOW. Children are not be meant to be moulded this way. They are just not. They are meant to be who they are, and seriously, who the hell are we to mess with that? If you look around you with eyes truly open, you will see that a majority of us are living the way we have been taught and conditioned to live, not how we truly and desperately and deeply want to. And that saddens me.

After all, the importance placed on ‘systematic education’ is far more globally taught than ‘self-education’ yes? It should be the other way around, as I believe it is character that builds a successful person, not just merely knowledge. I’m a perfect example of that fact. When I was twelve years old, a story I wrote was published in the New Idea magazine. I was editor of our school year book for three years, from 14 years to the age of 16, a top student in English from Intermediate all the way through high school, and my teachers endlessly praised me, and commented on my potential as a budding author. Despite this, I was a social outcast, and a major loner, which made me feel alienated nearly all my school life. I was from a different kettle of fish, I suppose you could say (another post for another day). I knew how to write, yes, but wasn’t taught the life skills nor had the mindset at the time, to put it into motion, and make it happen.

Of course I don’t blame the education system for that. The reason why I am 36 years old and still not published is on my shoulders, and I own that. But see, this is why self-education and personal growth is so important. It’s why mindset is so important. Imagine teaching children right from the age of five about personal growth, and how to tap into the mind. It sounds ludicrous I know, especially when you consider the fact that they are still only really learning where and what the brain is.

But if a Personal Growth and Self-education class were created, and then made a compulsory topic in schools, our children could truly benefit from that. It may even change the future, as we know it now, and the shift in the world would be felt globally. And in a good way. This seems like a no-brainer to me. A majority of us spend a huge chunk of our lives within a system that the government tells us is good for us. So why not put your money where your mouth is, and create opportunities that could possibly help our children soar instead of conform? It just seems like common sense. I often wonder why it is not a big part of the education system already. But I guess that’s another question for another day.

Self-education and personal growth before mainstream education. Thats the way it should be. The way it should have been – right from the start.

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