What Kids Need To Learn in School to Become Their Best Adult Selves

One night I dreamed a dream.

I was in a college classroom, it felt like a religion class but it might have been history. The room had individual desks, the kind with the metal framed chairs and the small desktops that curve around your seat.

The teacher was an older lady, who had developed some very creative ways of remembering information, which she deemed important. She wanted to ensure that her students could recall specific topics or events in order to explain them to others who may inquire about them. Her solution was to create new words or phrases to help her students.

These words and phrases were not acronyms or mnemonics. Crazy as it may sound, the teacher described them as the way someone might say a word if they were to mispronounce it. Of course, the teacher’s made up words didn’t actually sound like anything. Even in my sleep, I thought this was crazy.

I have no ability to recall the topics or events the teacher thought were so important. What I do recall, is taking the teacher’s test and finding the questions she asked confusing and irrelevant. Here is an example of how the test questions were phrased – “If someone asks you about HOMGOM, what might they be referring to and how would you respond to them?”

Intentional Living Classroom 2

In total there were 15 questions on her exam. For the first seven or eight, my subconscious mind was able to quickly find a reasonable response. It wasn’t until I moved on to the second half of the test that I came across the questions with the made-up words.

As I skipped one question after another, having no clue how to possibly answer them, I became increasingly frustrated and angry. Of course, the test was timed, and I could hear the clock ticking down as my time ran out. Tick. Tick. Tick.

My mind drew a complete blank as I tried to answer these questions. Rather than forcing myself to craft a creative yet completely wrong response, I simply left these questions empty. Sweat began to form on my brow. My heart raced with the anticipation of failing the test. I prayed that the time would be extended until I could return to the questions I had skipped.

But, the time ran out. The teacher told us all to put down our pencils. Then to my horror, she asked that we all exchange our tests with someone else in the classroom so that we could perform peer grading right away. When another student approached me, I reluctantly handed over my exam and took his.

The teacher provided the appropriate response for each question, and we were asked to mark our partner’s response as either correct or incorrect. When she reached the second half of the test and began providing the responses to her made-up-word questions, the answers didn’t make any sense to me.

The words the teacher had created didn’t actually sound like any of the responses she was giving. The entire exercise was impossible to follow and I couldn’t believe I was being tested on it. I also couldn’t believe that something so ridiculous would be affecting my grade and thus my transcript.

I raised my hand to protest the silliness of the questions and beg for an explanation as to how these items could possibly be helpful in real life. The teacher’s response was both shocking and infuriating.

She responded that she had talked about these “word plays” in class and that if I hadn’t been paying attention that was my fault. Again I protested that even if I had known the answers, the information was made up and completely useless.

In a very condescending tone, the teacher told me that her responsibility was to develop the curriculum and my responsibility was to memorize it. If I couldn’t do that, then I would fail.

Intentional Living Classroom

At this point, I began to shout. For those who know me in real life, I’m a fairly subdued person, and there are few people who have ever seen me raise my voice. However, for some reason, I find myself shouting in my dreams quite frequently; usually as a stance against unfairness or in defense of the defenseless. It’s not uncommon to find myself fighting tyranny in my sleep.

It was at this point in my dream when I began to gain some level of actual consciousness. In the real world, it was about five in the morning, and I found myself lying in bed unable to sleep. Despite my best efforts to fight it off, my mind continued to return to my dream. I was trying to process what had happened.

Despite the obvious fact that my experience was just a dream and had not actually occurred, I couldn’t help but feel strong emotions about it. I was angry. It made me feel as though I was trapped in an existence where I had no real control over the outcome of my life. It made me feel as though I was wasting years of my life in an educational system that wanted me to memorize useless information, rather than learn life-changing skills.

As I lay in my bed, stewing over something that hadn’t really happened to me, I began to realize why I was so upset by it. While the dream was just something I’d experienced in my head, the wasted time in a classroom, memorizing useless information, was all too real. The dream was a representation of my actual educational experience.

Aside from some very technical classes in college, I rarely learned something I could take into the real world. It seemed that teachers were more intent on making their class either difficult or enjoyable, rather than educating and preparing their students for life.

How much of my life had I spent in school, memorizing exactly what the teacher wanted me to memorize, so that I could regurgitate it on the next exam?

Without intending to, I began to formulate a manifesto of what school should actually accomplish, rather than what it is accomplishing today. Around 5:20, I found that I could no longer lie in bed trying to sleep, so I awoke and went to write down my thoughts.

What I came up with in the early twilight of that morning, was a simple phrase followed by multiple bullet points. This is in no way a complete list, but I believe that it gets at the heart of what education should provide and where education is falling short today.

Here’s the phrase – An education should help students develop… I honestly believe that students should be the ones who are ultimately responsible for their education, as they are the only ones who can actually learn something. Teachers, parents, and administrators can only invite students to learn and help guide them in their journey. Our primary focus should be to help students go down a path of learning that will prepare them for their lives as adults, rather than preparing them for an entrance or exit exam.

I hope that you find my education manifesto helpful, if for nothing more than getting you thinking about what is important to you when it comes to your children’s education.

Keep reading to see the full manifesto.

Intentional Living School Library

An education should help students develop…

Moral Judgement

Morality does not have to be correlated with or tied to religion. In this context, what I mean by moral judgment is simply developing a standard of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.

This involves seeing other people as people, having empathy, and avoiding selfishness. Another way to look at moral judgment is becoming a good citizen, becoming someone who does not steal from or abuse others, and becoming someone who is just and honest in their dealings with others.

As far as I have seen, the current public school curriculum does not even broach the subject of moral thinking.

Courage

Courage is taking action in accordance with your moral judgment, and being willing to do something because you believe it is the right thing to do. Courage means doing something even if it is frightening.

Teaching our children courage is important because they will be faced with situations that scare them and they’ll need strength to make the right decision. It takes courage to act on your moral judgment. It takes courage to do what is right even when everyone else is doing something that is wrong.

It will take courage for kids to break the mold, be themselves, and live the life they envision for themselves.

Self-Worth

Self-worth is something that schools are not only failing to develop in students but are actually eliminating altogether. How could a child possibly develop self-worth in a situation where they have very limited autonomy, are educated the same as everyone other student, and are constantly compared to their peers.

Self-worth is inherent. All people have worth because they are human beings. One of my favorite quotes comes from my three-year-old daughter, who I overheard while she was playing – “Everyone is my family. Everyone is my friend.”

It’s so simple, but it’s true. If we can look at ourselves and others as individuals, who are inherently worthy, then we will all begin to feel a deeper sense of self-worth.

I believe we can help foster the development of worth in our children by allowing them to be themselves, to make as many of their own choices as possible, and to make their own mistakes. I believe that it will require individualized education, which may not be possible as part of the modern school system, but can be accomplished by a loving parent or teacher.

Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills

Going back to my dream, which sparked this whole educational manifesto, I was extremely frustrated by the fact that my teacher was requiring students to memorize useless information rather than developing valuable skills. The skills I feel are most needed in today’s world are critical thinking and analysis.

The world is evolving at an exponential rate and keeping up with every bit of new information is literally impossible. I’d also argue that keeping pace with all available information is unnecessary. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue to learn throughout our lives, and for some vocations, ongoing education is absolutely required. But what is vastly more important is to be able to think critically, effectively analyze, and solve problems.

Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “Never memorize something that you can look up.” The ability to look something up has never been greater. We carry this ability with us in our pockets and on our wrists. We have access to nearly all of the world’s information.

Schools don’t need to force feed students information, they need to teach them how to determine the best methods for using that information.

A Love for Learning

Learning is as natural as breathing. For kids, everything is learning – play, eating, bath time.  Have you ever asked a two-year-old to stop pushing things off the counter? If so, then you know it’s almost impossible for them to stop.

Why? Because they are learning something new and it’s incredibly fascinating to them. They have to find out if the book or sock will fall again. It worked one time, will it work again? For kids, learning is so much fun that they literally can’t stop doing it.

That is until we begin to coerce them into learning. As soon as learning becomes a requirement rather than a natural occurrence, children begin to dislike learning. Education designed for the masses will never foster a love for learning in kids.

Why? It’s simple. Learning should follow curiosity. Curiosity is the foundation of all learning. Curiosity is the desire to know something.

So how do we help kids develop a love for learning? We get out of their way and let them take charge of their own education. We let them focus on the things they are interested in. We stop forcing them to learn the same thing at the same time as everyone else. Eventually, they will move from subject to subject as new things peek their interest.

Allowing curiosity to lead learning is the surest way to ensure our children hold on to the love of learning with which they were born.

An Understanding of How to Learn

Everyone learns in a different way. Some people learn best by reading about a subject, some people learn best by listening to someone describe a subject, and some people learn best by watching someone perform a subject.

Again, this goes back to individualization. Children need to learn which method of learning works best for them. This cannot be accomplished in a school system where all children are required to learn the same things in the same manner.

How do We Ensure our Children Get this Education?

This manifesto came to me as the result of a dream and a 5:00 am meditation session, which means that it is certainly not exhaustive. It also means that it is not entirely prescriptive. I don’t intend to tell you how to best educate your children, and I’m definitely not trying to explain how the education system should be changed as a whole.

What I do believe is that our kids need to develop the skills and attributes listed in my educational manifesto. While many would have you believe that it is the primary responsibility of communities and governments to ensure children receive a proper education, I will make a stand and say that parents and families are the actual gatekeepers.

Families are the basic units of society and the primary place for education to occur. I would encourage all parents to develop their own educational manifesto, or borrow mine, to ensure their children receive the opportunity for learning they need and deserve.

I hope this was helpful. If so, please like the post and leave a comment below. Thanks!

 


Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.

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My Definition of Intentional Living Might be Different Than Yours

What does it mean to live intentionally? How do you begin to live with intention? And what are the benefits of such a crazy idea?

The purpose of this post is to share what intentional living means, and how it can be useful. The ideas below are my own personal ideas about living intentionally and can be adopted and molded as needed.

I’m writing in part to ensure that I present a coherent definition of intentional living so that you know what I mean when I use the term and so you can begin to internalize your own definition.

I hope this helps guide you as you think through some ways in which your life could be improved or better managed.

Intentional Living Butterfly

Consciousness

Intentional living means that you are conscious of the decisions you make about how to live your life. 

Being conscious means that you understand why you’re making a decision and what the possible consequences of your decision will be.

Being conscious means that you think through decisions and work at them until you get to the core of the matter, so you’re not guided by superficial incentives.

This requires that you question everything. It requires that you ask questions about the answers to your questions.

Being conscious means that you don’t allow decisions to be made for you. When things aren’t going the way you want them to, you make a change.

Being conscious means that you decide what is appropriate for your life, and just as importantly, what can be left out of your life entirely.

What Types of Decisions Can You Be Intentional About?

Everything we do, say and think requires us to make a decision. All too often we allow ourselves to go on autopilot. This can be a useful mechanism for helping us save time and energy.

The problem with autopilot is that we can get into a routine that is not actually healthy for us. Intentional living is all about recognizing the things we’ve set to autopilot and breaking the habits that are harming us.

These habits may include the things we’re consuming; such as food (or things posing as food), television and movies, social media, and even negative ideas.

Many times the habits we’ve set to autopilot have infiltrated our careers, our relationships, our political views and affiliations, and the way we raise our children.

We may have even allowed our autopilot to turn off positive, healthy habits that can be very beneficial for our lives. These habits may include exercise, reading uplifting materials, spending time with and communicating with our significant other, meditating or praying, and spending time outdoors.

Intentional living means that you force yourself to be conscious of the things you’re doing, or not doing, in your life so that you can change and live your life with purpose and integrity.

Integrity

Living with integrity is one of the fruits of intentional living. Living with integrity means that you live according to your true self.

Once you’ve become conscious of the decisions you are making, you sit at a crossroad. You now have to decide whether to change the way you’re living, so that your decisions are more in line with your inner compass, or remain on the path others have chosen for you.

Living with integrity is not the easy route, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Living with integrity allows you to live according to your moral code. It allows your inner voice to guide you.

It means that you live free of peer pressure. Once you begin living with integrity you never have to do something simply because other people are doing that thing.

Are You Bound to Fail at Living with Integrity?

Nobody is perfect. I don’t believe that anybody has the ability to live with perfect integrity (either from a moral standpoint or a personal truth standpoint). It means that you see your own faults and forgive yourself and others

So, if you already know you’re going to fail, is there a point to even trying? The answer is a resounding “Of course!” The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus called it foolish to quit something simply because you would never be the best at it.

In the same way, not trying to live with integrity just because you know you’ll never be perfect at it is faulty reasoning. The joy is in the journey. Especially since there is no eventual destination.

All along the path, you will find yourself struggling with one thing or another. For me right now, I spend way too much time staring at a screen – often times a screen I can hold in my hand.

Its something I’m aware of that I’m working to improve on. Does it mean I’m perfect? No, and I never will be. But again, that’s not the point.

Living intentionally means that you see your own faults and that you’re willing to forgive yourself. It also means that you’re willing to forgive others for their shortcomings.

Striving to live with integrity, living according to the true you, is the point. Integrity will bring you peace of mind, tranquility, and happiness.

I’ve written more extensively about living with integrity in previous posts. You can read about them here (How do You Know if You’re Living With Integrity?) and here (Why Integrity is the Foundation of Happiness).

Freedom

Living intentionally gives you a sublime feeling of freedom because you know that you are making your own choices and blazing your own trail.

If you’ve taken the time to become conscious of your decisions, and readjusted your life to live with integrity, then you will begin to feel a sense of autonomy and power enter your life.

Having freedom means that you are the master of your own soul. It means that your internal rudder steers your ship through life, in the direction you want to go.

Having freedom means that you act and do not wait to be acted upon. You make decisions, not because someone tells you what is right, but because you’ve come to your own conclusion.

Living intentionally will grant you freedom in many different aspects of your life; including your career, your relationships, and your health.

What Kinds of Freedom Will You Enjoy?

You’ll find that you spend more time doing things that you want to be doing and not what your autopilot was fooling you into doing. You’ll spend more quality time with loved ones. You’ll spend more time outside enjoying nature. You’ll spend more time on hobbies that make you happy.

You’ll spend more quality time with loved ones. You’ll spend more time outside enjoying nature. You’ll spend more time on hobbies and activities that make you happy.

Your mind will be free to focus on things that really matter to you. For example: rather than worrying so much about the major projects you have going on at work, you’ll spend time thinking about what you can do to make your family more connected.

You’ll begin to enjoy freedom from possessions, as you come realize the small value they actually provide in your life. You’ll be more grateful for what you have and think less about the things that you want.

When you begin to live intentionally, others may begin to think that you are crazy. Anytime you do something different from everyone else, there will be some level of backlash.

It’s true that others may not understand why you have suddenly changed, but that’s alright. Intentional living will set you free from worrying about what others think.

One of the greatest forms of freedom you will experience is the assurance that only you get to decide who you are and what makes you happy.

Vision

Intentional living gives you a vision of what the world could be and allows you to align your behavior with that vision.

Living intentionally means that you see the world for what it can be. It means that you focus on what is truly important.

It means that you can make your world a big as you can by experiencing as many different ideas, cultures, and places as possible. It means that you try to see things through others eyes.

Intentional living is about being conscious not only of your world but the world others live in as well.

Intentional living will give you a brighter outlook on what is possible and what can be done by you and others.

Iteration

Living intentionally means that you aren’t afraid to change your mind, iterate on your beliefs, or make changes to your actions.

When you live with intention, you strive to do the right thing, whatever that may be. Often times, we make decisions on incomplete or inaccurate information.

Which means that we’ll be faced with the experience of realizing we were wrong. Realizing that you’ve made a mistake is the first step in correcting that mistake.

You can change your views and your actions, and thus realign yourself with a proper course of action. This idea is emphasized throughout various religions, but often in the context of sin.

In our lives, we will do things that are not wrong in a religious sense but often violate our internal compass. Once we’ve come to understand something in a new light or we receive additional information, living intentionally would dictate that we make a conscious change.

In essence, intentional living means testing new ideas, trying new things, and new approaches. It means not being afraid to make a change.

After all, you can change without growing, but you can’t grow without changing.

Conclusion

Change while necessarily is not easy. I’d recommend baby steps in this regard. Choose one or two things you think that you could be more intentional about and start there.

I hope this was helpful for you in some way. These are my thoughts on intentional living as of today, but I am always open to ideas and suggestions on what could be included. Please let me know what you think, by leaving a comment below. Thanks.


Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.

Join others who receive Pacific Swells updates via email. Click HERE to signup for a monthly newsletter with my latest posts.

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