October 29, 2013

What Are We Teaching Our Children? ~ Amber Linthakhan

Here are four possible dangers of our current education system:

1. To Fear Touch

We have become such a hands-off society.

We shy away from touching other humans for fear of seeming “creepy,” for being scared someone will get the wrong impression, for fear of being sued, for fear of having touch become misinterpreted as something more.

It’s a shame really.

A simple hug can be such a comfort, holding someone’s hand in yours can put one at ease. There is something reassuring about a pat on the back, or a gentle touch on the thigh. Yes, I said thigh—did you just tense up?

It’s not that touch is always wrong—yes sometimes it is, but mostly it’s not.

We are learning to fear touch from each other, from the news, from society itself. I believe it starts early, very early in life.

It starts with our children. Yes, teaching them caution is a must, teaching them that there are appropriate ways of touch and non-appropriate ways will help guide them through life, but to discontinue touch all together teaches them to have such a deep-rooted fear of touch itself.

In my son’s school there is a “personal bubble space” rule, always.

Starting in kindergarten, and probably earlier, kids are taught to stay in their “personal bubble space”. Yes, I get it. We don’t want children hitting others, or god forbid touching others inappropriately.

But isn’t there a better way to make sure this doesn’t happen than to exile touch all together?

Take a kid who bites for example. That child has not been given the correct skills to deal with his frustrations. After a child bites another, we are more strict with keeping this child within his “own bubble”. We make sure he stays apart from others for fear he will bite again. He becomes distant and kept at arms length from everyone around him—and something like this is ingrained within us that early, tending to stick with us throughout our lives.

What is this teaching him?

Better yet, who is it benefiting?

No one, especially the biter. Which I assure you he is now labeled as, so of course he’s going to continue biting! Because we are giving him no other tools—what if instead we taught this child a better way to touch?

2. To Lose Our Voice

A man patrols the lunchroom, disciplining every student that raises his or her voice above a quiet inside tone.

The kids fear this man. They fear speaking because they do not want the public humiliation of him walking over and getting in their face in front of the whole lunch room, telling them to “keep it down”.

Classrooms must be kept continuously quiet as to not get too rowdy and out of control—the last thing any teacher wants is a room full of children being loud and crazy, but have we forgotten they are children?

They’re supposed to be rowdy and loud at times.

They have the rest of their lives to sit calmly, hands folded in laps, using their quiet voices and being upstanding citizens.

Can’t we let them use their outside voices, and be loud, and full of laughter for a little while longer? (Easy for me to say right? I’m not the one in the room trying to calm 30 kids.)

3. The Pressure Of Time

It seems as if there is so much material that teachers are trying so desperately to get through in a school year that the pressure to “do school” is totally rushed.

Stay on task, do your work, finish up, keep working, stop talking—I am certainly not blaming teachers for this. It is beyond their power, and they are just trying desperately to stay afloat.

I think a red flag needs to be raised when a child is denied a potty break because there is too much work to be done, or when a letter is sent home stating that the afternoon snack in kindergarten will be a “working snack” and has to be something that does not involve any preparation (as there isn’t enough time).

But wait, isn’t preparing a snack the perfect time to teach a lesson?

Here’s a great chance to teach about portion size and nutrition, about how preparing food together enhances motor skills—and what better way to create community in a classroom than preparing food together.

But of course, there isn’t enough time for real world learning.

 4. Being Overworked

Most of us are all too familiar with a job that stresses us out because there is too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Incomplete worksheets, mounds of homework, half eaten lunches, tears from a child that is exhausted—these are all signs of “not enough time” and “too much to do”.

Are we teaching our children at a young age that being overworked is the norm? That it’s just how life is and will be from here on out?

I’m not sure we want our children feeling that pressure just yet. I know we hate that feeling, so what makes us think our children will enjoy it?

There are so many wonderful extracurricular activities out there for children to partake in, but at what cost?

Shuttling a child from school, to dance, to soccer practice, and shoving a sandwich down their throats in-between car rides, and then taking them back home for the two hours of homework they have yet to do, then rushing them off to bed to do it all over again the next day—I’m not sure that is worth the experience.

Of course they’re learning and growing! They learn how to read and write. They learn algebra and geography. The friends they make now could be in their lives for years to come.

Yes, they will learn valuable lessons throughout their school career, but they will also learn things that may do more harm the good.

And so, we must stop every once in a while and ask ourselves—what are we teaching our children?


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Assistant Ed: Laura Ashworth/Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: courtesy of the author

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Amber Linthakhan