Ok, so taking a little diversion this week. As much as everything I talk about has lessons for selling and business built into it, this week I'm talking about parenting. Last week I saw a video on mindfulness which, if I wasn't such a schmuck I'd be able to add a link to (I did look for it, but my Google-esque hunting powers notwithstanding, couldn't find it). The gist of the video was, you reap what you sow, and if we don't start teaching our children mindfulness, and how to take care of themselves mentally and emotionally, we'll never break the cycle of human beings treating other human beings like crash test dummies.
Now I've advocated for years that the curriculum in our schools is stupid. For me, there's way too much stuff in there that is unlikely to assist the adult-to-be to live a healthy, happy life (we're talking what debt is, how to drive a car, self-defence and mental discipline, compound interest, how the share market works yada yada yada). But one thing I've never really considered is the mental exercises that should also be part of every school day.
I'm sure we've all seen videos of schools from across the planet practising all sorts of wild and wacky activities each day. Especially the Japanese whom I think can teach us a lot when it comes to discipline and mindfulness. So the question has to be asked, why don't we do this?
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those nut job parents who want to abdicate all of their responsibilities to our underpaid and overworked teachers. I don't. I'm not talking about teachers, I'm talking about curriculum. We have 13 years (13 YEARS!!!) with which to prepare our children for life after school. Just think what you could teach someone in 13 years. 13 years equates to roughly 13,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell said that it took 10,000 hours to master an art form. Now I get that these kids are learning lots of different things, but still - 13,000 hours! And my bigger concern is that the things they should be learning, they quite simply aren't.
We have an obesity epidemic in Australia. My wife used to watch the Biggest Loser and the thing that struck me the most was how moronically stupid these people were when it came to nutrition. How do you grow to adulthood and not realise that 8 litres of Coca-Cola a day is bad for you?
We have a depression epidemic in Australia (in most western countries). Why aren't we teaching our children mindfulness? Why aren't we teaching them the damage of negative self-talk, that nobody has the power to ruin your day unless you let them, and that the people who matter don't mind and the people who mind don't matter? You don't need 500 Facebook friends to feel validated. You don't need to be a size 0 to be worthwhile. You know I was at a girl's college the other day and whilst standing in the foyer for 10 minutes waiting I watched beautiful, full of life young girls of 18 or 19 wander through and not one of them looked like a Victoria's Secret model. Do they realise that that's ok? Do they understand that that's an unrealistic and actually kinda pointless life goal?
The video I watched said we reap what we sow. What are we sowing in our schools? Are we sowing solutions to the problems that plague the adult world (sexism, racism, obesity, violence, greed, ignorance) or are do we still think that English and Maths will be enough to win the day (and please, please don't think that this is a pot shot at English and Maths - I am a complete grammar nerd and would love to see a higher calibre of writing on social and other media... Hell if people could just spell stuff correctly on their building hoardings I'd be happy).
Late secondary school and university are the time to start specialising and training for what you'll make a living out of (though I think the things above should still be front and centre). But early childhood education needs a major shakeup in my opinion. Who do we want these kids to be? How do we want them to change the world? And then build a curriculum around that. Don't just expect that teaching them to store knowledge and solve complex problems will be enough if the problems are ingrained in the way we think. From the day we're born, we're born selfish. The challenge as parents isn't to foster a child's instincts. Their instincts are purely selfish. A parent's job is to show that child that the world is bigger than them, and that they can effect real change by looking outwards rather than inwards. Who knows, maybe that in itself would help with our mental health dilemma.
I'm sure I'm writing this in a bubble, with my only knowledge being my primary, secondary and boarding school education (and a little university before they threw me out), plus the experiences my 3 children are now having. So I'd love to hear from anyone who has seen a better way of doing things. I'm sure that if for a change, instead of being so insular, we took the best educational techniques from all over the world and saw education as a solution, rather than just a process to move through, we might see some actual change in the way human beings treat one another.