Know Thyself as the First Order of Education
“Knowing Yourself Is the Beginning of All Wisdom”
What the pandemic has shown me, perhaps the most, is that our young are not equipped to deal with stressors of large magnitudes, and we as caregivers, educators, and parents need to recognize where and how we are not preparing them for living in this world. There has been an epidemic of depression, anxiety, suicide, and substance abuse among our youth amidst the last two years. The pandemic has been difficult for many reasons, and I am in no way downplaying anyone’s experiences, but one angle of seeing this is that it really accentuated a problem that has been dwelling beneath our awareness for years.
How are we preparing our youth for living in the world?
Dealing with stressors? Teaching them how to handle their emotions?
How to cope with loss? How to take more initiative about educating
We must learn how to be human beings first. This includes learning how to take care of ourselves before Algebra becomes a necessity to learn. In what order of precedence are we giving to topics of education? Our schools in California shut down completely because they were deemed to be unessential during the pandemic. Let’s be clear, educating youth is essential. The system that is currently in place in which we declare we are educating youth is not essential. Why is it more important to learn how volcanos erupt than how to deal with your anger? I have been on this Earth many years and the knowledge of how a volcano erupts has never once come in handy. Learning how to handle my emotions is handy multiple times a day.
We need to understand that we are living, breathing sentient beings, and children need to understand their bodies and emotions. How to feed their bodies, care for their bodies, how to notice how they feel. This is more than an hour class once per semester, this is essential knowledge that is more important than 80% of what they are currently learning daily.
Wisdom is a deeper knowing than intelligence. Pub med.gov defines the difference as follows:
“Intelligence can be defined as the ability to think logically, to conceptualize, and abstract from reality. Wisdom can be defined as the ability to grasp Human nature, which is paradoxical, contradictory, and subject to continual change.”
Harnessing this power for our youth is of the greatest value we can provide. Wisdom is cultivated, not experienced through reading texts books and worksheets. Kids need to understand how to get their own food, grow it, cook it, freeze it and to be in connection with the planet. This is essential for their survival. How many college students enter the ‘real world’ and don’t know how to cook a chicken or a carrot? Years of school, and they know nothing about how to provide for themselves. They need to plant, not just read about planting. They need hands on life experiences that you cannot mimick sitting at a desk.
Children need to understand their emotions, and to learn how to cultivate empathy, compassion, boundaries, and a capacity to tolerate difficult situations and relationships. This is the kind of education that really matters and is essential. It goes deeper than just a chart for classroom management where they get color coded. Empowerment comes from understanding yourself. We want our youth to be empowered. A generation of disempowered youth has dire consequences for our collective future. This leads to a sense of never-ending neediness and a failure to launch, not just into the world, but a failure to really launch into yourself. Think of a 35-year-old living in his parent’s basement playing video games all day. When you are disempowered, you constantly blame others, go into a victim state of mind, and feel like you just can’t do things. This is also a contributing factor to depression and substance abuse in youth. When you are empowered, you take personal responsibility, take healthy risks, and move through life feeling able and confident; and when things get hard, you don’t give up or need to escape.
How can we fail to equip kids with the knowledge of who they are as human beings? How can we honestly say that history, algebra, Spanish, ceramics, are all more important topics? When you are in state of arousal via stress or burn out, like most of our kids are post pandemic, your brain cannot learn things like math or essay writing, and we know that too. So why are we ignoring the aftermath and the information obtained through our experience? Why are we setting forth like business- as -usual when our youth are clearly not doing well? We must do better.