“…if the schools wouldn’t spend so much of the early
years stamping out individuality and denying the students’ right to think
for themselves, they wouldn’t have to work so hard in the later years
developing individual responsibility and initiative.” – Ruth Pell
Teaching children to think for themselves starts from infancy. True, it’s important to teach kids how our society works and what our culture expects from them. It’s also important to give them the choice of deciding if they like what society is trying to teach them – that’s what independence is. That’s how kids learn who they are and how to think critically about their experiences.
Parents need to teach kids how things are and then teach them how to question it. Without the freedom to ask questions and say “no”, and “I’ll do it my way.”, kids slowly learn that it’s futile to even try. It’s no wonder when they are older that they no longer have the energy or desire to be self-reliant and independent. Either that, or they are so fed up that they want to break all the rules – it’s a lot less stressful to break them than to follow them.
Without freedom of thought and a life-time of learning how to make our own decisions, how can we have strength of critical thinking and smart decision making?
Some cultural “training” and following authority is important to understand and practice in order to have a functioning society. But full-time standards-based education takes it too far. It’s pounding a nail for an hour when it only needed three quick taps to flatten it against the wood.
This doesn’t only happen in school. It can happen when educating at home too. Little kids need freedom to be who they are, while having clear boundaries. Give them the playground and enforce the barriers around it, but let them play in that playground with what they want. The world, BTW, is the playground.