Learning languages is important in life, we all know that. Languages are useful. Speaking different languages helps to communicate with people from different cultures, and greatly enhances our understanding of peoples and the world as a whole.
When I see that the human is basically the same everywhere, despite all our cultural and national differences, I become myself more human.
Languages are indispensable when you want to look over the fence of your own culture, when you want to get out of the nation-based conditioning that is inflicted upon children everywhere in the world.
Suffices to watch the daily news in three different countries, just by switching the channels of your cable television, and you will see, perhaps with some surprise, that every country focuses upon news of their own nation and regarding their own people, and there is not even ten percent to be seen that could be called ‘international news;’ and when international news are reported, they are reported only because they have any kind of link with the nation; if not, they are simply left out.
If young people are to be educated internationally, they have to learn several languages, and they have to earn enough money to have the funds for moving freely and working in foreign countries, for that is the only way to really learn a foreign culture.
Having lived for more than ten years in South-East Asia, I know that speaking English is a very real factor for social progress of any kind. When you speak English fluently, in Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore or Malaysia, you can easily get a job in import-export or in the flourishing tourism business. Without speaking English, what you can do in these countries professionally is low class work that is paid less than about two hundred dollars per month, such as cleaning work, taxi driving, begging or prostitution, or hard work in the rice fields, which earns about ten dollar cent per hour, less than thirty dollars a month.
And yet, for example, in an international metropole such as Bangkok, most taxi drivers speak only a rudimentary English, despite the fact that they could earn substantially more, once being fluent in English, and working for a limousine service. Why are they not eager to change, except a few, simply by upgrading their English? The reason is that it’s not that simple.
Upgrading your English implies many things in these cultures, nothing less than building a vision, stopping negative and destructive self-talk, setting out to lead a different life, changing your attitude, and saving some money to pay the language school.
I know many stories and heard that in many a case, it was a foreigner who befriended a local taxi driver, waiter or maid, and who became the support agent the person needed to do the major change. This support, I saw, didn’t just consist in giving the funds for the language school fees, but is of a more general nature; it provides some sort of encouragement, and some backup in case the prospering local is attacked by his or her local friends because of outright jealousy.
And there is another factor that is often overlooked. We are living in the information age which is a communication age; better communicators are rewarded in our times much more than at any time before in human history.
However, our schools have not yet caught up with this new trend; in most schools, what you learn is to duck down and keep silent, to become non-communicative. This is especially disadvantageous for introvert males who are shy and passive, as they are often taken as suspicious or hostile, while with females, shyness or introversion is often interpreted as decency.
Hence, what these males have to learn is not just English, but open and fearless communication! This, then, requires an almost total change of attitude, and that is really something not easy to bring about without a personal tutor at your side.
Even if the school system is modern and child-focused, when the subject matters to be taught are all fragmented, disregarding our right-brain capacities and our creativity, do what you will, people coming out from such institutions are barely communicative; they may have learnt to study hard and to concentrate, and to memorize facts; they may have learnt ‘good behavior’ and manners, they may be polite and tactful, but that doesn’t help much if they don’t know to start a conversation, to cold-call customers without fright, to hold a speech in front of an audience, to give a charming presentation in a meeting or to bond with potential associates.
Such basic human skills are simply not taught in our traditional schools, and even barely in top-notch international schools! Mastering open and fearless communication goes a long way later in your life, especially in case you did not have the chance to learn it in early childhood.
I know this so well because I myself did not learn it early in life and was suffering from extreme timidity all my younger years through, to a point of having been a social inept. I could learn it to a certain extent later on, but when I compare myself with our great natural communicators, I am still too much in my shell, while I have trained myself to speak freely in front of an audience.
And as to the usefulness of knowledge learnt in school, I know many cases, including myself, that show that only a tiny percentage of what was learnt can later be used in life. I have a friend in Germany who is a mathematician and when he began to study mathematics at university, his professors told him to forget, as completely as possible, all he had learnt about mathematics in high school.
This and many other examples show that our traditional school systems have very little value to educate our children for global culture because they have not followed up to our moving into a real network society where communication and language abilities are primed, and where any kind of science knowledge is rendered obsolete within five years or less, as a result our swindling technological progress.
Yet our school systems, a bit around the world, are still stuck in the setup of the 19th century bourgeoisie, while they may today be equipped with computers and educational games. But the basic philosophy has not changed, and that is why most of the curricula are simply superseded and ineffective.
And here I do not even talk about subjects like systems theory, quantum physics or complexity research that urgently need to be embraced by our school curricula because they have to do with how we deal with perceiving the world or ‘reality’ in our times of change!
The hidden reason why our educational authorities are so reluctant to embrace these topics may be that by doing so, they would have to change their whole educational philosophy, and this is a task that needs political backup or even a change of administrative laws. This is probably the reason why all is stuck and very little is moving forward in matters of education; the other main reason for this stagnation is that educational budgets are curtailed down almost every year, while military budgets are raised.
Language and communication training should be put first on the list in any reform of school curricula on every level of the educational ladder, and creative activities such as painting, design, dance, theater and creative writing should equally score high on the list because they foster self-expression and the deployment of our talents and help us to communicate socially.
Science knowledge is much less important because it’s so quickly superseded by new technologies and insights, and can be learnt on the spot later on, for a specific job or mission. Our old idea of ‘general knowledge’ cannot be reasonably maintained because the amount of knowledge today is so immense that no human being can ever even remotely attempt to embrace it. This was certainly different two hundred fifty years ago, at the time of the Enlightenment when a man like Denis Diderot could write an encyclopedia that embraced about the integrality of the knowledge of that time.
An extremist educational approach that tries to exclude technology is as wrong as one that puts all its hope in modern information technology. We certainly need computers as a creative tool and we need to use them wisely; this is what we have to tell children. I think especially today, where technology is part of the network technology we are using to interconnect the world, any kind of escapist approach that tries to put on stage Rousseau’s ‘back to nature’ is an illusion and doesn’t work in practice. And more importantly, it’s not useful to the children we educate; they need to grow into the world, not out of the world, and this by dealing wistfully with all they got, including hyper-technology.
I know that many high-class parents love the idea of the new age school around the corner where children are invited to eat vegetarian dishes and play with wooden toys, where there is no television and no computers, and where they are informed about the ‘dangers of modern life.’ Parent meetings are of course held in a room lit with candlelight because ‘it’s depriving children in poor countries of resources to use too much of electricity.’
I honor simplicity, but driving education toward extremism really is not useful. We do not need extremism to give our children a sane education; extremism, any kind of it, sorry, is as insane as patriarchal hubris — even if it’s all very decent, smart and natural. Our offices do not run on candlelight, and children’s naturalness is not really a factor for employment when they don’t know how to handle a computer. What extremism does is to distort children’s innate common sense. Have you ever seen an extremist child?
Yes, of course, when they imitate their parents who are members of the communist party and therefore eat only red food, breathe only red air, wear only red clothes and think only red thoughts! But not a natural child. Never.
Children are amazingly balanced, they do not reject anything, they use technology when it’s useful and when it’s fun to use it. And that, after all, is a good and productive attitude. Every artist, every intellectual has the same attitude, except they have sworn revenge against ‘society’ because they project all their personal hangups upon the meta group.
Good education is not one that excludes things, is not one that renders things, thoughts, feelings or behavior taboo, but one that embraces all, while teaching, on a daily basis and a little step at a time, the wisdom to use all we’ve got.
Television contains many good and useful programs, information about technology, about cultural events, about great people, about cultures you will perhaps never visit in your life because of the harsh climate that reigns over there, or because of places too remote for visiting without incurring great discomfort. And there is footage useful for children because it is not targeting children. I believe that children instinctively are preferring serious information over information baked, cooked and spiced for children; they do not like to be addressed as ‘children’ but simply as spectators, alongside adult spectators.
And honestly, I can’t see how stupid, senseless, violent and frivolous cartoons should be in any way ‘educational’ or ‘good’ for children? They are money-making devices, that’s all, they are a global business in the hands of a few powerful corporations. That’s all there is to know about that.
With television, all is choice; when there is choice, television is a good thing, when there is no choice, television is a bad thing; it’s as simple as that. The more consciousness-based your education is and the less authoritarian, the better for your children’s choice ability. For to make choice has to be learnt as well, it’s not put in our cradle. To make good choices in life is according to the I Ching the real crux in life and where ordinary people and sages most differ in their attitudes and capabilities. The Book of Changes defines a sage to be a person who knows to make good, sane and beneficial choices for themselves and those they care for, while ordinary people tend to make bad or wrong choices, which bring decay, and destruction, loss and failure.
Often we do not know for sure if a certain choice is good and not, as we do not know all implications of our decisions; however, somebody with a truly spiritual vision of life and lots of experience knows these mostly invisible factors and therefore can make good and viable choices.
Now, when you see how difficult it is already for us other adults to make good choices, how difficult must it be for young and inexperienced children! To say, it’s one of the most important topics actually in education to assist children in gradually developing a sane choice ability.
This requires two things from educators that both must be present simultaneously; the first is that the educator leads himself or herself a life where the basic choices are right and sane, and remembered with a certain gratitude, and second, that the educator has enough patience with children’s making lots of wrong choices at first; for if you don’t let them make wrong choices, choices that hurt, how do you think they are going to make right choices later on?
Or are you one of those who choose for children, while pretending it was the child’s choice? That, excuse me, simply is dishonest. Once you discover that, you will understand that being an educator is challenging because children tend to mirror your bad qualities; then may begin to question yourself.
Mediocre educators often get angry in these moments, and that is how they differ from those passionate educators who are really gifted for their work. Good educators react by momentarily cheering up but subsequently questioning if there is in their behavior any residue of self-pity, of pride or of arrogance?
When you practice this approach, that I have practiced all along my working with children over about ten years, it can serve you to make a personal evolution that will not be a minor one. And it will rejuvenate you and lift you up from any depression you may be stuck in; in addition, you will make real discoveries about yourself.
Children are real mirrors for us; they very easily tear our clothes down, to contemplate us naked, some of them even do it physically, but all of them do it metaphorically. I would say that in your quality of an educator, this is about the best you can experience in your daily life with the children in your care, for it will purify your relation with yourself, and your relation with the child, of all hypocrisy and of all fear.
When you can develop a sense of humor in your daily dealings with children, your task as an educator will feel so much lighter, so much more joyful and smooth, and once you are at this point, you won’t want to go back to your all-serious attitude that you may have carried from the time of your professional training.
Children to a certain extent mirror your nature, thereby building their character by integrating what they admire in your into their own nature.