A great philosopher once said “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”
Brilliant words to live life by and it does seem that everyone is so focused on training and raising up the leaders of tomorrow, with good reason. What children learn early on will be cemented in their later life.
But there are two big questions that we should be asking here: What are they being taught that will later be integral in their leadership, and who is teaching them?
Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman
To say that schools and curricula have changed a bit over the years would be a wild understatement of epic proportions. What you learned in school when you were young, what I learned in school when I was young and perhaps even what your children learned is out the window. After a quick perusal around the news, it seems that this is what our children are being taught so that they can lead the way:
Everyone is a winner, no matter what.
Pop tarts, fingers and pieces of paper are not a joke, they are potentially dangerous and you will get in trouble for them. Bibles are bad and they are not allowed in school, you should be reading EPA manuals instead. Math is actually a lot more flexible than you thought and hey, don't worry so much about getting the right answer, that's too much pressure. Adultery is a completely appropriate and necessary topic for fourth graders. Abortion, though, you can't teach that to children so young, let's wait until they get to sixth grade for that.
Take a deep breath if you're starting to get dizzy.
Global warming is going to kill us all and destroy civilization. If you are being bullied, it's probably the result of you not being friendly enough to your bully. Your gender makes no difference and you should be able to choose whatever bathroom you identify with the most. Having to tell your parents that you intend on killing the baby in your womb is so restrictive and toxic. Standing up for something and speaking your mind can get you in a lot of trouble. Don't rock the boat kids, it isn't worth it.
FIfth-grader Antwain Alexander, 11, center, executes some of his favorite dance moves as he performs a dance battle with teacher Beverly Baldwin and his classmates at fifth-grade teacher Kristi Dunstan's classroom on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, at Randels Elementary School in Flint Township, Mich. (AP Photo/The Flint Journal, Jake May)
The worst lesson, however, is also the most common and it is this: You are the most wonderful and perfect child on the planet and we should all be catering to your needs.
Look, it's not that we don't want our children to have good self-esteem, but can we make it a little more realistic?
College freshmen, or maybe it's college fresh-persons now, have the highest level of self-esteem on record. They roundly believe that they are very talented and driven, yet their actual scores and academic achievement show otherwise. They were taught well as children and now boldly lead the way into unrealistic and unearned self-worth as adults.
Even the philosopher I quoted in the opening ends the song epic poem like this: “Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all”
These are the things that our children will learn and take with them to lead the next generation. They are being taught what to think and what to believe, not how to think and how to discern. They are being taught that common sense is no longer valued or useful. They are being taught that submission is far better than independence, that there is no real right and wrong and that feeling great is something you deserve, not something you find and earn. This is the leadership of tomorrow.
This June 10 2013 photo, Marysville Getchell High School seniors celebrate their graduation at Everett Community College in Everett, Wash. Most of Washington s high school seniors are now passing the statewide exams required to graduate. But that fact doesn t make life any easier for the nearly 7,000 kids in the Class of 2013 who have yet to pass a statewide math test and did not get their diplomas in June. This year s graduating class was the first required to pass either an algebra or geometry test to graduate, in addition to previous requirements to pass tests in reading and writing. To earn their diplomas, seniors must also meet credit requirements, and complete a senior project and write a plan for what they want to do after high school.
Credit: Annie Mulligan/AP
So why are our children being taught and shown so many things that are completely antithetical to what many of us grew up with and what we considered virtues not so long ago? The answer to that lies in question two – who is teaching them?
The people who are teaching and shaping the leaders of tomorrow are the leaders today. Our current leaders, and I use that term loosely, are shaping children in their own image. If we expect real leaders in our future, then we must have real leaders today.
I think we can all agree that Ben Franklin was a pretty great guy right? He was a strict abolitionist, wildly charitable, brilliant, creative and has the best “I'm not impressed” look on the $100 bill. Franklin was truly a great and real leader in so many aspects, and a large reason for that were the 13 virtues he practiced to develop his character:
Temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility.
While this list isn't absolute or all encompassing, it is a pretty good start. Do the things being taught to our children reflect any of those virtues? Do the leaders of today generally embrace or exemplify those virtues?
No and no.
Unfortunately the leadership of someone like Benjamin Franklin is sorely lacking, his virtues all but gone from today's teachings. The leaders of tomorrow will look nothing like the original leaders of this nation unless we step up ourselves.
We are all leaders. Maybe you don't have a TV show, maybe you don't write, maybe you don't even have much of an audience and you certainly don't have Buck Sexton's hair, but at some point or another, whether by one person or a million, you will be called to lead, often without even knowing it.
Your children watch what you do, you are a leader to them. Your friends and family may look to you, even silently, to see what you do in certain situations. There is no person alive that will not be a leader at some point to someone.
The best course of action is to think as if you were always leading, to act as if someone is always looking to you as a leader and learning from what you do. Children are indeed our future, that's kind of inevitable, but who they will become as leaders is not.
For other articles and writings by Darrell, please visit the Milk Crate.
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