What We Can Learn From How Children See The World: DAY 64

What We Can Learn From How Children See The World: DAY 64

At the moment I am busy doing a newspaper project with all of my studentsfrom the 1. To the 9. Grade (ages 6 – 16). Within this project, one of the things we do is researching and investigating newspapers from all angles in terms of how newspapers are made, what they contain, why people read them and how one can write content for newspapers for oneself. The project is going to result in us creating our own newspaper with each of the children contributing content based on their individual level. 
During this process I have brought newspapers to the lessons and have gone through them with the children, discussing everything from layout to politics and celebrities. Some fascinating points have emerged from the discussions with the kids and what I find interesting within this as well is that it has particularly been the younger children who reflect a lot on what they see in the newspapers. What I have seen with the older children is that they have on one hand been ‘desensitized’ to news, meaning that for them it is already an integrated and implicit part of society/the world and so they don’t (at least not directly) question what they see to the same extent that the younger children do. They also tend to see the project more in the context of being ‘for school’ – which has the effect that they don’t engage themselves as genuinely in the project as the younger children. This is actually quite interesting in itself – however it is a topic for another blog-post.
Some of the articles that I have discussed with the children have been about war, inequality, poverty and animal abuse. To these articles there has been images, sometimes brutally depicting for example a refugee camp in South Sudan where people live on old flight staircases or a Syrian war victim covered in bandages. Fascinatingly enough the children’s reactions and responses to seeing these images tie in with what I’ve been discussing in the previous blog-posts about communicating with children. You can read the posts here if you haven’t already: 
http://teachersjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/how-do-you-speak-with-children-day-63.html
http://teachersjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/why-adults-talk-down-to-children-day-62.html
http://teachersjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/why-children-act-differently-around.html
I was somewhat apprehensive towards showing theses images to the children, not knowing how they would react. But all of them were very pragmatic about it. (I didn’t show the images to the youngest children btw). They looked at the images and reflected on them for themselves, some even read the articles to get a better understanding of what was going on. Others started asking me questions about what we were reading about. There was for example an image of child soldiers from Congo and a student asked if they had died, since I explained how they had been forced to be soldiers in a war. In fact – with all of such stories, many of the children asked what had happened to the people and whether they had died.
Then today something interesting happened. I was working with a group of 2. Grade students (7 year olds). We were working with distinguishing advertisements from actual images of real events and the children kept asking me if what they were seeing was real. We came across an image of a pig lying with piglets nursing in an industrial farming facility and the children had trouble understanding that this was real. I explained to them and showed them how this wasn’t the best situation for the pig to be in since the mother pig was virtually barred with metal bars unable to move and the piglets were walking on bars instead of an actual floor. We talked about how this was pigs being raised for farming and how they were going to get killed for food and that this kind of way of raising pigs is done to make more money. One of the students said that ‘real pigs’ have much room to roam about, can eat what they want and have fresh air. I explained to him how the pigs in the industrial farming situation also are real pigs, but that they probably don’t live the life they would want to life. Later I discussed the same image with an older child in grade 4 (10 years old). He was more interesting in the story, which was about the trouble with pigs being given antibiotics and how that affects us as human beings.
This process of looking at what is actually going on in the world with my students has been fascinating. Because I am completely new as a teacher, a lot of the time I am winging it, not exactly sure what I am doing or how the children will receive it. But this has already been very educational for me, also in terms of working with the point of introducing children to what is going on in the world. All the children showed a genuine interest in learning about the world and had no resistance or reluctance to talk about death or poverty or illness. To a great extent they would reflect on the information, but would then also look towards understanding why the problem was created in the first place and not only that. They would look for a solution.
I for example discussed a story with a 3. Grader (9 years old) about how people in Uzbekistan were forced to pick cotton in almost slave-like conditions. He already knew a lot about the topic and explained to me how some people had come up with the solution of gathering old clothes to recycle the cotton to produce new clothes instead of discarding the cotton.
Children look commonsensically at the world. And by that I mean that they for example see the common sense of how it is not okay that someone has to be forced to picking cotton and how there’s a simple practical solution of recycling the cotton that already exists. Obviously this solution doesn’t solve the situation of the cotton-pickers, but it goes to show how children are actually very solution oriented and how they are able to quickly asses the situation and reflect on it and extract the most important aspects. Some of them had slight to moderate energetic reactions of sadness and fear and I see actually how this was also something I participated within through the words I spoke about the images and articles and thus something that I as an adult and teacher could have prevented and assisted the children with moving through. But mostly they were simply seeing things for what they are:
This is not okay.
How was it created/Why is it so?
What is the solution/How can we change it?
The bottom line is that there is a lot we can learn from how children see the world. But we have to give them the space, the time, the opportunity and the vocabulary to be able to reflect and for us to actually give ourselves the opportunity to learn from them.
As adults we praise ourselves for being ‘experienced’ and ‘knowledgeable’ about the world. But a lot of what we think we know is actually lies and misconceptions. And our experiences and opinions that we think and believe are objective perspectives on the world are actually biased and personalized and in many cases indoctrinated into us through our environment and sphere of influence. So I would say that a whole new dimension of education must be opened up specifically in the context of us changing the world to a dignified and decent place to live for all living beings. 
An education where we as adults de-educate ourselves, deprogram ourselves from all the misconceptions lies and personal ‘filters’ that we have gathered throughout our life. And then to stop the process of ‘evolution’ where we simply pass on the same old flawed opinions and experiences and instead reverse the process of education – focusing on rather shedding that which isn’t beneficial. Within this we can then also re-educate ourselves through allowing the purity, simplicity, compassion and innocence that is natural within a young child’s perspective to guide us and lead the way – without letting go of the structure and expanded understanding that comes with being an adult. This I would say, is an imperative ingredient to the recipe of how to change the world.
I also recommend reading the following blogs:

Education in the New World Order    

Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality 
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

How do You Speak With Children? DAY 63

How do You Speak With Children? DAY 63

In the last two posts we’ve looked at how adults and children are misaligned and distanced from each other in their communication respectively in how children change how they behave around adults and how adults tend to speak down to children. So in this post we will look at solutions to how we as adults can communicate effectively with children.
For the purpose of this blog-post I found an article titled “Scientific Studies Explain the Best Ways to Talk to Children” about how to talk to children and what is interesting about it is that it is based on scientific research based on forensic interviews done with children who have either witnessed crimes or experienced crimes being done unto themselves. So it basically focuses for example on techniques to get children to ‘open up’ and ‘tell the truth’. The starting-point of the article is therefore focusing more on ‘how to get kids to talk’ rather than investigating how to communicate WITH children.
But what is mentioned in the article is the following statement that we will be using as a point of departure in this blog-post:
“Really, what the research says is that all of these are true. What kind of response you get is dependent on how you act, though, not on the kid.”
 As I’ve mentioned in the two previous posts, what I have found in my work as a teacher as well as from my own experiences as a child, children often have a much more commonsensical, practical and direct outlook on life than we as adults do. And therefore what tends to happen is that we superimpose our own experiences onto children, believing that we must protect them – when in fact it is ourselves we are protecting. And so within this, for a child it often feels like the adult is holding something back, isn’t telling the whole story and doesn’t actually speak with us like human beings, equally existing here with the ability to understand what is going on. Teaching and parenting situations often become awkward and artificial because we as adults tend to go into a role of “now I’m talking to a child” where we aren’t actually with them here in the conversation sharing ourselves unconditionally but instead are focusing on talking to them with the aim of achieving specific results.
I’m sure many of us can remember how it felt like being interrogated when our parents asked us how school was and I know that many parents experience it as frustrating to have to almost drag the information out of one’s child. “How was school?” “Fine” “What did you do today?” “Stuff” – lol that’s kind of how such conversations often go. And what I have found is that a particular reason for this is that the adult actually isn’t asking from a natural and unconditional interest. Rather there are secret and often subconscious agendas that we aren’t even aware of ourselves, but that the child instantly picks up on. It therefore isn’t so much about what we say but about ‘whom’ we are within it that matters. If we aren’t genuine, the child picks up on it. If we’re coming from a starting-point of fear and worry, the child picks up on it.
And what the researchers found in the forensic interviews was for example how children would mold their answers in an attempt of pleasing or satisfying the adults – essentially because the adult is engaging in the conversation with the child from a starting-point of wanting to get something out of it, for example wanting to have their fear and worry for the child soothed. So that is the first suggestion I would give to anyone working with or communicating with children: to clear oneself of any expectations or desires for a specific outcome within the conversation. Rather practice the point of simply being here unconditionally with the child, giving the child but also oneself the opportunity to share and express.
Yesterday I was with a group of fifth and sixth grade students. We are doing a project about newspapers and so I had brought a newspaper for them to look at. They immediately became interested in a story about a mother and her son being abducted. So we talked about the story and I read it out loud. And something that I noticed was how they were genuinely interested in the story and what had happened to the mother and her son. Children are often way too shielded from what’s going on in the world and to some extent we must obviously shield them (I for example wouldn’t have shared this story with a group of first graders) according to their level of understanding and maturity level, but at the same time what I have found is that children already know a lot of what is going on, even when we think and believe that they don’t know or don’t understand and especially when we try and hide things from them.
Have a look at the following example: when a parent is experiencing fear and worry, for example towards their financial situation, the child asks about it and they then tell the child that everything is fine, in best case scenario the child simply learns that adults lie and tend to lie to protect them. But the child might actually also learn from this to not trust what they see. Because as mentioned, children are masters as picking up on what we as adults experience, often even better than we do ourselves  – but they also learn that they should trust us and to trust our words and so within that there is a disjunction between what we say and what we resonantly send out, leaving the child confused and conflicted about what is real or not.
What one can do in such a situation instead is to obviously first and foremost work with stopping one’s fear and worry  – but then also to simply explain the point to the child in practical common sense: “Yes I have been worried about us not getting enough money this month, so this is what I am going to do to solve it.” Here the child not only gets included into what is actually going on, but it also gets to learn from the adult as an example that although we might experience worry or fear, we can direct ourselves to a practical solution. It can even assist the adult to actually look for practical solutions and not wallow in the emotional experience. But what tends to happen instead is that we convince ourselves that we’re protecting the child by not telling it what is going on and we believe we can actually hide what is going on from the child – but who are we really hiding from?
Within seeing and communicating with children as equals I have found that one starts to see them differently as well, as their unique expressions and perspectives on life starts emerging and become visible as one no longer sees the child as a ‘prop’ in the scenario one has fabricated in one’s mind.  When I say communicating with children as equals, I obviously do not mean to ‘treat them like adults’ or to blurt out everything that comes to mind. But what we can do is respect the child as an equal human being and within that not assumes any artificial role or character. What I have found within doing that as a teacher and also from my own experiences as a child is that children learn a lot more, can expand themselves faster within their capacity and understanding of the world and it is a lot more enjoyable for both adult and child – establishing an actual real communication that even the adult can learn from.
I am fortunate to work mostly one-on-one with my students or with small groups of three as a maximum. This gives me a great opportunity to get to know the children and establish an effective communication with them. So what I simplistically have been working with is, as soon as I walk through the door to the classroom, my attention is unconditionally on the child. I simply let everything else go and I focus on being Here with the child. Within this I have found that every single child is unique and different in its expression. Some I have been able to establish immediate relationships of mutual enjoyment with, others not. And when the relationships aren’t enjoyable, I investigate whom I am as I communicate with the child to see where I can realign myself. This is a continuous learning process and as a teacher I have only just begun scraping the surface of what it means to communicate effectively with a child. But what it has meant is that really cool and fun moments have opened up where I have been surprised and where they have been surprised and they will share interesting questions and perspectives with me without me having to drag it out of them.
I can say that I genuinely enjoy being with children. And this is not because I am particularly good at it or because I have an inclination for working with children. I have simply practiced this point of being here with the child, being unconditional as I communicate and thus the moment is able to expand and new expressions can emerge or rather be given permission to open up that otherwise wouldn’t. Because what I see in a lot of adults and this is something that I have experienced myself as well is that we tend to find being with children very boring, as though they are a little bit retarded or a burden even, where we don’t listen to them and constantly think about being somewhere else, being on our phones or in our heads while focusing on our ‘role’ as a ‘parent’ or ‘teacher’ or ‘caretaker’.
What happens is that when we really engage ourselves in communicating with children, we also open up. And so what is actually boring about being with children, is not the child – it is ourselves, because we have limited ourselves and the situation into a one-dimensional and one-way communication that doesn’t allow neither child nor adult to expand or express unconditionally.
I also recommend reading the following blogs:

Education in the New World Order

Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

Why Adults Talk Down To Children: DAY 62

Why Adults Talk Down To Children: DAY 62

In the last post we discussed how children speak and act differently around other children than they do adults. In this post we will be looking at why adults speak differently to children.
Something that I’ve noticed within my work with children is how I in certain situations – especially with younger children – will change my voice tonality. My voice will be become ‘lighter’ and more ‘friendly’ but what I’ve noticed within that is also that it is more constrained and that I’m speaking only from the throat and not from the stomach or the whole body as my ‘natural’ voice tonality to would be. What is interesting is that I recognize this specific voice tonality, this certain way of speaking to children from someone in my past. I grew up with this woman who as a teenager and young adult had quite a ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ way of speaking. But when she had children, she completely changed her voice tonality to this high pitched ‘soothing’ tonality that I’ve also seen in myself. And now as the kids are growing up, it has become her ‘normal’ way of speaking. But within this voice tonality, there’s tenseness and like I said, it’s physically constraining for the body to hold itself in an unnatural pitch.
What I’ve noticed for myself as I’ve observed myself using this tonality is that there’s this underlying idea of being ‘gentle’ to children that especially women has a tendency to use – but in fact it is not a gentleness at all. There’s this shift that happens where the adult steps into a ‘role’ of “Now I’m talking to a child.”
This made me look at the point of how adults in generally tend to speak differently to children.
Last year I had discussions with my colleges about doing a project with our students about death. Some of my colleges thought that this topic was too controversial for children, saying that children cannot handle talking about death. But what I found within that is that children most often have no problem talking about death or similar ‘touchy’ subjects. In fact it is we as adults that have created certain taboos and ‘touchy’ subjects. It is us that have emotional attachments of for example being afraid of death. But often children have a much more commonsensical perspective on for example death, because they haven’t yet created any concepts about death being ‘bad’ or ‘sad’. For them death is simply when the body stops existing, given that they’ve understood this point for themselves of course. But the point here is that as adults we tend to try and shield children from the horrors of the world, not realizing that it is often in fact ourselves we’re shielding, indoctrinating our children to see the world the same way we do, assuming that death for instance is a horrible, sad taboo that shouldn’t be discussed – and so that’s what we teach our children.
Seldom do we as adults consider what we can learn from children or the very fact that we can learn from children at all. Instead we see them derogatorily as naïve beings coming into this world without any form of understanding of how the world works. This is a classic discussion in the academic field of education and educational philosophy where theorists previously thought that a child comes into this world like an empty canvass, making it the adults responsibility to ‘fill it’ with ‘correct’ knowledge and information about how the world works. But in modern educational theory, children are seen as born with capabilities and unique forms of expressions that it is the adult’s responsibility to facilitate and provide an environment where these expressions and capabilities can grow and develop.
When I as an adult use a certain ‘gentle’ but constrained voice tonality, I do not do it consciously. Rather it is a behavior and a way of looking at children programmed into me from when I was a child. I remember how adults would speak ‘normally’ with each other, but as soon as they turned around and talked to me, their voices would change. It was like they didn’t see me – or like they didn’t see me as a human being, like we didn’t have an actual real conversation, but more like a ‘pretend’ or ‘fake’ conversation – where they played a role to match the role they perceived me as having. Consider how this is something that we as adults do right from the moment a child is born.
Something that we do as adults when we talk to children is to either speak overly positive or overly negative to them, all done within an idea that we’re teaching them about how the world works. So we shower them with love and praise and fear and anger – making them exactly as conditioned to exist in emotional reactions as we are. Seldom do we consider speaking to a child like a ‘normal’ and equaling human being of flesh and blood with its own unique expression that is equally valued. In fact I remember as a child how adults who would speak to me like this were often my favorites and it was from them I found I could learn the most, because they didn’t belittle me or speak down to me – but instead allowed me to challenge my vocabulary and expand my perspective on the world. Now this obviously doesn’t mean that one then shouldn’t adjust and align one’s vocabulary and way of speaking when talking to a child. It simply means that we don’t have to go into an ‘educating role’ when we talk to children. And we certainly don’t have to shield them from the matters of the world to the extent we’ve believed. No – here we should rather look at our own positive and negative attachments to certain matters such as death and stop these reactions so that we can talk to children about it in a commonsensical and practical way.
A major difference in how a child sees the world and how we as adults see it is that children are not yet ‘contaminated’ by creating emotional attachments to certain words and topics. Therefore they have the ability to look much more practically and simplistically at things, for example seeing that war is stupid and unnecessary – which it is – or how it is unfathomablethat some children starve to death while we sit here and stuff our faces. Children get stuff like that. And this is not because they are naïve or stupid or narrow-minded. It is because they are in many respects seeing the world much more directly as it is in fact – while we’ve as adults created layers upon layers of deception, confusion, opinions, reactions and knowledge about the world – that isn’t actually real.
So when we now go out and speak with children, I suggest that we all make it an experiment to speak with them as we would anyone else in the world and like a human being existing equally here in the world. They might surprise us and we might actually learn something valuable about this world and ourselves within it.

I suggest listening to this series in context to what I’ve discussed here:

Parenting – Perfecting the Human Race Series

I also recommend reading the following blogs:

Education in the New World Order

Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

Why Children Act Differently Around Adults: DAY 61

Why Children Act Differently Around Adults: DAY 61

Something that I’ve noticed in my work as a teacher is how children change their behavior as soon as an adult steps into the room. This change in behavior is most evident when the children are young, around the ages of five and decreases and become less evident the older the children are, with teenagers seeming almost ‘the same’ whether they are with an adult or not. Of course having been a teenager myself (as have we all) I know that this is not true – or at least for me it was not true. But what I see is that, as we grow up wet get more skilled in the art of deception and subtly changing from one environment to another making sure that no one sees this change because that would obviously expose the fact that we do in fact deceive.
So what is it that happens as children go from being expressive toddlers who freely move above to becoming deceptive children and teenagers acting and expressing themselves completely different according to whether they are in a room with adults or not?
Let me share some examples to show what I am talking about:
A particular very evident example happened when I walked in on two boys playing a naked game or exploring their naked bodies together. These were six-year-olds. They immediately stopped what they were doing, not looking ashamed or anything like that, but instantly having the instinct to hide themselves. This is quite an obvious example because it involves nudity, which in many cultures is tabooed. But it also happens in more public situations where kids are simply playing with one another and as soon as I as an adult walks by, they change their behavior and even the way they speak and move. Something interesting is also that this isn’t contingent upon me having a relationship with them of for example being their teacher. It happens as often with children whom I’ve never met and who has never met me. From what I have seen, it therefore appears to me as though children classify adults in general into a specific category that is distinctly different from them as children. There is not anything strange in this, I mean as adults we also tend to group children together in a plethora of ‘little people’. I also remember it from myself as a child.
Adults were these big people who I saw as restrictive and most often as those who would tell me what not to do. Of course there were some adults, who were not like that – but especially in a school environment, that is how I saw adults.
Now for this blog-post I actually did some research to see if I could find any psychological theories on this topic or some actual scientific research and while they might exist while and there might even be a term for this ‘behavioral adjustment’ – a simple Google search turned up nothing about this topic. I found that a little surprising because as a teacher, this is something that I have noticed as being rather prominent and somewhat problematic or even symptomatic.
Why do children change behavior around adults?
When we as children are young, especially in school, but for many also at home, we tend to develop a perception of adults as ‘those big people that yell and tell me what not to do’. Few adults are able to relay messages with important information to children about what not to do in ways that are supportive rather than demeaning or angry. Because obviously it is our responsibility as adults to make sure that children are safe from harm, which sometimes include restricting them in situations where they might not understand the consequences of what it is they are doing. However – what I have found is that we as adults have used this logical argument as an excuse, because in many instances it is in no way necessary to yell at a child and it is certainly never necessary to demean them because they don’t understand the world the same way we do.
I remember how I hid from adults when I had done ‘bad’ things as a child. And this is not an effective relationship to have with one another. Because children fearing the punishment and judgment of adults is not going to make them correct themselves any faster or any more effective. On the contrary, they’re simply going to perfect the art of deception – and learn to present one face to adults and another to their peers.
When I was first studying to become a preschool teacher, I had two internships in two different childcare facilities. The first one was a rather ‘normal’ one where the teachers would yell at the kids from time to time. When I here say ‘yell at’ I’m talking about rather basic stuff like: “Stop fighting!” or “Be Quiet!” or “Why did you do that to him?” so as a preschool teacher, this was one of the first ‘cultures of child rearing’ that I was introduced to and it was expected of me to integrate into the workforce and act in the same way. Now – when I got to my internship in the other preschool, one of the first things they said to me was that they had a policy and a principle about not yelling at the children. They even explained how it was shown by psychologists that screaming and yelling doesn’t help and that there are other ways to ‘rear’ children.
So over the course of the six months where I was there, I learned and I saw alternative ways to handling conflicts. For example: If two children were in a fight about a piece of toy for example, we would as adults walk up to them, and instead of making assumptions about who’s doing what to who, we would ask them, one at a time to explain what had happened. Then we would ask THEM how to solve the conflict and as such rather stands as mediators than as judges of the situation, often without having witnessed what actually happened. A lot of times, what leads to conflicts is also the working conditions that we as children has, especially when it comes to noise levels and many children in the classroom. So in this preschool they for example also had a rule that noisy games took place outside, so whenever some children would play very loudly we’d simply ask them to take their game outside.
What was most remarkable about this preschool in the context of the topic of children acting differently around adults is that the children would very openly express themselves, also in situations of vulnerability. They would for example be much more likely to admit if they were the one having done something than what I have seen from children in other preschools.
So what I’m getting at here is that we as adults are using fear, threats, punishment and anger to raise our children and teach them about how to act safely and with common sense in the world. And it is not working. Because although they might learn to ‘behave’ – which of course they do to some degree, they also learn to scheme and deceive and hide their mistakes and misdoings.
Many parents do not understand why their children won’t share themselves, but this is exactly the reason why. And what happens is that all of these points that we as children hide from adults, we never correct and we grow up, in many ways broken and we stay broken – because we don’t ever get to the point of understanding why we acted the way we did, nor to correct our mistakes. And in the world of the adults we see the consequences of this way of living, because how much do we not hide from each other and even from ourselves? How many acts of abuse do we not commit that goes unnoticed?
The fact that children act differently around adults is indicative of a misalignment, not only in the way we believe that we must raise children, but also in who we are as adults and the tacit agreement we’ve decided to live with each other, where it is accepted to do unacceptable acts as long as one does not get caught. You must say: ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ but you don’t have to mean it.
Children act differently around adults because we teach them to not be themselves, to not express themselves openly – that if they do express themselves openly they might risk getting yelled at or be ridiculed. We teach them that it’s dangerous to make mistakes – even innocent mistakes caused by us not yet understanding the workings of their physical bodies. We teach them that they must hide their mistakes from us, to lie, to deceive and we teach them that adults cannot be trusted with painful secrets.
This point is another reason why it is so absolutely imperative that we change the current school system and why having so many children in each class is an absolute detriment to our children’s education and well being. Obviously it is not an optimal environment for learning, nor for teachers or for students. And it is no wonder that teachers get frustrated or that parents get frustrated, but it is no excuse to continue using fear and intimidation to teach children about the way the world works. Because what we’re teaching them is what the world becomes: a place of fear, abuse and deceit where we seldom get to the point of correcting our mistakes. 
I recommend reading the following blogs:

Education in the New World Order    

Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality 
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

Can Empty Words Come to Life? DAY 60

Can Empty Words Come to Life? DAY 60

Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World 
A couple of days ago I was having a discussion about the history of the school system and since I have two degrees in education, a bachelor in pedagogy and a master’s in educational sociology, I saw myself as an expert in the subject of discussion. But as the discussion continued I was shocked to find that I didn’t have many words about the history of the school system – a topic that has been at the very core of my education. I looked within myself expecting to find a ton of information because I’ve literally been immersed in lectures and textbooks for over five years and what I found was but a tiny, vague cloud of key words, theorists and certain historical events. In that moment I had to admit to myself that in spite of my degrees, I’m not an expert in education.
When I started investigating how it is possible that I could have studied for over five years without fully integrating the information I was supposed to learn, I looked at my relationship with vocabulary throughout my life as I’ve also discussed in previous blog-posts.
Because as I’ve been investigating my vocabulary I have realized that I’ve created a glossary of vaguely defined words. Many words I will be able to speak or write and place into meaningful sentences, but I wouldn’t actually be able to explain what the word means. Instead I have observed how other people use words and have learned how to effectively imitate an expansive vocabulary. And it is the same with how I’ve studied for the two degrees I mentioned previously: I have more imitated the process of learning and being a student than actually integrating information and concepts. As such I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t really learned anything substantial about education. And this is ironic because I work as a teacher and education and especially the education system is one of my passions. I am sure that there are many people out there with similar experiences which is worrisome, because how many of us do not walk around faking our way through our professional and even our personal lives, using vocabulary that sounds good, but that has no roots within us?
So I have begun a process of reintegrating vocabulary, which literally means going over even the most basic words and actually checking within myself whether I have a sound and clear definition for each word. Ironically I have no problem spelling the words – but what I realized as I begun this process, was how easy it was to fool myself into believing that I knew what a word meant when in fact I didn’t. So I would go over a word and think to myself that I understood it, but when I started asking myself to as soon as I saw the word before me, immediately define it within me or out loud, I couldn’t. And the more I allowed myself to honestly investigate what words I had a clear definition for, the more I realized how shallow my vocabulary has been. What I mean by shallow is what I explained before with how the words aren’t clearly ‘settled’ inside of me. They are more floating in an undefined space which obviously also contains the risk of misinterpreting the meaning of words  – where as words that I have cleared understood and defined for myself are Here and rooted within me, as a part of me that never goes away.
I now see how having a shallow, floating and ungrounded vocabulary can cause severe problems in one’s life – because most of the time I would be ‘winging it’ and actually speaking about and using words I had no idea what meant. However I have also seen how writing my master’s thesis has supported me to expand my vocabulary. Because here I was forced to delve into the information and in order to make sense of what I was writing, I had to re-write what I was reading in a structure that made sense to me. I also underlined each word I didn’t understand and looked it up to afterwards use it actively in my writings – so eventually what I wrote and what I read became a part of me. With the information I read for my thesis I can much more clearly relay details and historical processes because I actually worked with the information actively and immersed myself within it. And it astounds me how ineffective our education systems are at making this a part of the didactic process, because for me, it was only at the very end of my education that I actually learned something in a substantial way and this was even in a project where I was doing all the work alone without lessons or lectures or specific guidance from a pre-established curricular. In fact, such projects are what I have learned the most from throughout my entire course of education.
Our education systems, from preschools to elementary schools, high schools and universities are not ensuring that we integrate information at a substantial level where the words that form our vocabulary become an integrated part of us that we are able to utilize in certainty and clarity. Because of this vocabulary has become ‘muddy’ and open to interpretation, selective even – because we focus a great deal more on how words make us feel than what they actually mean in practical reality. This is also why advertisers so easily can squirm their way into our minds – they are educated in and understand the effects of words and how people respond to them, while we, the meek consumers gladly absorb the promises of existential happiness, freedom and bliss as though these were substantiated in reality.
I am realizing the importance of a vocabulary grounded in reality, because without it, it is so easy to accept shallow illusions as wisdom. Some say that words are empty and that we as humans are the ones breathing Life into them. It couldn’t be more in reverse: Words themselves cannot be empty, because words are rooted in reality – obviously there are fantastical words too, but even these words can be traced back to reality in one way or another, even if it is to the delusional minds of man making up illusions. The emptiness of words is in who we are as we speak and write them and teach them to our children without making sure they are grounded in reality to function as building blocks upon which we live and communicate and interact with one another and the world around us. We must make sure that our vocabulary can become alive and become relevant to our actual living – that is what Education is supposed to be all about, isn’t it?
I recommend reading the following blogs:

Education in the New World Order    

Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality 
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

Who is Responsible for My Child’s Education? DAY 59

Who is Responsible for My Child’s Education? DAY 59

Who has the responsibility for our children’s failures and successes when it comes to education? Is it the school-system? The government? The scientists? The teachers who see our children every day? Or is it us as parents? 
Read the previous blog-posts for further context on this topic: 
When I searched for articles on this subject literally typing in the phrase: “Who is Responsible for our Children’s Education?” almost all the articles and blogs I found were from or about home-schooling parents.  It is interesting because perhaps home-schooling parents are exactly mostly asking this question whereas the rest of us tend to take for granted either that we are responsible as parents or that it is the school that is responsible.
In Scandinavia and in particular in Sweden where I work as a teacher, there is a distinct perception, amongst parents especially, that education is something that the school system is responsible for taking care of. This has been a hot topic of discussion in the media, where parents and teachers respectively criticize one another for not taking responsibility. An example of this is how preschool teachers have complained that children come to preschool without knowing how to use a fork and a knife and how this therefore has to be a primary focus when they are at school.  A point to mention here as well is that home schooling is illegal and parents thus have a legal responsibility to enroll their children in either a private or a public school following a national curriculum.
So there is in Sweden a definitive political and educational direction where a great responsibility is placed on schools to be the ones to facilitate the best education for our children.
But as OECD’s (Organization for economic co-operation and development) recent annual PISA (Program for international student assessment) report revealed, Sweden is at the very bottom when it comes to reading ability amongst its students. This has sent shockwaves through the country, because in the year 2000 for example, Sweden was amongst the top performing countries with regards to reading ability.
In many ways it is astounding that Sweden does not perform well when it comes to students reading abilities, because it is a country with very high living standards and economic equality and according to OECD 87 % achieve education at the level of high school in Sweden. (Source: http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/sweden/)
The Swedish government has now placed a goal of becoming amongst the top 5 best countries in the Pisa report and the government has earmarked 300 million Swedish kroner (approximately 46.0000 US dollars or 33.0000 Euros) 
So who is responsible for the downfall of the Swedish students and more importantly; who is responsible for remediating the problem?
As has been mentioned in previous blog-post, a significant problem with today’s school system, and a possible part of the explanation for the decline of Swedish students ability to read, is that there are too many students per class. Simultaneously teachers have gotten increased administrative responsibilities, less time to prepare as well as the national curricular changing to incorporate national tests such as the ones done by PISA. (Source: http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=5722237)
As I have mentioned in previous blog-posts, even with a small group with three children I as a teacher was not able to effectively accommodate the individual needs of each child in terms of assisting them in learning how to read and write, so you can imagine how ineffective a teachers must be in a class of thirty or more students, even if that teacher is in fact a great teacher.
One-on-one lessons is a concrete solution to the problem we are facing when it comes to the reading ability of our children, but such a model is in no way feasible in the current world-system. It is therefore it is so important that we as parents get involved in our children’s education. Because we clearly cannot simply continue trusting that the school system will take responsibility for teaching our children the basic skills of writing and reading, even with committed teachers who are passionate about education. The results from the recent PISA report are a clear indicator of this.
What we can do is to get involved and get educated about the options available for us to take active part in our children’s education. For many parents this might seem like a daunting task, none the least because we have not been trained to train children in the basic skills of reading and writing. However when looking at the results from the PISA report, it is clear that our governments, scientists and educators – the so-called authorities in our children’s education – in spite of years of schooling and research have not developed sufficient tools in assisting children to learn how to read and write – and therefore, by not doing anything, we are doing our children a disservice. Through placing trust in an ineffective education system where our children fail at the most basic skills of reading and writing, it is actually us that are failing them – because we haven’t done everything in our power to make sure that they have the necessary foundation to walk into adulthood and make an effective life for themselves.
We can therefore conclude that as parents bringing children into this world, we have the primary responsibility for their education, obviously together with society as a whole. But because the school system is created and is functioning based on the principles agreed upon by society and because this school system is currently based on competition in a global economy, we can see this is producing children who aren’t as effective at reading or writing that they could be. And it is therefore up to us as parents to stand as examples that understands the importance of education, not merely on a global level of economic completion, but also on an individual level where each person’s life is determined to a great deal by the education they receive as children. 
I recommend reading the following blogs:

Education in the New World Order    

Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality 
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1