We have inherited several assumptions about how to educate our children that are just not true, including that educating requires 6-8 hours per day, nine months a year, for 13 years, and must be done by professionals. None of this is true. These are not requirements.
What is true is that we humans educate our young. Unlike the dog licking his tail, certain things such as the knowledge of the wheel, how to forge metal, or how to type or drive are not written on our DNA.
Via observation and imitation, the child will, in his early years, learn the great bulk of what he will use over the course of his life. However, a significant portion of direct instruction must come into play, and parents must consider exactly what to teach their young. They will teach what they believe their child will need to know in order to survive in the times that they imagine the child will live when an adult. The father may teach the son to string the bow to hunt, as well as to deter and ward off the enemy. The mother may teach the daughter to tan the hide and roast rabbit over a dung fire.
In the modern era we have come to worship education, and why not? The ocean of knowledge that we have accumulated over the last 500 years in particular certainly has extended our lives and made them vastly more comfortable than our pre-modern ancestors could have imagined. Whether it has made us better is another matter.
Spoiler: it hasn’t. It hasn’t because that which can make us better is in fact written on our DNA and thus has always been known, or knowable, and may be summed up as prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and charity, the exercise of which will serve all men, in all times, in all circumstances.
The wise parents with conscious intent should strive to cultivate these virtues within their children, first and foremost by their example, but also via direct instruction and when necessary, discipline. But it doesn’t take thirteen years. Neither does it take thirteen years to teach them to read, write, add, and subtract, or to inspire them by lessons of the past wisdom and deeds of man. It does not take thirteen years to prepare them for the vast majority of modern occupations which are learned in the doing. Neither need it consume the bulk of their childhood to prepare them to embark upon strenuous advanced studies at any age, whether fourteen, eighteen, twenty-five, or fifty years old.
We as parents (and We the People) need to do a re-think of what our educational objectives for our children are and what is actually required to achieve them. Just as importantly we need to consider the damage that we have done to generations of Americans and thus our culture by grinding all of us through a one-size-fits-all K-12 regime.
This article was previously published at MCAtkins.com on Nov. 26, 2021.
Mark Atkins has six wee bairns who are all seventh-generation Henry County, Tennessee, and all from the same doe. It is the people of Henry County that he most wants to reach but writes to Southerners generally. He is without credentials but rather dares to speak by the same authority as the little boy who cried 'The king has no clothes!' His core belief and starting point is that like everything, we humans have a nature, it is not so hard to understand, and to pretend that it is other than it is, is to jump off a cliff. Which is what we Americans have in fact done.