Liberate the Children

September 13th, 2010 by elliedylan

When I was a child, I had big dreams. But I never understood how those dreams were in any way related to what I was learning in school. When I asked my teachers how my education and my goals and dreams were related, I was told that those questions just didn’t belong in school. So, I lost interest in school and my grades showed it.

It wasn’t until many years later when a teacher showed me the link between school and my life, that both my grades and my aspirations soared.

Years passed and I grew up. Then one day, when I was very involved in a career in the media, something strange happened. A loud, compelling voice within me said insistently and unrelentingly: “Liberate the children”.  At the time, I remember thinking: “What ON EARTH could that possibly mean?” I didn’t have any children and my work at the time didn’t involve kids so I had absolutely no idea what those words could’ve possibly meant…to me or to anyone.

The voice was persuasive enough – and I was curious enough – to go on a quest to find out what it meant. Little did I realize that it would be a journey involving many years through many different worlds.

Today, several decades after having left my career in the media to follow that inner directive, I very much understand the message that prescient voice was compelling me to discover.

Not much has changed in today’s schools. The educational system in the U.S. has been geared for decades to propagate mass learning…modeled after mass production in factories. Individualization of learning has simply not been part of the equation.

With the ubiquitous growth of technology, however, every member of our society now has tremendous access not only to greater knowledge than ever before, but also to the unfettered ability to contribute to that knowledge-base.

And yet, our current educational system – still mired in the factory-like mentality of days gone by – has continued to propagate mass learning in our nation’s schools. And, today, just as when I was in school, it is STILL not working.

Our children have grown up as ‘media babies’ in a very information-oriented society. Technology is so natural to them and such a part of their daily lives that they can’t imagine their world without it.

They are immersed in it…texting, chatting, surfing, listening, watching, experiencing, dreaming – often all at the same time. It allows them choices, channels of self-expression, and freedom to dream of infinite possibilities.

However, when they get to school, it all comes to a grinding, screeching halt. There, children are drilled, marshaled, told what to do – with no choices, no self-expression, no dreams. So, they disengage from the learning experience.

Is it any wonder that there’s a crisis in education when the way we are attempting to school our young people simulates factory assembly lines of mass, force-fed learning?

“Liberate the children” – that compelling command that resonated deep within me many years ago – was never as clear to me as it is now.

“Liberate the children” doesn’t mean to turn our children loose to run wild according to their own whims. It does mean to “free them” from the confines of mass, factory-style learning and conformity.

It means to “free them” to be the individuals they yearn to be. Give them the tools to discover and express who they are, dream about their futures, and find the individual purpose they are each on Earth to accomplish.

The vast world in which we live cannot grow and thrive without our children’s contributions. We must let our children know that they are valued. We must impart knowledge to them that liberates them to live as valued, responsible, accountable citizens. THIS is the purpose of education.

When children understand that their education is essential to accomplishing their dreams for the future, it reframes the way they look at school. They become motivated from within to want to learn. They want to come to school. They want to learn reading, math, and science. They become partners with their teachers in the learning experience.

The educational crisis of today with its declining test scores, soaring drop-out rates, and violence can be solved. But not with more of the same. Not with more drills and passive learning.

Yes, rigorously high standards are necessary. But these must be instilled – not mandated.

The educational crisis of today will only be solved with the individualization of learning. By making ‘education’ an engaging, personal experience using 21st century learning tools COUPLED WITH each child’s own goals and dreams for the future, school as we know it now – and the problems that go with it – will be a thing of the past.

Education without dreams is dead and lifeless. Technology without dreams is just more mind-numbing clutter. Paradigm-shifting transformation is needed.

Schools must no longer be academic prisons where the ‘inmates’ have no freedom or self-expression. Schools must instead be “Dream Academies” where individual freedom and self-expression thrive and are fueled by the knowledge and curiosity gleaned from core academic subjects and the transformational experience learning can be.

“Liberate the children” means freeing our children to dream of what their futures can hold. It means supporting them to discover their contributions to the world by giving them the tools they need to get there.

The answer to making a better world lies within the children. The children are the solution. Nurture them. Support them. LIBERATE THEM. The possibilities within them and for them are infinite.

Their dreams are their rocket ships. School is their fuel. But they are the pilots.

Show them how to steer their rocket ships to reach their dreams. Give them the tools to get there and the sky’s the limit for our children, our society, and our world.

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