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  • Anna Brix Thomsen

How Much Reality Can a Child Handle? 87

As teachers it is our responsibility to teach children about life, about the world, about the history of human civilization and about the best practices that we as humans have come up with to co-exist effectively in this world. It is a responsibility that for all intends and purposes should not be taken lightly considering how we, through the education of today, are shaping the future of tomorrow.

I am continuing here from a series of blog-posts that I wrote about introducing children to real-life issues.

In my work as a teacher I often find myself wondering, “how much is too much?” when it comes to introducing children to the reality of what is going on in this world. I once suggested to my colleagues that we should do a project about death and this was something that many of my colleagues thought would be too much for the children to handle. But what I saw within this was that we as adults tend to project our own fears, our own taboos onto children and so because we have an unresolved and emotional relationship with death as a theme, we assume that children would have the same. The thing is that children haven’t developed taboos or fears towards certain topics until these are imposed upon them from adults, either directly or implicitly through the adult’s own fears and emotional reactions. Another dimension entirely however, is the question of whether a topic is too abstract or complex for a child to understand and that the child would thereby be introduced to information that it simply isn’t able to effectively comprehend. This is something that is most certainly valid to consider, however it can also be intervened upon through an effective presentation of the information in accordance with the child’s current capacity of comprehension.

Time and time again I am surprised by how much children actually see and understand about this world, about human nature and the world systems. Yesterday for example I talked to a 6.grader, which at 12 years old understands that movies for children today are deliberately scripted so as to not introduce children to what is really going on in the world and thus keep them docile. We were having a discussion about a book that has been made into a movie and then an animated re-make of that movie, with the first one being done over 30 years ago and the second one only recently made. What he shared came from his own discernment and was not something that I or anyone else had coached him into saying. Considering the complexity in his perspective with an understanding, not only of a historical context of the production of movies, but also a conflicted relationship between adults and children, it is quite advanced for what we would normally expect of a 12-year-old. As I have mentioned in previous blog-posts, I also have a 10-year-old student who is already up to speed with the latest ‘conspiracy theory’ information on the Internet and on YouTube specifically. Unfortunately, this is something that is not recognized by the ordinary school system or by his teachers as being pertinent or relevant and therefore his research is mostly done without any form of adult participation with his buddies after school.

On a general note I find that the students I teach have a much greater capacity for comprehension and a much greater awareness of what is going on than adults give them credit for. We tend to have a certain expectation towards what children are supposed to be able to understand and comprehend at specific ages and we vehemently stick to these when we teach them, and even when we simply communicate with them or listen to them. What we tend to neglect the fact that children growing up today have independent access to information at a completely different level than we did as children. This means that our 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds on their own volition for example go online to find information to try to make sense of this world and themselves within it and along the way come in contact with information that most certainly has not been pre-screened to ensure that they in fact are able to effectively deal with the information and contextualize it in a commonsensical way in relation to their own life. This involves everything from hardcore porn to chat sites and commercials that is accessible to children but where no adult intervention or guidance is involved. What I have seen in my own work is that children often see adults as fake, as not caring, as making assumptions about them and their ability to comprehend the world around them. This creates the consequence that children do not share their perspectives, their concerns or fears with adults because they’ve already given up on adults in a way, they know that adults don’t see them for who they are as Beings. Instead many adults see them only as ‘children’, a category identified by size, age and gender that the adults then speak TO but not WITH.

What I have found with my students, in particularly the ones who are already interested in what is going on in the world is that their eyes light up and it is as though the suddenly ‘come to life’ when we are talking about real life events. So this is something that I am working on implementing into our lessons, to talk about the extinction of animals, about war, about poverty. But it is a fine line where one has to consider the maturity level of the child without making any preconceived assumptions. It is interesting though that it tends to be us as adults that do not believe that children are interested in reality. We often carry an assumption and a belief that fiction and fantasy worlds are so much more interesting to children that all they care about is Disney princesses and violent computer games. But what if their apparent disinterest in real life matters is simply showing that the reality we have been presenting them with isn’t in fact the ‘real’ reality? If we take a long self-honest look in the mirror we will see that we as adults often aren’t really here in fact. We are so busy in our minds being stuck in the ‘rut’ of every day living, while juggling our own desired fantasies and virtual realities that we come across to children as these ‘shells’ of something that was supposed to be a real living human being but that is nothing but a constructed personality putting on an act and expecting them to play along. Luckily many children do not fall for it, although unfortunately most eventually join in the choir of parroting personalities, going with the motions without really being present in real time reality.

What we can do as teachers is to introduce more real life themes into the curriculum and to as such bring the technical side of for example learning how to read and write together with current issues. This way we may stand as catalysts for children to become involved and engaged in the issues of the world in a way that is aligned to their current level of comprehension but without making preconceived assumptions. This requires courage on the part of the teacher, to not stay stuck in personal beliefs or opinions but to allow what opens up in the discussions with the students, to unfold unconditionally. Creating an interest in and a consideration for what is going on in the world is imperative because at the moment so many of us are lost in fantasy-realities and the real world is suffering because of it. This doesn’t mean that fantasy and fiction cannot still be part of a child’s education, but simply that there is so much more going on in reality that we aren’t making children aware of, most likely because we aren’t even making ourselves aware of it. But as I have seen with many of my students, children actually want to know what is going on – but they want the real story, not the manufactured censored version constructed to fit their assumed level of comprehension. So as a teacher, I am making it my commitment to find and develop effective ways to introduce children to what is going on in the world without making assumptions about what they can and cannot handle to hear and still take where they are and who they are into consideration. The school year is almost up so as part of my summer’s leave I will be planning next year’s term and the projects we will be working on in class. To prepare myself for this, I have asked my students what they want to learn about next term. I was not surprised to hear that many of the younger students want to learn about the game Minecraft (or rather: teach me about Minecraft) and so in relation to that I am considering doing a project about architecture. When asking a couple of my other students if there is anything they’d like to learn more about, an 7-year-old boy posed the question: “Where are babies before they are born?” and another 7-year-old student added the question: “How do babies learn words?” From my perspective these are important and rather existential questions and they would not have been asked had I not been open to take an interest in what it is that children are interested in. So because of this, we will be doing a project about The Body and will see how we can find relevant answers to these questions and as such educate ourselves – the children and I together – about this world and so ourselves within it.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:


Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century

The Story of Your Enslavement

On Advertisement and the end of the world:

Third World America – Chris Hedges

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order:

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