Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Unteaching Survival Skills

In my last blog article, Making the Grade: Up the Peak Oil Downslope, I made the mistake of suggesting that we need to teach our children creativity, innovation, adaptability, logic and analysis in order to prepare them for the dramatically changing world that awaits them. That is not to say that those are not skills that our children will need in the post-peak-oil era in which they will spend their adult lives. Those skills will be critical to their ability to survive the massive changes that will be taking place in the world around them.

The mistake I made was in saying we have to teach our children those skills. Our children already have those schools on that first day that they walk through the schoolhouse door. We don't need to teach them those skills. We have to stop unteaching those skills. We need to stop educating those skills out of them. We need to develop ways of strengthening those survival skills that our children already possess. I realized this when I read the comment submitted on the above article by Phil Plasma, for which I thank him. In that comment he wondered how we would teach those skills to our children.

The process of not unteaching those skills and strengthening them instead will not, of course, be an easy one. It is somewhat akin to strengthening our immune systems by not taking antibiotics. Those antibiotics may help us fight off an infection today but they weaken our immune systems in the process and our natural ability to fight off the next infection tomorrow. The education we supply for our children helps our children to cope with the world as it exists today but weakens their ability to cope with the world as it will exist tomorrow, the world in which they will spend their lives. The use of antibiotics makes us dependent on those antibiotics. The current process of educating our children makes our children dependant on the industrialized, globalized world as it is today, a world that will disappear around them during their adult lives.

How do we help our children to strengthen those survival skills which they already naturally possess? I do not claim to know the answer to that. The following, therefore, is just thinking out loud. We stress the value of their questions and challenge them to develop their own answers. We do not punish them for answers that are "wrong" according to our worldview and mindset. We learn what abilities our children possess not with the intent of limiting or restricting them to a specific set of abilities but with the intent of determining where we can help them strengthen all of their abilities. We learn what is that child's greatest strength, their strongest skill and ability, and continue to help them strengthen it more while bringing up the level of proficiency in their other skills. If there is a needed survival skill in which a child is clearly deficient we should not deepen that deficiency by ignoring and avoiding it but rather we should help the child use their other stronger skills to strengthen that one.

I won't go any further on this right now. Clearly this whole concept needs a great deal of creative thought and innovation. Off-the-cuff answers are not answers at all but a simple mechanism for avoiding the deeper thinking needed to develop an appropriate response. My intent in the previous article and this one is to challenge others to give some serious thought as to how this can be accomplished. How can we ensure that in the process of educating our children we do not strip them of their important existing set of survival skills? In the current methods we are, in my opinion, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In attempting to mould our children to fit nicely into our world we are destroying their ability to adapt to and live in their own. That has to change.

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