Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why I Love Children

After posting these photos of the grandkids on Facebook, someone wrote:

Somehow the kid pix are just satisfying and simply lovely - a little treat in a complex world.

She got that right. The innocent smile of Zadie radiating love for life untrammeled by the world’s blows or her own failures, her and Malik looking out in wonder at the world at their feet— a treat indeed from the scowling faces of angry politicians who have locked away their childhood beauty and taken their disappointment out on the rest of us.

And that’s why any ideas of leaving the school where I have worked for 42 years seem absurd. Every day I’m brought back into my own “unless ye become as little children” self through the great privilege of playing, singing, dancing and talking with the little ones overflowing with love, life and humor. Children nurtured in a place that sees them exactly as they are while leading them to an adulthood led by their forever childlike curiosity, innocence and beauty. The child is not just an age— it’s a state of mind, a faculty of perception, a quality of spirit kept alive and sheltered from life’s litany of sorrow and disappointment. And in a time when the world goes a bit mad— truly, for most of our history—the children indeed are the makers of a radiant future of a better humanity, the ones we send down the paths we were unable to reach.

But none of this happens without effort. The brilliant visionary Maria Montessori wrote almost a century ago:

We should help the child, no longer because we think of him as a creature, puny and weak, but because he is endowed with great creative energies, which are of their nature so fragile as to need a loving and intelligent defense.

That’s our job as adults, to create schools dedicated to a “loving and intelligent defense” of the child’s creative energies. A pretty good description of where I work. And sad to report that most schools, instead of sheltering those delicate possibilities, contribute to the battering and send the excited, curious, enthusiastic learner who walks in at 3, 5 or 6 years old out the door at 18 or 22 with slumped posture wanting to know “Will this be on the test?”

In a time when ignorance, brutality and cynicism is poised to rule, why not re-double (or begin) our efforts to see children for who they are, give them what we need and help them become who they might be if they learn to keep the simplicity of their child nature alive inside the complexity of their adult self. Montessori again:

Noble ideals and high standards we have always had. They form a great part of what we teach. Yet warfare and strife show no signs of abating. And if education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of humanity's future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual's total development lags behind?

Instead, we must take into account a psychic entity, a social personality, a new world force, innumerable in the totality of its membership, which is at present hidden and ignored. If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men. The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.

And that's why these photos are a satisfying and simply lovely treat in a complex world. 

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