When I tell people that kids are curious and they educate themselves if you just give them space, people can’t imagine it. They can imagine it for themselves, as a adults, because they can think of tons of things they’d want to do and learn if they had unlimited time. But still, they don’t trust that kids would do that, too.
What it looks like is this letter that my son wrote to President Obama. It started out that my older son told my younger son that he would go to prison for lying. I said, “Kids don’t go to prison unless things are really really bad.”
They wanted to know what things, of course. Then they wanted to know why a kid would do something so terrible. Then they wanted to know where the parents were. And I told them most kids in juvenile prison need good parenting rather than a prison system.
The result of the conversation was a letter to the President. My older son said, “He’s not going to read that.”
I said, “I think someone reads every single letter the President receives. People get paid to do that.”
(Because my older son is in the car overhearing so many of my coaching calls he said, “Would an INFP be good at reading the President’s mail?”)
Soon after that, I read a Forbes article called In Defense of Skipping College and Enrolling in the Real World. Those of you who have been reading my other blog know that I’ve been saying for years that college today is a waste of time. So it’s not really news. But to summarize the conclusions: unless you can get into a top-ten school, you will get not jump on the job market by spending four years in college. You’re better off spending those four years trying to figure out where you fit in the world. Which is, after all, what school is supposed to give you: self-knowledge from exposing yourself to new ideas.
I used to jump for joy every time someone in the mainstream media said “skip college.” But now here’s what bugs me: they don’t say skip grade school, too. Really, it’s not a leap to realize that “skip college” also means “skip grade school.” But it’s a huge emotional step, because that would mean that all the people who are saying skip grade school would have to stop pontificating all day and hang out with their kids all day instead. Most of the people who have a big voice in the media are not staying home with their kids. So they are in no position to telling anyone to stay home with their kids.
Also, if you talk about how kids should skip college, you don’t have to force your kids to do that. After all, they are 18. They can decide for themselves. So you’re safe. But if you tell everyone to take their kids out of grade school then it’s hard for you to not do the same. Arguably, your kids are too young to make that decision, especially if all they’ve known is traditional school.
So I have a feeling that the reason we read so much about skipping college and so little about skipping grade school is that the media is made up of parents. And parents are afraid to trust kids to be curious enough to learn.
But when does anyone start being curious enough? The day you graduate high school? Probably not. Really young children learn language from a natural drive. And language is difficult. But that curiosity and drive doesn’t stop there. It continues, from the day we’re born until the day we die.
My son asked why President Obama cares about all the letters.
I said because his job is to be curious about what people in this country are thinking about.
My son said, “His job is to be curious? He gets paid for that? That’s a job anyone can do!”