Issue 13 Editorial

A little boy came home from school and complained to his mother, ‘I’m not going back tomorrow. I can’t read yet. I can’t write yet. And they won’t let me talk!’

There is no getting away from the fact that there is something wrong with how, why and what we are teaching our children. We are clearly in a crisis on the planet, global warming is going to change the way we live and we not preparing our children for this. We are stuck in a time warp, using teaching methods and information that have not really changed or kept up with the times.

Do yourself a favour and watch Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth on global warming and see for yourselves the crisis we are really in. We daily face crime, poverty and sickness all around us and yet we are not teaching our children to take control of their own destiny, or to fulfil their true potential.

The teachers throw up their hands with despair as he disrupts the class with his humor (they don’t see the funny side, and I don’t blame them), he fails to hand in his assignments, he bunks the lessons (“they are so boring Mum!”)….to mention a few of the reasons he clocks up many hours of ‘detention’ every week! The teachers have a job to do and he makes it very difficult for them. I cringe when the phone call comes through, not for the fear of the reprimanding tone of the poor teacher, but more from the fear that my precious child is in danger of his fragile teenage self esteem being battered yet again as he is labeled with the usual tags given to the children that simply rock the boat.

I must add here that the majority of teachers that I have come into contact with have been wonderful, caring people and are only doing their best to get the job done working in the confines of a very limited system.

You may ask why he is still there and the answer is that he chooses to be, as there are very little options available. He does not want to be different, and he wants to ‘fit into’ the system, as he knows no other. He has been to a few schools as we moved homes and every single one has suggested that I put him on Ritalin!

Thank goodness, even in the days when I was less aware of the dangers and the ‘whole picture’, it was always abhorrent to even consider drugging my child. I always find it interesting that he is quite capable of sitting quietly and listening to something or someone that interests him, is extremely interested in people and their lives and asks endless questions, and can read a book for hours. And very occasionally he gets an amazing teacher, who manages to bring a subject alive and ‘bingo’ he is no longer ADHD…he even hands in his assignments! It’s worse for boys as they are naturally more boisterous and exuberant, they can disrupt the whole class, this in turn affects the class’s ‘learning outcomes’, which in turn affects the schools reputation and position for academic achievement (which is all important)…so its in everyone’s interest to drug him, or else he could be asked to leave!

The interesting thing is that these children are becoming more and more common, and the label ADHD is becoming something that is commonly being used to describe the children that are simply being what children are designed to be…. inquisitive, noisy, impatient, adventurous, boisterous and rebellious. They were not meant to be caged against their will, sitting still for lengthy periods learning things that hold little or no interest or will be of little use to them in the future, and away from the wonder of the natural world and each other.

When I was at school ADHD did not exist, and now they are holding conferences across the globe to address the topic! The doctors and scientists have jumped onto the bandwagon as they desperately try to seek out methods to control the children….much to the glee of the pharmaceutical companies who are now making millions from the drugs that are being used to drug the spirited children into submission, and the anti-depressants that are probably being used to treat the side effects of the drugs.


Dr Bob Jacobs.

Apparently every single adolescent shootout in America has been done by a child on anti-depressants! (I stand to be corrected on this, but I once heard it on a tape of a talk given by a doctor in the US who studied this.) What has changed?

I would say nothing has changed other than our preoccupation with the detached, narrow focus on academic achievement, and rather that children are not being allowed to be children… The natural exuberance of children is simply inconvenient and deemed to be ‘inappropriate’ in our capitalist driven society!

Children as young as 3 are being diagnosed with ADHD. February 2000 Journal of American Medical Association reported a 200 – 300% increase in antidepressant and stimulants given to children aged 3 and under. Ok this is not America, and it was 7 years ago, but it does not take South Africa long to catch up to the rest of the world. What ever the figures are, you can be assured that they are increasing at an alarming rate every year. At four years old, a boy’s testosterone level doubles, hardly a time to be sitting quietly listening or learning pencil control!

I was horrified to see the headline in the Saturday Star (October 21st 2006) newspaper when visiting Johannesburg the other day: “House arrest for kids…Education minister promises to get tough on unruly pupils!” A typical response to most of the problems that we now face in the world… fighting fire with fire and making the blaze bigger still, instead of looking beneath at the real reasons for the unrest and making the changes necessary to bring peace, happiness and harmony. Furthermore it emphasizes the necessity to start the movement for change at grassroots levels; the government simply doesn’t get it!

Feeling uncomfortable with the schooling system is nothing new. I remember the fear that rippled through me as a child as my exquisite inquisitiveness was slowly closed down by the strict stereotype expectations and the dry and lifeless teachings that were forced down my throat in order to be regurgitated parrot fashion for the exams so that one day I could go to university and then get a job! Both of which I did! But was I happy and what wisdom did I learn that has been of any real, lasting value I ask myself?

While I learned to read and write, (although my spelling and grammar are still appalling, but who cares… I get by fine) the rest is pretty hazy. The art room was my sanctuary, that I do remember, and what comes easily to me does not necessarily come easily to others and vice versa. This is often not recognized in schools. Everyone has to be good at everything, regardless of whether they find it interesting or have a natural inclination towards it, or they are penalized (bad exam results) or worse still punished (detention). In most schools children are forced to wear the same clothes and have the same hair styles (again a rub off from the military model they are based on), leaving no room for individuality or creatively. The uniforms are usually so hopelessly outdated and uncomfortable that it is laughable, forcing them to wear ‘ties’ has always amazed me, even the girls sometimes wear them… Surely they symbolize a noose? They spend their precious childhood fitting into a military style system called ‘school’.

It is no wonder our children are fighting against the system. Perhaps they are aware on a deeper level that our fragmented, disconnected society and culture are destroying us and the planet, and that the crisis that we find ourselves in is now critical and needs to be acknowledged and addressed immediately?


We are disconnected in virtually every aspect of our lives. A typical example is our family units. We send our old into old age homes and the children off to schools, where they are educated by relative strangers from a curriculum designed by politicians and academic theorists totally removed from the children and their spiritual, emotional or physical needs. We are disconnected from each other, nature and spirit as we go to war fighting and killing each other (ostensibly in the name of religion, country or some other contrived excuse, but really to serve the powers that be as they seek financial gain or the control of a limited resource).

And we are still determined to conquer and use nature for our purely selfish pursuits. We have been TAUGHT not to think at school, as the education system, like our economy, is set up to create a product, and this product is a ‘worker in industry’. I had an interesting experience the other day when I asked a delightful young man who is writing matric to help me set up a power point presentation for a talk I was giving. The topic was “Going green at Home”. To my horror (although I obviously did not let him see this) he knew nothing of alternative energy, green building materials, compost building, organic gardening, bio-digesters, bio-fuels or any of the other topics I was going to discuss. He is at one of our ‘supposedly’ top private schools… a shocking indictment I would say….here we are facing crisis after crisis be it social, cultural or environmental and the children are still being taught the same old stuff, which is of little use to anybody and certainly will not serve them in the very challenging years ahead of them.

Why are we being forced (via a tax system that we have no say in) to spend billions on defense budgets to kill each other or defend our country (from whom?!) while we have millions starving and homeless… and nobody bats an eyelid!…because we have been taught, via a strict fear based military model to keep quite, sit still and don’t ask questions! Most lack the deep compassion and connection necessary to feel the pain of others, the animals and the planet; it has simply been closed down and ‘taught’ out of them, they weren’t born like that. How many children realize where their food (a basic necessity to life) comes from? Most don’t think further than the supermarket! They may learn about crops growing in certain areas but does it go any further? They are far too busy being forced to memorize the capital city of some distant country or history written by the people that won and often not local, or names given to parts of bodies or plants…all things that can look up and find out if the need arises. Yet they have no notion of the extreme cruelty animals suffer in commercial farming enterprises and the devastating effect eating meat has on the environment, or the 100’s and sometimes 1000’s carbon emitting kilometers that their vegetables have traveled to get onto their plates and the effect the poisonous sprays are having on our land, the waterways, the animal life and their bodies…or even that they can grow it themselves if they want to and create zero waste and zero carbon emissions?

They don’t learn that plants and water (in fact everything) are spiritual as well as physical in nature, and that they can be communicated with and respond to love and all the other emotions that we feel, and that these skills can be developed and with practice used in everyday life. They don’t learn the importance of eating organic food, for both their bodies and the planet. They don’t learn that sound and colour can heal their bodies, or that different organs respond to different sounds and colours, or that laughing also heals them. Topics such as this are rarely covered in schools, as our children are being molded to fit into the disconnected, commercially driven, spiritless system.

It comes as no surprise that children are rebelling as our culture has removed them from the land and the simple way of life that the few pockets of remaining ancient tribes show us is really the only way to live.

They have lived for 1000’s of years in harmony with each other, and all nature and without destroying their habitat in any way. Instead of teaching our children the wisdom of these ways we feed them useless superficial information and measure their worth via exam results and designer jeans.

School is all about winning, comparing and competing. Winning at the sport or the exam and then when the children leave it is about winning in business, houses and cars….what for? To puff up their ego, as their self esteem has been damaged by the system? Because they don’t feel good about themselves, they have to perpetuate the feeeling of seperateness by trying to win and feel good again.

As the Dalai Lama so rightly says ‘we can never have lasting peace when we are driven by a competitive society’. A very few children endowed with an innate trust in themselves realize that they are just fine as they are, but sadly they are few a far between.

So what is the answer? I am not sure, as we are up against an extremely conservative and dogmatically entrenched system. Most people have their own view and opinion on what we should be teaching our children and what is important in life, but one thing is certain and that is that we need to teach our children real life skills, that will give them the knowledge they need mentally, emotionally and spiritually to cope with the changes that are coming our way.

Children are rarely given real and meaningful tools to develop lasting and happy relationships with themselves primarily and with others, which is the foundation of a happy life. While they may learn at home, more often than not the home is very challenged in that department anyway, as the parents struggle with their own issues around relationships, and so the inadequacies are perpetuated. The detached, ‘quick-fix’ materialistically driven age, where everyone is out at work is very slowly changing and the community aspect to children’s upbringing that gives them the freedom to play, run and climb is beginning to emerge again.

Maybe it is time to learn once more the wisdom of living in community with the whole family and with like minded people. Where stories are told and wisdom handed down again from the elders and the earth and her bounty is worshiped, and where we learn to live off the food we grow and commune with the spirit of nature and the animals. There is a ‘Slow Food’ movement that started in Italy a couple of years ago, for example, which encourages people to gown and harvest local food, and it is spreading around the world. There are many people now seeking community living, zero waste, green building, alternative energy, local organic seasonal food and natural healing and all are becoming possible and maybe they will soon become the norm, if not by choice by necessity

We have gathered quite a few articles on the topic of education and hope that you enjoy them and maybe assist in initiating the urgently needed change.