AMERICAN author, Robert Byrne once said, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”
If you read biographies of people, you will find that many of the most accomplished and successful people (and I’m not just speaking in economic terms) are those who have a deep sense of purpose. It is what keeps them going in times of deep loss, discouragement, disaster, or despair.
And yet many people go through life without finding their purpose. They live an empty and hollow existence, and it doesn’t matter whether they are rich or poor, whether they are famous, intelligent, or talented. We have had our fair share of rich, famous, intelligent and talented people taking their own lives, perhaps wanting to end the meaninglessness of it all.
To find one’s purpose requires a great deal of time -- time to explore one’s inner world, time to reflect, to think, to dream, and act and experiment on those dreams. The best time to do that is during one’s childhood and teenage years -- when one is still relatively free from the obligations and responsibilities of adulthood.
But then there is the reality called school, and quite frankly, school robs children of their time -- it divides their day into neat partitions of topics deemed important by others (though rarely explained why). It tells them what to wear, and what to read, and how to speak, and how to walk and how to behave. It tells them (explicitly or implicitly) what professions one should aspire for simply by the importance it puts on certain subjects -- mathematics and sciences are often on top -- and therefore professions which heavily use them are to be admired. The young boy who proudly declares, “I’m going to be an engineer” is more widely applauded than one who declares, “I want to be an actor.”
School haunts children even after school hours with endless homework and readings and papers to write. Parents obsessed with having kids graduate with top honors hire tutors for additional instruction after school.
This is not to blame parents, teachers or administrators of schools. They are just trapped in the system, and most of them have the child’s best interests at heart -- only they are boxed in the framework they understand because that is how they grew up, and how most of us grew up. It is difficult to shift paradigms and look at things from another point of view when you yourself have been so inculcated in it.
But as an educator, and as a parent, I believe the best gift we can give our kids is the gift of time.
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