The Challenges and Opportunities of Educating the Next Generation
“We’re just sad kids, who put all of our hope in the fact that putting our headphones in makes us feel we’re not alone.” (Anon. n.d.)
That statement hit home; it resonated a deep truth about growing up today. However, it tantalisingly holds an inherent solution to the same. The children and the teenagers are the future, now; they are a solution, in the making, today!
Recently, this writer, together with Peter Birdsall, a director of WUAS, were judges to a speaking competition at a high school in Epe. The topic was the title of this article. What made a strong impression was the opportunity for the students to express, and for us to hear, what lay at the core of their concerns. This is important -- no, this is vital -- in terms of true education for the next generation, for those who will eventually slip into the various roles of our society. They, the kids and teenagers, are the solution.
The old paradigm of separateness and no consequences for actions, and those who rigidly cling to it, is fading away in time. However, the consequences of decisions and actions taken from that older paradigm – nothing is connected, and, for example, if the Amazon forest is gone, so what? – are with us today, big time! This can best be summed up by the action of one Greta Thunberg, a now globally recognised young Swedish environmentalist. This young girl, a meaningful symbol for a new generation that needs a hero that they can relate to, is nevertheless criticised in certain elements of society as being too young, and/or autistic and so forth. As in many instances, the simple truth is missed: it is not Greta, it is the ideas expressed! Do those in charge listen to the message, or just see a young girl?
We give our children everything outwardly, within reason and possibility, except that which is vital: a reflection back to them that they are an essential part of life, a life that functions beautifully within a cooperative approach. In short, a reflection of their own beautiful eco-system, within the larger global eco-system. This is the new paradigm that is attempting to bust through in places across the globe, an ever-increasing crescendo that will, I am completely certain, reach a critical mass turning point. A healthy competition in society is stimulating, but only from within the broader organic concept of cooperation to a deeper vision for our planet, our home. The young generation will get this, and they will act to clean up the mess we left them.
This is what they need today. This is what education can provide them in a critical time frame before entering higher education. One can just imagine what creativity can emerge with undergraduates exposed to their sense of self-worth, their potentials and a deeper understanding of their place and role in a healthier and creative society. The potential is enormous in every field of human endeavour.
Events like in Epe provide a stage for them to research and give voice to a lingering hollowness that follows many at that vulnerable stage. It gives focus, and a channelled perspective for further creativity. They know all there is to know about smart phones, the internet and so forth. What needs to move in tandem with this is an educational environment that stimulates a growing awareness of their own responsibilities and inherent creativity. This then leads away from the isolation and separateness of the present times, with its concurrent psychological and emotional baggage.
Logic alone is only half the story, and perhaps even less! A system - call it “an education for life” - can be created, to support a balanced development of body, heart, mind and spirit. In addition to learning the usual subjects, students can be exposed to concepts of cooperation, compassion and self-discipline and many other approaches to creative living. This automatically lends itself to a sense of self-worth, purpose, and a knowingness that everyone can make a difference for the better. This notion, and more, is what takes the logic to a newer, richer and deeper level. This is the future, now! We owe this to our children.
In this writer’s view, this approach is a solution. The upcoming generation will bring it all together and restore the madness to balance. Of this, we can be certain.
“It is time we learned that facts, and even skill, by themselves cannot produce a healthy society. Cooperation, positive thinking, kindness and other eternal values are essential to a truly productive life and to the attainment of the universal goal of all life: happiness.” (Waters, n.d.)
by Daniel O’ Connell
Head of English Department & Foundation Programme
©Wittenborg University Press