Where can we find today, the likes of Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Picasso, Isaac Newton, Einstein, Wordsworth, Keats, Charles Dickens or Shakespeare ? Our modern day prominent figures are mainly those who have built their corporations through their creativity and business acumen, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Jack Ma. There are many other inventors and talented people out there but we hardly hear of any that can match the classics of the past. Why is this so? There should be many reasons but I would like to explore further on one aspect: the education of the young; our future leaders, inventors, artists and teachers.
Back in 1955, C.S. Lewis, a great philospher and author, wrote an essay, “Lilies that Fester” which I found quite applicable in today’s context. Surprisingly back then, it was already seen as a problem or troubling concern and it was about how the young were being educated. C.S. Lewis saw how it would impact future generations and felt ‘lucky’ that his childhood was spared this stifling situation. The following are excerpts from his essay:
“The pupil is now far more defenceless in the hands of the teachers… He has hardly ever been alone. The educational machine seizes him very early and organises his whole life, to the exclusion of all unsuperintended solitude or leisure.”
“The hours of unsponsored, uninspected, perhaps even forbidden, reading, the ramblings, and the ‘long, long thoughts’ in which those of luckier generations first discovered literature and nature and themselves are a thing of the past.”
“In short, the modern pupil is the ideal patient for those masters who, not content with teaching a subject, would create a character; helpless Plasticine.”
Fast forward 2015; 60 years has passed since this essay was written, what has become of those children? Where are they today? What kind of leaders, inventors, artists or teachers have come forth? Ordinary or extraordinary; common or unique?
I would like to pose 5 questions about children today:
1 Is our education geared towards developing the potential of each individual according to their own ability?
2 Does the child have enough time (no rush) to play and spend time with the family?
3 Are the holidays filled with nature, motor-skill games, sunshine and lots of laughter?
4 Does the child get to day dream or look at the stars and enjoy the breeze or nature?
5 Do we let our children grow in their own pace and time to discover their own talents without letting the school determine that for us?
If most of our answers are “No”, then we have a troubling future. This would mean that there will be less and less people who can think, dream or discover as we let the school or society do that for them. Now I see why the term ‘Plasticine’ was used by C.S. Lewis as the young were being molded into whatever shape the education or system wants them to be.
I don’t think anyone of us wants our children to become like this and we can all stop by helping them have a life of their own, to learn and grow in a safe and real environment, not a stifling or artificial one.