The Education Every Child Most Needs, Part 3

[Note: As part of my research for a children’s book I’m working on, we’re contrasting the education that the culture gives us vs. the education a human most needs in this world. This is based, in part, on an essay by Landon Saunders entitled, What Every Child Comes Into the World to Learn.]

Culture teaches you to be the center of attention—or at least want to be. The education a person most needs would train one to pay attention to what’s central in life.

A little child is the center of attention. He says, “See me! See me!” And supposedly we outgrow that. But unfortunately, some don’t. And in a world where you try to get attention all the time, you always wind up without enough attention. It takes real courage to break away from that.

Once there was a kingdom where the people both worshipped and were enslaved by the mirror. Everything was made of mirrors, including the eyes of the people. When they looked at each other, they could only see themselves. Then came the incident. A man and a woman escaped from the mirror kingdom and when they hit the sunlight, the mirrors in their eyes vanished and they could see each other. At first, they were a little uncomfortable in actually seeing and being seen by another person. But as the weeks went by, whole new worlds opened up in their relationship until finally, the words that had been bouncing off mirrored images for generations once again found a place in the human heart: “I love you.”

Being the center of attention has its limitations. But paying attention can lead in all kinds of wonderful directions. (And by the way, the value of paying attention comes up in many children’s stories, even fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel.)

Edward T. Hall said, “This is what intelligence is, paying attention to the right things.” So what are the right things? That’s probably something each person must work out for herself. But here are a couple of thoughts:

Fine Print. Someone has said that education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don’t! Every situation in life, every challenge or problem has some fine print. But it takes paying attention to see that.

Invisibles. Learning to pay attention to what’s central in life teaches us to “see the invisible”—to value those invisibles that are the true riches in life. As the poet Carl Sandburg wrote, “Money buys everything, except love, personality, freedom, immortality, silence, peace.”

To strive to read the fine print and pay attention to the right things—and model that for the children—is to do something that matters in the world.