About the importance of education

by Dieter Sprock

The question of raising children is less discussed these days. The issue has disappeared from the headlines and currently does not seem to receive a lot of attention among parents. One might think the knowledge about the importance of education has fallen into oblivion. In everyday life, we come across parents who are turning the natural order upside down. They constantly try hard to get everything right for their children and read every wish from their lips. They permanently cater to them and have handed over the lead.
A general mood has spread in which parents who still want to educate do not have the nerve to say no to their children for fear of being considered as uncaring parents.

Children without guidance

Parents who do not raise their children anymore but leave the lead to them, neither do a favour to themselves nor to their children. It is common knowledge that children do not show their appreciation. They develop the feeling that other people have to fulfil their wishes and become indignant if they do not.
Recently, I watched a little boy, maybe three years old, pushing his toddler-friendly shopping trolley around the village shop without paying attention to his mother. When she called him to come, he insisted that she should come to him, and when she didn’t immediately do so, he started yelling. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. In many families stressful disputes take place every day – and sometimes degenerate into outright power struggles – about getting up, washing and teeth-brushing, eating and shopping, or about homework. For such behaviour we find no examples in nature. Everywhere, the young ones follow their parents and not vice versa.
It is heartbreaking when you see how parents get caught up with their children, and in particular through their efforts to make them happy – with the best intention, but completely unaware – put in motion and consolidate developments that make life difficult both for both their children and themselves. Children who have been the centre of the family and made their own decisions from a very early age, do not grow into independent personalities but become self-centred and confused, many develop learning difficulties because they have not been trained to listen to adults. Pediatricians, teachers and psychologists know a lot about this.
Jürg Frick, lecturer and consultant of teacher education and training at the University of Zurich, wrote on 5 October 2016 in a guest comment in the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”: “Too many pupils are not sufficiently prepared for the requirements of school and enter with completely wrong ideas, beliefs and claims. What is more, many children have a low frustration tolerance, plunk down everything if it does not work out straight away and refuse to meet any requirements. Their self-control, emotion control and empathy are underdeveloped. Many of these children have learned at home that adults (too frequently) adapt to them and the children themselves have hardly had to perform any adaptation. What happens is a misguided orientation of parents towards their children.”
This results in children who are barely acceptable at school because they cannot obey rules and are neither able to study or listen nor to work with their peers. But whereas in the past school was a valuable corrective, today, with the nationwide introduction of “self-determined learning”, this kind of mishap is not only continued, but even strengthened.
The assumption is wrong that children develop best when adults follow their needs. And if more proof were needed for this assertion, present-day school is providing it. More and more children are no longer able to cope with the “self-determined confusion”. They become victims of false theories, and the question arises, how long we still want to watch.

What does guidance mean?

Children need education and guidance. That means neither strictness nor force. Pressure generates counter pressure. The best basis is to enjoy the child, not only one’s own, but the delight in one’s fellow beings as such. Children need adults who give inner peace and safety orientation, so that they can focus on it. Clear rules give them security. They need adults who can cope with children not agreeing with them and who do not change their course, only to satisfy the children, adults who are able to deal with conflicts. Conflicts are a part of life. Their peaceful management allows inner growth and promotes personal maturity both of parents and children.
Guidance in education requires the ability to teach children patiently, with the inner certainty that they are willing to follow because it is their nature and knowing that it is through free interaction with their mothers to begin with and later with the whole world that they can develop their human abilities best.
The world does not fulfil our wishes. Life is a challenge that sometimes can be hard and has to be mastered. Our task is to prepare the children for this.
The Geneva philosopher Jeanne Hersch writes the following about the needs of youths, which is also valid for children: “Their [the youths’] deepest and certainly most widespread need is the longing for real fathers and real mothers. No companions, but parents. Real fathers and real mothers whose love and protection is unconditional and whose authority is unshakable. They need teachers or at least one teacher whose word is valid, whose demands are friendly and without anger, and whose commitment towards them is unambiguous and unreserved. They need adults, people who show through their presence alone that life can be lived and have some meaning. “(from: Jeanne Hersch, “Antithesen zu den Thesen zu den Jugendunruhen 1980”, p. 47; translation Current Concerns)

The importance of education

We humans have to learn almost everything. Let us look at language, for instance: If a Chinese child grows up in a Bernese family in Switzerland, it will speak the Bernese dialect as well as every other Bernese child. There is no difference.
Feelings and conduct are also acquired. It is true that every child is unique and unmistakable at birth, not only externally, but also in terms of character. There are vivid and quiet children with considerable differences, as every mother knows. However, the “material dreams are made of“, the content of their feelings, is acquired. Babies kick and cheer, laugh and cry, are dissatisfied or happy, they babble and sometimes they even refuse. All this is at first quite spontaneous, simple expression of life. But soon the child realises that they can influence their mother’s mood with his smile and thus a fine interplay develops between mother and child, which is also actively shaped by the child.
If a child refuses everything at times – for whatever reason – and their mother gets nervous and takes the greatest effort every time this happens, then there is the risk that with her exertion she just strengthens the behaviour which in fact she wants to “wean off”. Through her special attention the child learns that withdrawal and refusal are ideal means of binding and guiding the mother’s attention towards them.
Everyone develops their personal lifestyle from what they encounter in childhood, the way they go about things and meet the challenges of life in general.
Hence, the little boy who we met earlier in the village shop is not angry because his grandfather already had tantrums, but because he has acquired it as an obviously successful kind of behaviour. And because this behaviour is learned and not innate, they can also change it with pertinent corrections. That is the good news.
Education is an obligation towards the individual as well as the common good. There is a new challenge for every generation due to the requirements of the current time. For certain, however, a lot of emotional distress and disappointment could be avoided if mothers and fathers knew more about parenting in order to understand better the kind of developments that could only be briefly hinted at here. In any case, the importance of education cannot be overstated.     •