Who should be shaping our future?

When I got out of college, I worked a few years in the stock room of a Sears. In the manner of corporations, we usually had two people doing the job of six. Also in the manner of corporations, the setup of the store AND the stockroom was determined by people sitting at a desk somewhere. Now under ideal situations, the plans that these people make may be quite useful.

Unfortunately, life is rarely ideal.

Let's do it the efficient way!
Let’s do it the efficient way!

I can’t speak so much for the floor arrangement, but the way we were supposed to organize the warehouse was frequently at odds with what actually WORKED. I usually just lived with it, but I remember one time that a new, rather bulky product came out, and the way we were told to store it was completely insane to the eyes of those who actually had to DEAL with it. I tried explaining this to our store manager, whose basically ignored me and said, “Just do it!” … after all I was just a lowly stock boy. What did I know? Me being the rebellious type that I am, I went and did it the way I thought actually worked for us instead. The manager, being effectively a politician, never really noticed …  until one day we had all of the managers in the region do a store visit. I was particularly amused, when upon seeing this setup, completely at odds with the way it was “supposed” to be, he was complimented, at which point he took full credit for it.

I am not sharing this memory to toot my horn. It seems to me, this is too often how we are running our world. People who THINK they know how things should be done set the rules, ignoring those who live in the trenches and might actually KNOW what is needed. This organizational model is so ingrained in our psyches that we even raise our children the same way.

Could it just possibly be, that this is one of the things we are doing wrong?

Children are born without opinions. They are born without religion; political agendas; prejudices. Children are born as nothing more than absorbers of information. This is not an opinion, but a simple fact of life. So what does this mean? What children become has very much to do with the information they are fed. Children learn their loves and hates from those that raise them. They learn their biases and beliefs from  those that raise them. In short, children become what WE guide them to becoming. So the choice becomes this, do we try to shape them into a mold of who WE want to be; try to create the future WE want by molding our children into our idealized version of us? Or do we give them the freedom to grow on their own? Maybe we should allow children to actually take part in deciding their own future. After all, they are going to spend much more time in it than we are.

To me, that is one of the major difficulties we as humans face. We are so busy deciding for our children how their future should play out … in many cases a future which is really our own past. Or the opposite extreme, the future the way WE envision it should be. Ironically, in both extremes, the ones that have the LEAST influence are the ones that will be the MOST affected.

Does this really make any sense?

I believe the key to our future is to let children have the power to influence their OWN learning and growth. We should give them guidelines, but allow them to flourish on their own within them. They need to be allowed to disagree. They need to be encouraged in their OWN passions; to embrace their OWN strengths and ideas, and not simply be shaped into mini-me’s. Creativity, imagination, and the ability to THINK are the keys to an improved future … not a determined effort to shape the world in ways that have already often proven quite ineffective.

Maybe it is time for us to remember that the future is not FOR our children … rather they ARE the future.

This dialogue was inspired by this wonderful video, created and performed by a child whose parent’s recognize her for what she is: