I contend that one of the most important lessons any kid can ever learn is what I like to call the “Oh yes I can lesson.” Whether they’re male or female, black, white, yellow, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Asian, European, African, tall, short, rich, poor, or middle class - if kids have the opportunity to develop their natural-born ability to believe in themselves and to relentlessly persist, odds are they’ll learn to succeed, even in the face of life’s most difficult challenges, despite a system that’s specifically designed to relentlessly mass produce infinite waves of mediocrity, homogeneity, predictability, conventionality, and submission the status quo.
Show Them How
Now you may recognize this as the age old American adage that says “You can grow up to be President.” But if this lesson is not delivered through practical, hands-on experiences (getting down in the mud and wrestling with the beast), it quickly becomes meaningless, adult doubletalk that goes in one ear and out the other for most kids. In other words talk is cheap. The trick is to show them how to walk the walk if you really expect them to believe in themselves and to live their lives accordingly.
Show Them Early
Timing is also an extremely important consideration for the Oh yes I can lesson. In fact you have to get to them before they start school, because conventional school systems are so incredibly efficient at teaching kids the “Oh no you can’t lesson.”
You see school is specifically designed to pit kids against kids, expecting them to compete against one another for gold stars, teacher’s praise, positions in the top reading or math group, who’s the prettiest, who’s the most athletic, who’s the most popular, etc. By the time they’re finished with first or second grade, most kids will have been thoroughly indoctrinated into the hierarchical mentality that sees the world in terms of a few winners at the top, the bulk of us (the masses) wrestling around in the middle, and a few stragglers (the kids’ term these days is losers) bringing up the rear.
Immunizing Kids Against the Bell Curve
In educational circles it’s called the bell curve, and whether it’s anywhere near true, most educators are paid to believe it, and to conduct their classes accordingly. If not immunized against this problem before they enter school, kids easily fall pray to the bell curve mentality, and they become passive victims of the machine that’s built to convince most kids that they’re average or worse, and that there’s very little they can do about it.
Conventional educators are of little help because most of them have lived with the bell curve for so long that it’s second nature. And once the labels are systematically imbedded it’s very difficult for kids or adults to break out of the conventional box and to recognize that the system itself is stacked against them, fatally flawed, if not fraudulent.
However, if you teach kids to think for themselves, to see the world through their own eyes, and to relentlessly persist despite the system, many kids will survive, and their odds of living meaningful lives (real winning) are enhanced a thousand fold. They’ll effectively be immunized against the system instead of indoctrinated by it. But remember, one of the biggest keys is to teach kids the Oh yes I can lesson before sending them off to school.
At the Physical Level
The third issue then is how to teach them what you want to teach them. My suggestion (and Piaget agrees) is that most young kids are far more physically oriented than they are mentally or spiritually oriented. And it’s one thing to tell kids to persist and win, and an entirely different matter to physically show them how to persist and win. This is true whether they’re going to be athletes or first cello in the school orchestra. The name of the game in the early years is PHYSICAL! If you're interested in learning more, send me an email via WyzAnt.