Over the last few weeks we have seen our children take their places in a call to arms. Some may have thought that they have fought bravely and fiercely in defence of their natural environment, they have lobbied international organisations to do more when it comes to climate change, and most recently preschoolers have presented the government with petitions asking for the Aboriginal flag to be flown permanently over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
However, there is another war they must contest. It is far more insidious and demands that we all take notice and come to their aid. It is the war that is being waged on their childhood and we, as adults, are the ones willingly inflicting it on them. Our children’s worlds are being deluged with adult information, pressures and stress all in the name of ‘education’. The truth is, the ‘eco-warriors’ and ‘anti-Trump’ 5-year old’s we are raising are increasingly depressed, anxious, stressed, behaviourally out of control, and being set up for future failure.
It is naive to think that we are raising socially conscious global citizens by exposing our children to an adult world of concerns. Inundating them with information does not better equip them for the future – it paralyses them. Furthermore, the very notion of ‘sharing’ such information with them is a falsehood as it, by definition, denotes an equal and mutual exchange. Children are simply not capable of having such complex and nuanced debates, nor should we expect them to. Not only are they not neurologically equipped to process complex issues, but they do not have the context given by life experience with which to view such topics.
What we as adults often fail to recognise it the very important role that childhood serves. It is one of exploration, of play, of physical development, of interaction, of dexterity, of creativity, of observation and of imagination. The brain has more to accomplish in the first decade of life than at any other time. As adults, our role is to simply provide the fertile ground that will support the growth of these naturally occurring vital processes. The bombardment of additional complex information may in fact act as a pollutant to a young mind, pulling it off the track it naturally wants to pursue, forcing it forward into territory with which it cannot cope.
When preschoolers are being instructed to recruit strangers off the street for an Indigenous rights petition, and students are being encouraged to skip school to fight for environmental action one must ask what the role of our education system is. At a time where Australian children are academically struggling to keep up with the rest of the world, surely we would be best focussing on fostering inquisitive minds who have the ability for critical analysis, and possess a solid foundation in a traditional academic skill set that they then may apply creatively in their future to the problems of the globe. To even consider that it is the role of teacher, or worse government-funded public schooling, to discuss, encourage and promote contentious socio-political agendas is beyond inappropriate – it is dangerous. A preschooler is a blank slate of neural pathways waiting to be connected and is ripe for the picking to implant ideas and world views – just take their firm belief in Santa. A jolly man bringing gifts is one thing, but if our schools start promoting political agendas surely we are on a path to socialist dictation?
By not sharing information with our children, by withholding and by shielding them from the latest news cycle emergency, we open the door of freedom to them. Freedom to explore, to learn, to grow and to live. We unshackle children from the burden of premature knowledge and allow the development of a solid healthy mind that will serve them well into adulthood. Let us return to observing the sanctity of the two worlds – the adult world and the world of the child. So fleeting, so precious are childhood years, let’s not cheat our children out of them. A pause on the fast pace of life that dictates that more-is-more will not spell out an end to our world for future generations – it will save it.