Children don’t know best!

By Annie Fan. Annie lives in Rugby, United Kingdom

Reality isn’t composed of straight lines.

When I was younger, with child-like reasoning, I attempted to draw my entire city on a piece of paper. It was for my scrapbook; I stopped halfway. I couldn’t capture the different barks of the park, the iron railings circling our house, the shop that sold sandwiches and all of the city-centre in one side of A4! Despite the imaginative power of children in some aspects, all have tunnel-vision in at least one thing. No matter how you praise their perception, there is always a time when all they can see is what is in front of them. I myself, aged five, could not comprehend that trying to capture my own reality is pointless: it’s constantly changing; it’s far too big.

We like to believe that children have something special; something intuitive. And they do, but their judgement – often bundled into the same idea – is not better; their understanding is not completely sound. They have something that adults like – naïve judgement, which, whilst we value it for beauty and truth, can’t answer everything. We place hopes upon them, but, mostly it’s our own thoughts projecting back: there is so much that they haven’t yet learnt. How could they possibly understand your own thoughts, without the knowledge needed for context, or even the brain development to keep it all in their head?

From an early age, my parents spoke politics to me. I watched my first election debate, read my first manifesto analysis when I was nine. In my head, all the people involved were like characters in a play. I couldn’t see the links between what was said and what was happening. Thoughts need to be grouped together to be something far more useful than what you had to begin with. One on its own is merely a straight line, pointing in one direction: I thought it was all black and white in elections – whoever makes the best speech wins – ignorant of all the political manoeuvring that had started long ago. All that came out of my mouth were two-dimensional questions, not quite interconnecting, and always fuelled by something I’d seen. The observable universe is a lonely world; it’s full of things someone else has already made. It’s all straight lines. There is nothing new about it, but it is safe. That is the world children exist in.

I believe the ability to dream is innate – that curiosity, questioning and probing. Children have this. But the direction needed for realisation has to draw upon previous knowledge. Whilst experience is a good teacher of all things, as said by Caesar, an actual teacher is better.

Someone to put you through the paces of experience, without any of the horrible side-effects – injury, hurt, loss – is best. In the classroom, a space without straight lines, but still safe from the world, is a place for practice without borders. You are taught to think in three dimensions. You are taught to listen, and then to use what you have heard. Everything comes from what we know. How can we think outside the box without being able to think? School is a testing ground, and all children need it. Otherwise, their minds will always be closed-circuited with a small view of the world. Or the world will teach them through pain. ‘Mature’ is a compliment for children. ‘Childish’ is an insult to adults.

Our learning is two things: being able to apply, and knowing. Innovation comes from the originality of the application, but it’s hard to survive, let alone transform. That odd space outside of comfort is scary; it’s big. You need to draw upon all previous tools that have been given to you by a teacher. Analysis and constant evaluation are needed: is my direction correct? Have I gone off on a tangent? Is this course the right one? Questions you ask yourself are terrifying. The self-doubt everyone faces is crippling, but now, although there is no-one to look over your shoulder, there are still the memories of what that person told you to do. You skip Darwin-esque selection for survival, the first hurdle that trips people up. Growing up with education is a removal of obstacles.

After school you cannot rely on the dreams of someone else when you hope to make something new – this is why some people would prefer to think that our world cannot improve further with new structures, new ways of doing things. They are too scared to be on their own, even with education as something to refer to.

Children aren’t the best dreamers – we are. We have the knowledge, the understanding and the ability to apply – education gives us all this. But we like their enthusiasm. They seek what they want, and that is what we too need to do, to escape the vicious cycle of: ‘I can’t be bothered’.

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