The “Problems of the Children is the Community’s Responsibility
By David E. Hopper
The “Problems of the Children” in today’s world are foremost a problem of education and a prime concern confronting every nation. The challenge, centers on teaching children in all cultures, the value information about their true nature can play in transforming their lives and ultimately their very consciousness. The scope of this reaches far beyond the usual role played by parents, the public and private schools, or higher learning institutions. The educational institutions of today focus almost without exception on teaching the child how to be a success in the material world. In the context of financial responsibility and learning how to make a living this has considerable merit. We need, however, to consider the potential, dramatic contribution to civilization that could be achieved when we teach students the value of the human being and provide them with a complete understanding of their innate “human equipment.” In the words of Jean Huston it is the teaching of “the possible human” that must be considered.
In order to transcend the forces of separatism and materialism that throw up walls and keep human beings from experiencing their own divinity, the need is at hand for preparing civilization for the externalization of the mysteries and the building of the planetary Antahkarana. This would most effectively be done through the creation of the so-called “Mystery Schools”. Although the Mystery Schools are inherently designed for the adult population, public and private education must, at the end of the day, prepare children from pre-school to high school, regardless of the nationality or culture, with the necessary curriculum to enter and successfully participate in these higher schools. The perspective student entering a Mystery School will have a strong understanding of the forces that make up and influence the world so that his or her ability is facilitated in creating their own an Antahkarana and later contribute to the group’s efforts for creating the planetary Antahkarana.
Currently, public and private schools are largely under the direction of some very able personnel, which stress a secular and materialistic understanding of the world and downplay an understanding of the child’s true spiritual nature. A newly re-designed curriculum focusing on a “spiritual education” would emphasize a full blossoming of the child’s creative expression, the interaction with all the kingdoms, and a healthy development of their three-fold nature in relation to the unfoldment of the Plan. Under the old model, the attitude of competition and elitism would be negated. The new model of education will foster cooperation and goodwill between all cultures and ethnic groups, and strongly stress the understanding that it is humanity which must become a steward of the environment.
Although this essay was written mainly from a historical perspective on the American culture, many of the social issues discussed here are also seen in other cultures around the globe. In the rest of the world, due to war and the lack of caring on the part of the leaders, tens of millions of children are facing poverty, starvation, death, and no education, especially in the developing countries in Asia and Africa. Shamefully, poor education is still occurring in some western nations. It can be generally said that deficiencies in health care, poor nutrition, weakness or fragmentation of the family unit, the lack of resources for the physical repair of schools, and a widespread use of drugs are strong contributors toward a child growing up with stunted values.
Before suggesting any possible solutions for this perennial problem, a background and understanding must be firmly grasped in order to examine the social pressures and implications from a historical perspective of why the children are hampered in growing up in today’s secular and materialistic culture. It should also be pointed out from the outset, that the linear, left-brain approach to education as valued in our society and the emphasis on materialism is not unique to the American culture. Variations on these attitudes can be found in numerous cultures around the world, such as those in Europe and many in Asia. Thus, this is generally a global issue for parents, educators and social scientists in all nations to address.
A Historical Perspective
Since WW II in the United States, the attitudes about values and morality have changed considerably and still have a strong influence on the way children are raised decades later. The family unit in post-WW II was stable and people had a generally positive attitude when they thought about their future. It was a time of new hope with developing technologies in food production, electronics, medicine, and manufacturing which promised a better life for the children. In the 1940-50s, the values and morality of the model suburban family life were depicted in most TV shows such as Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, and Leave it to Beaver. This was a time of American innocence. However, a darker side of America existed just below this façade.
Underlying the “innocence of America,” the real life in suburbia had many dysfunctional families with the children being beaten and abused with relative societal acceptance. Although child abuse in families was occurring, it was not identified as such until much later. The motto in many homes at this time was “children were to be seen and not heard.” This diminished the value of what a child can contribute emotionally and intellectually, and effected their general self-esteem.
From the disillusionment of the beliefs of their parent’s generation and dysfunction within the family, the baby-boomers rebelled against the 1940-50s mentality. Beginning in the 1960s, many movements such as free love, environmental, civil rights, and anti-war seized the public’s attention. Great leaders in the African American community such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Malcom X were also saying the abuse must end so we can have a better future for everyone, including the children. In the 1960s, President Kennedy and First Lady Jackie symbolized the nice average family of America. Their marriage and appearance projected innocence and fidelity but behind closed doors were scandals and infidelity.
From the 1960s through the 1990s, with changes in attitudes toward relationships, family, and morality, many children were raised by a single parent. This fragmentation in the family was complicated by divorces, with the divided families forcing the children to choose between the mother and father. Many single mothers were forced to go on welfare, as jobs for women were not as available as for men. The fathers that did pay child-support usually saw their sons or daughters only on an infrequent basis. As a result, the stability of the male part of the family unit was weakened or completely missing. When the parents did stay together, both were often forced to work to provide for the family to make ends meet, as inflation was rampant. This was especially necessary, in the post-Vietnam War economy. With both parents at work and absent, the latchkey child had to come home to an empty house and often had to make dinner or complete his or her chores alone. The child in this setting was growing up with little guidance from either parent.
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the pace of life for the average American added further pressures and complications to the life of the child and their family. With health care available to only those who could afford it, millions of parents and their children were forced to go without proper nutrition and checkups from the doctor. During this time many children were born with many emotional and physical problems stemming partially from a poor diet. A poor diet consisting of fast food (usually filled with chemicals) and lacking the proper nutrition, contributes to a child growing up with the potential for emotional and physically challenged bodies. Further, many women smoking, drinking, and taking drugs during pregnancy contributed to children being born with mild to severe birth defects. A large number of these children are currently growing up with problems ranging from psychoses to ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The majority of these disorders can be traced to physiological conditions such as poor diets and pollutants in the environment, although it should be noted that social scientists and pediatricians are not all in agreement on this.
In the daily life of the child at the beginning of the twenty-first century, he or she must contend with a proliferation of drugs, violence, and sexual messages coming from television, movies, computer games, the Internet, and from peers at their schools. This presents a formidable challenge for the child and their parents to counter. If the parents are using drugs (including tobacco and alcohol), or are sexually active outside their marriage or involved in violent activities, then the child gets mixed messages when educators teach non-violence and abstinence. When children involved in gangs bring guns and knives to school and use them, we see the horrifying consequences in places such as Columbine High School and other academic settings across the country. This has turned many schools into high security zones and has given them a siege-mentality atmosphere. Needless to say, everyone from the children, to educators, parents, and ultimately society are strongly inhibited from participating in a quality learning environment in this situation.
The Need for a New Approach
Seeing the problem whole reveals a system (regardless of the culture) that shows great potential but lacks the will, direction, and often resources. Armed with the knowledge of the effects of a dysfunctional or broken home and that violence grossly debilitates the child’s learning, what realistically can be done to prepare the child for learning cooperative living, right human relations, and citizenship? If we look just at the American school model, especially from kindergarten to high school, we find a wide variation on what should be taught or emphasized. There are very few institutions that teach the value of the human being first and how to be successful in a material world second. How can we teach the children values, discipline, and morality when the adults themselves are not being the example or are sending conflicting messages? We as parents, educators, social scientists, and citizens know that the current system is not working effectively.
For an educational system to be successful in teaching the child right values and morality both in the home and at school, a totally different approach must be initiated. In our current system and culture, the importance of a secular and materialistic world is almost always affirmed. The child is not taught to identify first with their his or her essential divinity and humanity. In today’s world a “spiritual” education is usually procured from religious institutions which are usually strongly biased and not really focussed on developing right human relations or teaching the child about their role as a world citizen. This is an attitude which has contributed to much of the worlds problems. Today’s educational system prepares the student for making decisions from a place of logic and rational thought rather than from a place of intuition, compassion, and especially wisdom. Education, whether it be religious or secular, has largely trained people to focus on materialism and separatism. In the coming age, when spiritual values are valued above all else, the students will not be taught to compete and be filled with pride as today’s educational institutions emphasize. Instead, an attitude of inclusiveness, cooperation, goodwill, and harmony with all the kingdoms in nature will be fostered.
Educators must present the student with the urgency of world need and a sense of the Plan if the world is to find solutions to the many crises facing itself in all fields. The parents can teach the child morality and character in the home, but the function of the schools should be to teach character building in relation to others and society at large. We have the knowledge of teaching of all that is true, beautiful, and right and the development of the best aspects of being human. These are the highest and best ideals that can and need to be taught to the student so he can fully sense his potential within the group and thus develop a sense of responsibility for his part in the world.
Solutions–What can and needs to be done?
When looking at possible solutions for what would benefit the children the most in this challenging world, it is easy to consider using a remedy that is currently available in most cultures: the school. The actual school building can be turned into a community center. This community center would be able to perform many functions. Besides being an educational center during regular school hours, it can be used for tutoring children with special needs after hours. The school can be a place for parents to come and discuss issues about homework, discipline, and the curriculum. There can be helpers to assist the child with their homework if there are problems at home, or when a parent is working and can’t take care of the child until the parent gets home. Some of these after-school programs already exist, or the school building is already being used for other activities such as after-school sports and other recreational activities. In addition, health care for the indigent could be provided. Funds could be allocated for doctors, nurses, and dentists to help parents and children in need of outpatient medical care. We’re moving towards community living and raising kids with care workers, i.e., more than one caring adult and the community raising the child. This type of social function has been happening in the Kibbutz in Israel for decades. This process is what Hillary Rodham Clinton described in her book “It Takes a Village”.
With the community center providing guidance to the child’s social needs in various activities, the goal of the Mystery Schools for the future education would be to provide the needed educational understanding for developing the child’s inner mental equipment and faculties. The curriculum and the usual topics of academia taught in today’s schools and institutions would be revamped to train the child to maximize his expression of divine creativity in whatever subject he works in. The student would be taught to get in touch with his spiritual essence, such as through learning and practicing meditation, spiritual discrimination, sensing a vision of the Plan, and developing an understanding of the unity of his three-fold nature. In essence, the child would be in training from kindergarten to college for building the Antahkarana.
For building the future education and civilization, educators will be tasked to focus on creating a wiser and more determined citizenry and directly helping to overcoming the world’s problems. These problems will be addressed when the child first learns to confront their own personal barriers that keep him from realizing his greater potential. By studying the esoteric origins of his problems, the child can learn to identify and transcend his own weaknesses, and thus he can also understand the same problems in others. This will go a long way toward solving one of humanity’s greatest issues: prejudice and bigotry. In addition to intellectual development, the child will be taught to contrast the difference between his instinctual and intuitional responses, which will help him to identify with ideas and ideals in an abstract environment – the mind.
Education is a process of personal growth and intellectual development. It embodies the wisdom of learning from past mistakes and misunderstandings while embracing a healthy attitude toward building a “divine” humanity. Perhaps, the best changes I would like to see come to pass in the immediate future would be to develop the child’s personal sense of self, teach the meaning of seeking truth, and develop an understanding of non-separation from others, including their inter-connectedness with all peoples and the environment. It should be remembered above all else that the child is learning from infancy to adulthood to communicate with their environment in a very diverse and complex world. Left-brain analysis has great value in helping humanity expand their minds in developing greater “technical” understanding about their world. The right brain, however, pulls together all of the subjective elements of being human, such as intuition, understanding, tolerance, patience, and vision. These ideas have yet to be accepted as valued subjects of study for rounding out the child’s development in today’s educational system. The focus on the left-brain development tends to mask or cover-up our true nature by focusing mostly on the objective aspects of life.
Lastly, for good or for worse, it is society, the parents, the schools, the teachers, and the media which are all raising the child. Since the adults are controlling all aspects of the child’s life, they are also presenting a full range of conflicting messages. This has to be looked at and addressed. The lack of caring and parental abuse must change and give way to a greater vision which not only allows the child to explore all forms of communication with their world but literally to secure a future for the children to fulfill their greatest dreams. This is our salvation and the best and greatest destiny for humanity’s future.