In Germany, children’ education was first made compulsory in the 1919 Weimar Constitution. At that time families were living in several generation houses, and everybody was responsible for the life-skills education of their children. The church, on the other hand, was responsible for moral and ethical upbringing. Schools? They had to teach knowledge only and prepare children for the industrial age.
Nowadays many parents raise their children away from grandparents and other family members; many people don’t visit churches, temples or mosques on a regular basis. Also, many parents find themselves overwhelmed by the expectations they set for themselves and their children. And then they pass those onto schools. School is perceived as an institution which is supposed to pick up all the loose ends and then turn a child into a well-rounded grown-up: a self-confident, creative, intelligent, socially responsible Harvard or Oxbridge candidate.
We expect healthy organic food in school canteens, but feed our children pizza and pasta at home; we are emotionally unbalanced and stressed, but expect teachers to practice meditation; we disregard speed limits, don’t wear helmets and seatbelts, but expect schools to teach our kids to follow rules; we talk behind other people’s backs, we use bad language, but expect children in schools to be socially responsible and speak in Oxford English; we smoke and drink, but tell our teenagers it is unhealthy for them; we talk about life-work balance and time for oneself, but expect our children to spend an average of seven hours in school a day and then do two hours of homework followed by piano practice.
Are we doing ourselves or our children any favours by always expecting them to overachieve? I don’t believe so. Let’s better focus on fun and happiness, on spending time together in nature, on playing games. Let’s listen to our children, so they can grow up the way children should.
Philipp Graf von Hardenberg is Founder of the Yaowawit School Kapong in Phang Nga (Yaowawit.org) and President of the Thanyapura Health and Sports Resort Phuket (Thanyapura.com). He is a member of the International Development Committee of the United World College (UWC.org) movement.