Could it be that life is a grand story intentionally shaped by the intertwined lives of fellow influencers who choose to believe that the narrative doesn’t start and stop with them?
Recently I’ve been inspired by words spoken by people who have lived before me. I think that it’s wise to learn from the past and from those who’ve already lived. It’s as if their voices from the past are begging us to hear them today…
“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.” (Ronald Reagan)
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” (Malcom X)
Our future begins and ends on our current Generation Z, those currently 22 and younger. It’s our nation’s youngest minds and hearts who hold the potential that will determine where America will be tomorrow.
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that our youngest generation becomes who they need to be? Is it the teachers’? The parents’? Yes! And the grandparents’, neighbors’, pastors’, community members’, little league coaches’ and employers’. The responsibility belongs to each of us whether we are parents or not. This is so important I’ll say it again: it doesn’t matter if you have children at all.
Can you hear Gilbert Chesterton’s voice whispering to us from the grave? “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”
Every person is born with potential: gifts, passions, talents and drive to do something. Our role as adults is to help children discover who they are, why they matter, and what they are purposed to do. For their sake, our own, and for those who come hundreds, maybe thousands, of years after us. For the ones we will be whispering to from the grave.
Did you know that “Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or abilities – that’s training or instruction – but is rather making visible what is hidden as a seed”? Thomas Moore did, and if you agree with him, then education isn’t just about filling the head of a student. It should be the forming and informing of emotions, helping young people to see meaning in their life and work, guiding students to forge their own opinions and know what’s the right thing, and how they can do the right thing.
Nearly everyone agrees that America’s education system stinks. It’s not doing a very good job. A real education that is any education at all requires teaching and valuing the whole person. Their physical health, their head, heart, spirit and will.
If we are to form the future soul of our society, we have to take a different approach. I say we because I mean “we.” All of us. Learning must be prioritized over ‘being educated’ and wisdom ought to win the day, every day, over the memorization of facts and the taking of standardized tests.
In my home state of Colorado: the mental health of young people is declining at a rapid pace. According to a report by the United Health Foundation in 2019, Colorado had the highest increase in the teen suicide rate in the U.S., increasing by 58% from 2016 to 2019. When I walk the hallways in some schools, students look so anxious I can’t help but leave feeling more anxious too. They are stressed, depressed, lonely, disconnected and afraid they’ll never amount to what others expect of them.
As a society, and globally, we are faced with a brand new dilemma with the 2020 pandemic as it relates the equipping of an entire generation. The primary context for school-aged students is the school building, and yet many students, by parent choice or by public health order, are no longer receiving their education in a school building or even in the public school system at all. I’ve seen many recent studies saying 30 to nearly 45% of parents are considering homeschooling this year. On a typical year, homeschool makes up only 3% of the population. Even if these statistics are off, they show that there will be a giant change this year.
I think that most importantly, these statistics show that parents are re-thinking the purpose of education. Parents used to be largely uninvolved in most schools, abdicating their responsibility for educating their children to the experts – I’m guilty of this too! Now parents are re-entering the education space and taking back some responsibility because they see that maybe they can do more than they thought.
What does this have to do with you? Everything! Forming and raising up children was never meant to be just a parent’s job or a teacher’s job. If you are an adult, you are responsible too! That’s what it means to be a leader and influencer in a narrative that will long out-last you.
I believe part of your purpose in life is to leave others and the world around you better than when you found it. What if all of us, from the young 23-year-old just out of college to the 89-year-old who never had children and everyone in between re-entered the education arena? I ask you: “What is your role in ensuring Generation Z is ready to be their best?”
I think if enough of us step in, we will begin to see a massive paradigm shift in our nation around what it means to learn, to develop our kids, to care for our future while in the present, AND how to be more civil and kind. I think we’ll take back a little more of our humanity that we lost when we abdicated our responsibility to others.
This isn’t about the color of your skin, the amount of money you make, how much schooling you had or the degrees you’ve earned: this is about us coming together, leading generously and guiding an entire generation toward the freedom to learn and become who they were meant to be.
Please don’t let this current perfect storm pass. All of us can be teachers, guides, coaches or mentors. You. Me. It’s the ultimate legacy of all of us who aspire to be generous leaders.
by Tricia Halsey, Executive Director
This is an excerpt from the Generous Leadership® Podcast “Your Role in Shaping Our Nation’s Future Through the System of Systems: Education”