We learn many skills in schools. In the early years, we learn to read and write, we learn about science and technology, we learn math basics. In later years, we learn about history and algebra and how to write an expository essay. These subjects and skills may or may not serve you as an adult depending on what field of study piques your interest. As such, many people feel that the eighteen years they spent in school is largely a waste of time.
What if the hours we ask kids to stay in school were spent acquiring a skill set that would serve them no matter what field they ended up studying later in life? In my work with clients, it's never of lack of information about test tubes or geometry that limits their capacity to feel joy and serenity in their lives. It's a lack of self-knowledge, self-trust, and self-love, which would be covered if one essential subject were taught: YOU!
When the well of self is dry—when we don't know how to love ourselves, which, in a nutshell, means taking loving care of ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually—we're more prone to experience anxiety, depression, and struggle with relationships, both romantic and friendships. We're also more prone to feel unfulfilled by our work, so even if we excelled in math and science and then became a doctor, the work itself is not enough to fill the inner emptiness.
On the other hand, when the well is filled with our self-love and we walk through life with our self-trust intact, this positively and naturally effects every other area, including deciding and following through on our path of passion (otherwise known as a profession). So it seems that we would be wise to consider a complete overhaul of our education system and examine if what we're teaching our young people is truly what will help them grow into competent, fulfilled, generous adults.
Here's what I propose on the subject of YOU:
1. Emotional fluency
Let's teach children what it means to know themselves well, which means spending time each day turning inward and observing what they're thinking and feeling. This could be done through writing in a journal if the child knows how to write, or talking into a tape recorder (or the digital version). It could also be done through teaching communication and conflict resolution skills in small group formats with young children. This skill alone could revolutionize how children learn to see and know themselves, which could radically reduce use of medication later in life.
2. Physical awareness
We teach "Physical Education," or the often-dreaded PE, but we fail to teach nutritional health beyond one class taught in 4th grade. An integral part of the YOU curriculum would include weekly discussions about the connection between nutritional health and emotional well-being so that kids start to make the link between how they feel when they eat a candy bar versus an apple. Physical awareness could also include teaching yoga beginning as early as Kindergarten, which would encourage awareness of the mind-body-spirit connection.
3. Spiritual touchstones
Most kids today are aware of the challenges that our Earth faces, and they often absorb this stress and worry into their bodies. Including a mindfulness practice, where kids learn to use their breath as an anchor, would teach kids how to utilize their own inner resources to manage the stresses of life. Many schools have recently begun to include mindfulness into their curriculum, which is heartening to see.
Can you imagine how different our world would be if children were taught these essentials skills throughout the first eighteen years of their lives? Let's dare to dream.