For Parents and Teachers concerned with the ‘Bigger Picture’
Rain-child belongs to a Bushmen clan in Botswana and was born during a Kalahari rainstorm, which is considered lucky, hence his name
Many friends who have joined me in the Kalahari for a Bushmen cultural experience have remarked on the behaviour of Rain-child and the other children of the clan as they never seem to need disciplining and never appear to be unhappy. The children seem to take pride in helping the adults in their domestic duties and when not helping the adults they will happily amuse themselves with a dry Tsama melon, guinea fowl feather, or similar. It does not take long for visitors to become aware of this ‘unusual’ child behaviour prompting the question “how can these children always be so happy and content even though they have nothing?”
When the question is posed to Bushmen parents, they express surprise, replying “but why should they be unhappy, children only need to be given love and safety as they are already happy?”
Does this suggest that in our modern world we have in some way taught our children how to be unhappy? Have our children been taught that happiness can only happen in association with a destination, event or reward?
As a parent and ex-teacher I have always had an interest in child development and it is with special interest that I have tried to study the interaction between Bushmen adults and their children in order to try and establish an answer to this question. Making this study even more relevant are two other factors regarding the Bushmen: Firstly, that they are considered the most successful society in human history, and secondly, that their remarkable survival lasted for tens of thousands of years, until the arrival of modern man – so what are the secrets of their success?
Trying to understand their education methodology is therefore of ongoing interest to me and what has become clear is that child raising involves the entire community, and at a very young age inculcates the philosophies which shaped the Bushmen culture of survival.
Parents concentrate on providing love and making their children feel safe. This love is demonstrated through their caring, empathetic and compassionate relationship with others and through their respect for animals. The rest of the community helps with general education and survival skills with spiritual leaders contributing to the understanding of love by developing the understanding that all thoughts associated with love contribute to the most powerful energy in the universe, the life-force, which they call N/lom.
Details of their education processes are not necessary for the purposes of this article except for one practice of special significance which incorporates most of the principles of the Bushmen culture.
This practice is called the “Healing Dance”, which was/is practiced at least once a week and/or when the need arises. I originally considered this ritual to be aimed at healing ill individuals until its real purpose was made clear to me.
The ritual can better be described as a preventative and holistic healing process aimed at maintaining physical, psychological and spiritual health, as well as to maintain community well-being, the health of their environment, and connection with the natural world.
This description provides some insight into Bushmen behaviour and practices which form the basis of their culture. The healing dance purpose basically encapsulates what could be considered the ‘mission statement’ for the education of Bushmen children.
From a very young age children soon learn about the benefits of egalitarianism, sharing, giving and serving community – in essence, how to be human.
- They learn to love the natural world, and as they explain, “you cannot harm what you love”.
- They learn to suppress ego in order to avoid the social and environmentally destructive effects associated with superiority, power and greed.
- They learn to connect with the energies of the universe and to benefit from universal intelligence.
Dare we compare the education of children today with that of Rain-child? While today education focuses on what children can be in the future, how much focus is placed on ensuring that there will be a future? I share the story of Grace which illustrates the effectivity of our education system in terms of preparing children for the future.
Grace, not her real name, was 13 years old at the time and a pupil at a very prestigious UK School when a teacher asked the class to create picture boards of what they wanted their lives to look like in twenty years time. Grace’s board displayed the typical big house, cars and exotic holiday’s but one thing that caught the teacher’s eye were the words “no more climate change”. When the teacher explained that all her wants were not compatible with ‘no climate change’, she went silent, and asked “why, is there no way around it?”
‘Grace’ represents an average child who could be attending almost any School on the planet, so the question which needs to be asked of any person involved in education, from assistant teacher to senior education planner is “How is it possible that a child who has been in the conventional education system for approximately 8 years, does not understand that having a surplus of material possessions as well as ‘no climate change and environmental degradation’ is impossible?
How is it possible that Rain-child’s predecessors in 50 000BC understood this better than did Grace in 2019 AD? Is it because this truth would conflict with the modern global economic system dependent on growth and consumerism? Do children believe that it is possible for all 7 billion people on the planet to achieve what appears on their ‘picture board’? If not, who must be excluded and why?
One of the ‘costs’ of todays consumer driven society is the lack of quality time parents are able to enjoy with their children.
We are told that this is the price of progress – but progress towards what?
What is the ‘deemed goal’ towards which humanity is supposedly progressing?
Without knowing these goal/s, how is it possible to say that progress is being made?
Parents, are you educating your children to achieve goals which celebrate humanity, the environment and the sustainability of both or do you consider this the duty of educational institutions?
Teachers, if you had to write your ‘mission statement” for humanity on your classroom wall, one which cuts across all curricula and addresses the sustainable well-being of all humankind, what would it say? How much of your mission statement would be addressed by your current subject curriculum?
As we are in an age of multiple crises, fake information and questionable leadership, is it not time for each and every person to use their own logic, reasoning and freedom of choice to make the changes necessary to ensure sustainable well-being for all humankind and planet.