Friedrich Nietzsche only lived to be 55 years old and most of that last decade he was at a complete loss of his mental faculties. His thoughts at the time were extremely profound—but incomplete. He was on a journey that would require more tweaking over several centuries, but mentally he was going to places no human mind had ever quite dared. And his mind folded over on itself. I think about Nietzsche a lot because I am of that same age as he was and I know the pressure of going against a tide—and am always aware of the fragility of mental stability. The topics I am interested in, Like Nietzsche challenge our views of the world and the way we are all raised. When those foundations are challenged it is possible for a mind to lose its footing and fall into insanity. I came to know Nietzsche through Joseph Campbell’s writing and enjoy his views against institutionalism primarily. When I challenge education establishments with the promise that I could walk into their classrooms and teach better than any four of them put together I fully mean it. When I look out into the world and declare that the entire education structure is false and failing I am doing it with the same audacity that Nietzsche did by declaring that “God is dead.” Education has for many become a kind of religion, so by challenging their premise—they react in much the same manner as religious radicals do—with fearful aggression and empty dares—such as invitations to teach their classrooms.
Teaching for me has always been easy. I do it every single day of my life to people of all ages. But I enjoy it most with children. By the end of this article you will dear reader understand why. Because I cannot explain such a thing until the proper context has been established. But I offer it out there to those who read here from that education industry and are perplexed by my statements in much the same way that orthodox members of the church read Nietzsche and wondered how he could pronounce such an audacious declaration. I am different from Nietzsche as he only conceptualized the ideal of an overman. His body was sickly and his mind was not ready to deal with the weight of such realizations, and he crashed into his own thoughts. Hindsight provides good maps, and I know how to read them. This lesson I take seriously as I pronounce that “Education is dead.” Here is why.
My wife and I had our grandson for the evening over the weekend so we took him to Frisch’s for dinner. At this point he is only a year and a half old, so his mind is turning on rapidly and everything is an adventure. I enjoy this age in kids the best because their minds are unwritten by corruption, and everything is literally a possibility. I use these opportunities to teach. We arrived at the restaurant and I took my grandson out of his car seat. I did not carry him, but let him walk across the parking lot by himself, step up onto the sidewalk, alone, and proceed right along with his grandmother and me as an equal.
We were greeted by a kindly old woman who was a hostess and she was instantly dazzled by my grandson’s audacity. He confidently walked into the dining room like a big person very serious seeing for the first time a world approached in such a way under his own power. Along the wall by the pickup window were five young waitresses ages 19 to 25 who instantly fell in love with my grandson. Most children these sizes are carried in like a purse, and nuisance to tired parents. This little guy was self-reliant—at least he gave off that impression and it was attractive to see such an open mind so confident. I let him walk to the booth the hostess guided us to and only helped him a little into a seat next to me. The hostess asked if we wanted a booster seat which I declined. I didn’t want my grandson to be stuck in such a thing reminding him that he was different from us.
We ordered our food and I let my grandson conduct himself as an adult. I showed him how to color with the crayons the hostess had provided by letting him copy my efforts. I didn’t tell him to color in the lines of his kids menu, but to simply use the crayons to his desire. The food came, and he ate with us pleasantly. Occasionally he would spontaneously wave at the waitresses who were very happy to respond back to him. To me all these kids are only a few years apart, but to the girls and my grandson, they are about to inject themselves into relationships where they can have kids of their own and they of course hoped they could have children as cute as he was. But more than that, adults love the presence of innocence—of a mind uncorrupted by the perils of life—a mind filling itself with potential and it makes them feel happy. We often look at teenage kids and young adults with disdain because as they make choices that we know will fail them, we despise what they will become. 9 out of 10 adults know that those rambunctious teenagers will end up just like them in a few years—and sadness ensues. But for a child the age of my grandson, everything is yet unwritten and it is nice to see such hope in the eyes of a child. Most of the adults in the Frisch’s dining room was looking in our direction with a smile on their faces.
After dinner we conducted ourselves the same repeating the exercise of self-reliance. We then proceeded to Hallmark to make some Mother’s Day purchases. My grandson cannot yet talk in sentences, but he is very expressive and we spoke to him like he was a normal person—again equal to us. Of course we know he isn’t, but there is no need to show our superiority over him. Life will provide enough blowback to his enthusiasm. What little people like him need most is samples to learn from—they learn by example—so providing context to memorize is the most important attribute—and success to build from. For a kid his age every step in life is a success—so such evenings are opportunities to have a lot of little success. At Hallmark again I let him walk into the store on his own. Instantly every female in the store stopped and looked his way.
For my grandson the sights and sounds of the Hallmark store were too much for him. Everything was a new adventure and he quickly saw Disney characters he knew from television and wanted to pick up everything and carry it around with him. I let him. As he moved from object to object I put away the things he discarded as his mind filled with the feel of textures, the smell of various products, and the visual stimulation of their color tones. My grandson was erupting with enthusiasm.
Again the girls working the store were of the same age as the Frisch’s waitresses and they had the same reaction. They couldn’t help but be enchanted by him. He was the kind of child they hoped to have themselves soon. On their minds were not thoughts of saving the rain forest, or equal rights for same-sex couples, or even equal pay for women. They wanted to be moms and to have children like this little fellow and they would do so in less than a second if they could manage to find men in their lives who weren’t douche bags who wanted the sex, but not the responsibility of raising a family. Most of their boyfriends only wanted sex with them to satisfy their biological hunger so they could then return back to their Xbox to play games that are much more interesting than girlfriends. There was sadness in the eyes of these girls and I felt sorry for them.
I let my grandson roam about inside the store and outside it for about a half hour while my wife shopped. We discovered all kinds of things. I let him walk around the busy parking lot outside and stood in such a way to keep cars from running into him. If he wanted to walk across the street, I stopped the traffic to allow him the freedom of movement. We found outside lots of strange bugs, rocks, and varying surface profiles of the pavement. When he would step into one of these declinations in surface he would say, “down.” “Yes, that is down.” My wife bought him a new Mickey Mouse ball which was his favorite thing in the store and a nice memory to the evening. At the counter I held him so he could watch the cashier who was nearly in tears over his adult like cuteness ring up the ball. I told him, “we are conducting an exchange of currency so you can have your ball.” Two other girls standing nearby erupted into smiles and a woman who had been watching us for the entire half hour boldly said, “if he says that……….it will be too much for me. “ I kept my focus on my grandson and explained to him the value of the money my wife was giving the cashier was to evenly exchange the value of the ball that he would take home with him so he’d understand that something had to be produced to have something he desired.
That was just a sample of a few hours of one evening. There have been others like it and there will be many more and that is the task of learning. The reason my grandson was cute to the adults around him was not just his miniature mimicking of adult behavior, but the untarnished potential of the life in front of him. He literally has the whole world before him, and it is delightful to see the light come on in his mind. This is no doubt why many people become mothers and teachers—to experience this joy. However, when minds are stifled to statism and handcuffed by social prerogative which says that one is too small to sit in a booth by themselves, or the road is too dangerous, or you must color in the lines provided, or don’t pick up all the colorful contents of a store, or items they desire magically appear in their arms from a loving grandmother without having any idea how it came to be, we destroy the minds of those children and within a few short years, those bright lights in their mind’s eye go out.
Children grow up with the limits we give them, and it starts at a very young age. For every teacher, parent, or guardian too lazy to put back things on a shelf, or doubt their ability to protect children from a speeding car or to explain the value of money to a mind still assembling connectivity—everything they do or don’t do has an impact on the child. The limits they place will continue on with a child their whole life and will either destroy them, or benefit them. If teaching is not 100% concerned with this adventure in learning, but simply in compliance—it is failing. At that point it can be said that education in America is dead, and it will not be resurrected under the current pretense. It will have to be reinvented.