Children as Our Future
We believe that children are our future. Many have said it, from Nelson Mandela to John F. Kennedy to Kofi Annan to Whitney Houston. It seems self-explanatory, and much more positive than historical views of children. During the Protestant Reformation, children were believed to be inherently depraved, and punished harshly for misbehavior. Children in the Victorian Era were ignored with the dismissive proverb “Children should be seen and not heard.”
In contrast, children today are seen as the hope of the future, and they are prioritized as such. Parents and teachers recognize the value of the children in their lives, even to the point of constantly praising them and giving them gifts. This shift in attitude even has effects at the national level, with state and federal governments creating educational programs and funding for the next generations. And it seems that, historically speaking, culture is moving in the right direction.
But, are we moving too far?
Since adults see children as their future, much of the discourse in educational philosophy revolves solely around workforce “preparedness.” Students are told to get good grades so they can go to a good college so they can get a good job so they can make good money. Grades turn from a measure of how much a child has learned to a measure of a child’s future value. Grades almost become a new measure of currency: ISTEP scores determine state funding and GPA determines financial aid.
This is where The Oaks is different. At The Oaks, the ‘personhood of the child’ is one of our core values. We say that a child is valued in who they are, not in who they are becoming, and we strive to meet each child where they are. We believe each child is a full person, and we want our students to experience and express their full humanity at The Oaks: their minds in the classroom, their bodies in the gym or at after school sports, their souls at Lauds, their personalities in their relationships with their classmates and teachers.
That is why we have small classes, so the students can be known and loved for exactly who they are. That is why we do nature studies and teach swing dancing—because education is not about making a person more valuable, but about making the experience of life richer and more valuable to a person. At The Oaks, we don’t treasure children because of who they will be or what they will do in the future—we treasure children for who they already are.
Yes, children are our future. But let’s not wait until then to value them.