Should primary school children work a little harder on their sense of character?

Where’s your backbone, kid?

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An interesting article was published in The Conversation this week. It’s title read as the following, “To Build Children’s character, Leave Self-Esteem Out of It”. But this wasn’t, as I originally thought, an article about parenting or discipline at home. It wasn’t about child psychology, or the relationships and friendships children grow up amongst. It wasn’t even about our younger generation’s hobbies or aspirations. It was an article about education in the UK. Apparently politicians have been passionately debating not only what should comprise the best primary school curriculum within the expected academic sense, but also what non-academic learning can be incorporated within the existing curriculum. The goal? To create not only a fuller academic experience base, but also, the best Human Being at the end of those long eighteen years. Perhaps the economic crisis of the past years has encouraged the public to take stock of what truly are the best life skills to impart to our next generation, to prepare them for what lies ahead. Newspapers consistently argue that University degrees have been forced to give way to apprenticeships and intern placements as far as employability goes. And so perhaps the same epiphany has finally reached our primary school system. Could it be that the way to secure and prepare your little one towards a place in an estimable secondary school is through a well-rounded and developed sense of character?

Columbus, Edison and Cleo

I can certainly see the relevance. .. Would Columbus have discovered the circumference of the earth, now mounted in little round globes in most classrooms, if he had not had the spirit to argue on behalf of his discovery? Would Edison have continued with his own brilliant invention of the light bulb if he had worried about the health and safety of dealing with lightening strikes? Would Cleopatra have broken out as one of the most iconic style icons in history had she been too afraid of evolving her role as devoted wife? Perhaps. But then again, why take any chances? I want to teach my children to think outside of the box – that not understanding a concept at first glance is never a reason to overlook the other alternative roads to comprehension. In the eighteen years they spend under my protection, I would like them to use their eyes, ears, mouth, nose, gut feelings, and sense of right and wrong – their sense of black, white and gray – in order to arrive at a conclusion that will one day dictate who they are to become. Now, after reading The Conversation’s article, I would like my same philosophy to be used by their teachers within the classroom.

Dad: The Master Doodler!

When I talk to Imaginality Learning’s creator Eric, he tells me that my first reaction to it’s 3D ventricles and aircraft models surprised him. He thought I was going to ask how on earth did it work (with a simple control panel as it turned out), or how the price was going to shock my wallet (only £80 in full, actually). But neither of these queries were my first question. The reason was this: I had spent the previous night doing homework with my son into the late and frustrating hours of the evening, trying to communicate a mathematical problem that he was getting more and more upset with himself for not being able to grasp it. I kept thinking to myself, ‘I need another way to explain this, but all I have is a pen and paper, and my rusty knowledge of primary school algebra’. He was tired, bored, and worst of all he felt like he had failed somehow. So I tried the last thing I could thing of… I drew him a picture. I gave the numbers visual descriptions like a slice of pie or a bag of tennis balls. As it turned out, it was the best way to get the concept across to him, and thankfully he made it to his bed at the usual time – a miracle, if you had seen us at the kitchen table an hour before hand. So when I saw Eric’s demonstration of Imaginality, the first thing that occurred to me was that this is a learning tool that can communicate more effectively than a hundred Dad-drawn pies or apples! Therefore, my first question in response to seeing his invention was, ‘How long until we have enough paddles printed to get augmented reality into every school’??

Surely it’s better to be well-rounded than pigeon-holed…

I believe the point here is that, as the article says, we should be flexible, encouraging and open to every trait our young minds possess that may build their character, including self-esteem; but we also should be careful about making the separation between syllabus and life skills or social interaction. And especially careful about rating and ranking those traits. We here at Imaginality think that no attribute is too small, no child is to be considered a member of the flock, and EVERY time a student takes one small step towards their full potential it is a cause for celebration. Let’s keep our eye on the smaller battles, and trust that those victories will culminate in winning the war. The individual determines character; and yet children need to understand the world around them before they can decide on what character they would like to become. So in the meantime shouldn’t they simply concern themselves with the beauty, fun and joy of understanding their algebra so that they can get to bed on time, in order to dream about the selves they will then blossom into after they have figured out all the answers in the learning years to come? If you are sitting at my homework table, then I think so, yes.