Thursday, June 03, 2021

"What Would It Be Like to Have a Society That Honored Its Young?"

The business and political types were rubbing their hands in anticipation. With the pandemic finally winding down here in the US, they were expecting as many as a million people to return to the work force, a surge in employment that they expected to supercharge the economy, which they tend to see as the beating heart of the American dream. When the April 2021 jobs report came out, however, they were dismayed to find that the rest of us weren't so eager. Only about 260,000 of us opted to jump back into the rat race, 75 percent fewer than many had projected.

Some are calling this a "worker shortage." Some are rushing to put an end to any pandemic-related benefits we might be receiving, as if what we really need is the threat of starvation and homelessness to get us off our lazy bums. Others are countering that if only employers would boost pay we would come running, as if we are, spontaneously, enmasse, executing the largest general strike in history. 

But what if these business and political types are wrong. What if, instead of a worker shortage, we are experiencing the beginnings of a mass awakening, one in which the economic carrots and sticks no longer work as well as they once did. Researcher and author Peter Gray tells me in our conversation at Teacher Tom's Play Summit that there is growing evidence that many parents have discovered during the pandemic that they actually like being home with their families and the past 18 months have given them the respite they needed to figure out how to make that happen. Perhaps what we are seeing is a generation of parents who have discovered that life is better when we place our children at the center of it.

Summit presenter Raffi Cavoukian, the Grammy nominated and platinum record producing children's troubadour asks, "What would it be like to have a society that honored its young?" It's a question he's dedicated himself to pursuing. "What would it be like to live in a world fit for children?" From this has emerged his vision to "re-design society for the greatest good by meeting the priority needs of the very young," a philosophy he calls Child Honouring.

"When you meet the priority needs of the very young you are growing a healthy society," he tells me. He describes Child Honouring as a unique social change revolution, one with the child at its heart. It is a positive vision that holds the primacy of early years as key to activating the powerful potential of our species. I know he's right. I know that if we can, as a species, remember that our principle project is to protect and care for our youngest citizens, if we can bring them back from the pink collor ghettos into which we tend to stash them away during the day, and instead honor our "future elders," as Aboriginal educator Jackie Bennett so beautifully puts it, we will create lives motivated by relationships and connection rather than carrots and sticks.

"What would it be like to have a society that honored its young?" As early childhood educators and parents, we stand in a unique position to make this vision into a reality. We are the ones who are, in many ways, already living in child-centered worlds. We have already traded in our mere jobs for lives of purpose, connection, and meaning. I've always said that I don't have a job, but rather a calling, and I feel called to join Raffi in this beautiful, "mind blowing" vision.

As with every great movement, the business and political types will be the last to join us so we can't look there. Raffi tells us that "Children keep teaching us how to teach them," a great truth that those of us who work with young children already know. Children have taught me to delight in Mother Earth, to make connections, to exercise my faculty for wonder and play. "That's the job of a five-year-old," Raffi says, but I ask myself why only five-year-olds? Why not me? Why not us? The answer seems clear, especially when I consider the alternative, which is to live my life as a human resource to be exploited by business and political types.

What if instead of a worker shortage we are experiencing an awakening? What would it be like to have a society that honored its young? Why not me? Why not us? These are the big questions we will be considering at Teacher Tom's Play Summit. Please join us. Together we can turn this world around.


To hear my entire interview with Raffi and to join us in considering these big questions, please join us at Teacher Tom's Play Summit. What if the whole world understood the power of trusting children with the freedom to play, to explore their world, to ask and answer their own questions? What if everyone respected their right to learn in their own way, on their own time? What if we remembered that children must have their childhoods and that means playing, and lots of it? Teacher Tom's Play Summit  is a free, online conference that takes place June 20-25. Click here to get your free pass to all 24 of our incredible sessions with early childhood and parenting experts and thought leaders from around the world. Every one of these people are professionals who have placed children first. You will walk away from this event transformed, informed, challenged, and inspired to create a world that respects children and sets them free to learn and grow. Together we can, as presenter Raffi sings, "Turn this world around!"

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