I’ve written before about how I believe that our adult lives are spent overcoming our childhoods. In other words, we try to undo the damage done to us as kids. We go to psychotherapists and counselors, we read self-help books, we take drugs—anything to help us forget or rewire our brains.

Some of the damage is done by our families. For the most part, our parents have no training on how to parent. Parents tend to do what was done to them. It’s a sad fact that people who physically abuse their children were themselves abused as children; the behavior is perpetuated from one generation to the next.

But a big source of damage during childhood is school. Think of the typical school setting: Hundreds of kids are gathered in a small area. The children pretty much have free reign in the hallways, in the cafeteria, and on the playground. Even in the classroom, the children wield much power. As a kid in intermediate school, my class went through four teachers in one year!

Anyone who has read the book Lord of the Flies knows that putting a bunch of kids together in one place is a bad idea and that bad things will happen. Children are primal beings who resort to pecking orders and physical strength. They form social cliques that will cruelly exclude others. They name call, bully, and disenfranchise others.

In recent years we have seen how children who have been bullied or excluded have reacted with violence against themselves and/or others. So why do we continue to have these mini-societies that can do so much harm?

The purpose of schools, we tell ourselves, is to educate our children. The modern school is based on the industrial model of the assembly line. One teacher can instruct a class of many children at one sitting. Then the bell rings and, just like the manufacturer’s assembly line, a new batch of materials (i.e., students) are placed in front of the teacher to work on.

What are we trying to teach our children? We are trying to teach them the skills they will need as adults. Again, the school is an industrial model so the skills we teach the children are ones they will need to fulfill roles in the industrial world, namely those as ”employees.” As such, the average high school graduate will have the skills of reading, writing, and basic arithmetic.

But what most schools are not teaching is how to be Emotionally Intelligent, socially capable adults. If school is the preparation of children for adulthood, then shouldn’t they learn how to get along with adults? The adult relationships in school are authoritative and only prepare the children for having a boss.

If we want children to learn to be well-adjusted, sociable adults, doesn’t it make sense to have them interact with adults instead of other children? Before the industrial model of education children were put into apprenticeships where they worked alongside adults. Albeit the skills that children learned were narrow and prepared them for one job only. And the relationships with adults were primarily that of master-servant.

But the idea of putting children into the adult world to prepare them for that world intrigues me. It would put meat into the meaning of “it takes an entire village to raise a child.” What if our job was not only to do our job, but also to teach children what it takes to get along with fellow employees, what to do when you don’t feel motivated to work, what to do when frustration builds?

Of course, we would need these Emotional Intelligence skills first ourselves. And just like the ill-trained parent, we have few skills for raising children. Our workplaces are often just as dysfunctional as our schools.

For the moment we are seemingly stuck in the industrial cycle of school-employment. Our children are taught remedial skills so that they can become employees. But we need to break this cycle and teach our children how to get along with one another—not one another as children, but one another as adults. Childhood is brief and fleeting. Getting along with children is not a lifetime goal. Being a productive part of a society as adult is.

Teaching Emotional Intelligence in the schools is a start. Hopefully by teaching kids these important skills not only will the children grow to become well-adjusted adults, but they will also see the importance of taking responsibility of raising children as a village, as a society.

This idea may seem Utopian, but it is a necessity for our society, and the people in it, to thrive and co-exist harmoniously. 

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