Books are great. A window to the world; little portal with a better view; a doorway to the other side. And still today, this lonely medium strains at the hems of what society demands of us. Many boomers and millennials are already witnesses to this change. We see app introductions faster than adoptions, blockchain tech pushing back the notions of traditional industries, and international commerce increasingly intertwined and more connected than the 1990s could ever imagine. Books alone would not do. The moment ink presses down on paper, the world has moved forward.
Yet the somber truth is, our next generation is rarely prepped for it. Many fourteen to sixteen year olds today still rely on formal schooling and books as their main source to knowing the world. Ask the average well meaning kid about Chemistry, and he’d probably be able to come up with something. Ask him the latest to data mining or integrated healthcare, and he’s often treading new territory. While this formal structure to learning is imperative and may still work in certain types of economies, much less can be said if we want robust kids in this new world.
The good news is, the new paradigm is easy to adopt. It’s often rooted in a drive and willingness to explore. To seek as much exposure as possible. As adults, it beckons us to encourage our child to spend time outside his school; outside the piano class; outside his room. To finish his homework and move on to reading about interesting islands or festivals or struggles that people on the other side of the globe endure. It prods them away from the familiar to the unfamiliar; the comfortable to the alien. It cheers on a desire to know the unknown.
And once they have tickled their own interests, we assist them to get out. Put those neuronic calories to good use, if you will. Encourage and usher them to volunteer at events and conventions and carnivals they have not seen before. Participate in self-sought summer programs abroad, or help out at local summer programs involving international student bodies. Set up their own ecommerce site, or code their first 32-bit video game. The key is exposure. And the possibilities abound.
Truth is, the reason why this works is spatial math. The more exposure points someone knows, the higher the chance to bridge those points and glean new convictions, new directions, and maybe, even new opportunities. None of this is really possible if we merely rely on linear nodes of knowledge acquisition. At best it’s contrived, at worst it’s ineffective. But if we encourage them to look beyond the textbooks and home tuition and school projects, we open to them the possibility that there is a whole bigger world out there; with nuances and situations and issues that could mean something to each of them to solve, or participate in solving.
Still, while exploring and engaging are great, exposure often tacks on the setbacks that exposure begets. When a child puts herself out there, she’s not immune to the pains and discouragements of those experiences; she’s vulnerable to them. Some may read about a place they long to visit, but realize they lack the financial means to even make half the journey across. Others may write in to volunteer at events, but get turned away for being too young or inexperienced. Still others may receive the arch brow or weird stares or verbal judgements for being enthusiastic about something that’s new to them. That’s ok. To fall and to scrape knees and to hurt and to heal. Tell them it’s ok.
So go on, get out there and explore. Encourage your younger ones to do likewise. After all, if we were really meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots; not feet.
Geraldine is an education technology writer, currently serving on the content team at Yodaa, a home tuition Singapore ed-tech startup. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business and Literary Studies. In her free time, she researches on parenting issues, education tips and technological trends.