“I am confident that as they gain self-knowledge they’ll also become self-teachers—and only self-teaching has any lasting value.” John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down
Self-knowledge. A very staple ingredient to living a fulfilling life. We know the culture around us does not place a high value on this form of knowledge. But we don’t have to bow down to the culture surrounding us.
Do we understand the importance of self-knowledge in the lives of our children? Do we understand we must provide them with the ingredients they need to cultivate it?
It is not something we can teach our children, they must discover who they are themselves. But we can encourage them. We can give the time and space and freedom they need to find out who they are.
Gatto alludes to an educational philosophy which has been a favorite of the ruling classes of Europe for thousands of years, “At the center of this elite system of education is the belief that self-knowledge is the only basis of true knowledge.”
The idea that if we lack self-knowledge we lack all true knowledge may seem a bit extreme. Modern man has unprecedented access to vast stores of knowledge. What have we done with it? Is our culture overflowing with engaged, in-depth conversations? Do we own our knowledge, putting it into action in our daily lives, or do we just jump into the latest knowledge fads?
I think there is a lot of truth in Gatto’s statement. First, we must know ourselves, and then we can know the world.
So, what does a child need to get to know themselves?
“Everywhere in this system, at every age, you will find arrangements that work to place the child alone in an unguided setting with a problem to solve.” John Taylor Gatto
They need space to play. Both physical space and the space of time. They need permission to fail. They need to know you will let them fail and it will be up to them to get back up and fix it. They need problems. They need to solve them on their own, or with the least amount of help from you that is possible.
Letting our children fail and letting them conquer big things, including themselves, will give them not only self-knowledge but also true confidence.