I had been trying to think of the word. I had been trying to conjure the term to best describe how our current education system functions in relation to deciding years ago what children today need to know now to be capable, competent, compassionate human beings decades from now.
Then, while reading classic Greek myths to my children, it struck me:
It's hubris--arrogance--to decide what is right for another human being, to determine what content and mastery are required at certain times and in certain ways for someone else. Hubris.
How do any of us know what is required to live a good life, to participate in a global community, to deal with the unknown challenges and undiscovered inventions of a society decades from now?
What we can do is help our children to be life-long learners. We can ensure that their innate childhood curiosity and zest for discovery are not suppressed. We can show them, through the everyday process of being an integral part of a vibrant, diverse community, the current tools of our culture so that they naturally strive to learn such things as reading and writing, math and science, collaboration and conflict resolution. We can grant them the respect and autonomy to become their own people, to reveal their own passions. We can let go of the antiquated, haughty notion that our role as adults is to mold our children into some arbitrary template of what we think constitutes a successful human being. We can, instead, embrace the idea that children--when given freedom and opportunity--naturally learn the important skills of their culture and grow up to use those skills creatively and masterfully by combining their own innate gifts.
Rather than deciding what children need to know at certain times, in certain ways--quizzing them and cajoling them--we should grant them the freedom and opportunity to discover their own world, to develop their distinct interests and talents, to preserve their childhood curiosity and imagination.
Who is to say what a human being should master today to creatively solve the world's problems tomorrow? Perhaps we should instead allow today's childhood to be an incubator for self-directed creativity. Then tomorrow's mastery will come. And it will be far more powerful and influential than it could ever be when ordained by someone else, decades ago.