Sometimes, with the right lens fitted to view our world, it takes on a new shape and focus. Several months ago, I began reading the education philosophies presented by Oliver DeMille who, along with his wife and other colleagues, has written several books including A Thomas Jefferson Education. His assessment of the needs of children of various ages, as well as their ability and desire to forge an education of their own design, is a very different picture than the current public educational model, which system DeMille calls the Conveyor Belt. What better name for our public educational system which creates copycat thinkers whose main objective is to take their place in an expendable workforce and whose focus is on the acquisition of things and power. On the contrary, DeMille advocates an educational model based on the historic practices of many of our young country’s leaders and centered on the idea of inspiring youth to become virtuous leaders of self, family, community, and nation that he calls Leadership Education. But is such a different educational approach necessary? What kind of impact could this alternate education have in our lives, community and culture?
Recently, our family invited the missionaries serving in our church over for dinner. While visiting with these young men, I realized that they had little aspiration for the future. One wants to attend college and major in entertainment (theater) but is not sure how he would apply that education. The other is unsure what he wants to study after his mission. These boys seemed to me to have very little vision or passion for their current or future life situation. I have witnessed many young adults and young couples with little ambition as well, where they find themselves chasing what I call the New American Dream, which consists of little else than acquisition. A big house, expensive car, home theater and other forms and devices meant for entertainment, and the resulting debt from all such spending are the mediocre end goals being pursued in our day, and this only after individuals are burned out from a long period of self-indulgence during their teenage and early adult years. Marriage and children along with the rewarding sacrifices of creating and rearing a family are no longer prized, nor are the noble pursuits of charity, contribution, and as DeMille points out, the two great achievements of public virtue and liber.
If this is the reality of the younger generations, our culture is on a steep downturn. Without something to counteract the slippery slope of selfishness, apathy, and a typically lazy pursuit of indulgence, what kind of future can we expect?
Being new to theories and ideas presented by DeMille, it seems presumptive for me to represent his philosophies as the answer to all society’s ills. However, I personally feel inspired through my study to implement his theories in my home with great expectations. After reading his educational philosophies, I now envision a revised home school for our family that is filled with character building classic literature, teamwork, inspiration, self discovery, self motivation, and history (to provide a lengthy context and true compass in a world without either). I anticipate that refocusing my efforts in the home on people and processes, rather than skills and subjects, I will be able to provide the learning tools and environment my children need to build their own vision and motivation for their futures, and the future of the communities in which the y live. I hope that through classic works and exposure to mentors both past and present, the y will develop a firm grasp on whom the y ought to emulate, and the real impact of their efforts. I also anticipate that through the ir own interested pursuits, the y will build a skill set that will have a depth and breadth only attainable through internal motivation and priority. I personally have much to learn and so much to change about myself and my home to make these worthy goals a reality, and I hope that through these efforts to do so I will lessen the distance between the ideal “self” that my children see of themselves at any given moment, and who the y want to become. In shortening the distance between who the y are and who the y want to be, I envision that they can become true leaders of self, family and community, possible even of our nation or world.
When someone asks my children ten years from now of their aspirations, as I did of the missionaries who visited our home, I envision that they will have firm answers, a plotted course, the skills to articulate and achieve their vision, and the charity to invite o the rs along on their surefooted path. If my children are able to accomplish these feats, they will have their roots in DeMille’s Leadership Education and a future that is boundless.