Those of you who are familiar with my posts will know how much respect (bordering on awe sometimes) I have for children and young people.
On the surface, they seem much the same as ever, but increasing numbers of adults who, like me, have been working with them for some years are recognising that the ‘New Kids’ are different.
When I started teaching in the 1970s there was the occasional child whose insights, inner knowledge and spiritual understanding would blow me away.
As the years went by, the number of these special kids steadily increased. Books like The Indigo Children started to appear and I realised I wasn’t alone in noticing the astonishing qualities these young people were bringing to the world.
The trickle of books became a flood and a certain sort of parent could be heard bragging about their children’s rainbow/indigo/crystal traits the way they’d once have boasted about their reading ages or gymnastic skills.
By the time I left the teaching profession in 2008, I’d recognised that at least half the children in every class were passionately interested in discussing cosmic and deep philosophical issues. They knew and understood things we adults were struggling to grasp.
As I’ve explained elsewhere, the National Curriculum, with it’s top-down emphases seemed so utterly out of synch with what I wanted to explore, I left teaching and started writing.
The book I published a few years later – Life: A Player’s Guide, was largely based on understanding gained from the many and wonderful conversations I’d had with children and young adults. It was also written in terms which, I hoped, would appeal to young people as well as an adult audience. I felt it was time people started aiming information at them, rather than their parents.
Now I divide my time between writing and working as a ‘freelance educator’ – basically teaching where and how I want, which makes for a pretty near perfect life!
I asked a bunch of 10-14 year olds I currently work with in Somerset whether they’d be interested in a philosophy club, to explore questions such as ‘What’s the point of life?’ and ‘Where did we come from?’
The response was instant. Eyes shone; heads nodded emphatically. We had our first session this week. Most had never talked much about these issues before. For about ten minutes they were shy. Then one of the ten-year-olds started things going:
” I do believe in Hell – but I think it’s not somewhere else. I think it’s kind of inside us. Like when you get night terrors – that’s really Hell, isn’t it?”
A slightly older child took that up. “Yes! In fact I sometimes wonder what’s real. I have this idea it isn’t what we’re doing here. I think maybe the real ‘us’ is somewhere else…”
“Yeah, because you get – you know – that thing where you can see your body doing normal stuff but you’re not in it? You’re – like – looking down at it. Anyone else get that?” another girl threw in, casually.
Several nods and eager smiles. Out-of-body experience is clearly commonplace for their generation.
“And I wonder, when I’ve had a dream and I wake up – what’s real? Is it what’s happening now or what was happening in the dream?”
I was, as I often am in such situations, a catalyst, but certainly not a teacher; a fascinated and privileged onlooker – one finger on the steering wheel. The conversation meandered effortlessly between ghosts and UFOs to Buddhist reincarnation beliefs and Hindu deities; from Christian fundamentalism to Paganism and many other places besides.
Afterwards, they grinned (“That was fun!”), waved goodbye cheerily and headed off down the path, checking their phones and planning trips to the swimming pool.
Normal kids – the new normal.
And I’m looking forward so much to the next session. Who knows what I’ll learn…