By SID MADGE
Knowledge is one of the greatest gifts we can pass to our children. Unfortunately, knowledge is often viewed as something that we need to get to be able to get something else. But gaining knowledge can be a reward, one that opens up our minds and our lives before real change can be brought about in reality. Imagine if all students understood the transformative nature of knowledge. They would be banging on the door to be let into lessons.
Truly great creators are also great learners. Take Leonardo Da Vinci. He was an illegitimate child of a wealthy notary (back when being illegitimate was a hurdle). Da Vinci was fascinated with learning and discovering. So much so that it would take science 450 years to catch up with his discoveries in fluid dynamics.
He realised at an early age that much of the knowledge he craved was only available in Latin, and because of his circumstances he was barred from a formal education. His solution? He taught himself Latin (no mean feat) so he could gain the knowledge he craved. Da Vinci is known as a polymath – someone whose knowledge extends across multiple areas. He was a genius – but largely self-taught. Da Vinci knew the transformative nature of knowledge.
Another hero of mine is Marie Curie – the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. Impressive! Her accomplishments are even more astonishing because they were made back when women were wrongly considered to be intellectually inferior to men.
During World War I she developed mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services to field hospitals. Recognising an urgent need for field radiological centres near the front lines, she set about accumulating knowledge on radiology, anatomy, and automotive mechanics, and after buying X-ray equipment, vehicles, and auxiliary generators, she developed mobile radiography units. Known as ‘Little Curies’, her invention is thought to have treated over a million wounded soldiers. All from a thirst for knowledge.
Both demonstrate the last part of the word knowledge: edge. They were on the edges of society, all rejected or diminished in some way: Da Vinci for being illegitimate; Curie for being a woman in a misogynous era. But they ignored that edge and went to the edge of their capabilities, using knowledge and learning as fuel to their ambitions. And both changed the world as a result. So how do we encourage children in the classroom and at home to go to the edge in the search for knowledge? Here are three suggestions:
Be the change
We've all heard the saying, "Be the change you wish to see in the world" attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, although what he actually said was, "We but mirror the world.” The sentiment is the same and simply made clearer in the well-known version. In short, who we are is what we see in the world. Who we are is mirrored back to us by our experiences. If we are always angry or sad, we tend to meet other people who are always angry or sad and find reasons to be angry or sad.
It therefore follows that if we could accumulate knowledge and change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. We would therefore ‘be’ the change we wished to see. I love that our younger generations are actively speaking out and protesting to make their world better. From Greta Thunberg to Emma González, from Amika George to Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez there are many who want to bring about change.
We can’t expect positive change unless we are actively involved in that positive change. So, cycle back to the free knowledge. And experiment wildly. Learn new things. Have new experiences.
Take a moment to encourage children to be the person they want to be. They are in control of far more than they imagine. Ask them to notice how their mood impacts their results. Help them to see the connection between who they are and what they experience in the world.
Get into the good stuff that’s FREE!
In Da Vinci’s time, he needed to teach himself a language and beg and borrow to get access to the smartest minds of the time through books. Today we have 24/7 access to the world’s smartest minds via the internet. We also have equal access to idiots and cats playing the piano, but never has the accumulation of knowledge been easier or cheaper.
There are amazing free resources online from short courses offered by prestigious universities to sites like Wikipedia. It is possible to learn everything from Python coding to how to make the perfect cheese scone online either via YouTube demonstrations, or more structured training programs. Many are free or virtually free.
What we learn doesn’t need to be limited to the classroom. There is so much knowledge out there. We should all be encouraging children to explore that knowledge and to experiment wildly. If it’s free, the only cost is a little attention. How can we ever know what we’re good at or enjoy or find fascinating if we don’t experiment wildly?
Take a moment to explore stuff online with your kids, at home or in the classroom. What obscure thing could someone learn? Have a look at what’s out there? Challenge the class to come up with one free course that looks interesting. Encourage them to sign up and do it. Look on Udemy, FutureLearn or others.
Wherever, Whoever or Whatever you are, you are the journey
Louise Hay was at the forefront of the modern self-help movement. One of her mantras was, “I am in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.” The idea that we should be someone else, doing something else, with other people in another place is incredibly toxic for our lives. We are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. Even if those things don’t appear right, they are for the learning journey we are all on individually.
If you don’t agree, then where should you be? And how are you going to get to where you want to be? And what knowledge and insight are you going to need to attain to get you there? We all suffer from self-doubt at times, but the key question is what are we going to do about it?
I met someone in a prison a few years ago and he had spent over twenty years of his forty-year life behind bars. I asked him what advice he would pass on to others. This is his quote: “The choices are always there. It’s the decisions you take that really matter.” We often bemoan that life is unfair and that things don’t go our way. But why? All the choices in life are on offer, we just need to make good choices and course correct if we don’t. If you don’t like where you are, change it. Because with knowledge, you can.
Take a minute to encourage youngsters to look objectively at where they are, where they want to be and how they can bridge that gap via knowledge.
Sid Madge is a transformation and change specialist and founder of Meee. Meee draws on the best creativity and thinking from the worlds of branding, psychology, neuroscience, education and sociology, to help people embrace change and achieve extraordinary lives. Sid Madge is also author of the ‘Meee in Minute’ series of books which each offer 60 ways to change your life, work-, or family-life in 60 seconds.