I would like to share with you a vision that I have for our future. This future requires no political revolution to happen, nor is any great social movement required. Its realization should be gradual in nature, causing no great disturbance or war. I believe that this future, or something like it, will come about through the creation of a particular medical intervention which the rest of this book will be dedicated to. The world of my vision is one where a child is born and both parents are able to raise it full time without needing government support, handouts, or financial assistance from family and friends. The parents are not part of the wealthy elite; their financial status is in fact quite average for people at their position in life. They choose to raise their child full time in order to provide him with all that they can, without having to worry about work commitments, lack of time, and fatigue from other responsibilities. They chose to have this child, and they have chosen to dedicate a few short years to doing the best job they can for it.
The early years of this child’s life, let’s call him John, is much like they have always been: feeding, changing, bathing, playing, (crying, tantrums, strange smells,) and bedtime stories. As the first few years pass, the parents will start taking the John out to play groups so that he can interact with other children. They will take him to parks so that he can play outdoors, and they will expose him to the world around them.
During this time and for the years that follow the parents will also start educating John. They will teach him how to read, write and do arithmetic as well as teaching him right and wrong, cultural values, and all of the general life lessons that are passed on from one generation to the next. The parents will play the primary influence in their young child’s life, but they will also expose him to the influence of trusted family, friends and respected members of their community. They will ensure that their child is not raised with a narrow perspective of the world, and they will do their best to broaden the information sources it has access to. To this end Johns parents, their extended family and friends will each take John to museums, science fairs, art galleries, dramatic plays, operas, car races, extreme sports demonstrations, various expos and anything else which could introduce his mind to the possibilities of the world around him.
School as we know it no longer exists. The parents do everything they can to provide John with the best start on education possible. They teach from their own knowledge and understanding as well as regularly involving friends and family in the process to help fill in the gaps. They also have ready access to a large number of tutors with experience should they feel the need. In addition to those resources, the internet has a wealth of knowledge, curriculum style courses, methodologies, educational strategies, ideas about what parents should teach their children and other support material of that nature, all designed to make the average parent a proficient teacher. The crucial function of the parent during this time will be to enable their child to learn, discover, and understand things for themselves. Instead of force feeding facts and providing answers, the emphasis will be on how to learn. The parent will learn from readily available materials that they don’t need to force their child to learn, it is natural for children to be inquisitive. The task is to turn that inquisitive behavior into a method of teaching the child how to learn about and understand its world. Thus answer questions with simple and obvious answers is discouraged, while a proactive “How would we find the answer to that?” approach is encouraged. This not only empowers the child to achieve more than those who preceded him, but also overcomes any ignorance held by the parents themselves.
As part of this process it is inevitable that John will find a topic of particular interest and thirst for more knowledge of that topic. Having exhausted basic investigation methods of the topic (internet search and libraries for instance) and with a child wanting to know more the parents will then simply search for a local teacher with specific knowledge of that topic and then enroll John to attend a course on the subject. There is no need to force him into this course because he chose the topic himself and is genuinely interested in learning more about it. This could be repeated numerous times and probably will be.
There is no structure to this system of education and that is precisely the point. It is a free spirit approach to education where the individual child decides what it would like to know next, and then engages with that topic while it otherwise carries on being a child. There are no rules (other than the normal rules imposed on a child by their parents), there are no timetables, and there are no age based restrictions on what they can and cannot learn. They can learn as fast or slow as they want or need to. Most importantly, there is no deadline for when this education ends. It could produce children with a thorough understanding of Molecular Biology by the age of 12, or the child could continue learning a little bit of everything well into their twenties. This system caters to individual capabilities, needs and desires.
As John enters his late teenage years he has a solid basis of knowledge from a diverse range of topics explored throughout his developmental years. As with many kids he gained a fascination with dinosaurs at a young age and that fascination has stuck with them into his teens so he has decided that he is interested in becoming a paleontologist. He registers at a university and has to take some short entrance courses which ensures that he has adequate background knowledge to undertake the rest of the Paleontology course. Failing any of these entrance subjects would preclude entry into the course, but only on that intake. Someone dedicated to a subject could easily go away and do some more private study, take more community college courses and private tuition and then reapply in the next intake very easily, so there is no real exclusion in this system. After a few years of studying paleontology though, John starts to find that he simply doesn’t enjoy the process nearly as much as he imagined he would. As the course progresses he actually finds it more boring and even starts to lose interest in the whole idea. He completes the course anyway, but decides to not pursue the career further. He goes back to living his life as before; exploring the ideas around him and the options available to him, until one day his parents decide that they want to start sailing around the world and so start urging him to find something which means they won’t have to support him anymore.
At the age of 26 he decides to become a police officer. The progress of his career is much like it is today; he goes through the academy, receives training, advances through the ranks always acquiring more experience and regularly undertaking additional training courses. The years seem to pass quickly and after 34 years on the force he has started to reach the end of his patience for the legal system. He is tired of always watching hardened criminals get off with lenient sentences while some of the more innocuous crimes are punished with strict malevolence. The system just doesn’t seem fair and he is sick of it. He makes a big decision and at the age of 60 firmly decides that he is going to start a new career as a judge.
He starts taking some educational courses on the law in his spare time while working and after a year or two actually quits his job and enters full time study of law. Within 4 years he is a lawyer working his way up through the ranks, creating networks of colleagues, learning more about the legal system than he ever understood as a police officer, and generally enjoying this exploration of how to prosecute criminals to the full extent of the law. After 30 years of experience in the legal system, increasing his influence the whole time as well as his understanding, his application to become a judge is finally accepted.
At the age of 95, John, the child from the beginning of this story, finally enters the stage of his second career that he was aiming for all those years before. His illustrious career will end up lasting over 50 years before he willingly retires from it on account of something which happened only 3 years after he became a judge, he met his first wife. He had had 3 long term relationships prior to this point, the longest one lasting 30 years, but for the first time in his 98 years he met a woman which he knew he could spend the rest of his life with, however long that will be. They don’t rush anything though, nothing is really rushed when you are 100 years old with no definite lifespan, and they aren’t married for another 20 years. It isn’t until he is 148 that they both decide to retire from their present careers and have a child. They both have savings accounts which will provide more than enough income for them to both live very comfortably while providing full time care for their child and even still re-invest most of their interest back into savings. They are in fact eternally funded by their own savings.
At 149 years of age John has his first daughter. She is raised by both parents full time with all concerns taken care of. Both parents have extensive life experience and education and they both pass their wealth of knowledge on to their daughter the best they can; not by giving her all of the answers necessarily, but by enabling her to find the answers for herself, and enabling her to pursue the knowledge that she wants to pursue.
After 25 years of raising his daughter, John starts to consider giving paleontology another go. With no need of money, and with a great deal more patience and respect for silence the idea of quietly sitting and working on a dig site seems a lot more appealing to him now than it did all those years ago. Whatever he does though, he chooses to do so freely, without concern for time or money. He is respected in society from his history as a fair judge, and he is as physically capable of being as police officer as he was when he was 26. His years of experience make him one of the most valuable assets in society, and he charges nothing for his time or his advice. He regularly helps out new parents with the education of their children, providing the older kids with lessons on morality and the law, or just helping the younger kids with their reading and writing.
Just as John’s parents were not particularly wealthy or particularly special for dedicating themselves to his fulltime care; his freely offered assistance to those around him is not special or abnormal. In a society full of people who have no limitation on their time and already have two lifetimes worth of savings to support their own needs, there are a lot of people who gain a lot of pleasure out of being able to help other who need it.