By Kerri Romeo
When she had arrived in the Wonderland Reboot she came with a mind full of lessons from the No-Wonder-Land and the awareness that those lessons were relatively unhelpful in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. She no longer wanted to memorize and repeat lessons with no purpose. Her governess was always reprimanding her for asking too many questions and for fidgeting during lessons. She was SO curious, but lessons always left her feeling bored and restless.
Here she felt free to create, but she was afraid that if she didn’t follow the rules again soon she would be uneducated like Mabel and grow up to be poor. It was all very confusing. Was there someone to teach her or to guide her that didn’t make her feel like a bother?
“Alice looked all round her at the flowers and the blades of grass…”Alice in Wonderland, Chapter IV
She finds a Caterpillar inching his way along the cover of a book. Several more books had been left beside a tree with a Cheshire Cat curled up peacefully above her on a branch. It must be school time…but where had the students and their teacher gone?
She picks up one book titled “Science.” It is bookmarked on a page about mushrooms and another about pigeons and serpents, pigs and turtles; there is a dog-eared page about herbs and flowers and another about insects. The students must have gone out exploring with their teacher to identify what they could find in nature. What a fun project! She wishes she could join!
But she already has. The Caterpillar watches Alice as she picks up each book with a curious fascination. These are not ordinary school books. They are titled Science, Mathematics, History and Literature, but each subject draws her in, encouraging her curiosity, inviting her to ask questions and breathing life into the subjects in the style of a Lewis Carroll dreamworld.
If you want children to understand science, connect with nature and have a conversation with a Caterpillar. Geometry? Maybe one child better understands when it is presented as art perspective or architecture, another understands through sports, and another sees with a honeycomb in nature. Isn’t history more interesting when it is about stories of relatable people more than dates and dry facts about war? Who is the child, the mother, the father in the story? Why are they part of the story that created how society is today? Facts don’t teach children how to find creative solutions. They don’t teach empathy and compassion. And they don’t leave room for questions. Or is that by design?
The Wonderland Reboot education is more than books and rudimentary subjects.
‘Who are you?’ said the CaterpillarAlice in Wonderland, Chapter V
None of the adults were ever curious about her before…she didn’t know how to answer. She explains that she is a little sister; a young girl expected to be a proper lady; to marry a successful man and raise a family as generations before her had. These answers didn’t feel complete to her though. Children often identify with the lives around them, whether they be family or societal expectations; or trauma and societal neglect. We learn judgement of ourselves and others as children. We learn insecurity and fear.
The Caterpillar notices that she is struggling to answer and she is becoming anxious. He encourages her to close her eyes, take a deep breath in and out before opening her eyes. He asks her to connect with her 5 senses: What does she see?; what does she hear?; what does she feel?; what does she smell?; what does she taste?
He then invites her to open the last book. She expects to read a story, but finds all of the pages blank! Instead of paint and a canvas, Alice now has the tools to create her own story with writing now too. A pencil appears.
But she doesn’t know where to begin this time.
The Caterpillar asks Alice to list 3 things she likes about herself and 3 things she likes about her schoolmate Mabel: She discovers that they both like kittens; Alice can draw and Mabel can sing; Alice is clever and Mabel has the most contagious laugh. Alice realizes she adores Mabel, who is quite brilliant in her own way, but society had taught her that they couldn’t possibly be friends. Or could they now?
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”Unknown (often miscredited to Albert Einstein)
By now the Cheshire Cat has woken from his nap.
Alice asks the Cheshire Cat:
‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’Alice in Wonderland, Chapter VI
We believe education is new and improved as we have traded in books for technology. However, if we continue to treat education as the route to financial success or failure, have we missed the purpose? The tools can change, but what about our values? Many will argue that values are to be taught at home and knowledge is to be taught in school. But when Alice fears she will be poor like Mabel if she isn’t “smart” enough, isn’t that a value being taught? Is the only way to prove one’s value through tests and letter grades? Are we teaching children or training them?
All children should have access to a quality education. But how do we define education? What is the purpose of education?
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.Alice in Wonderland, Chapter VI
Alice knows exactly where. She begins filling the pages of the blank book to create, communicate and collaborate toward “Building a Better World for All.”
Follow International Children’s Month/International Children Love WE 2021 for their Mission Possible: “Children across the planet in love, care and respect.”
Adults need to learn communication and collaboration skills too. The Wonderland Discussion group is a safe community to share, collaborate and stay curious. One of our members provides her insight as as a teacher about children’s education in this clip from Wonderland.
And of course, the original inspiration for the Wonderland Campaign, Marianne Williamson included children in her own re-imagining of the political world with her proposal for a Department of Children and Youth.
Watch Kerri read this post on video, followed by a conversation with the Wonderland Campaign Discussion Group:
Kerri spends her days as an office administrator for a ballet barre manufacturer and her free time playing frisbee with her dog in NJ. Often at a loss for words in person, she writes to make sense of the world and connect with others. She wishes for more curiosity & kindness in the world.