The Paideum - a "Children's Paradise"

Natella Speranskaya

Live your life

Whereas, only recently, it was customary to believe that a prestigious position and a high social status were essential prerequisites for a successful career, it is more usual these days for people to talk about opportunities for realising their creative potential and being happy with their chosen occupation. People generally understand happiness as a transient, wonderful, dizzying, intoxicating feeling, but also, unfortunately, a short-lived one. Or they think that happiness is the feeling of complete satisfaction with their own life. It is this second kind of happiness that American psychologist Daniel Kahneman believes is real happiness. Norwegian writer Steinar Bjartveit goes beyond this model and reveals a third form of happiness - associated with the concept of eudaimonia (Greek Ευδαιμονία). This word usually translates as "bliss", "happiness", "prosperity". But Bjartveit suggests that eudaimonia should be linked to the problem of self-realisation.

Let's ask ourselves, how many of our acquaintances have an occupation that reflects their true purpose and gives them a feeling of eudaimonia? If only few do, then what is it that prevents most people from living their own lives, and striving to achieve goals that are not imposed by anyone? What is our choice based on? Why do we often live our life in a time delay, without daring to break the vicious circle? A person is endowed by nature with a rich inner potential, and is nothing if not a creator. However, modern society and the economic system prefer to see people, not as creators, but as slaves to wages, forced to earn money to provide for their basic needs, even if their activities do not bring them any pleasure. Nietzsche said, "Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself is a slave”. People in the modern-day world are slaves as they are deprived of freedom to such a degree that they are prepared to enact the only scenario available: "to earn money in order to live". Their creative potential stands no chance.

Childhood as an ideal environment for upbringing

Instead of finding ourselves from childhood in conditions that are conducive to unlocking our potential, we are immediately placed in social structures that deprive us of opportunities to develop our inner growth. It’s as if we fail to appreciate the importance of the environment in which a child develops, even though scientists have long proved that events in our childhood leave an imprint on our entire life. It is in childhood years, for instance, that the foundation of our future is established, the stylistic and instrumental traits of our personality and cognitive abilities are formed, universal human values are introduced, and ​​ideological attitudes are developed. Childhood is an ideal environment for the nurture and growth of children. The most important person is a newborn baby, a child, because children shape our future society.

The founder of the Gaiia Foundation, Hares Youssef, insists on the necessity of renewing our understanding of what “childhood" is. This, in turn, requires a profound reform of our approach to raising children. Hares is convinced that a child should grow up exclusively in a child's environment, surrounded by other children. This idea has given birth to the initiative to create a Paideum system. Each Paideum is a "children's paradise", where the child is allowed to reveal his inner potential, a predisposition to that occupation (or activity) that will become the work of his whole life. Not an occupation imposed by society, which wants to see the child as a banker, an engineer, or a doctor, but one that is responsive to the predispositions inherent in the child. Even among the Greeks, paideia (Greek παιδεία - the formation of a child, education, upbringing, culture) was synonymous with universal education, the process of forming a comprehensively developed personality. And Plato, for example, considered paideia to be the meaning of the life of our soul, since paideia is the only thing that the soul is capable of taking with it beyond the boundaries of life. It was not by coincidence that the Paideums of the future got their name.

The child's surroundings

Children’s surroundings can have a far greater impact on their future development, including their intellectual capacities, than genetic factors. Nobel Prize laureate James Heckman states that "the results of recent studies suggest that the established view of the importance of a person’s intelligence quotient (IQ) requires a significant revision. The analysis outlined in the much-cited book The Bell Curve, attributes a key role in explaining the sources of differences in cognitive abilities to genetics, while, according to the publication, the standard of living of adults is mainly dependent on their cognitive abilities. However, if cognitive abilities are determined by genetics and are the main factor influencing the life of an adult, then the only way the state can help its least capable citizens is through material support. The results of experiments aimed at enriching the environment of underprivileged children at an early age provide decisive proof against genetic determinism. Recent research has established the importance of a child's socio-emotional abilities, and the importance of early intervention in his or her life cycle to develop necessary skills.

In the first years of life, a child needs a particular education policy. In the Paideum, the child will be surrounded by other children, grow and develop alongside them, and in these conditions, he will have much more opportunity to know himself as a person than if he grew up with his parents. “The people who surround the child are mirrors through which he understands himself," says Hares Youssef. “Parents sometimes take this opportunity away from him, and the child begins to grow up in conditions that enable him to understand his parents, rather than himself. As a result, in the absence of a variety of faces, words, actions - from the world of children - half of the neural connections within the child die out. For a child, the world of his parents is strange. He should develop as a person alongside other children. And there's no standardisation in this. Individuality can only be formed when the child sees many other children around him, not when he is next to his mother, something that stifles all individuality. A child can only become an individual by being one among many."

In the 1990s, Italian neurophysiologists discovered neurons that had the sole function of copying the behaviour and emotions of other people. These neurons were given the name Mirror Neurons. They enable a child to reflect the patterns of behaviour and feelings of others from an early age. This means that the environment in which the child develops is critically important. We believe that in a child who is deprived of the opportunity to mirror his kind, i.e. other children, these mirror neurons are destroyed, which eventually leads to a lack of empathy.

Anticipating possible objections from parents, Hares argues that the best environment for the development and growth of a child is a children's environment, not the constant presence of the father and mother, who often consider the child their property. He believes that we should take a step towards realising that the child is not somebody's property. A child belongs only to himself.

Freedom from wage enslavement

If many of us were deprived of freedom in childhood, is it any wonder that, as we grow, we do not fulfil our destiny, but only the scenario that society manages to impose on us - "work to live"? A person who cannot be free becomes a half-person, an incomplete personality. And to be able to become a creator again, he must free himself of the need to provide for his basic needs, spinning like a hamster on the wheel of the modern economy. How can he do it? What can liberate a person from wage enslavement?

Our answer: the Children's Pension Fund and the Paideum system. You could say that it this a new economic invention that will inevitably lead to the reform of the whole financial system. The Paideums and the Fund are not state institutions but public structures, with a mandatory high-transparency communication system. These structures will include prominent scientists, psychologists, sociologists, neurophysiologists, thinkers, etc., who form the children's environment, explore its features, develop a fundamentally new model of upbringing and an educational system, the purpose of which is the harmonious development of the child, revealing his profound potential.

The Children's Pension Fund will free parents from the slavery of providing for their children, allowing them to improve in one area or another. It will also assume the task of providing for the child’s basic needs from the moment of his birth until the age of 25, which means it will free him from the need to follow the "work to live” scenario. Thus, from the age of 25 to 60-65, we will become super-economic donors, since even in childhood, we will be relieved of the onerous feeling that we must provide for our basic needs. The Children's Pension Fund is a national fund, which will invest in the person himself. So the nation will begin to educate itself, cultivating a “person of quality" within itself.

People as generators of economic value

There are two economic components of human life - positive and negative. The negative component of life manifests itself in those periods when a person lives at the expense of society and is incapable of generating economic value. In this system, the person himself is the generator of economic value. From birth until around the age of 25, a person is a consumer (this is a negative balance of the system). In addition, from the ages of 25 to 60-65, he is an economic donor - which is the positive component of human life. At the age of around 45, an individual reaches the peak of economic efficiency. After 65 years, he again becomes a consumer, no longer able to generate economic value. But there is a way of changing this.

The Children's Pension Fund will ensure a constant flow of all national capital, and free everyone's life from the negative economic component. In other words, people are economically effective at all stages of their life. After 65 years (and, perhaps, even earlier, which is directly depends on their productivity), they can move into one of the Pension Houses ("pension paradise"), without worrying about how and on what they will spend their old age.

Each state must create a Ministry of Childhood, and introduce a "childhood index" into its economy, which will become an axis around which our society's activity will revolve. And the feasibility of any economic project will be based on conformity with the "Child Index". In addition, legislation must be enacted whereby every couple who decides to give birth to a child must undergo special training. A mother and father will become professions like a doctor or a lawyer. We propose that those parents who reject our approach come to us with their children, and they will be given all the conditions necessary to become participants in the process of raising their children. Parents will also be able not only to participate in the Foundation's work, but live with their children in the Paideums and observe the process of their upbringing and education.


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