Education for what? Revisiting the purpose and practice of education
Education systems are for the most part disconnected from the principles of life and vitality. They are failing in their mandate to educate for a better world. Steeped in rigid bureacratic structures and colonialist legacies of privilege, competition, control and compliance, they deplete and damage life. Society today is a reflection of how we have educated children of the previous generations. Our education systems have generated societies mired in fear, greed and violent competition that are systematically destroying the planet and all its inhabitants.
Education systems, controlled by governments and interested parties have created dependent, addictive cultures where people are susceptible to insiduous messaging of those with ideological and financial agendas. Children are taught to rely on external authorities when learning about how the world works and for feedback as to their own worth in the world. They are rarely taught to question authority and to discern the integrity and value of the onslaught of social messaging they are exposed to on a daily basis. Modern society is driven by overtly manipulative media messaging whether it be deceptive advertising, false political slogans or extremist religious ideologies that alienate people from their direct relationship with life.
Systematically teaching children not to think critically, enables the power hungry to pervert the notion of "free choice" into meaning an individual's choice to live the indoctrinated lifestyles designed to give some power over others.
Ruthless focus on grades rather than on individual and community building wisdom distances children from the innate pleasure of learning. It also encourages the deceit of children, teachers and parents around the grading process. Evaluation through polarised judgments such as right, wrong, good, bad, successful, unsuccsessful, sabotages the child's capacity to discern in more nuanced ways the consequences of different options, ideas and behaviors.
The ability of a child to cultivate her or his innate discernment abilities through direct engagement with life and develop self awareness and awareness of the other is severely undermined.
Children are often taught in large classes, where they cannot get adequate individual attention, by teachers with limited perspectives, using language and techniques that are relevant only for children with particular skill sets, about a small range of disciplines, according to standardized notions about knowledge, intelligence and success.
They are taught compartmentalized knowledge areas without learning about the relationship between the disciplines and how the skills and knowledge areas they learn can be used creatively together for the good of the whole. Fragmentation of knowledge both in the what and the how of education oppresses loving curiosity, creative integrity and self-realization in service of healthy community.
The education systems do not educate toward individual, community and environmental health. People emerge from the education system with little if any ability to function autonomously as individuals or as communities. They are encouraged to outsource basic life skills about food, health, environment and culture to other people, corporations and governments to whom they relinquish their authority to determine what is healthy and what is not.
Children are educated to relinquish almost every aspect of their life and decisions to others. It is no wonder that as adults we feed on limited and manipulated information under the increasingly distorted notions of free choice, free speech and free movement. Under the guise of good economic sense and democratic principles we learn to let our governments sell our land to those who poison and plunder it and to those who create security, economic, health and financial chaos for the masses while lining the pockets of those who benefit from poison and destruction.
We are now in the absurd situation where higher education systems are producing over-educated people, struggling to find jobs, mired in debt from college expenses and skilled in knowledge areas with little practical relevance to the needs of society today. They are trained mainly in the art of being competitive consumers and in taking value from others and from the environment rather than engaging in healthy and mutually nourishing value exchange.
These are but a few of the well known limitations and dangers of our current formal education systems. We do not educate at school about these phenomena nor do we educate how to tackle them and create new and healthy social paradigms and practices.
We cannot contribute to a healthy world until we radically revise our education systems' purpose, structure and content. This means that health, vitality, community and environmental studies need to be at the core of the educational agenda. It also means that every sector of society needs to work with the education system to ensure a coherent societal message about cultivating healthy people in healthy eco-systems. In an inter-dependent world the well-being of some humans depends on the well being of all humans and human well-being depends on the well-being of all species and particularly on the well-being of the entire planetary environment that nourishes all its inhabitants without privilege or prejudice.
There are exciting educational practices and paradigms that have sprouted all over the world that are inspiring change in this direction. There are also extraordinary integrative initiatives on the internet that are making a different form of education more accessible. Our collective challenge is how to organize together among those educational initiatives that put the planet and all its inhabitants first to create the global cultural shift to healthy, life enhancing education for one and all that is so essential to our shared path forward.