First an explanation. Why a guest blog at all? Well, the answer is simple I feel the voices in education are increasingly bickering over minute details. In the past I would read blogs and experience dissonance, now everyone appears to be saying the same thing. Why Rob? Rob is a friend of mine who encouraged me to be a teacher, he was an English Teacher himself and by all accounts a very good one. He became disillusioned with the education system, although he still describes himself as an educator. The way in which this series of blogs came about is easy to track. We were at a pub and I could feel Rob’s deep dissatisfaction with my thinking and ideas; we’d usually broadly aligned on education and..well most things. We talked about personal growth and found common ground again, but once we returned to education a tension arouse. A few months passed and at this point I decided to E-mail him about how he felt I had changed, why he was disappointed in some alterations in my thinking and on a larger scale why he’d become dissatisfied with education. The resulting blogs are sprawling and engaging. I really enjoyed reading them, and I hope you do too.
Read Rob’s story in his book ‘Being an Explorer’ available on Amazon: here
‘On Teaching and Education’ – Part 2 of 3.
Mainstream, formal education moulds every person within it to become a compliant, consuming worker. We are taught (passive reception of knowledge deposited into our empty minds) to think, see, imagine and relate to the world in a very particular way. Mainstream, formal education does not concern itself with aiding our personal and collective evolution. Instead it intends to preserve the status quo which we all feel the effects of.
It will take large scale catastrophe and shock to alter formal educations current trajectory and aims. But until then, the work of guiding meaningful education falls upon the shoulders of NGOs, grassroots community activists, as well as charitable organisations such as The Eden Project.
It’s easy to criticise, but another matter entirely to construct a working solution to education. I’ve expressed the belief in the first blog of this series, that disconnection is at the heart of our unsustainable culture. Therefore, the primary purpose of an education system in a sustainable world is to connect:
- A person with themselves
- A person to their community
- A person and community to nature
My favourite definition of sustainability is John Ehrenfelds “the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on the earth forever.” I love the idea that it is essential for all life on earth to flourish if we are to live in a world which is sustainable.
When we drill down into flourishing we see our flourishing is intimately related to our understanding. When we understand we begin to value. When we value we start to care. When we care we move towards thriving, because we pay attention and give love to the relationships which matter to us.
As a designer of education, an important question for me to consider is, how might I create an education system which addresses the three dimensions of our social reality and aids our understanding of their/our interrelation?
Briefly, when addressing the personal domain it becomes clear that what a person is assisted to learn so they flourish has to change from the current curriculum. Equally important is a consideration of pedagogy and how a person and groups of people learn.
When addressing the social dimension we ask how communities learn, form and flourish.
Finally, we ask how personally and collectively we develop our connection with nature.
These broad questions have the potential to inspire thoughts and ideas which enable the mind to imagine a form of education which exists beyond the present formal system. I can share more of my ideas around these questions in a future post, but for the time being, I’ll briefly touch upon some inspiring models.
First of all there are the Erasmus + non formal education programmes delivered by a multitude of NGOs across Europe which aim to develop the key competencies of any participant around an area of their interest. Experiential learning characterises non formal education. The EU acknowledge that these programmes are supplementary to formal education, rather than all encompassing. They do, however, acknowledge the importance of one’s participation as being voluntary.
In the 90s the Finnish implemented an initiative which saw the impenetrable boundaries of schools dissolved as the free movement of learners between multiple venues of learning was recognised as important.
Jon Young, aided by a life of experience, is pioneering a pedagogy of nature connection which lends itself to this freer form of education.
The language we use to define this new system of education has to be innovated and the relationships between educators and learners also require our attention.
Some of the shifts we shall see between the old and the new
- From top down, to bottom up
- From oppression, to flourishing
- From outcomes, to process
- From invisible pupils, to supported learners
- From mass education, to personal mentoring
- From exclusion, to inclusion
- From passive learning, to participatory learning
- From competition, to collaboration
If you allow yourself to stand in the position from which I speak and resign your objections for a few moments, so you can imagine what it is I am beginning to describe and imply, I hope you sense, what it is that Einstein was getting at when he said,
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”
More on the vision in my next post.
The praxis of translating idyl to form is often messy and difficult, but with a vision, belief and tenacity, anything can be achieved.