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EDUCATION WAS FOR SOMETHING December 20, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Growth, Personal Experience.
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We are born. We spend a fixed amount of time within the matrix of the Earth’s ecosystem, sometimes at psychological, psychic distance from mother nature, while simultaneously indifferently trashing and despoiling her foundations and fundamentals. We are somehow thoroughly culturally conditioned. We had better know something of the environment of ideas we inhabit. Then we die.

We are formally educated for a number of years. Then we are trained. Mostly, it seems to be the case, if you are not the right sort of person, none of this makes a great deal of difference. Now, if that is correct, time might have been spent better doing something else. In fact in pre-industrial societies, people did spend time doing other things, and they would not have had the wherewithal to, for example, read Murdoch’s newspapers, which by all accounts seem to be of dubious utility as well. So what is to be done? How might this be, if not explained, understood? Of course the numbers of formally educated people have increased.

Just because we experience gravity at every conscious and unconscious moment of our lives does not mean that we understand gravity, but presumably some know more about what can be expressed and explained about gravity than others. Still it may be of value to consider what those who know more say. One such person is Ken Robinson. Process and inter-relationships are important. Learning is growth. Naturally, employers who see employers as means to end do not see the same picture. All that matters is the relevant measurable outcomes. Ken Robinson says:

Julia Gillard now is free to speak of global education, all of which is well parsed and grammatically correct so it will win the plaudits of my critics at Catallaxy. The global dialogue, of which Ms Gillard was a participant, apparently. . .

touched on these opportunities and on the challenges that still remain. We discussed extending education and learning to marginalized groups—particularly girls—and the potential promise that new technologies offer in both streamlining our educational systems and as direct learning tools. I also discussed my work at Brookings, which focuses on measuring what is happening in schools in order to best improve them—a subject that I aim to address informed with my experience of building trust with teachers and other important stakeholders.

Does it matter that teachers are merely stakeholders, like investors and employees? There are several videos and they could be interesting.

So what is the purpose of education? Can we even ask that question with the expectation of a coherent answer. Dr Michael Nagler makes the following points:

  1. For education to be meaningful, it has to educate the whole person. So, what does a whole person consist of? There are different formulas for this which are useful, but one simple one is, we are mind, body, and spirit. [The spiritual dimension to human beings is not usually mentioned.]
  2. We have to teach for the hierarchy of needs, and not just for the lowest needs, which are the material fulfillment of food, clothing, shelter and maybe some health care.” What are those needs? Well there’s Maslow’s hierarchy you are probably familiar with.
  3.  Whatever we teach and however we teach it, it has to be grounded in reality. It has to be grounded first in concrete nutritional realities but then open itself up to deeper realities. And in this developing new education, or Nai Talim, one of the things Gandhi said was “If you do not till the soil you will forget who you are.” You will forget who you are.  Every one of us has to be involved in some way with what he called “bread labor, “
  4.  Cultivate deeper modes of knowing. One way that I’ve found handy to get this across is, I would start a course by saying “We have different capacities to learn” and knowledge is one, and this whole institution has been kind of oriented around that. But there’s a deeper kind of knowing which we might call understanding. And then there is a deeper kind of knowing still which we might call wisdom. Knowledge is where you accumulate facts, you are operating on the level of information. Understanding is where you begin to detect patterns among these facts. And you can sort them out. You can say “Oh, this was an act of violence, we should be thinking about it in those terms.” And, wisdom finally is where you begin to grasp the relevance of those patterns.
  5. Grasping unity in diversity. So the 5th pillar is that if a person is to emerge from our institutions or contact with us truly educated, he or she will need a grasp of the mystery of unity in diversity. “We are apart but we are also one,” as in the marvelous quote from Martin Luther King, which I like so very much, where he said, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you cannot be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” So far from imagining a world as a place of competition, which through the misuse of Darwin we have done, we have to realize that all this separateness, this apparent separateness that we see, is really diversity.

Training could have more mundane purposes than education, and it may be more fun since it can be limited to 20 hours, according to Josh Kaufman, who demonstrates his approach:

I thought that Michael Naglers Five Columns identifying were worthy of consideration. Education will continue to be a perennial political issue. It might be thought that one measure by which education of the population could be judged would be the acceptance and understanding of the science of climate change.

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