“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can- there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.” – Sarah Caldwell
Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps make a living; the other helps make a life.
EDUCATION IDENTIFIER- LI ©™
The US educational system still maintains an infrastructure that has remnants from the Industrial Revolution in the form of consumption of products and services, labeling children as if they are products (measured, predicted and controlled) and productivity (average, norm, defective, broken, standards, distribution, testing, mechanistic, labeled, boxed, timed, stimulus-response, sitting in rows, paperwork, goals, objectives, scored) on an assembly line (school as machine) and one size-fits-all as if everyone fit some mold. Why is education important? Who can define a ‘good education’? Is the purpose of learning, as in school, for the socializing effect, for the success factor, becoming proficient at test taking, career placement or something else? If 20 people were interviewed and asked, “What constitutes a good education?” each would reply with a unique perspective. Yet, all can agree that something is wrong when drop out rates are high, lifetime and workplace preparedness is lacking, high violence, crime and rage are part of the school experience and the lackluster performance of students compared to other nations, all equate to profound issues in US schools.
If history is any indicator at all, some of the most knowledgeable, successful and functional human beings in history did not attend school. Successful businessmen like Bill Gates did not finish college (supposedly a ‘must’ for career success). Most assuredly, the DROP-OUT rate would diminish when the school day becomes more relevant, flexible and realistic to youths. Why have Community Colleges become so imperative for a successful career when over a short time ago, children graduated from HIGH SCHOOL with these skills? Why must one go into debt to secure an education that SHOULD have been offered in high school (and was years ago)? The time for national dialogue and the dissolution of the educational infrastructure is imminent because education is no longer motivating the youthful soul, relevant to modern learning or accommodating the passions of youth. What the infrastructure lacks is an emotional, spiritual, soulful, compassionate component with practical, natural relevance.
To achieve success, it is important to be a PhD’s- Passionate, Hungry and Determined person. Self-motivation, self-fulfillment, drive, passion and embracing life are more apt to measure success than any subjects studied in school yet these are the very traits that schools hinder, diminish and/or stifle. And these skills can be cultivated, nurtured and guided to fruition in an appropriate setting. The process of learning in the West has become so alien to life, so diluted and devoid of meaning and more theoretical by design than practical, (as well as more politically, economically and socially motivated), that ‘real-life’ and ‘real-learning’ has become a myth (except through peers, media, marketing and exploitation).
POLITICS LEVELS THE PLAYING FIELD FOR ALL SCHOOLS
When innovations in education have been introduced into the US radar, many generations of mental constructs, hierarchical rules, laws and mandates prohibit incorporation of new infrastructures, ideologies, alternate designs and varying styles of methodology. Most lawmakers succumb to the demands of special interest groups, who have funding, power and high profile citizenry striving for the cause. The system is set up to FAIL when School Boards have the deciding vote and Charter Schools vie for the same tax dollars as those directed towards existing public schools. Innovation will not be explored under this decision making framework. Hence, legislation that on the surface appears to promote the welfare and good of all becomes a burden, complex and tangled web that lawyers manipulate for a select few of the American population. Educational policy from Washington and local school boards have invaded what should be a local function and decision between parents, students and teachers. But which politician would want an educated populous? Would we have career politicians if the majority of the population could think for themselves? One of the debilitating, motivating factors to ‘maintain the status quo’ in education is being driven by politics rather than the humane treatment of children and the needs of a changing society and world. Educational infrastructure change is impossible because “Those who continually try to change the system are not products of a free education but got burned by the traditional system. As a group, these individuals create anger gridlocks which hamper them from achieving their goals.” says Jerry Mintz of the Alternative School Almanac. Politics, current funding paradigms and the pyramidal infrastructures must go if schools are going to modernize and be relevant.
- to question without retribution (authorities, experts, peers, status quo)
- to fully explore (kinesthetically, mentally, emotionally, physically)
- to feel secure and safe in all environments •to revel in their own creativity, intelligence and innovation (instead of those of the past)
- to honor their soft skills (compassion, intuition, integrity, honesty, commitment, service to others, respect) as well as hard skills (physical prowess, intellectual capacity),
- to feel a sense of belonging instead of separate, isolated and alone,
- the knowledge, skills and experiences when they are ready and able rather than fit into molds of presumed developmental stages
- to be encouraged to seek alternatives in order to make informed choices •to honor the rights and feelings of others
- to express their passions for life throughout the growing years
- to be rewarded for a spirit of adventure, searching and exploration in the world instead of viewing it as anti-social behavior
- to revel in differences as much as similarities •to be in the proximity of and experience the natural order of things
- to understand the interrelatedness of all things especially the Self
Although Maslow defined the most obvious human needs, ( homeostasis-food, clothing, shelter- safety and security, self-actualization, love and belonging, esteem of others, knowledge and understanding, esthetics- beauty and rightness of action), some are so intangible that means of measurement are impossible to standardize. Why is there a national fetish to measure learning in such a manner (except to justify billions of dollars into a system that is irrelevant, archaic, inept and crumbling?) IF education is the measure of learning and socialization, how can a tool of measurement be devised to define when one becomes an adult morally, ethically, emotionally, socially or even intellectually? Theories and tools of measurement are arbitrary, inaccurate, narrow and change with the times and end up becoming the motivating force (for funding, teacher remuneration or national excellence) rather than the broad practical, real skills and tools that enable every human being to function on this planet. Who uses Algebra or speaks German in everyday life? In addition, when the focus and funding is dedicated to the bottom half of the school population, it drags the rest of expectations down with it. At this juncture, a child’s astrology chart has more validity than test scores for lifetime achievement.
Thankfully, there are models of education, successful over more than 25 years, that have stood the test of time and graduated humane, intelligent citizens. Some of these include: Reggio Emilio Schools of Italy, Montessori, Waldorf, Home Schooling, Upattinas School (PA), Sudbury School (Connecticut), Alternative Community School (NY), to name a few. A national revolution is necessary in order to dramatically transform the infrastructure from instruction to learning, from defining children as items on an assembly line- product, testing, standards, measurement- and more as humane sensitive members of an evolving culture and society.