Sunday, 18 August 2019

What Is Education For?


Dear Reader,

My previous post - suggesting the need to change our way of thinking - is entirely relevant to today's post. For the call is - and has been for a very long time - to be more imaginative in how we deal with all kinds of matters, especially in considering the impact that our ideas and actions have on the planet and the environment.

But it does seem to me that imagination has been increasingly stifled in the past 20 or so years in the era of globalisation that emerged with the new millennium, and the corresponding attempt at standardising educational systems, particularly in the West and countries strongly influenced by Western thinking. In particular, the clamour and the focus seems to be definitely fixed on AI as the means to a better economic future.

No matter how adaptable and useful AI may become, however, it cannot replace the human ability to check in on feelings and intuitive stimuli. Simply speaking, human connectivity is surely worth a great deal more than automation, and it is only if you do not believe there is a purpose in Creation will you surely be persuaded to think otherwise.

So my overwhelming vote is to increase our awareness of who we are, not simply to keep more interesting jobs for humans rather than submit them to AI, but because there must surely be a purpose in life, and a purpose that I have good reason to believe is in the process of fully manifesting itself in the short to medium term. Out of the negativity of wars and strife that seem to be intensifying will surely come positive solutions, based on love used in a creative and peaceful way.

And who is most affected by the future? Why our children of course; and they should, therefore, be subject to the kind of education that can meet the requirements of their future - their future, not ours. 

In this age in which we hear of increasing levels of drug addiction and mental health issues, I strongly feel that our education must address the values that we should aspire to, for I really think that a true purpose has departed from the lives of many. Unless we, as a society, have a common end in view that is of real value, how can we expect to survive as s species? It has been said that if human beings were to have their way as things stand, all other species would be wiped out in 50 years. However, if the human species were to be wiped out then all other species would flourish. That idea should make you think - I hope.

But the second part of a new system of education should be one that more actively encourages creativity and innovation. "Creativity" does not mean simply the Arts, which is what many think. It is about the use of our imaginative faculties to design and build a sustainable future.

A key proponent of creativity in education is Sir Ken Robinson, a man whose humour and insight I could listen to all day long.

In this illustrative video, Sir Ken's talk makes it clear that our current educational system is not fit for purpose. It was set up in its current basic form at a time when it made some sense - 120 years ago. But today's world is so different, so why do we pursue the same educational goals as then? 

The goals today seem to be fixed towards ivory tower achievement for those who can, and whatever else for those who can't. The predominant corollary in that system is that money is the end-game, and that cost-justification is usually the principle by which decisions are made. These aims are completely at odds with the environmental situation that surrounds us. Do you stop to have a committee meeting to decide whether you save someone from drowning? Well, the world is drowning, but the action that is needed is largely ignored because we are stuck in an old mindset and 40 years of high-powered committee meetings that have produced minuscule and belated results of note.

As part of his talk (link as above), Sir Ken brings the topic of ADHD into focus. Is the so-called ADHD problem really in the students, or is it in the system that is out-of-date? I believe it is the latter, and (at age 75) I say so from my own experience, knowing that I am not a failure despite the educational system that I had difficulty in getting along with long before ADHD became recognised.

So, there we are. As things stand we seem to be like those mythical lemmings that are hurtling for the cliff-edge in their ignorance. It's about time we woke up to what Sir Ken has to say in order for future entrepreneurs to present realistic products and models for investment by the dragons in Dragon's Den. And to find ways to deal with serious issues that are with us now - and will be exacerbated over the next few years. Perhaps all of us that are fit and able should go back to school to re-learn according to Sir Ken.

The future depends on an intuitive and emotional grasp of what is needed based on what is real, not materialistic. And what is real has only been taught by the greatest spiritual masters. In the true scale of things, Sir Ken is purely an enabler in that direction, but an important one who should very much be heeded in the journey towards reality, a reality that must be determined by what is of real (lasting) value. What is fashionable should be discarded in my view.

In my late teens I spent some time reading the works of philosophers who were the rage of the day, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, but I got to feel depressed after awhile reading their existentialism. As the scientist/philosopher Fritjof Capra has written (in The Web of Life (1996)):
Existential suffering arises, in the Buddhist view [and in the view of ancient Vedic seers], when we cling to fixed norms and categories created by the mind instead of accepting the impermanent and transitory nature of all things. ... Out of ignorance, we divide the perceived world into separate objects that we see as firm and permanent, but which are totally transitory and ever-changing.
See also "Is The Climate Crisis Affecting Our Mental Health?".

Thank you for reading this.