February 28, 2010

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds – Albert Einstein

Why do we send our children to school?

To be educated? - a real education would channel us into curiosity and self-discovery

To keep them out of the way for a few hours? - working mums enticed into the workplace so that they too can pay taxes, need to place their children somewhere

To be good workers? - what parent brings a child into this world to ‘be a good worker’

To be prepared for life? - survival and creativity are way down the list in the average syllabus.

Because the law demands it?

School does exactly what it was created to do: it solves, or at least mitigates, the problem of a restless, ambitious labour pool - deadly for capitalist economies; and it confronts that other thorny problem: left to their own devices, people might learn to un-divide themselves, band together in the common interest, and take control of the institutions that stunt their lives.

Busy parents are prone to buying convenience food. Family units are dispersed. Rarely does a child learn the basics of cooking at home.

Cheap and disposable clothing mitigate the need to sew, to be creative and to extend the life of a garment. In a land where a yard of fabric is more expensive than a ready made item there is neither financial nor social benefit to learn even the basics.

Children living in less rigid societies can make their own clothes, grow their own food and build their own houses. Most so-called educated kids never learn practicalities of life because they are too busy learning how to sit still in a classroom.

In her book: “Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All In The Head” biologist Dr. Carla Hannaford states that almost all children are born as “whole brain” thinkers; however, by the time the child is 7 years old, due to parental, religious, and scholastic programming in the modern world, we see a very definite trend toward the left-brain orientation. Intuition and creativity are lost.

A real education is not achieved through memorizing data and ticking the boxes in multiple choice questionnaires. We have to find out who we are by experience and by risk-taking. We must pursue our own nature intensely. School routines are set up to discourage us from self-discovery. People who understand who they are make trouble for schools.

To know yourself, you have to keep track of your random choices, figure out your patterns, and use this knowledge to dominate your own mind. It's the only way that free will can grow. If you avoid this, other minds will manipulate and control you for the rest of your life.

The ancient Greeks discovered thousands of years ago that rules and ironclad procedures burn out imagination, stifle courage, and wipe the leadership clean of resourcefulness. Greek education was much more like play, with studies undertaken for their own sake, to satisfy curiosity. It assumed that sane children want to grow up and recognized that childhood ends much earlier than modern society typically allows.

If we are considering restructuring our society, we must consider what real benefit our current institutions have for the future. Today we are faced with an energy crisis, converging peak resources and financial collapse. But, in fact it is a consumption crisis, a lifestyle that has led to the depletion of resources, toxification of the globe, and obsession with money.

Society needs people who will take care of the elderly with love and who know how to be compassionate and honest. Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive; they're emotional, they're affectional.

It is not financially or socially feasible to continue to build and maintain cities as we know them today. The expense of acquiring land upon which to construct facilities such as schools, shopping malls, industrial and office complexes, etc., maintaining and expanding the roads and transportation system for the irrational rush hours and the few hours a day in which they are in use. In many ways it would be far cheaper to pay people to stay home. Out of this realization came Alvin Toffler's idea for the "electronic cottage" as we face the "end of work" which is visible today, and we are forced by changing climatic and economic circumstances to design a new lifestyle more appropriate for our time. "If we build self-contained structures - ones that do as little harm as possible to the environment, we can weather the coming collapse. This task will be accomplished through the existence of small, physical enclaves that have access to sustainable agriculture, are able to sever themselves as much as possible from commercial culture and can be largely self-sufficient. These communities may well have to build electronic walls against the propaganda and fear that will be pumped out over the airwaves.

We will need isolated areas of land and distance from the food deserts of our inner cities. Produce and goods will become prohibitively expensive and state repression will become harsher and harsher."

All infrastructures we build, like the monasteries in the Middle Ages, should seek to keep alive the intellectual and artistic traditions that make a civil society, humanism and the common good possible. We will have to grasp, as the medieval monks did, that we cannot alter the larger culture around us, at least in the short term, but we may be able to retain the moral codes and culture for generations beyond ours."

School is neither in the business of teaching survival (playground survival is usually self-taught and a major life lesson) nor creativity. Survival and creativity, compassion and honesty are the main requirements for an uncertain future. The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

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