I am musing aloud today about the themes that will be in book 4 - You Don't Need a School to get an Education - the next book in my series on the shift to the Networked world of the Person.
What is our education system for? Many see that its purpose is to get us ready for a job. Many of us have been well served by it.
Now many recognize that it has some problems. Many think that it just needs some fixes to make it work better. Better testing. Better teachers. More private ownership. More online. More MOOC's.
But I ask can it be fixed? Should it be fixed?
I ask myself, why are our institutions so self serving and even corrupt? Why is our political system so inept? Why do we watch reality TV rather than take charge of what is going on ourselves? Why can't we see the predicament that confronts us and act wisely. Why do we retreat into ranting? Why do we take comfort in being consumers? Why do we feel lost without a job? Why are we so helpless and can hardly do anything practical? Why are we so passive?
We seem incapable of confronting and solving our problems. I think that this is because we have made the job the purpose of an education. We created an education system that shapes us culturally to exist in the job world. To work in the job world, you have to fit in. You have to belong. You have to depend on external authority. You have to depend on others for all you need. You cannot rebel.
To fit the world of he job, we have inadvertently domesticated ourselves. We have become pets. We did this the same way we tamed wolves to become dogs. Our school system is how we did this. We used a series of processes in school to condition behaviour.
Belonging - You are put into a narrow age cohort. For 12 years, you are cut off from the adult world and you are segregated into a world of children. In the US the average teen spends only 16 waking hours a week in the company of an adult. Worse, you were further segregated into a tiny world of your own age group. In such a culture, the core value is to fit in. This is the core value of the job world.
Obedience - The curriculum is made up of many separate parts. When all the aspects of the world are separated, you cannot see the patterns and so you become unable to see how the world works. This makes any complex problem impossible to see or to solve. As the world is mainly complex, the world remains a mystery. As a result, you look for the answers from those in authority over you. This keeps you a child. You have been trained to have a boss.
External Locus of Control - A broad symbolic curriculum means that no practical mastery is possible. In such an approach, experience has low value. The symbolic sets of skills are paramount. Making and doing things that we need in later life are not included or valued. So, few have experienced how to care for a child before they hold their own. Few today can cook a meal, make, fix or grow anything. None of us have learned how to work with others. That is called cheating. With no mastery and no real skills, we are truly helpless. Being so helpless, we are the ideal consumer and the powerless worker.
Spiritless - To fit in, you had to deny your experience and your body. So all learning was presented in a symbolic form. So how you really learn, by copying and by trying was excised.Your internal wisdom was cut off. You had your spirit taken away from you and all you can do now is to complain. You pose no threat to the masters. You are truly a child. You are domesticated.
This is what this looks like in one picture. Can this system be reformed? I don’t think so.
We need a new purpose. I think that this new purpose is to grow up.
All our expectations about how we will be looked after by the state and our employers will collapse. All our expectations about cheap food, secure energy, pensions and stable climate will be revealed as dreams. Only an adult culture has any chance of coping with this turbulence ahead.
How will this new system be organized? Just as school system modeled the job world, its target, so our new approach to learning will have to model how we become capable full adults. We know what this is and we see signs of new approaches and organizations emerging that all share this adult model.
This is the non job world. This is how humans have always been before civilization. This is who we really are. This is the social structure that has enabled mankind to deal with all the challenges of millions of years. This structure took us through the ice ages. This structure enabled us to develop all the key foundation technologies that enabled us to survive anything.
This is the structure of the primal tribe and, also in a more modern context, the structure of how pioneers coped with life on the frontier in American in the early 1800's.
Some of us live on this frontier now. It is a time when not much of the new infrastructure is built yet. But it is a place where you can be who you really are. It is also a place where you will have to be able to cooperate with others. It will be a place where you leave the hierarchy of the old world behind.
It is a place of great uncertainty.
So what kind of person prospered in a frontier society? They were men and women who had:
A Sense of Adventure and Hope - They wanted a better life. If not for themselves, then for their kids. They knew that there was no going back home to the old world. They knew that no one could, or would, help from outside. They knew that they would have to do it themselves. They learned that being with others who also dared and shared made the adventure better.
They were going to make their place and their world. They were MAKERS.
A sense of a future - They knew that if they cleared 2 acres this year, that they could clear another 2 the next year and that, by the time their kids were adult, there would be a real farm. They could see the future in the today. They could see in the clearing by the water’s edge, a town. They could see in the oak grove, ships.
They knew that there was going to be no instant success. They had foresight. They moved to the future step by step.
Good Coping skills - Pioneers accepted that there were challenges out there and were not put off by the first problem or failure. They became mentally tough. They could lose a crop and a child and still keep going.
They were resilient. They knew that they could not succeed all the time. They knew that perseverance would get them through.
Technical Skills - They developed deep mastery. They quickly developed technical skills that would help them be as self sufficient as possible. Having mastered some skills, they knew that they could master others. The more real skills a person had, the greater their social standing. Men and woman became famous for being capable.This gave them a natural self confidence.
Mastery. They had real skills learnt, as all real skills are learned, by copying masters, doing and repeating.
Social Skills - It was clear to all, in a pioneer state, that no individual could thrive on their own. Much of the work that had to be done had to involve others. So establishing and maintaining family and community were centrally important building blocks for success. Marriage was not a romance but a means of survival. Community was not a buzz word of the week but a means of survival. The stakes were high.
Community was was life or death. They were interdependent.
Literacy - It was clear to most people then that the more you knew, the better off you were going to be. Literacy was paramount. At the time of the revolution in America, literacy was about 90%. Literacy was rooted in what happened in the home.
Most read by 6 and learned this at home. The home was the primary school. The parents the primary teachers. The Home & the Family was the School.
They were adult - When you look at pictures of pioneers, do you see how they look? At 22 many look 35. It is not only because they have had a hard life, it is because you can see their maturity shine through. By 16 you were a real adult in your spirit. There were no "teens" then. There were only children and adults.
At an early age they had responsibility. By 6 they had real roles. By 12 they were contributors. The Home and the Family was the Workplace.
I think that each of us now have to think about how to become pioneers again.
I see three elements in the new way that is ironically the old way.
A focus on the person - It is so easy when we think of the new to think about what new institution we need. This is the trap. The hard work is to unlearn our conditioning and think of how a system might emerge that will help each person find their way. The job world was all about the mass market. This world will all be about you as an individual.
Experience - Our old pedagogy was instruction. It is hard to lose this idea as it is so hardwired. But instead, we have to return to our natural learning style and that is experience. That is how we learned to talk and walk. We learn by seeing, by copying and by doing.
Development - Our old result is a credential that is used to put us into a slot in the job world. Our new result has to be to reach our full potential as a human. Now this is true life long learning. And being a true adult when we have children is the key to putting our kids on a path so that they too can reach their true potential. The right first 3 years of life sets you up for life.
For only a community of adults can give our young the best start that they need so that they too can find their true potential. It's all connected.
The book will explore these issues. I will go back in time to see how we all learned before the age of the institutions. I will pay particular attention to the family and its role in the early years in setting the trajectory of each of us. I will look at the the new experiments in learning. I will connect all of this to the new world that is here now where most of our young today will never have a “good” job.