At the Art / Earth / Tech annual Gathering, a group of us came together to distill our thoughts on the need for a wiser education system. We used the structure of situation, complication, question, hypothesis (SCQH).

Rufus, Alina, Emmanuel, Ninon, Tom, Richard, Hannes

Situation

[In France/UK] Children spend 16% of their waking lives between the ages of 4 and 18 in formal education. It has a medium social priority with ~5.5% of GDP invested and teachers being respected / paid ok. At present education is increasingly [centralized,] standardized and regulated (by the state) and is focused on a) performance in key knowledge areas (math, etc) b) “safety” and c) (in)equality, with the overall implied purpose of preparing children for being productive (but lacking any explicit statement of either ontology or deep purpose).

Society and economy are rapidly changing with the growth of affluence meaning that deep well-being is socio-economically valuable (e.g. low depression, low obesity, greater connection etc) and the arrival of the information economy meaning that new, broad skills are important; and finally globalization leads to fears about competition and how to find work in the future.

Complication

Education is not the priority it should be socially and economically (i.e. ~ number one) e.g. being a school teacher is not a prestigious job. Education policy maintains a diluted neutrality that condemns it to lacking an explicit & powerful purpose(+). The current system does not produce the qualities(++) we need for the 21st century(+++). Finally, a lack of trust and listening between stakeholders (i.e.management, parents, policy-makers) makes it hard to adopt new teaching methods that would address the above whilst an overly rigid system(++++) discourages experiments and alternatives(+++++) which would deliver more of what we truly want in education as well as provide room to discover new methods and approaches.

(+) and it is hard to have one because of a lack of societal consensus on foundational values and views (in relation to education)

(++) e.g. current qualities vs desired qualities

  • competitive /dominating vs coopetitive
  • individualistic vs interconnected (ecowarrior) / community-minded
  • scarce/anxious vs abundant / generous
  • Narrow / righteous vs critically open-minded
  • Passive vs autonomous / engaged /diligent /self-motivated / agentive
  • dispirited / vs well/spirited

(+++) interdependence re climate change, creativity and collaboration and autonomy re information economy

(++++) centralized (central curriculum), rigid (you must follow that) and regulated (assessed, inspected)

(+++++) e.g. Steiner-Waldorf, Montessori etc …

Question

What is an education system for e.g. France/UK – including its underlying purpose including its vision for being – system that would foster children and adults with the qualities we need for the 21st century including deep wellness and the capacity to address collective challenges such as the ecological crisis?

Hypothesis

We have not yet converged on a single hypothesis so we list here all those generated.

Ninon + Tom

To give children skills, knowledge and support to enable them, as much as possible, to choose, in (true) freedom, their individual path to live fulfilled lives(+), with an underlying belief in our innate goodness, a foundation of trust, and an appreciation of our interconnectedness with each other and the planet.

(+) including having a metier / a profession is important. [intrinsic vs extrinsic reward]

Ninon bis

To give children skills and knowledge and support to enable them, as much as possible, to choose, in (true) freedom, their individual path to live fulfilled lives by:

  • Not creating a hierarchy between subject matters and types of intelligence.
  • Developing an ability for children to seek intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards.
  • Developing an ability for children to form judgement and seek truth
  • Never forgetting to nourish a sense of awe for the world: approaching all subject matters out of what is beautiful in the world in the broadest sense of the term (including students’ innate goodness and abilities)
  • Finally, by developing an appreciation of our interconnectedness with each other and the planet (and not just with a specific nation or ethnic group).

Richard and Emmanuel

To produce well functioning – productive, law-abiding, well-behaved, happy to go to work – members of society who are prepared for life in professional employment. Nowadays that means children should learn:

  • how to be well socialised,
  • connected to their fellow citizens
  • able to learn and to grow independently for the rest of their lives.

(And the state should not have too much power in education).

Mario

The education system should be adjusted from having an 80% focus on producing good employees to at least a 50% on producing present, mindful human beings that are empowered and enabled to revert our presence to sustainability levels.

Hannes

Education must give us access to our history, enable us to continue progress (knowledge is growing, our abilities are growing as a collective, peace is growing and genuine sustainability) and to find/create our (creative, caring) purpose individually and collectively.

Rufus

To (help) develop human beings who are present and purposeful, who are truly and deeply free(+) and present to their interconnection with others and the planet.

(+) free from attachment, free from craving, ignorance and delusion – in short, awakened or awakening.

Education is deeply important. We believe that the bringing forth of a new human being is one of the most sacred tasks entrusted to a society and that formal education plays a central role in that – and one embedded within the wider context of culture, community and family. As a result we believe that teaching and education are of the greatest importance and prestige in our society.

Ontology: We believe that all humans share “buddha-nature” or “divine love and grace” and at the same time that this nature needs to be cultivated.

Ontogeny: Our nature is like a garden in which many seeds are present including both the useful (flowers) and the less useful (weeds). Some of the flower include mindfulness, love, generosity, curiosity, diligence etc. Some of the weeds include greed, jealousy, sloth, anger etc.

The purpose of education is then to nurture and nourish the growing being, cultivating those seeds that of well-being and wisdom and dis-cultivating (but not fighting or denying) those of unwisdom. It is to produce wise and well beings, who are autonomous and cooperative, creative and diligent, thoughtful and imaginative. We desire education to attend to the “whole” being: body, mind and spirit (well-integrated: left and right, upper and lower brain). Whilst the attainment of the basic mental skills – reading, writing ‘rithemtic etc – is important, indeed essential, we believe that the development of the body, emotions and spirit are equally if not more important.

In terms of learning methods we think that learnings how to learn is more important than learning information,

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