Education’s greatest pitfall should be its greatest strength
When I was young, I never found school interesting enough, so I read other books that I (actually) found interesting. The linear education model is broken.
In late 2006, I was an unassuming young sixth grader. At the time, everyone on the news was stressing over Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” You might know a little bit about it.
We did not often talk about this climate crisis in school. In fact, I do not believe that the climate crisis came up in any conversations. I had History, Math, English, Science, and Religion classes. In none of them did we talk about renewable energy or the climate crisis.
I said to myself, “What is this climate stuff everyone is talking about? Why would a guy make a documentary about it? If this is a problem, why is no one trying to solve it?”
Because none of my teachers engaged us in climate change discussion and it was not taught in schools, I did some research on my own.
This climate change stuff was a clear and straight forward problem.
A finite amount of fossil fuels = a finite amount of time before that runs out + no complete solution to circumvent this problem = death for the power grid, the world and life as we know it.
In all my years of teenagerdom, this was the only thing that made sense. Without the world changing course to renewables, we would drive ourself into a dystopian hell.
To understand this “climate crisis,” I perused articles that talked about the impending shortage of fossil fuels and non-renewables. I became fascinated with solar energy and photovoltaics.
It was an inclination my school should have encouraged. However, there was no curriculum to support individualized learning and exploration.
My curiosity only needed some encouragement. Because school didn’t give it to me, I had to.
Before this, I did not have any noticeable interests. I had a very linear education up until this point. I was in the same school with the same kids in the same place. Once I decided to explore interests on my own, I became a totally different person. Self-learning was my only option. By exploring my own interests and making my own observations, my learning became much more organic.
Most schools don’t teach you about the difference between GaAs and Silicon solar cells — but they should if you want them to.
Linear vs. Organic Education
Traditional education goes like this: if you want to succeed then everybody should complete these sequential elements. If you do everything right, you will have a great life. This is a factory model of education.
Traditional education rewards conformity.
However, and organic model of education is very different. Since life itself is organic, organic education works much better. Human society depends on a diversity of talent and ability. In a linear “one size fits all” system, we are not training future generations for the diversity of problems that they will encounter.
The climate crisis and the education crisis are very much the same thing. The climate crisis is a shortage of natural resources. Moreover, the education crisis is a shortage of human resources and potential. They are very similar. In both situations, you have to dig deep to find what you are looking for. You also have to create an environment that promotes flourishing.
I echo Sir Ken Robinson when I say that within the next fifty years, we need to experience a revolution (not an evolution) in these two systems.
Too many people go through their lives not finding pleasure in what they do. They wait for the weekend to arrive. On the other hand, there are people that love what they do. If you told these people to stop their work, they would not because that is who they are. Since they are passionate about what they do, they do not wait for the time to expire.
We need more people in the world who find what they are passionate about early in life. If you do not find what your passionate about until age 40, you are severely limiting your potential. Likewise, our education model promotes this behavior. People who lack motivation, direction and passion because they never found what set their heart on fire.
To really transform things, we need to develop an education system that promotes curiosity, exploration and non-conformity. If we are to meet or exceed the needs of the 22nd century, then we cannot continue to rely on a factory model of education. In order to change it, we need an organic education system. A system that is not based on sequential events. A system where every path is personalized to allow the student to explore and develop his or her interests. The only way to diversify education’s output is to throw out the “one size fits all” model. To really fix the world, we need people who love what they’re doing. We need people who don’t drift through life wondering who they really are and what they should do. Exploration and curiosity aided and promoted by schools is the only alternative.
Because my school never promoted exploration and curiosity early on, I was left to explore the world on my own time. Most kids do not have this realization or do not have the environment that will foster this kind of realization.
Since I had the opportunity to be curious, I found out my true self and passions very early on. More people need to experience this, or we are headed towards a very dim future.
Education’s greatest pitfall is that it does not promote individualized study and curiosity into subjects that schools do not teach. A factory education model does not provide the diversity of talents and passions that we need for the 22nd century. Likewise, the climate crisis is very similar. If we do not change things, we are headed towards a very dim future. Let’s change things.
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