Quite recently a question went viral. Ask not in school: “what do you want to become?” It’s better to ask: “What problem do you want to solve?” And then help the students develop to become part of the solution they see. Here’s some ideas for education that helps to do just that. Full force!
- Students should learn to help solve global issues, not just how fill job gaps of destructive corporations that created the problems.
- Students should learn to develop inner leadership, and explore their greatest talents, not just score against the same norm as everyone.
- Students should learn for and about life as a whole (like regret of the dying), develop critical & systems thinking and community skills.
- Students should develop wisdom through dialogue, not just the capability to echo requested facts in tests.
- Students should play and mess around with their own big questions and not put under pressure to please a f#*ed up system, that currently destroys our eco-systems.
When we admit the our global society needs to shift, or we long for it, then education is a cornerstone towards the new. Education that trains people to be blind about the consequences of their actions is downright dangerous, or just work hard for a boss, without seeing what you actually do. Climate change and ecological collapse are happening! Yet hope for change is low when untold millions have no real clue, what their actions lead to, and lack the curiosity to develop it. It did work within the old context and order of the world. Needs and context however have changed so much, that we need to alter our course fast. The survival of our species is at stake, wars may be prevented, scarcity avoided, madness and maniacism* overcome. It needs to step away from simple professional preparation to fulfill a job within a company. To do so education needs to level up. That should include being able the challenge the current destructive system, that includes systemic racism and unregulated planetary destruction. Because we seem unable to do it ourselves. Can we help them to challenge us, as our ‘safe’ bubbles* are falling apart, through fires, floods, economic collapse & pandemics. (*the safe bubbles probably most people reading this experienced, but the majority of the world never had.)
Firstly education is about survival within the world and social context . The next level is that the education helps you to contribute to life and your social context. The next level is to help both flourish. Here’s how and why.
“Earth is a spaceship and we are all crew.”
The danger of only contextual education.
The Capitalistic convictions believe that we need to compete to improve. But real improvement starts when we start working together from the conviction ‘We are all society together.’ Working hard for your company and being a crew member of earth may or may not be the same thing. You have to know. Education should train us to be able to make the distinction and if necessary act upon it. Laws should protect actions against unethical practices within companies. Higher, much higher than organizational interests should rank the health and future of us all.
Old Education trained people to work within the bigger context of jobs, contracts and orders. People were mostly trained on only one level. How to work with methods, approaches and a professional attitude that operated within your own professional zone of choice? They often are hardly aware of how they are part of a huge ecosystem, and if their role within it is that of help or disease. Many jobs are like cancer cells helping a cancer to grow without restraint.
‘Wir haben er nicht gewusst’ said many Germans after World War II when asked about the death camps that killed millions. We more or less seem to say ‘We don’t want to know.’ or perhaps ‘I am but one. And I have my own life to lead as well. So I can’t make a difference, sorry.’ Should we train people to speak and act like this? Or should we train them to feel they do have options and powers? And have a different attitude? Critical thinking and social courage are becoming more and more essential.
How education should level up.
How to raise education from level one to level two and ultimately to level three? Firstly young people need to be trained to think more critically towards media, and way more aware about the bigger eco-systems they are part of. And the need to be trained to be more physical, to feel more alive, conscious and intuitive. It is our senses that must be awakened as fully as possible. For when they are truly awake, they make a jump. They go from personal mode to social mode.
Education should train openness, awareness and understanding. And how these interact. Many of us feel hurt and pain, when we see huge trees chopped down, animals die, people executed, suffer disease or hunger. This pain is normal and healthy. We should not be trained to ignore or overcome it. We should be trained to allow the hurt, for we are truly hurt, and learn how act upon it. This is where Buddhist compassion meets Western education, mixed with social activism, mixed with the global awareness of our connectedness ‘We are all society, and the world, together.’
The 2020 protests against systemic racism show how hurt needs to be exposed before it can be addressed. Thus we need hurt to surface, and be listened to, instead of ‘manning children up’ which leads too many suicides even. And believe me, those that ‘step out’ are the sensitive souls we need to embrace. These people are not weak. They tell, what the closed of ears of the corporate machine doesn’t want to hear, for it might hinder production.
Secondly the deepest root possible to education might be looking at the regrets of the dying. ‘Nobody says I wished I would’ve worked harder.’ They long to have lived truer to themselves, having had deeper connections. Thus that is what education should help prepare for: a life without regrets. Having been twice on intensive care, I can attest to living fully; choosing your own path and seeking deep connections is so beautiful. Close to death I felt very calm and just wished my friends would have been there. No regrets at all. What a wealth. And to get there I followed a very unconventional path in (self) education after my teens, breaking down barriers the traditional education had left on me. And it gave me the bravery to challenge the way it currently is.
The New Educational Tree
How should this new approach of education work?
Any education should educate on all three next levels, apart and in relationship to each other. And they should do so not only through traditional means of transferring knowledge. They should also use the other five approaches of learning that encompass the whole human experience. We are human. We are part of a huge eco-system. We should feel, experience, learn to contribute to that system and help it to flourish. Here a very individual approach, or learning journey and very personal gifts developed actually will let people in their differences flourish more, enrich society with diversity and make many more people feel special in what they can do and offer to the world.
Level I: Physical aliveness and consciousness. (Heart)
Being alive in your body and soul is essential for people who care, who want to contribute fully and who can feel the pain when their society or organization is sick. To thrive in complexity and chaos you’ll need a develop intuition too. This level of education should include dancing, sports, physical theatre and also shamanic body training, to develop intuition and deeper senses. We need to be able to read undercurrents in groups, conversations and be able to respond adequately to them. We need inner balance and strength to not being misused. We need to be in touch with love, to make choices that help the world around us to flourish. We need experiences that help students find their own answers about their own place in the world, not the scripted ‘right answer’.
Level II: Instrumental and professional capability and contribution. (Hands)
Next to all normal professional learnings, we need new skills. Information will almost be freely available, so knowing how to find information is more important than knowing all the facts. New professional skills should include being able to adapt to changes in an increasingly complex world. To deal with this we propose tools like Deep Democracy to Hackaton. From Personal Professional Tools to Collaboration Skills and Ongoing Innovation to Critical Thinking Possibilities to challenge frozen or damaging structures in your work field, and have ways to radically change or innovate your job or profession to new needs and demands.
This aspect also needs to include practical daily awareness of the professional context. Many artists learn to paint, but somehow dealing with galleries and art dealers is often forgotten. Lawyers & doctors and many others should also know to set up a practice, and how the daily affairs of those can be managed most effective and humane. All professions need to be aware and educated about mannerism, culture and context in which they are executed.
Level III: Holistic oversight, deep system insight, global understanding. (Head)
This is about the holistic overview and systems thinking. This is about scientific understanding of the whole
system we are part of called Earth (including natural processes, society, history, eco sphere, etc) and this is about spiritual essences that give meaning to the human experience, that touch upon deeper values and principles that permeate everything. Any school, country may have different visions about these values and principles, still we see this is where religions and native tribal understanding meet and thus contribute to and conflate with each other. They need to understand what their professional work contributes to, how if fits in the bigger system. Here’s a link to a TEDx talk I did on this.
The Five Essential Approaches for Learning in a complex world.
There is something big at stake. Wildlife on our planet is dying like crazy. Forest and clean water are reduced every day. The state of our planet needs people who are more aware of their role in the bigger picture. We need people better at listening to their deeper selves and more willing to live their individual path and the contribution to our world that rises from this. They need to be able to answer questions like: How to act responsible within a complexity? How to thrive within chaos? Here we find that essential approaches in many traditions in the world offer corner stones to what education should encompass to help people grow towards these new realities we can’t fully predict yet.
To grow on each of these levels and to be able to see how they interact we need five aspects at play in each of the levels. New Shift Education should be designed to have these five elements at play within each of the levels.
Play: Natures way to educate mammals in a fully integrated and immersed way.
Playing is what nature developed as the fastest, most integral, biological sound way to learn. The ability to play should not in any way be hampered by educational systems. Play is serious as hell. And way deeper, offering faster more progress than any other form of learning. The only problem, problem for control freaked systems that is, is that you can’t measure progress because too many things are being learned at the same time on many levels. Isn’t that the kind of learning you really want? Play unleashes the body and helps it to sense way better than only information can. It helps to smell, feel, cope, endure, express, move, in order to become healthy, free, adaptive in many ways. Link to much more on the power of Play.
Wisdom: The capability to reason from the essence of what it is truly about.
Most schools stop with knowledge and a reasonable amount of insight. We think each of the three levels above needs to go from obtaining knowledge, to getting insight and experience and then seeking wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to connect important questions with inner sensitivity, former experiences, a multifold of perspectives and options and then choosing a win/win/win proposition, for yourself, the clients or people in need and the whole world.
We should learn people to be critically aware how their society operates. To learn them what role they play, are expected to play. We should teach them they do have a choice, as much as the whole society has a choice. It’s all a huge dance and we, the living, are all invited. Learn our children to dance with the world as it is, not to dance to the tunes of those that have interests in what children become and no interest in who they really are. How difficult can that be? In fact the health of our whole world may depend on it.
Art: Become fully human in your expression and what is essential.
Art is the deepest possible expression of our connections and state of being. It is the expression of our nature and being. It is the key to our imagination and the field of potentiality. It helps everyone of us to get a clearer sight of what we essentially contribute, how our personal gift works and how it influences others. Art, like play, helps to develop both brain sides better and faster. Art helps to be more nuanced and more observant. Art helps to develop the small motor skills and the grand gesture. Art helps to understand how we all are very different and the value in that. Art can even help to develop engineering skills and the patience needed for hard work. And perhaps most of all, art helps to become imaginative, to dream and fantasize. For if we can and dare to dream beyond our personal horizon, it also becomes more easy to be in touch with the whole world and see what is happening there, and how that relates to our personal life. Thus art is not only art, but also conscious manipulation or expression of reality in any form.
Nature: What we are part of and the essence of what keeps us alive.
We are part of nature and should not only understand our part in it, but also feel it. Many people who really observed nature in a deep attentive way, whether they’d be scientists, bush men, guides or bird spotters, found deep insights and meaning through their connection with nature. Taking time for stillness, observation, being in and interacting with nature are key elements of a personal development that is integrated in our whole world, not only your local society (city). We are natural beings and our whole biology is build for interaction with nature. Mental diseases, loneliness, stress, disconnectedness all might stem from our lack of contact with nature. One key lesson Capitalism got wrong and nature right is:
Collective: We are all one society.
It’s important to emphasize that for every human it is essential to understand that we are part of something bigger than family, city, nation or race. We are part of a bigger whole which influences us in many ways and on which each of us will leave it’s mark. And it’s our responsibility that each student considers what kind of mark that they would like that to be.
The collective means more than team, it means the whole school, tribe, or even local community. It is within the collective that our special role becomes visible, can be trained or play tested. We can also use the community or organizations around the school for action learning. Get students, of whatever age do some real work for real people. It not only enhances their skills, it also improves self worth and motivation towards further learnings. And they get a real sense what they are doing it for, and what they need to become professional at it. Consider cooperative and democratic education, where everyone learns and runs the school together. Isn’t it the most trust you can ever give a child, to make it co- responsible for its own whole school?
NOTE: You may have noticed there is no mention of new technologies whatsoever, yet to us, this is fully integrated into the needs, tools, and methods that are the adequate responses to he dominant environment. Yet we also need to develop the stance that the current environment can’t be taken for granted. The world is changing too fast and if conflicts within nature and societies are not resolved huge new problems will endanger untold lives. We must prepare our children for this if we are honest.
How the five elements unfold all of being human in work, life and community.
Many essential topics and learnings arise from fruitful combinations of these essential aspects.
For instance: between Nature and Play lies Body. Physical Consciousness, from basic health rules, to deep intuition is essential to create a culture of aliveness and raise humans who cannot be taken for a ride, yet will seek to contribute to the larger whole in their own way. I think such an outcome will much more, than most businesses who fear independent workers, lead to astonishing economical flourishing. Why? Because the more we are all involved and engaged at our best, the more profit the whole must receive. This goes from personal health (less burn outs, diseases, depressions, etc) to personal purpose (employees seeking to make their company and their work meaningful) And about those (companies) that resist this idea: are they the companies we truly need around in their current form?
Integral understanding as the outcome of art and wisdom, may mean that through art we can learn to express the ambiguity or the multi facetted face of reality. Many great artists are still relevant because they have been able to phrase deep human essentials in one image, poem or other work of art. To try to do the same is not only an education in art, it is about learning to deal with complex realities and being able a express deeper sense or meaning about it. This is both important when one wants to become fully human, and it may also be essential in large organizations to be clearly understood, like with the power of a cartoon, that reveals the hidden problem. Another example would be (technical) innovation. This gains much strength from the combination between art and nature. Many engineers daily wonder how solutions from nature can be reproduced in technical ways.
And should this article be the basis for a new method with clear new goals? Hell no. Since contexts, cultures differ, children differ in many different ways. I think we need to find the special gift in each of them, and find the way in shines strongest in their context and/or in the world. No reason to prepare everyone for a job, as some people are such cornerstones as ‘crazies’, artists, volunteers. No need to push everyone being at the same level all the time, as this amazingly good and essential article shows. Many aspects can be learned from indigenous voices and from our own longings for a life of meaning and fulfillment.
Whatever you take out of this proposal and these views: “Help start building for a future we don’t know yet.” (to paraphrase sir Ken Robinson) Good luck and let me know what can be added to this idea. Or want to experience how this can work in practice, as within Knowmads and my trainings I work with this. :)
Overview of my recent educational innovation: https://medium.com/the-gentle-revolution/you-are-a-movement-8d119ecb7b76#.c63pa557y
Lessons on Learning from Nature
Learning is a very natural thing. Sadly many educations aren’t helping learning. They make it more unnatural it seems…
And this blogpost by Christopher Chase describes very clear, how we got this damaged current system, and with what reasons your children are being socialized, rather than educated.
This one explores the power of art even more. But just search each item on Google and you’ll find many ways to enrich students through it in education.
And if you want to support this new paradigm, then check here how you can help.
*) Maniacism; The blind result oriented kind of capitalism, that one dimensionally seeks money and for this eats natural resources, depletes forests and seas and turns the world into a wasteland of industrial garbage or plastic soup.