“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey
Over years we’ve seen so much change and “developed” in front of our eyes, almost uncontrollably, moving in chaotic directions. Our idea of development is linear and moves in a logic-based environment. To keep up with the times, our education system also develops this linearity, curbing creativity and thus hampering experiences. While storage moved from floppies to cloud, communication moved from posts to chats, a regular classroom today almost seems almost identical to those we started off with.
In a world where the economy is the primary fuel for survival, every economy in the world ultimately strives for one thing – a monetarily richer society. In a larger span of time, the monetary becomes momentary in the overall richness of human kind.
Education should be a medium to conserve this richness and allow it to reproduce in unexpected territories through evolving pathways.
Instruction & Instinct
The very foundation of our knowledge is based on imitation from the point we are born. Young child’s ability to imitate the actions of others is an important mechanism for social learning and acquiring new knowledge. Imitation is a form of social learning that leads to the development of traditions and ultimately our culture. It allows for the transfer of information [behaviours, customs, etc.] between individuals and down generations without the need for genetic inheritance. This quality of imitation, when adapted into the traditional education system, often transforms itself into an instruction.
“If we want to understand why standard schools are what they are, we have to abandon the idea that they are products of logical necessity or scientific insight. They are, instead, products of history. Schooling, as it exists today, only makes sense if we view it from a historical perspective.” – Peter Gray
With the dawn of consumerism and industrialism through the agricultural revolution, mass production has become a way of life. This extends to how we educate ourselves to become a cog in this machine. Before this, children educated themselves for thousands of years largely based on their instincts. With the rise of agriculture, and later of industry, children became forced labourers.
Play and exploration were suppressed. Wilfulness, which had been a virtue, became a vice that had to be beaten out of children. Education started being understood as an inculcation of various ideas that were forced upon children to build a certain form of culture. A sense of automation became a norm that, till today, is hard to break out of.
Man the Player
“Play is older than culture. Culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.” – Johan Huizinga
In the book ‘Homo Ludens’, J. Huizinga identifies a significant aspect of play to be ‘fun’ and the five characteristics it must entail are:
Play is free, is in fact freedom.
Play is not “ordinary” or “real” life.
Play is distinct from “ordinary” life both as to locality and duration.
Play creates order, is order. Play demands order absolute and supreme.
Play is connected with no material interest; no profit can be gained from it.
The evolution of mankind has led to a stagnation of education with the lack of play. Approaches like Montessori, Waldorf, Harkness Table, Reggio Emilia, Sudbury Philosophy, are some alternative methods of teaching that developed out of different localised reasons and have been successfully applied across the globe. With the broad aim to break the classroom-teacher-student dynamic into an environmental sensory immersion, these alternative approaches focus on play to disseminate experiential learning.
Fear & Freedom
Intuitively, we played for pleasure and we played to survive. The sense of fear is formed through social and cultural conditioning that one faces over the period of their lives. As children, some fears absorb into us to manipulate our personalities into becoming part of a particular society.
Our education system instils a sense of fear through competition, disappointment, exemplification, failure and various other underlying factors.
Most of us spend our lives in the fear if our knowledge and skills are going to be enough for us to survive in this mechanised world. Children of tomorrow are being raised, to be ready for this world as we know it, but not also to be happy, satisfied and thriving individuals. Through an instructional process, fear is instilled and through an instinctual one, freedom exists.
Man the Balance
Over centuries we have built and improvised our educational systems to the current standards. This implies that this system works to create a certain output in the world as a whole and societies at a cultural level. The world we live in today is built on our education system and it is magnificent. The one thing missing is a balance.
“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.” – Rabindranath Tagore
With the scale at which the world has grown in the past century, one must reimagine the possibilities and capabilities of education as a way of life and not just a means to an end. The combination of both traditional and alternative approaches, customised to each individual, would be an ideal learning environment for all ages. Creating this balance requires a drastic change in global goals and a mass realisation of the interconnected nature of all our systems.
Evolution is a process of change, caused by individual changes that bring about a larger spiral of change to affect the entire population. This change then affects each individual, forming gradual developments at various mental and physical levels. For education to be effective, it needs to evolve with time while adapting through space. For evolution to be effective, we need to stay truly educated of our surrounding and immersed in our immediate and imaginary environments.
“Change is the end result of all true learning.”
– Leo Buscaglia