“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” (Albert Einstein).
Today’s schools do not engage in real, substantive edification. Instead, schools today provide children with the tools needed for college admittance, while forcing them to memorize mammoth amounts of material. The greatly needed and desired edification that our educational systems once promised is almost completely nonexistent.
The essence of edification demands of us to teach a child how to be truly human, how to cope with life, how to succeed, and most importantly, how to be truly happy. The largest national student survey, “What Students think,” published November 2008 by the American research company, Pearson, and the Quagila Institute, determined that only a third of the students in the United States think that lessons from school help them understand their daily lives better.
Perhaps this is why children do not relate well to what they learn at school, and go to school hoping more for the end of the school day, rather than eagerly anticipating the next new learning adventure. As is the way with children, they are far more developed than the previous generations. Our children today are living and breathing the global world, while we try to force them into the frame of mind that prevailed in our past generation’s world of separatism.
Rather than continuing this compulsion to preserve decayed educational models, our educational systems must shift course in order to help children acquire the social skills needed to overcome the alienation, suspicion, and mistrust that abound in today’s society.
This does not mean that we should cease providing children with necessary knowledge, but what it does mean is that the lessons must become a part of a complete program whose goal is to help children understand how to use knowledge to their benefit once they leave the classroom.
For example: To make a subject like biology most applicable to today’s integral world, we can use it to illustrate and explain the interdependence among cells in an organism or in any other natural system, then link these natural systems to today’s human society and compare the knowledge gained from Nature to societal constructs in our world. In a subject like history, we can show how the human ego is positively prompting us toward great achievements and the development of exciting technologies, and yet through man’s misuse of the ego, it is the cause of the wars and tragedies that have befallen us through history.
Through the topic of geography we can discuss globalization and present the intricate and expansive ties among the countries. By presenting subjects such as these in ways that clearly demonstrate our globalized world, children will easily understand that we are all completely interdependent, and that this interdependence is a positive evolutionary result flowing directly from the laws of Nature. Regarding the popular topic of sports, we can utilize the concepts found in team games to provide children with profound understanding through the advantages of cooperation and teamwork, further illustrating the fun and positive aspects of our mutual interdependence.
Alongside these measures, I suggest adding to the school curricula several hours a week revolving around the topic that interests the students most: themselves. This will include answering common questions such as “Why do I need to go to school?” This will help to explain the child’s emotional structure—the source of their cravings and the impulses that arise in them. We need to teach them how to overcome the ego that exists in everyone and separates us, and we need to dedicate a significant amount of time for focused engagement on the children themselves.
Clearly, this entire process must include ample games, video clips, and all types of examples. Additionally, it must match the intellectual level and pace of 21st century children. Aside from the ordinary subjects, schools should include practical training in the subjects that truly interest children: Internet, music, photography, cinema, writing, graphics, etc.
Yet still, there is something far more fundamental that needs to be changed in the today’s education system. Currently, the system encourages students to succeed alone and to compete against others. This methodology causes students to not only want to succeed, but inevitably makes them want their peers to fail. This approach, rooted in them since childhood, is directly responsible for (among other things) the financial crisis we are currently experiencing, and will accompany them for the rest of their lives.
To raise a generation with a mode of conduct that matches the integral systems of Nature, the classroom must be turned into a mini-society, where each student feels and understands his or her profit from contributing to the success of the entire society (i.e. the class). A class will be given collective grades and exercises, and each of the students will be allowed to contribute to the grade in the area that best suits the student’s natural skills and budding self-expression. Thus, students will recognize and feel that they have a special role and duty in the overall success. The class will become a small family where everyone feels naturally connected and interdependent.
The wisdom of the educator lies in the ability to turn the class into a society of children that continually affects each of its members positively, while the educator remains “in the background” as a guide. Such an approach to education will make the educator far more significant in the eyes of the children, not through control or dominance, but because of the wisdom and life-skills that he or she provides them, making the true edification of the children come into reality.