Education Time for a new approach
Is it time education was overhauled from top to bottom? There is plenty of talent devoted to it and many wonderful people dispensing the necessary to pass the Exams and get the Certificate. ‘Qualified’ is a word of such finality that we should always re-qualify it with ”lots more to learn”. What counts is life-long Learning, not life-long Qualifying.
Education is expensive. What does all that money yield in terms of the main objective that education has – a useful, fulfilled, happy life? By some standards it is doing a fine job. Many schools and universities are producing graduates that have achieved this main purpose, mostly within the confines of their syllabi. Often what they have done makes them – at least partly – equipped to earn a living. But does it also make them aware of the wonder of the world, able to appreciate the beauty of almost everything, when looked at correctly, and the comfort of order and good relationships? I don’t think so. Humanities count for little – soon probably for less.
Equipped to earn a living is important but it is only part of most people’s lives. Another part is that aspect of living which differs from income-producing work. New priorities loom larger every day in order to feed the technological revolution that is taking place. Something must give. Surely not our feelings? All literature, art, creativity of any sort is there to stimulate and satisfy natural, human feelings. They are what bring out the best and the worst in us.
The feelings most stimulated in the young today are mostly violence and brutality. They spend a lot of time on their mobile devices. When messages, often of dubious veracity, are exhausted they turn to games of such mind-bending idiocy and such deplorable morality that their view of life can become warped and distorted. To achieve a balance this activity must be countered by behaviour that directs the mind and spirit towards care and love.
To be fair, there are a substantial number of young people who care very much. They are a credit to the upbringing they have had – mostly, but not exclusively, through good parenting. Education has contributed to this, too. For all that, their socialisation at home is often very restricted. Graduates seldom know how to ask questions, how to handle other people, how to prioritise the events in their lives, or to decide what really matters. An exceptional home life can provide them with these things. Unfortunately, only a minority of them get such parenting. The gap between good home life and poor has widened in the last thirty years.
Education was originally discovery. Then it became passing exams – rigid system management bereft of the soft skills of life. Now it has become teachers’ guesses. It needs to get back to discovery. With all the knowledge we have at our disposal, plus its easy availability, we should be leaping ahead and developing human beings of a finer sort. Instead we are developing high quality technologists whose eyes seldom leave a screen and whose appreciation of life is strictly limited, while at the same time producing many frankly indifferent quality lives.
The incidence of artificial stimuli – alcohol, drugs, extreme sex, financial and other gambling, bizarre beliefs, criminal dishonesty – suggests that this is not exclusively the fault of those who succumb to them. A culture of shoddy behaviour can be very self-perpetuating. Bereft of the disciplines and influences of most religious beliefs, the tendency to follow the herd down these slippery slopes is as understandable as it is undesirable. High levels of unhappiness suggest that this is in need of a change.
Altering a culture is a long and difficult process. It requires standards that are developed by good leaders and a freedom of thought directed at higher purposes than hedonism. The failure of education is nowhere better displayed than in the poor quality of leadership we have in the world. There are exceptions, but the quality of most world leaders is now truly shocking.
Life is full of contradictions and the fulfilled, useful life comes at a price many are not today prepared to pay. They have not been taught the rewards of intellectual debate and constructive kindness. There is no overnight remedy for the problem.
But education should be leading the way to a solution.
It is what we pay for.