Originally published in the Winter 2019-20 issue of the "Open Connections Magazine"
I have come to think of what we call education is far from what lies beneath the surface of almost every discussion today about matters pertaining to that term. When people talk about education; when they say things like, “You’ve got to get a good education if you want a good job,” or “you’ve got to study hard to get a good education,”“everyone is offered a good education in our township/school district,” they are reflecting a mindset that, in my mind, is highly problematic and which will keep us from seeing any substantial improvements in what is called education today.
My preferred definition of education is that it is a process far more than a product, and an internal process at that. Thus, education occurs between the ears of the learner. It is represented by the connection-making process that is reflected in their thinking. Can they think in a logical and orderly manner, distinguishing facts from opinion, what is provable versus what they wish were true? Can they identify goals, then calculate the steps needed to achieve said goals and follow through with them as planned or, better still, make the necessary adjustments when unforeseen obstacles arise that require an amendment to the original plan? When faced with an unfamiliar circumstance, or one that has resisted solutioning not only from oneself but perhaps from everyone who has tried to address it before, can they “think outside the box” and, perhaps in collaboration with others, come up with a whole new way of approaching the situation as well as a novel solution for moving forward?
On the contrary, does someone either use facts selectively or distort them to support an argument or a plan of action that is hurtful or disrespectful of others? Does he/she/they make decisions that consistently make things worse, not better, for themselves and the world at large simply because they emphasize convenience or short-term satisfaction? Does one show the ability to collaborate for positive results for all, rather than compete at the expense of both self and others in the longer term? Where is there an understanding of probability, the awareness of frequency and intensity when deciding what is important to attend to?
Experiences and interactions with the world that improve our abilities to think in these ways are, in my mind, educational. Those that favor rote memorization and regurgitation, or which foster reactionary responses, biases, blind allegiance, resistance to reconsideration, self-centeredness and other anti-social and self-limiting behaviors are just the opposite. They are anti-educational.
And therein lies my answer to the question, “Why are you so opposed to traditional schooling?” It is because forced, uninvited instruction—most especially when it interferes with constructive thinking—lies at the heart of what is most troubling about our way of treating young people today. We are interfering with the natural development of healthy thinking. It does not bode well for the future. The good news is, we know the solution: give them the time and space, the opportunity and the resources, to develop the way that nature has intended (and prepared) them to do. Open Connections does just that.