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The Need for Change in Education

 

 

Our educational system is under stress, with widespread dissatisfaction among all parties -- children, teachers, parents and the public. There are criticisms of performance and learning of children and teachers; of the erosion of values; and of relevancy in changing cultural conditions. Certainly, schools cannot be scapegoated for problems also existing in society but there are also improvements that can restore education to its rightful place. This entails not only providing knowledge and skills for economic success, but also knowledge and skills for life success. What sort of changes might be necessary?

 

First of all, traditional education has overemphasized taking in information, facts and knowledge and under emphasized or ignored the inner knowing that each person possesses. These need to be brought into balance. In today's world there is an overwhelming amount of information and knowledge available. To try to stuff more and more into each person can lead to overload and alienation. Knowledge is consumed but not digested, and can be an extraneous load that is not truly assimilated -- and therefore not as useful as it might be. Education needs to honor and foster the individual's intrinsic sense of interest, of purpose and of knowing. Facts and knowledge have to be related and integrated with one's own values, ideas and goals for the enrichment of each. Without connecting the inner and the outer -- facts and the self who must order and use those facts -- education does not enhance meaning or real fulfillment in life. Without the culture of a conscious self development, education produces technicians but not rounded human beings.

 

The type of thinking that is emphasized in school also needs to be brought into a better balance. We have given undue importance to left brain analytical linear logical thinking, and have not sufficiently valued creative, intuitive, or imaginative faculties. Nor have we adequately cultivated the heart or the spirit. These have an essential place in a holistic education if we are to enhance the overall development of a human being. These latter faculties not only bring in new influxes and syntheses of ideas, but connect them in a larger living context of meaning.

 

Implicit in the above changes is a need for greater emphasis on teaching individuals to psychologically understand themselves and their experience. By understanding oneself, one's abilities, disposition and problems, one may better succeed in the challenges that life offers us. By consciously fostering a positive set of values and principles, children develop the habits that will serve them as responsible and contributing adults. Psychology can now interpret and make understandable many different experiences that heretofore were regarded as outside one's responsibility and control. With the right psychological key, we can unlock our potential and realize a deeper sense of purpose. We can create our destiny. However, without taking the time to work with individuals on basic principles of self understanding, those individuals are hobbled by inner conflicts, dysfunctional assumptions and unconscious negativity that hold back their growth.

 

Another change that can bring education into a better balance, is to increase the practical side of learning by better grounding academic learning with real life in the community. Academic study must be shown in as realistic a form as possible. Experience with the actual activities involved in a profession can not only make the related area of study more interesting but also increase motivation and a more balanced view of things. The whole process would increase responsibility and create better links within one's community. The actual involvement would vary with school age, from simple exposure with young children to collaborative projects and independent studies with older children.

 

Honoring and developing the many facets of our being enriches not only the individual, but the culture of which he is a part. To the extent that someone gives something of value to another, to that extent is it potentially economically remunerative. So we need not fear about "making a living". As we develop the gifts of our creative being by following an intrinsic sense of interest and concern, we may profit in more ways than just self-satisfaction.

 

Transformation in education, therefore, requires a better balance between:

 

Societal values in education and one's inner knowing and innate direction

Outer facts and psychological development of oneself

Analytical thinking and heart centered, intuitive, creative faculties

Individual academic work and practical community involvement

 

 

The limits of secular education and the need for deeper understanding:

In our country, we have the separation of church and state. Education is primarily public or state run so it's focus is the intellectual history and scientific understanding of the world rather than having a religious or metaphysical basis. It's necessary therefore, that we understand the limits of secular education and the need for a deeper understanding that also includes the spiritual dimension.

 

Throughout the course of human history, all peoples and cultures have had religious beliefs not only because because these have seemed necessary to explain the meaning of life abstractly but also to interpret their particular experiences. Because most people have distinct spiritual or paranormal experiences at some points in their life and traditional cultures have probably even been more predisposed to this. These varieties of experience that cannot be explained by science are largely unmentioned let alone analyzed in school or the mainstream media so it's no wonder that someone may question the reality of it all.

 

It's a general fact about human nature that we all have faith. This is directed first of all to believing that our particular personal beliefs are true. Even though on examination we all have different sets of beliefs of often conflicting ideas, nevertheless we think what we know is true. It doesn't make any rational sense, but faith is not rational.

 

Secondly, on analysis we will find that we can't personally substantiate most of what we believe. We are conditioned through many years of childhood development and education to incorporate or internalize the beliefs of the society and family we are raised in. We don't stop to realize that a few hundred years before or after this present moment people had or will have quite different beliefs and vales in many respects and yet each is totally comfortable in the 'rightness' of their present ideas.

 

Thirdly, this latter point refers to the unavoidable human tendency and need to rely on authority for what we know - whether that authority be a parent, friend, teacher, scientist or priest. In our present day society with its emphasis on science, we believe what the scientist tells us is so because we have faith in their authority and ability to empirically know things that are not personally apparent.

 

Likewise, if we realize that science can only know what can be empirically tested, but that most of reality is metaphysical or not susceptible to empirical analysis, then we must also rely on the authority of the spiritual sage who is able to ascertain a spiritual knowing through the agency of meditation and conscious exploration of the inner realms of being and life. The adepts of the East have cultivated the practices of meditation for centuries as we in the West have focused on developing a scientific knowledge of the material world. As a result they have found that metaphysical reality is just as governed by universal law and order as the physical world.

 

However, not all religious ideas are legitimate. Many are man made constructions designed to insure influence by the priestly class or are speculative or superstitious. One has to exercise one's spiritual intuition to discriminate between a more profound spiritual knowing and bogus religious doctrines and rituals. Increasingly we are learning to question our unconscious acceptance of authority and to rely more on our own inner sense to determine what is right. This implies knowing the limits of scientific authority; knowing that we each have the capacity of ascertaining spiritual truth; recognizing that secular education is incomplete; and realizing that many of the politically or culturally correct ideals and values have only limited validity.

 

We be satisfied with the status quo knowledge of our secular culture, and to be open to ideas 'outside the box'.  I have found that the most profound ideas extant today are not even talked about in academia. Religious ideas are difficult to adjust to for those raised in a secular culture, however. Buddhism is a little easier because the approach is more psychological. Each person has to take their own path of exploration.