Genius!

Genius!

Everybody is born with a genius inside of them waiting to come out. To help everyone find and bring out their inner genius is how education began and what the role of education should be.  This can be seen in the origins of the latin word educere– to lead out.  The worlds of science and psychology have shown conclusively that we are not born as empty slates, everyone is born with a gift they bring to this world.  The question of education is whether or not our system succeeds in helping people to find their gift and to nurture it.

Overwhelmingly, the answer is emphatically “No.”

Even those who feel we benefitted from our education can probably count good teachers on one hand. Conversely, it’s impossible to place a number on all the hours wasted in studying boring topics and trying to retain useless facts

The Prussian education system, the one we have inherited from our recent past, was created to fulfil two particular purposes:

  1. To develop a more obedient populace.
  2. To produce human resources to feed the industrial revolution.

Using principles derived from Pavlov’s experiments with salivating dogs, as well as other animal experiments with rats, a system of bells and alarms with accompanying rewards and punishments was introduced in order to train generations of obedient automatons who were intended to become replaceable cogs for an industrial machine.

No parent in their right mind would simply wish this alone for their child.  Obviously, parents hope for their children to acquire transferable skills they can use in the marketplace to increase the probability of survival.  Undeniably, the roles of many traditional academic skills will continue to have value. However, modern classrooms are ignoring a plenitude of skills that today’s children desperately require.

As we stand facing one of the most exciting periods of history, the survival of the human project literally hangs in the balance, along with the destiny of countless other species in what has already been alarmingly described as a major mass extinction event.

The ability of individuals to clearly observe and analyse their environment has never been more urgent. Having observed what is required of them, the ability to then cooperatively formulate plans to achieve those goals becomes paramount.  Individuals need to be able to acquire and develop whatever skills are necessary to bring their immediate projects to completion.

The old education system is woefully equipped to nurture the development of the talents young people must establish if they are to thrive during what has been described as the third industrial revolution.

It is not at all clear whether humanity is perched on the precipice of self-destruction or about to make an incredible evolutionary leap forward into a world of human self-determination and planetary cooperation, previously inconceivable.

Are we about to witness the end of dictatorships, tyranny, and monopoly?  Certainly, the move towards decentralisation of production, power, finance and knowledge all seems well underway.  This final element, knowledge, shows how clearly the top down system of curriculae currently masquerading as the education system is ill-placed to be able to meet the varying needs, interests and demands of students.

Compulsory education has absolutely sabotaged the joy of learning for its own pleasure.  We learn to walk and talk as infants because there is nothing more exciting than acquiring new skills.  Being compelled to learn removes all the joy and pleasure from it for teacher and student alike.  If teachers are forced to teach and students are forced to learn, the beauty of these reciprocal relationships are poisoned and transformed into ordeals where compliance and tolerance become operative words.

Freeing education from the constraints of compulsion means that the pleasure of learning can once again rule the classroom.

Alternatives

So what are the alternatives to the Prussian model of state-sanctioned education?

  1. Homeschooling– although this can allow children to have some autonomy over their learning preferences, it’s notoriously difficult to provide the variety of inputs and the degree of support that schools can offer.The diversity of people students be exposed to is often extremely limited.
  2. Steiner/Montessori/forest schools – there’s enormous value in the educational approaches of these different philosophies and its perhaps unfair to lump them together. One characteristic they tend to share though is an almost religious adherence to principles that were not born of this time leading to an inflexibility and slow adaptation.
  3. Democratic Schools – Summerhill is still one of the leading lights of democratic education following Tolstoy’s example where students’ paths are self-determined bringing an entirely rejuvenated atmosphere to the school environment.
  4. Lumiar/Ad Astra– a new generation of school where technology, learning autonomy and environmental awareness are integrated into an absorbing learning process. Initiated by leading lights Ricardo Semler and Elon Musk, both schools implement new exciting approaches that students and teachers love.

Out of all of these approaches, the last two represent a genuine revolution in education.  In both of these models, children have to be wrenched from the classroom at the end of the day and often mourn the arrival of their school holidays.  Does this sound anything like your experience of education?

So why, in an aspirational town like Brighton, where there’s an incredible diversity of intelligent individuals who are ready to embrace new ways of doing things, do we not have an alternative educational resource which is geared to equipping our young people with the passion and determination to forge onwards to the better world our hearts tell us is possible?

For as long as humans have walked the earth, our ancestors have travailed under the most arduous circumstances to bring us to where we are today.  Our ancestors gave all that they had to create the incredible world we have inherited.  To honour our human story, it’s down to us to pick up the torch and pass it on to future generations.

The term paradigm shift is almost off-putting because it’s been so inappropriately used to describe incremental modifications to old systems.

However, the educational paradigm shift we’ve been calling for has been initiated in multiple places and now been shown to work effectively. 

The time has come to put this into practice in our locality and we’re looking for parents who are ready to do things differently.

On a personal note:

Having worked in schools across the region in recent years, I’ve seen the dismal state of contemporary education first-hand.  Even in schools which were supposedly doing well, the transferral of knowledge and information was largely impeded by the school and not facilitated.  The culture of schools has become so rotten, there is simply no further means to rescue them.

The issue of classroom management has become one of the main causes of stress for teachers and students alike and perhaps the most significant barrier to learning in the classroom.  We all know the adage “it only takes one”.  Even in schools where a vetting process can select students, children often find themselves at school not really knowing why they’re there.  This is a travesty.

The compulsion for attendance at school removes the choice that would allow students and teachers to vote with their feet.  The amount of time wasted by trying to engage students in things they only feel vaguely interested is ridiculous.  Teachers, faced with a generation with arguably the shortest attention span ever, are competing with the gadgets in their pockets to occupy the decreasing bandwidth of attention.  Added to this are the demands of a top-down curriculum which impedes the provision of content that students find stimulating. 

Today, it is nearly impossible for students to be suspended, expelled or even removed from a classroom. Working as a “Classroom Assistant” at one point, although really a role better described as personal prison officer, psychiatric nurse and educational shadow, it was once my role to ensure a child remained in the classroom regardless of their feelings or temperament. This child with whom I was forced to sit would sometimes arrive at school having been beaten by single parent arriving from a chaotic household where there was no love, time or attention beyond punishment and being chastised.  It was understandable that he didn’t want to sit down, shut up and listen to someone droning on about a subject they were only half-interested in themselves. 

Because integration has become a goal to be met at any cost, it is simply impossible, from a political and philosophical perspective, that the school should provide alternatives for the many children who found themselves escorted through the day by non-stop security measures.

The closure of psychiatric units and special schools has meant that mainstream schools have been accommodated children whose needs are so great and so specific that they can seriously side-track a class of thirty children in their progress.  Neither the one nor the thirty are served by this arrangement.  The problem is not the desire to integrate special needs into the classroom, the problem emerges from trying to get everyone to do the same thing at the same time in the same place.

The same thing happens on our roads: everyone must move from place to place at the same time via the same limited network… what do we get?  Traffic jams.

The network of learning suffers similar traffic jams.

There’s no longer any need for a teacher to stand at the front of a classroom and disseminate information in a plenary style.  Learners can find the information they need when they want it and work on projects which stimulate their interest.  Schools where project-based learning is embedded into self-organisational structures create a thrilling learning environment for everyone.

The whole problem with modern education is a management issue.  In the same way that it was impossible for communist governments to manage their industrial economies, learning requires a free-market of ideas where supply and demand is left to the individual nodes in the network.

When we apply any kind of educational philosophy top-down, we invariably fail to meet the needs of individuals.

Every school in the country has a long list of SENs and other “Classroom Assistants” whose remit is to try and encourage learning in the classroom.

“We are in an age that assumes that the narrowing trends of specialization to be logical, natural, and desirable… In the meantime, humanity has been deprived of comprehensive understanding. Specialization has bred feelings of isolation, futility, and confusion in individuals. It has also resulted in the individual’s leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others. Specialization breeds biases that ultimately aggregate as international and ideological discord, which in turn leads to war.” Buckminster Fuller

There’s possibly no need to present any further arguments to convince you that your children deserve better, you either get it or you don’t.

We organise events to help develop the community of parents who want the best in alternative education – or more precisely – real education.

There’s not a crisis in education but multiple crises. 

  1. The compulsory aspect of education which makes slaves of children.
  2. Curriculum requirements which negate the curiosity of learners.
  3. The idea that education is a school’s responsibility.

 

Parents hold the keys to an effective school.

There is an attitude adopted by many parents: a presumption of adulthood and maturity.  The biological process that precedes the arrival of children does not an adult make.  In a culture where we have become largely infantilised by the state, by our educational systems and the dumbing down of a culture at large, we would be very presumptuous to assume that we know much about what it is to be sane in a world that seems progressively insane.

Our culture also suffers from a lack of responsibility taken by parents to educate their children in the attitudes necessary for a rounded and responsible individual.  By assuming that the school will shoulder the lion’s share of their upbringing, combined with a reluctance to reprimand their children and accept the challenge that errant behaviour presents, enormous numbers of people leave the education as children, unprepared and unqualified for the life of a responsible adult.

It is, in fact, the responsibility of adults to rob children of their childhood, to destroy their innocence by exposing them to the world in as unfiltered way as possible.  How many of us remember the shock of realising that the world was far from the Disneyland version presented to us in our infancy.

Combined with the complete absence of rites of passage, the preparation for life that was so much a part of life for so many thousands of years has been lost… and this certainly isn’t an argument for creating hocus pocus ceremonies hosted by people who are equally lost.  Simply, this presents the complexity of the situation in which we find ourselves as parents these days.

That is to say that only parents who adopt an attitude of perpetual learning can correctly orient themselves and the children in the world. 

If we speak honestly as parents and look deeply into our actions, it’s hard not to notice the fear that gnaws at us and motivates many of our actions.  How could we not be afraid, not just for our own means of survival but for the success of our progeny and future generations.

How can a school create a healthy orientation for children if the parents of the pupils are not also personally invested in an attitude of perpetual auto-education.  Without this approach where we see every day as an opportunity to become a little less ignorant, we quickly fall into the hubris of imagining that we have it all worked out.  This arrogance is transmitted to children effortlessly and quickly installs itself in the behaviour of young people who absorb the influence of their environment regardless of any presumption about their innocence.

Parents hold the key to an effective school.