We are in constant interaction with the environment and with external influences so School is not the only place in which we receive an ‘education’. We continually learn from new experiences and react to them through an intertwined, complex interaction between our unique individual set of genetic propensities and their reaction to, experience with, and influence from environmental stimuli.
(This point is expanded upon in the article ‘The impact of ‘human nature’ on educational approach’)
How do we learn?
There are several varying aspects regarding some of the ways in which human beings take in new information. Here are some useful articles and websites on the subject:
The core attributes of learning can be broken down and summarised in the most rudimentary sense to 3 categories:
- Hands on (touching)
An education system built for learning
In classes of up to thirty or more with children from different backgrounds and needs, it seems a near impossibility to adequately cater for all three of these approaches in accordance with an individual students learning preferences. The ‘one size fits all’ approach currently practiced in schools therefore seems to run in direct conflict with the varied way in which people learn.
An interesting online model seeking to change this approach from within the current educational system is the Kahn Academy:
Also, it is worth considering whether children require so much of a teacher’s attention, to learn effectively. The idea of autonomous learning is laid out in the following TED talk by Sugatra Mitra:
In an NLRBE the economic pressure for certain members of the community to engage in many hours teaching at a time would be removed, along with the need for paid employment to make a living. This would enable parents and other community members to spend more time with the children and take up the hugely rewarding endeavor of learning and teaching.
Without the obstacle of the price mechanism, and with more resources available through the quantum shift in the wasteful economic practices of today, we could build many more invigorating, hands on, varied and intriguing learning experiences.
Far from an ‘easy ride’ this style of education would demand that the student consistently prove that their idea works in real world experience as part of a collaborative and direct association between their effort and the improvement of theirs and everyone’s collective standard of living in their local and global community.
Controlling human behavior
The effects of the behavioral techniques of ‘Taylorism’:
And B.F Skinner:
Show that, whilst this approach of operant conditioning is effective in many respects, it is also limited in that it only measures behavioral outputs, rather than the internalization of an idea which motivates an individual towards action.
These methods of reinforcement must therefore be consistently maintained for the desired behavior to continue.
In an NLRBE the need for these tactics would be greatly diminished through the deliberate automation of human labour. By deliberately moving towards the abundance and efficiency in manufacturing of goods and services via automation nearly all the goods and services required to meet the needs of everyone in society could be met with near zero employment. At this point the need for jobs to acquire purchasing power becomes technically obsolete and along with it, money.
All of this is of course only possible if the complexity of economic calculation can be taken into account. Something that is now entirely possible with artificial technology and computer algorithms.
(This issue is gone through in greater detail in the article ‘The journey to money’.)
So, if there is no money and all the goods needed to sustain ones self are available without a price tag, then the alleviation of this pressure and the subsequent reduction of social stress would likely unleash a wave of social empathy, creative potential and positive solutions never before witnessed in human history.
This approach of strategic efficiency of course challenges the age old notions of ‘working for a living’ but perhaps this notion, like that of slavery and the burning of witches will be viewed with a similar disgust and contempt in years to come.
I personally would much rather welcome a child to this planet by telling them that considering all the amazing technology we now possess their life needs will be met no matter what. Inviting them to contribute where possible to society in whatever intrinsically inspires them.
Rather than the current underlying philosophy that even in the wake of this awesome technological capability acrued through the trial and error handed down to them by generation upon generation, they must still earn their right to life on this planet by getting some sort of job in the market place, regardless of whether they like it or serves any meaningful social purpose whatsoever.
It may even be worth asking if the value placed on hard work in the education system is even a noble or preferable trait to impart to the next generation.
The downside of hard work
In my personal experience as a drum teacher I have found that a large percentage of students tend to do a task with a ‘gamblers mentality’.
Going too fast initially, repeating past mistakes and failing to isolate problematic sections of the music, yet hoping somehow that the next attempt will bring about a positive result where the many previous attempts did not. Why do we humans do this?
I ask many of my students what they feel is reinforced in their classrooms on a daily basis, working hard or thinking hard and the answer is usually working hard. Is this the best notion to be imparting to Children?
Whilst we must of course work hard to attain results (cause and effect should make this point without too much need for reiteration) anyone who engages in a task is doing so for some sort of reasonable rate of return and the speed of this rate (the reinforcement) is critical if motivation in the task is to be maintained.
A figurative example could be that you may wait in a Restaurant for a meal for thirty minutes, you may even wait an hour but no hungry, sane person waits for two hours. The same is true for anything else.
Doing the same thing over and over again even though it does not get the desired result could in fact be defined as insanity, but as noted earlier, this is precisely what an awful lot of us do when attempting to solve a problem. This tendency must at least have part of its roots in an educational system that reinforces the ideology of hard work over thinking first and the lack of veneration given to taking ‘short cuts’.
This last statement regarding the encouragement to take short cuts may sound like a negative attribute to promote, but I would invite you to take a look around you for a moment before arriving at this conclusion.
The chances are that you are viewing this article on a device which has made it possible for you to talk to someone on the other side of the planet almost instantaneously. You may also have machines nearby to you that wash and dry your clothes, do your dishes and keep your food cool. Every single one of these devices is a short cut of some shape or sort. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking short cuts if they lead to the desired result. What people perhaps mean when they venerate hard work in and of itself and denounce short cuts is that you should ensure you are using the right method in a given task or you will only end up making more work for yourself in the long run. A more adequate explanation might be to ensure that the appropriate methodology is taken in a given task. This stipulation is not a trivial one but rather an essential one in creating a creative generation of problem solvers who think before they engage in the very obvious amount of hard work it takes to be successful at anything.
For example when I stop and ask a student if they could suggest a different method of approach to solve the issue at hand, they will make many logical suggestions in this regard. Whether it is slowing down, isolating troublesome sections or attempting to consciously recognize a reoccurring error and focus on not repeating it; one thing is certain: They are never short on providing different options of approach and when they do it is like turning a key in a lock.
The overarching point is that we must make sure that we reinforce the idea that children should think hard before working hard and not the other way round.
Breaking the pattern of failure
The value of working hard over thinking hard is also reinforced through slogans such as ‘practice makes perfect’ or, ‘If at first you don’t succeed try, try again’. These phrases are in very common use by teachers and parents alike without a proper evaluation of the underlying meaning being imparted.
Clearly if you are practicing something incorrectly then it really doesn’t matter how many times you do it, you will simply continue to fail. Worse still, if you persist in doing this then you will actually get better at doing it badly!
An emphasis placed on the value of persistence in the pursuit of mastery in any field should seem obvious enough as of course you cannot succeed at anything without effort and often a good deal of failure and suffering.
Persistence in my experience however, is far easier to attain when autonomy and purpose are given the space to flourish (this point is outlined in further detail in the article ‘A change in educational incentives’)
Personally, I have always applied myself with far greater diligence and vigor towards tasks that I was intrinsically motivated to do. Completing them to a far higher standard than any that involved coercionary tactics on the part of a figure of authority.
Setting the conditions for positive social values to flourish
If we seek a shift in these behavioral tendencies then we must do more than just speak about such a thing. We must build Schools, homes and communities that are localized, collaborative systems of exchange in every area possible. Elevating the teaching of critical thinking and strive towards obviating the need to rely on the current socio-economic system and the use of money wherever possible, and in doing so helping to build a new emergent, collaborative mind set and economic model in the midst of the current outdated and competitive one.
If these notions are not in the forefront of our minds when moving forward in all areas of our lives, then the age old problems that emanate from such perspectives will persist.
So therefore I would ask that you please take the time to visit the ‘Action in Education’ section of this site, and join in this global initiative to go into your local schools and universities to communicate these ideas to future generations.