Think back on your own school experiences. What kind of thinking did your schools promote? What kind of thinking was lost as a result of being schooled?
The American schools I attended, K-12, promoted the ideas of participatory democracy, critical thinking, and social responsibility, all framed within an international context. The meaning, context, and application of participatory democracy in public education transitioned from allegiance to nationalism to allegiance to internationalism (1970’s-present), global governance, think tanks, industrialist philanthropies, and non-profits. When I was in primary school in the mid-90’s, the push was for environmental responsibility (recycling, proper waste disposal, global warming aka climate change, etc.) framed in a global context, in partnership with various non-governmental organizations and philanthropies. All partnered institutions were global in their social and political agendas. A few key terms used frequently in my K-5 experience were: multiculturalism, diversity, environmentalism, global, community, and change. Our industrial model of schooling was borrowed from the Prussian template
The goal of 6-12 was to encourage students to attend university where they would learn to refine their skills through professional training while maintaining this underlying philosophy of global governance and economic interdependence. The other option was military service under the United States armed forces in the ‘War on Terror.’ Because the academic path was linear, as mentioned by Sir Ken Robinson (among others included in the video lectures), critical thinking through application was quite the opposite of its propagated intentions. What I later found was omitted from the liberal arts curriculum (K-12 and university) is logic. I should have known, my bachelors program was in the Humanities. Instead of a embarking on a rigorous investigation of the classical languages (Hebrew, Greek, Latin), classical literature, philosophy, and history, the Humanities became a catch-all for courses promoting social responsibility. Lectures were authoritarian, students were silent, and any alternative analysis was thrown under the bus of consensus/group think. In application, social responsibility was the vehicle of identity politics. Regardless if the class was more demanding in study of primary texts, regardless of its claim to promote independent critical thinking; all readings were supplemented with critiques through three socio-political lenses: feminism, Marxism, and social Darwinism. Lectures were steered in desirable directions using social reward and discipline; those with an alternative analysis were alienated from the group, dismissed as quacks.
Another observation I should note was the firewall implanted in the minds of students. Any time a student or audience member would question a professor on their use of emotive language or provide a contrary analysis, the professor would use their popularity to unleash the masses on the dissenter. A typical reaction from students would be huffing and puffing, muttering insults, or taking the side of the professor in excusing the argument to resume lecturing; nine out of ten times this reaction was a reflection of the obedience to authority and doctrine. Instead of offering their own analysis, students would memorize the connections noted in their textbooks, which were often full of typos, contradictions, and harsh criticisms relevant to promoting social/political agendas of our time. I can go into further depth in later discussions but this was K-12, plus university. I stayed in the liberal arts because I believed (naively) it would broaden my language and understanding, as a methodology to approach subjects I’ve never encountered with confidence and appreciation; this was not so. The first three of the classic seven liberal arts (not taught presently in University) represent the Trivium: grammar, logic, rhetoric; an understanding of the mind. If you think of your brain as a computer, you have grammar/input, logic/processing, rhetoric/output. What good is a computer without a processor
2. What does it mean to be "an educated person" in your current community? Please make sure to define where and what your current community is. (e.g., In my current community of academics at Oxford University, "an educated person" is one that...)
If you’re an ‘educated person’ in my community, you are obedient to mainstream social and political trends. Usually, educated people in my community use their degree or certification as a one-up in prestige and social ranking, viewing those who skipped out on college as lesser. In reality, the degree only gave the person a foot in the door for mid-level management positions in small to large corporations (certainly not giant). Because the educated were bestowed the powers of social sciences to manage the working class, the gap between the managers and the workers was distinctly marked by the dehumanizing language of systems logic. Having a college degree became this status of intellectual ranking, along with it came associated social circles, consumer products, lifestyle choices, and languages. As mentioned in the first question, the allegiance was to social and political actions/trends promoting ‘radical change;’ typically environmental and identity politics. The combative political ideologies of the previous generation (fascism/socialism/communism), which Dewey and Thorndike set out to crush, subverted the education system, gradually incorporating the language within the framework of promoting universal/democratic education for peace. No surprise that many of my college professors were openly communist, and many fellow students of my university were active in International Socialist organizations and climate change lobbying groups. When I was at the University of Washington, there was a staunch arrogance in the air surrounding social/political debates. The University held a reputation for being politically active and radical in the late 1960’s. In fact there were many art installations around the campus commemorating these advancements, but the symbol merely stood as an affirmation that ‘someone already did this, therefore you don’t have to.’ The activism on campus was built around catchy slogans, the debates were unorganized, and no party (no matter their prestige) had a program of reform or recovery. Taking these observations into account, an educated person in my community is someone who promotes radical change who can’t articulate their definitions, program, or solutions beyond the limits of opposites.
3. What does learning mean to you?
To me, learning means the acquisition and application of knowledge in a practical sense, the source can be any individual, group, or institution. I’m not arguing a pragmatic definition because I believe the pragmatic approach to education removes the literary tradition, which is essential to understanding the dynamics of language and human nature. I would agree with Munir Fasheh in that institutional learning is ‘ignorant of the knowledge of life experience.’ The definition of learning the institution of American compulsory and university education uses is borrowed from the science of psychology: the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience. The American system of education, borrowed from the Prussian template (industrial efficiency managed using experimental psychology), indoctrinates desirable attitudes and behaviors using social approval and disapproval. Ronald Havelock, author of the Change Agent’s Guide to Innovation in Education, offers an impressive toolkit for identifying and detouring dissenters of consensus. Others like Benjamin Bloom, even Cass Sunstein (author of Nudge), have taken social engineering to new heights, improving on methods pioneered in behavioral psychology. UNESCO uses the exact same methods and is even more dangerous because it stresses UNiformity internationally. Paging through the document provided, I crossed several indicators related to: adaptation to radical change; implanting desirable attitudes and behaviors to achieve social justice in an interdependent economy and society. One of the most important books I encountered at university was UNESCO: It’s Purpose and it’s Philosophy by Julian Huxley (co-founder and first CEO of UNESCO). In this work was contained the outcome and philosophy of international education: a single world culture under evolutionary humanism. So I picked up a book, a collection of essays on Evolutionary Humanism by Julian Huxley, to better understand this guiding philosophy. I’ll let you dive into that one, but keep in mind eugenics had its roots in America and it is deeply imbedded in our education system: learning through osmosis and adaptation. If you can’t reference an expert in your analysis, well then, you must be wrong, says the professor
4. Describe your most profound education/learning experience.
The most profound education I’ve acquired did not come from primary, secondary, or university curriculum. I was naturally curious as to why I wasn’t retaining any of the information I was absorbing in my classes and, more so, why debate near extinct. At first I was frustrated but I didn’t have a language to articulate my frustrations. I began supplementing my curriculum in the Humanities with an investigation in the social sciences, in particular, combative ideologies and analysis to popular frameworks (analytical philosophy, critical theory, anti-civilization theory, etc.). When I bridged the Humanities and Social Sciences together, I was able to discover the underlying patterns of language and psychological devices employed to keep students on a linear path of exploration. I graduated from a university on the eastern side of the state that puts out child psychologists and educators in large numbers, therefore their research library contained a wealth of primary source materials in the theory and history of modern education. I pulled average grades in my courses, when I could have aced them, because I was buried in the shelves of this library investigating the evolution of American education from the early 1800’s to present, focusing on the introduction of compulsory education under the Prussian template. I was fortunate enough to run into a book titled The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto, a retired public school teacher turned historian/public speaker. Gatto provided a long list of references to look into, understanding the social and political function of schooling and its juxtaposition to education. I would HIGHLY recommend checking out a few lectures John Taylor Gatto has floating around on YouTube.
5. If you had to design an education system that created "the best thinkers, learners and doers for the world," what would you create?
Knowing that institutional education will not be dramatically reformed or re-visualized in my lifetime, I’ve chose to focus on co-opting and subverting the modern education system in creating, what I call, a curriculum of omission. Borrowing from John Taylor Gatto, students will peacefully refuse to take personality profiling surveys and standardized tests, which place them into classifications that stunt their intellectual inquiry and growth. The curriculum of omission is a roadmap to discovering what has been removed, offering sound methodologies of ‘how to learn’ as opposed to adopting methods that yield desirable results in scientific measurement. First, a redefinition of politically clouded terminology must be debated. We must focus on the political and social indoctrination of these institutions to understand their outcomes and their true function; what limits they place on the imagination and investigation of curious minds. Second, alternatives to institutional education (compulsory and ‘elective’) must not be restricted or deemed socially undesirable as they currently are. While many argue free market alternatives, they are not within the financial reach of our majority, and they most certainly don’t have the federal government advertising for their private enterprise as state subsidized schools enjoy. Looking back on America’s intellectual foundations, children became adults at the age of 12-14. Thanks to child-labor laws and the industrial revolution, children are now held in school until their 18; they’re encouraged to attend university until they’re 22-30 (depending on their program). What schooling has introduced is a stage of arrested development. The early years, 12-14, the inquiry and imagination team up to produce incredibly inventive and innovative spirit. It comes as no surprise to read about early American inventors, among other brilliant minds, who found their passion and contribution to their community at this stage in life. We must destroy the factory method of schooling (it doesn’t make sense using an industrial model in a post-industrial, consumer based economy); destroy standardized testing; destroy compulsory education laws; and offer education as a service through any individual, group, or organization. Children don’t need to be cooped up in a school house for 13+ years to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic; provide them a solid foundation of ‘how to learn’ so they can approach unfamiliar avenues with confidence and allow them a freedom of inventiveness and mobility at an age when the gears of the mind are working overtime. Our system compartmentalizes knowledge into disconnected subjects; those who attain professional degrees often understand a highly technical language and skill but have trouble communicating outside their specialty, due to anxieties embedded in their approach learned from schooling. In short, destroy the institution and free the mind.
6. What other ideas or questions came to you while thinking about this week's topic: Global definitions of learning and education?
Why a global context? Why institutional reform and not the abolition of institutional education?