Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

SCHOOL REFORM, A quasi-religious challenge

How do children and other primates learn? Simply by copying and exploring. We enjoy seeing the child exploring the world, by touch, taste, sight, sound, and cogitation. Much scientific exploration is being done on early learning, from fetus to school. Just because it's endlessly complex and baffling is no reason not to try to transcend the cliches of the day to better understand, and perhaps contribute to, how children learn.

Please put aside the usual assumption that education is what schools do, and take a broader and deeper look at learning processes, the culture of modern education, and finally an outline of the best modes. Perhaps we might start with images of what education should be, leaving the basic theory for later. Children learn in a culture, and all agree that our culture is having serious problems.

Throughout our evolutionary period and before, people lived in groups. The children easily imitated and explored in what we call "Organic Social Life, OSL". But "Modern Abstract Cultures, MACs" separate the child from most aspects of adult life by legislating compulsory school attendance. [FAMILY, How Compulsory Schooling Destroys Family.] Let's consider educational reforms that alleviate this tragic cultural pathology with programs that reintegrate childhood into the adult culture. Since the adult culture is so fragmented, reorganizing the youngsters can alleviate some cultural pathologies, and decrease the prison population.

Just because it seems impossible is no reason not to develop images of what learning should be. New school programs, the Charter and Private schools, constantly innovate. Unfortunately the education code is so elaborate, restrictive and compelling, that deeper change seems almost impossible, until the culture loosens a bit, or breaks down. The code demands curriculum, that abstract organization of human thought that has evolved and refined over the centuries. Unfortunately, curriculum organized schools teach meaninglessness as well as passivity and conformity. Meaningless facts and skills are difficult to learn and quickly replaced. Some teachers are skilled at alleviating this destructive mode, but their options are limited. Perhaps these more meaningful modes can be offered as alternative programs, sidestepping the code.

Instead, develop programs around tasks that have meaning, that produce, create, and serve. Organize the children into teams with tasks that are productive, creative, and cooperative. Some meaningful core concept such as ecology offers focus and generality. Gardening, for example provides and endless opportunity, producing real food, requiring elaborate cooperation, and challenging the broadest and deepest concerns.

Gardening can integrate the ages. The tots can plant and watch with the help of the older children, thus implicitly learning mature modes of care. The older children learn empathy and responsibility, and broader cooperation with the program. Gardening implicitly leads to horticulture and its science on all levels. Preparation of food, also a fun activity, offers basic skills and leads to awareness of the cuisine of various cultures, languages, geography, and socio-political life.

The key word is "implicit". Attention goes to active participation and coordination, and promotes a context of meaning and service. Attention goes to the objective task, not to subjective personal indulgences.

Notice we pay little attention to subject fields. Since information is infinitely available and everyone has easy quick access to humanities knowledge, the ancient assumption that the teacher is the font of knowledge and the kids are receptacles is no longer appropriate. The 'teachers' become leaders and organizers, all the while passing responsibility down the organization to the children. [Subsidiarity...] Cooperation displaces competition, and satisfaction and loyalty displace anxiety and stress.

Of course, such a program is against everything our educational system stands for. Education seems to be the state supported compulsive religion of our society, and to challenge its basic theology and clergy threatens the foundations of our (pathological) culture. Try to discuss these ideas with fellow citizens and observe the variety and intensity of resistances. Honest description of modern education is so elaborately convoluted with primitive images of deprivation and behavior control, that the tragic absence of mature learning is almost impossible to confront. For example, reading, riting, and rithmetic become increasingly implicit, as do all the strangely abstract categories called social studies, economics, science, and other fragments of our heritage. Good riddance, since the efficiency of our schools, good and bad, is abysmally low, and school's essential lesson is depressing passivity, blind obedience, and boring conformity. Our new technologies make information quick and easy, but replacement of our obsolete patterns is a challenge.

See also: FAMILY, How Compulsive Age Segregation, CAS, Destroys Family in All Modern Cultures. SCHOOL REFORM ..., and Chapter 9, EDUCATION, the Tolerated Disaster in letsprehend.com, a Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design.

Earl Williamson January 3, 2012

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