Recently I had my whine about the current estate of things in Spain. Every day that goes by, another set of bad news hits families in the country. Over the weekend, devastating forest fires raged in the beautiful region of Catalunya as a result of what seems to be human carelessness: dozens of cigarette butts have been found where officials believe the fires had started.
After finishing up What’s happening in Spain, I told myself that what was needed was some hope, that I should write up a series on alternative systems, possibilities, narratives (call it whichever way you want, the name is the least important of all things).
But, I see these type of things, and I lose it all. Do we not learn any lessons? Are we really that incapable of basic civism, of human compassion? What would it take for you to think about how the consequences of your actions would affect others?
I am so frustrated and extremely sad. I have spent many good days in the region that is burning. I have many friends who live or frequent this magnificent place. And now, because someone decided to have a smoke and flick the butt instead of properly disposing of it, four persons are dead, many others have lost their homes and a uniquely beautiful coastal sanctuary is dead.
I don’t really want to digress again. But let’s just think about this for a minute because what I want to get at is not only what are the alternative narratives that could and probably should replace the current political and economic system, but also, what type of citizen needs to develop in order to make these new (‘utopian’, if you will, at least from my point of view) models possible. Changing the system is not going to be enough if we are always going to be reverting back to the same old Machiavellian plots and egotistical, greed-driven practices.
Is Education the key?
Yes, education is key, certainly. We’ve all heard it many times. But I believe the core values of our education systems need to be rethought and remodeled.
Our education regimes (without even having to resort to the typical quote by Foucault on education) have been designed to maintain the status quo, the exact same dominant industrial-modeled machinery that is now time to find alternatives for.
The testing-centric regimes are not only not suited to the near instantaneousness of events experienced by a society in a period of continuous, accelerating change but they also oppose the creative, synthetic thinking required for work in a new paradigm and effective citizenship.
Today, more than ever, we are laying a path for our future as we walk along it, all of us becoming co-learners and co-workers in this construction process. But today, what is needed is a new educational formula that develops personally and socially meaningful, actionable knowledge, which is taught by doing (not by memorising), by acting, by taking part.
However, it’s not merely a matter of using the new technologies at hand to push the same mentality through. There is no point in E-learning if we are merely imparting the same old curricula in surround sound holographic facilities. As cognitive scientist and bestselling author Roger Schank argues the culprit is a system of subject-based instruction and the solution is to replace a method that is not in sync with the futures that emerge for our children. What is needed is cognitive-based learning (Invisible learning), that is, we need to teach our children to think without them realising that they are being taught.
Technology-driven education revolution – Yes, but not enough
And yet, to me, all of the above is not enough. Yes, we need to prepare our youth and other members of society for a set of future needs that we cannot imagine. Yes, we need to assist them in the development of skills and habits of mind that will foster life-long learning and the innovative applications of their knowledge. We want them to be creative, imaginative, and innovative persons who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere.
But most importantly, for all of these to work, we need to help them find their place in a the local and international communities and help them understand the centrality of their position in that community. What is needed is an educational formula that teaches us to be happy humans, not compliant, self-absorbed entities. Humans who are accountable for the future of the community at all levels, from an environmental point of view, to a innovative point of view, to every single tier of the group. Everything counts. The new youngster needs to be aware of how indispensable his or her role is as part of a community (both local and global).
We have to stop teaching them to value themselves in the context of a corporation, or to measure their success by how quickly they rise up the corporate ladder, or how many colleagues they leave behind in their race to the top. No. They need to be able to speak of “we” to refer to their involvement in a community rather than “we”to merely refer to the corporation that pays their bills.
In order to change the world, we need a human capital revolution, a 360 degrees turn in the way we teach, think, relate to each other. We need to educate a new type of collective mind and that, is a major task.