Education is widely regarded as being one of the major aspects of our society that requires significant improvement. Improvement should be a constant goal for the education system, but we’ve fallen so far behind where we “should” be by being so far from where we could be. To improve education, we must first consider what the goal in education is.
I was recently having a discussion with a close friend of mine who happens to have vastly different political and socioeconomic views from myself, which I always appreciate when the contrast in opinions is supported through intelligent thought and debate from both sides (which he certainly brought to the table.) Through our discussions I came to a series of new beliefs as well as modifying a number of pre-existing beliefs, which through combining the subject matter being education as well as the result being further educating myself left me speechless and with much to think about.
One of the largest insights was that perhaps education isn’t necessarily failing as horrifically as my initial belief was. It was originally my belief that the education system was failing because of incorrect focuses of the system, but it’s my new belief that the education system isn’t meant to educate a student in nearly the way I had previously believed. One of the two major goals of public education, in my opinion, is to learn to learn.
While it is true that my recent rise to awareness and some degree of activism both socioeconomically and politically weren’t the direct result of courses taken through a well defined educational system, they were the result of independent study that closely followed public education. Our educational system gives us the knowledge of how to learn, rather than just learning through the system.
From this aspect, with the exception of a few minor modifications that I myself don’t have the solutions to just yet, the solution seems to me to be doing just fine. But it’s my opinion that our educational system is severely lacking from another, perhaps more important aspect—education of how to live.
We have to keep in mind the major thing that separates us from all other life on earth is our ability to learn and reason, it’s our higher education. But over the development of this knowledge and especially from the dawn of industrialized civilization, we’ve managed to undergo a phenomenal change in human nature which stems from our ever-evolving developed society. We’re beginning to lose the basic human instinct as well as knowledge that has managed to support life as we know it for thousands of years. An animal has a few pieces of knowledge which are necessary for its survival, which either comes instinctually or from a form of education usually from its parents. This information consists mostly of what can and cannot be consumed as well as how to identify or capture it, how to find or make shelter if necessary, and how to handle threats such as predators.
The remarkable thing is the way the majority of populations in “developed nations” have managed to lose these perhaps most important pieces of knowledge. Imagine a man in his 20s or 30s, even one who eats healthy and goes to a gym daily, but has spent his entire life within a city or suburban area. If we were to take this man which from a biological standpoint might appear to be an ideological being for our race, and place him in the wilderness, chances of survival are extremely low.
Nature has a way of eliminating the unfit through a concept commonly referred to as darwinism. If a mother’s young offspring is incapable of hunting or identifying safe foods to eat, the offspring will die. But what we’re finding now is that we’re surviving on average into the 70s or 80s, often times without ever hunting or harvesting a day in our lives.
And now let’s consider the concept of darwinism in our society—even the most handicapped of people have very high rates of survival for at least a number of years. And this can result from two different situations. The first is that someone else takes on responsibility for this person, which has been a potential for survival of these people for a number of years. But the big shift has come in the other possibility for their survival. Many handicapped people are able to be fully functioning members of society, earning an income which in turn provides them with the necessary resource for survival. They can buy food, water, shelter, and anything else they need.
Now this all sounds great, with the development of our economy we’ve managed to increase survival rates of even those who ordinarily would stand little to no chance of survival (in addition to industrialization promoting the development of new pharmaceuticals and technologies which further enhance quality of life and survival rates.) But now let’s think about it from a more real perspective, the perspective we’re facing today being the issues an economy faces. Depression, recession, no matter what you call it when the economy begins to collapse, the working class of people whom this economy runs off of feel the weight of the entire system on their backs. Suddenly they’re no longer able to afford these basic necessities of life, and as a result many either struggle or die.
And this is a major issue in our viewpoint of the economy. We now rely on our economy to give us everything we need for survival as well as a number of other things we simply want for our own pleasure. But if the economy collapses, so does our survival, and from an individualistic standpoint this is extremely detrimental. The fact that we rely on such a complicated and unstable system to support us should be enough to make most people realize we need to expand beyond this. But this is what the educational system is lacking.
We don’t teach from an individualist perspective, we don’t teach survival and the basic things we need as a species because our educational system is tied into the same system our economy is. The educational system teaches everything we need to become working class, but it doesn’t teach an alternate method of survival. If the economy collapses we need to know how to grow our own food or hunt or build shelter. We can’t lose our human side in hopes our economy will always allow for our survival. And this is the second major aspect I believe education should cover—learn to survive.
By learning to learn as well as learning to survive we increase our stability, if the economy collapses we will survive. But at the same time if we’re working in an apartment in a city and just don’t have the time, room, or don’t feel like putting in the effort to grow our own crops, then we can rely on the economy. We need to view economy from a whole new perspective. It’s not meant to substitute a basic knowledge of survival, merely to supplement it. If we can grow our own food, make our own clothing, and build our own homes we won’t have to stress out about little things like where we work and how much we’re paid and whether or not we can get a job. Playing into our economy should supplement human lifestyle, we should be able to handle ourselves as a species, and if we happen to make additional capital on the side, we can then become involved in the economy. But when we’re all relying on one system to support everyone, we’re all in for a rude awakening when it doesn’t go according to plan.
So perhaps in addition to learning how to learn which can be relevant just to basic human curiosity and desire for knowledge as well as a higher degree of learning for positions requiring more education in our society, we should keep in mind the basics. What is needed to grow a plant, which mushrooms can be consumed safely, how to put a roof over ones head. I’m not saying we need to completely change what is taught in our schools, merely that perhaps one way to better mankind is to keep in mind the basics that we need from an individual standpoint.