"Friday, 25 June 2004
The American educational system was modeled after the Prussian Army, an organization skilled in transforming ordinary citizens into soldiers who follow orders without hesitation. Factory forms of education were needed to feed the emerging industrial society and children were the raw materials of these factories. Social engineers, anticipating the needs of the emerging factory society, took their cues from the military and fashioned our present system using simple Pavlovian conditioning, behavior modification, external rewards and
punishments. Like bottles in an assembly line parenting styles followed the model set by these institutions. Soon what had never been before became common place, expected. The social engineering goal implicit in the original design became transparent. You can see it today. Each morning millions of parents obediently place their children on the conveyor belts of these institutions with the best of intentions.
The social engineering goals of American education may have served a specific need at a specific time and in this light may have been “well-intended.” The industrial society is gone however, and so is the need for the kind of human being this system was designed to produce. The intent imbedded in the original design remains however, and like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice keeps grinding out the same kind of human being year after year.
Referring to a Carnegie study, Joseph Chilton Pearce points out that only five percent of everything we learn in our lives we learn in school. The remaining ninety-five percent is the result of direct experience. And of this five percent we learn in school most remember only three to five percent for any length of time.
Bottom line productivity of three to five percent of five percent may have been adequate to meet the social engineering needs of our emerging industrial society. But not in today, not in our brave new future shocked world. Gordon Moore, an inventor of the integrated circuit, who later went on to run Intel, noted years ago that the surfaces of transistors are shrinking approximately fifty percent every two years. Every two years we get twice the circuitry running
at twice the speed for the same price. In human terms the adult brain possesses 100 billion neurons. By most calculations 100 billion bits of RAM will be standard equipment in computers in the next five years.
This exponential growth is known as Moore’s Law of Accelerating Returns. Merrill-Lynch, feeling the impact of Moore’s Law, estimates that "fifty percent of the average employee's skills will be outdated in three to five years.” The faster information and technology grow the
faster our approaches to parenting and education become obsolete.
Parenting and educational models assume that children must be trained in certain skills, embody certain information in order to become productive citizens, which is a nice way of saying, “to get a good job.” This translates into curriculum, standards, tests and grades, measurements to insure that the assembly line is producing properly. Standardized curriculum and “teaching to the tests” create mechanical human beings. Robotics, information technologies and very soon
genetic human engineering and nanotechnologies are more efficient, more cost effective. The industrialized human beings our educational system was designed to produce suddenly seem clumsy, oddly out of date.
Reformers, hoping to keep up, tinker with the conveyor belt, starting earlier each year, prenatal testing, pre-preschool testing and coming soon, the latest designer genes. Inefficient accessories, recesses, physical education, art and music have been eliminated making room for more tests and more drills. Despite these efforts the antiquated assembly-line falls further behind. Large scale social systems cannot meet the demand. They can’t adapt fast enough. Physicists remind us that problems can’t be solved at the level of the problem.
Understanding this, visionaries have long proclaimed that the system can’t be fixed. Like educational reform, recycling is an example of a bad idea that looks good. Recycling is a bad idea because it promotes the manufacture, use and disposal of wasteful toxic products. A deeper response would be to create products that are not toxic or wasteful. Reform is not the answer. It is time for a deeper response to the challenge of parenting and to education.
Responding deeply calls into question basic assumptions. Educating children, for example, is not the next frontier. Children aren’t the problem, never have been. Children are naturally explosive learners. Maria Montessori described the “absorbent mind” of the child. Piaget defined the primary characteristic of childhood as “unquestioned acceptance of the given.” The last decade of brain research confirms these observations. Human development is experience dependent. The outer environment and the inner world of brain development are
two sides of a complex interacting system. Experience with the environment alters the brain’s structure, chemistry, and genetic expression, often profoundly, and throughout life. It is the environment that sculpts the developing brain.
We can’t fix the system and children aren’t the problem. So, what else is left? Individual adults, what Joseph Chilton Pearce refers to as the “model imperative.” Adults are the dominate element that define and control the environment children experience. The failure of large scale social systems and latest brain science return responsibility for child development to individual adults; to moms and dads, to families, and their personal social networks, now supported by technologies that render most traditional classrooms obsolete.
With the speed, passion and whole-systems approach that took us to the Moon we are now challenged to awaken and develop a new and fundamentally different adult model, one that sees through the false hopes and false fears imposed by our current forms of parenting and education. Only such a model can mentor a new generation of children and through them a new intelligent, creative, sustainable culture.
The typical adult mind, however, being so deeply conditioned by its parenting and educational experience, has lost the capacity to see beyond the conditioning imposed by these experiences. Overcoming this conditioning in today’s adults perhaps the greatest challenge we face. Moving towards this new frontier challenges another assumption, that education is basically about information. Moore’s Law predicts even faster rates of change and sooner than expected. Look around. Present knowledge is not stable enough to meet today’s challenges and certainly not tomorrow’s.
Simple observation shows that learning is performance based. The states of our body and mind as we meet a challenge shapes our response to that challenge, it shapes our performance. We call the memory of our performance “learning.” Performance and learning are therefore “state specific.” States are primary. They come first. Specific skills and content emerge from specific learning states.
Athletes call optimum states the Zone, researchers call it Flow, children call it Play. Optimum states express as optimum performance, optimum learning. In these states the full spectrum of intelligence, body and mind, is available to meet any challenge fully and completely. In optimum states we can learn anything, adapt to any challenge.
State specific learning and performance shifts the focus of development from intellect and mechanical memory to true adaptive intelligence. Educational and parenting strategies then realign to value and nurture this intelligence with its limitless capacity to adapt, rather than specific data-skill-sets that become so quickly obsolete. The next frontier in parenting and education means adults cultivating optimum states in their daily lives and modeling these states in their
relationship with children.
The state of the adult-child relationship becomes the curriculum as they meet and adapt to ever new challenges together. Simply stated, our challenge is to help individual adults become adaptive agile learners
just like the children they are mentoring. We are at the threshold. A completely new model is emerging. Attention is shifting from child development to adult development. Moore’s Law is shifting
responsibility for mentoring this and future generations from large scale social systems to individual adults supported by technology and personal networks. Educational and parenting strategies are shifting from “content-driven conditioning” to the cultivation and development of “optimum learning states.” Only by following intelligent, adaptive, creative, learning adults, something our present systems discourage, will our children develop the capacity to lead humanity into a sustainable future. Developing competent adult learners, passionate individuals who are learning explosively right alongside the children
they love, this is the next frontier in education."
Don't worry if some parts of this make your brain hurt- I think everyone in this Community right now is Brick-educated... So it's not expected that you understand it all XP. Hope you understood the parts I put in bold, though.
See that? We were right. This country is breeding conformity and trying to discourage individuality in children! (*imagines Teh King screaming "AHH! IT'S THE ANTHEM!!!" XD*) May I hear some comments for Kate's awesome find? =P
~Teh Keeper of Teh Moe