Educating in Nature

Ch 4 Beginning to consider mind

The basis of our existing paradigm is that supposedly we are educating minds. We fill our minds with various subjects, take exams in these subjects testing memory, and with these qualifications we join the corporate ladder. The existing education of mind is to fill the mind with contents. Is that educating minds?

Do we consider faculties of mind? Far from it. Our university academic establishment goes through a nihilistic process of destruction of all positive understandings of mind by the need for proof. How do they define this proof? Physical measurement or common consensus. How can we physically measure the mind? And how can we get common consensus when the prevailing paradigm has a vested interest in maintaining the current limitations on understanding mind that underpins our education system? And if the worst came to the worst if common consensus were moving in a direction they didn't want, they could always pay for research into mind so that the conclusions of that research would create the imbalance in consensus they wanted.

So how do we start looking at what mind is and how we can relate that to education? First and foremost we need to recognise that memory is not the most important faculty of the educated mind. Because effectively that is what the current paradigm educates - memory. Let us explore this a little further. We learn subjects in a standard western curriculum, and then we spend a great deal of time learning facts for an examination in these subjects. Success is recognised as doing well in these exams, remembering the facts and writing them down in exam conditions is the measure of success. If a computer could write an exam then a computer would be classified as educated because of its faculty of 100% recall. Is this a good measure of human self-realisation?

I have mentioned the hidden curriculum before but have not begun to examine it in detail. Let me start some of that here. In practise in a school a curriculum is defined by the timetable, what is on the timetable? Various academic subjects. Within these subjects lessons are planned leading up to the taking of exams initially considered the crowning achievement by students but now most students don't care; part of the malaise in current education as previously described. Let us try to examine in reality what is happening. Students lose their natural motivation to learn by being dragged from the homes into institutions whose purpose is not to educate for all but to educate for the few who climb onto the corporate ladder.

What about the subjects learnt? How important are they for this corporate ladder? A few scientists are needed for research and medicine. A few mathematicians are needed to provide the theoretical basis for scientific development - the language of science. Geography of the world is needed a little for the multinational nature of business. Lessons from history can give a good perspective but learning dates? Language and literature help develop business communication. Economics is on some curricula but is not a requirement. Law can start at A level, but is mostly a university subject. And there are a vast number of people who don't get qualifications and who then take jobs that don't need qualifications. So in reality by the time we are talking about secondary schools most of what we actually learn is not used in the paradigm.

In the 70s in the UK teachers were beginning to re-evaluate the meaning of education. Whilst there was not direction in their discussions - they could not agree, the meaning was being discussed. Because of the circular nature of such discussions I do not believe a clear consensus would have arisen but from 1979 onwards the politicians took over and the contribution of the educationalists was minimised unless the people were careerists and accepted the political directive. A great opportunity was lost. The political directive entrenched the waning corporate paradigm, and re-established the prevailing curriculum that appears to have limited value for even the corporations themselves.

So if the actual teaching has limited value then why does the corporate paradigm work? Or does it work? In terms of return to nature or self-realisation it does not work for the majority of people. What about the corporations themselves? These corporations provide wealth for the few. To continue to exist, the corporations need to exploit the planet resources without concern for sustainability as that reduces profits. They require a consumer-oriented lifestyle where people buy unhealthy foods from Big Food, chemicals for health from Big Pharma, and innumerable household objects that are not necessary to live. Big Techno continues to develop new gadgets that young people especially buy into for whom most is only a fashion accessory. Big Clothes see a huge amount of clothes, and for most who can afford are all the shoes and clothes we have bought necessary? Lifestyle drugs, such as alcohol and illegal drugs, are consumed excessively. So for the corporation they make huge profits whilst the people consume. So the way our children are brought up works for them, the corporate paradigm works.

So in terms of education the question is how does it work? And this is where the hidden curriculum comes in. What does it take to buy into this corporate lifestyle that so few benefit from? It requires a complete re-education that moves us away from nature protecting herself. What do I mean by this? Well clearly the corporations have to sacrifice the environment or ecology. Education has to create people who are satisfied with the consumer lifestyle. Education has to create a mentality that will accept this consumerism, and even for some embrace it. Corporations need people to accept wars for profit, some soldiers are needed but mostly they need a compliant society that accepts wars are supposedly inevitable. And if people are dissatisfied they must accept turning to recreation as a solution rather than targeting the real cause - the corporations themselves. So education works for the corporations.

Educationalists cannot stand up and describe these as objectives:-

Learn subjects that have only value for a few.

Accept that consumerism is required, and avoiding the reality that war is also required to maximise corporate profits.

Yet these are the objectives, the external curriculum and the hidden curriculum. How does the hidden curriculum produce its results? By indoctrinated conformity. A few students become successes in schools, and join the corporate ladder. Other few successes become doctors, teachers, nurses, work in caring professions, and contribute to the general good that nature would expect of them. But even within these professions the good that nature would want is minimised by corporate involvement as exemplified by this book concerning teaching. And the majority conform to consumer units accepting that they will work at the non-caring jobs as part of consumer production, and turn a blind eye to war that increases profits. Those in the caring professions have to conform because if they fight they cannot win, and would then be forced into jobs in consumer production - so they compromise. And how is this conformity achieved? By forcing students to learn subjects with minimal meaning throughout their childhood and adolescence so that by the time they have left university they believe they are successful and have generally accepted this conformity. In fact it is generally accepted at university that you can have a fling before conforming to the corporate requirements.

What is so foolish in this scenario is the acceptance by the majority of students of their failure. They are made to feel that they choose failure by opting out of academic involvement. The schools are required to both educate for the successful, and control the majority who are designed failures. Throughout this disciplining process these designed failures are continually reinforced that they are failures so that by the time they reach adulthood and want a family they accept that any job will do. Here the hidden curriculum is creating conformity through the illusion of failure.

OK I have spent too much time on the negative aspects of the current paradigm of education, but let us be clear this hidden curriculum is no accidental by-product of education this conformity is its essence. So it brings us to the positive aspect what is self-realisation in education? There is a little maxim I have developed that I alluded to earlier. If a computer can do it then our education system need not educate for it, what we need to do is educate for what the computer cannot do whilst educating greater computer literacy?

Let us consider computer literacy before we get into the more substantive inabilities of the computer. What do we need to educate about literacy? Fundamentally we need to know what it can do and what it can't. This is not an easy matter especially with the confusion arising out of the potential of artificial intelligence. We have misconceptions that a computer can be intelligent. Can it be when all it does is follow instructions? Of the two only humans can be intelligent, education needs to be geared towards enforcing this reality. A computer as a tool can perform so many functions. Most people will use the computer as a word-processor, spreadsheet, database and perhaps graphics - apart from communication (the communication aspect of computers is very important and is discussed later). These are standard in computer courses. Systems analysis talks of writing software that integrates the computer with the way daily life progresses, yet few business applications do this conforming the worker to the demands of the computer. The technology has displaced nature as the guiding force primarily because the technology supports the corporate paradigm. Understanding the role of computer in nature is essential, and should be the keystone of the computer literacy component of the curriculum.

But this keystone cannot be evaluated until we have a clearer understanding of self-realisation in terms of what a computer cannot do? And that there needs to develop a recognition in education that this is the direction to take. A computer is programmed, and there are limitations as to what a programmer can do. But these limitations are often glossed over due to the processing speed of computers giving the appearance of great ability. Because of this speed many people cannot discern that computers are only machines.

Unfortunately at the same time there are scientists who are claiming intelligence for these machines, and in my view this is a failure of the scientific model which is underpinned by the rational notion that science can explain everything. There is a historical perspective with which I want to contextualise this view, and this view is also important in understanding academia. In earlier centuries knowledge was considered as knowledge. There was no necessity to dismiss or deride aspects of experience with a sweeping cut of the logical scythe. Religious experience was accepted for what it was - religious experience. Whilst this did lead to a certain amount of ignorance and superstition, legitimate experience was accepted for what it was - an experience. Compare with now where people who have experiences are derided if the experience is not supported by scientific rationality, they are fundamentally called liars. Whilst there are some who have an agenda which misuses such experiences, scientific rationality also dismisses much that could be recognised as knowledge or wisdom.

One view of where this dichotomy arrives comes from an analysis that starts with Francis Bacon. The first part of his book "Advancement of Learning" begins with "The First Book of Francis Bacon of the proficience and ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING divine and human" and in this we have a dichotomy of learning about the divine and human. Over the years science has eschewed the learning about the divine and incorporated the learning about human as academy. And over time academy accepts knowledge only if it is subject to the power of reason. Fundamentally knowledge can only be seen through the rose-coloured glasses of reason, and if knowledge cannot be subject to rational measurement then it is not knowledge but "in the realm of the divine". It is this rational measurement that is embraced within the corporate paradigm of education, and as a result the paradigm loses much that can help in improved education - in self-realisation - in the happiness of humanity.

In Bacon's archaic language we have lost the "divine" in education, and it is to understand this and to reintegrate the divine and human in our understanding that is part of our natural paradigm of education. Seeing this perspective historically helps us both analyse why our misdirected education system has developed and how it has then been incorporated into the established paradigm. It is not a bunch of business fatcats trying to create a labour mill, but a process that was begun by Bacon (in this scenario) to increase understanding by noting a division between understanding that is connected with the divine and that connected to human. That process then got appropriated by business interests as it found that their needs were met by having the human aspect only as an education model.

Whilst understanding the need to reason, a natural education system does not need to restrict knowledge to that which can be measured by physical instruments. Whilst this does not appear deeply significant, once considered in detail this proposal of returning to nature opens up our education system a great deal. Firstly let us consider the terms subjective and objective as applied to knowledge, in many ways these two words could be considered the contemporary development of Bacon's divine and human. Academia accepts the authority of objective knowledge, knowledge that we can agree upon because it can be measured or is subject to logical proof. But what of subjective knowledge?

This acceptance demonstrates itself in the curriculum. A typical secondary school curriculum consists of English language, English Literature, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Design and Technology, History, Geography, Social Studies, Religion and Art. Of these only Art can be truly considered subjective, and that is only for those few whose creative ability takes them beyond skill. Aspects of design might be considered creative but it is mainly geared towards skill reproduction. Literature could be creative but in practice it often becomes little more than quoting and a rigid form of literary criticism. So even where there is an opportunity to be creative that is minimised. Our examination system orients towards memory-testing, and our curriculum is primarily objective and not creative. How much use is this when objectively memory can be recalled at a push of a button or a few words in a search engine?

There is also a practical consideration when considering this subjectivity and objectivity, and this consideration is very significant. Teachers avoid teaching that requires the students to think because they have realised that just leads to disruption. When a classroom is a place where motivation is limited, control is like a loose lid of a cauldron about to bubble over. Very often teachers develop skills which minimise the amount of "thinking" content. I can remember trying to teach maths projects - theoretically a legitimate teaching tool for developing higher teaching in maths. The better-motivated were looking for tricks as to how to get good grades by repeatedly asking for teacher's help, and the teacher then walks a tightrope of inappropriate guidance or ill-discipline when project work does not come easy. For the majority whose interest is limited there has to be guidance and skill-teaching. And very very occasionally a student produces creative work where they have developed the project into an area that is new and of interest. Whilst such project work might have been of interest to the academic educationalist, for the majority of students they are irrelevant and for the teacher a nightmare to work with.

Yet it is exactly this type of work that I am calling for, in fact I am pushing for the whole curriculum to be oriented this way. Is this at all feasible? Currently no. The mindset of the students in general is so limited by the conditioning of education. But it is important to ask why. Because the paradigm is not interested in the achievements of the majority as it only wants the success of a few, and the rest are required for the service sector etc.

But suppose we can maintain the motivation that children are born with. To do this we need to consider what aspects of learning are motivational. At present in schools the main motivation that is used is exam success, even to the ludicrous extent of introducing SATS in primary school. But of course this motivation is limited as few students are ever expected to have exam success by design of the paradigm. Fundamentally motivation provided by the curriculum is for the few. But what about motivation in the learning itself? In primary schools creative work is encouraged, and brings with it motivation for some of the students; in secondary schools it is always a good trick to allow students to colour work in as it maintains discipline. But is creativity in art the only form of intrinsic motivation? Obviously there is creative writing. In my own subject there is clearly motivation for those who can be creative in finding that spark which helps them solve a maths problem, the majority being solved by rote or imitation. I am sure if you asked other teachers they will say that there are aspects of their subjects which motivate the students and immerse them in what they are doing. If they are amenable? But of course the majority aren't, and there is no way round that in the current approach.

But what is important to recognise is that ideally there are aspects of all the subjects that can motivate children. Intuition, creativity, aesthetics, creative design, intrinsic quality in work, and insight, all of these excite adults, why can't they excite children? We don't know because in general our curricula don't encourage these aspects in their studies as the orientation is towards exams for the few and classroom control for the majority.

And in this list of intuition, creativity, aesthetics, creative design, intrinsic quality in work, and insight, how many can be achieved by computers? I contend none, and this is the importance of the emphasis on curricular approach - improved understanding of the capabilities of a computer combined with a greater emphasis on those aspects of human awareness that a computer cannot achieve. This approach is summarised in the following diagram:-

From the diagram you can see additional aspects under the heading of compassion. There is a need for greater understanding on a personal level of how to deal with compassion, love and emotions. For some religions compassion is the most noble human attribute, how much is compassion rewarded through the standard curriculum? Compassion is motivating, both in itself and from the feedback from those we are compassionate to. Do we encourage compassion or is it frowned upon or derided because it is non-profit-making? In truth our society would not survive without compassion. Compassion is required to counter-balance the gaps left in corporate culture. Without the work of unpaid environmentalists the ravages of industrial effluent would be far worse. Throughout the Third World aid agencies provided well-needed (although sadly often misplaced) support. The world cannot survive without compassion but how much is it ever taught about or encouraged?

Another tremendous motivational force is love, as all adults know to a certain extent. Yet what is known or discussed about love in education? From the point of view of the paradigm, ignorance of love is very important. Both love and compassion could be considered the highest human goals. As it is for most young people teenage love is a tempestuous affair confused with passion and other aspects of growing up such as the need to leave the home. Along with social practice which pressurises young people to marry quickly, in terms of reference of the paradigm this ignorant love contributes to the formation of new consumer family units by default. Whilst society needs to focus on the home and help families create a good home environment, such a haphazard process for forming family units ie the home is far from beneficial.

Young people need help in discerning the truth of love, and this of course is difficult when adults do not know either. Only science requires knowledge to be absolute. Teachers fulfilling the role of social elders do not have to have a divine understanding of love, and perhaps younger teachers might not be the most appropriate people to deliver a curriculum on love but despite this love does need to be part of the curriculum. For our young people learning about love has become confused with sexual experimentation, and the passions associated with the sexual experience are confused with the experience of love itself. This is not helpful in the formation of a successful family unit as once the passions subside what is left - a social commitment to marriage and the children?

Some cultures arrange marriage. Detractors see this as imprisonment because of an obsession about choice yet within those cultures there are usually supportive families on both sides. And a commitment on all sides to stay together, a commitment that is far stronger than many shallow commitments where marriage has started with sexual passion.

Here is a 4 point model of love (known in Buddhism as the 4 Braham-Viharas):-

Loving Kindness

Compassionate love - leading to freedom from suffering

Empathic Joy

Equanimous Love

Imagine if this model were a cornerstone of our education. Teach our children to be kind and compassionate, and feel joy because others are happy. And what about equanimity in love? Remaining in control in love? Is this the model we get from Hollywood? What actions are considered acceptable because of being in love? How self-realised could a human become with these attributes?

Yet what would be a common reaction to hearing this (my own as well)? Get real, where do these 4 aspects of love belong in our education? These views on love and relationships will be easily shot down. What about this or that? Agreed, there is so much to be said. But in our present system how much is discussed? Now family and religion have significant roles to play in this, and schools tend to avoid the subject in some ways legitimately leaving it to the family and religion. But this is not education. And it is an area in which education is required in the West.

But most significantly imagine if the power of love that functions in healthy homes could be transported into our education system. That should be happening if our education system were appropriately designed. With our current notions and practices of love and education that sounds an unrealistic pipedream, but need it be so? Undoubtedly such an approach cannot occur within the existing paradigm, but isn't love part of nature? Certainly if we consider education as self-realisation then love and compassion have to factor in as leading components. Rather than avoiding this because of obvious difficulties let us try to consider legitimate ways of how to understand love and bring it into our educational approach.

What about sleeping and dreaming? In terms of self-realisation these two compose up to 1/3 of our daily life, and what do we learn about their meaning? In my later teaching years I would often describe a process of sleeping. If I had a maths problem I couldn't solve I would work at it until avenues had been exhausted. I would sleep, and then on awaking try again to find that I could solve it. One might consider that this would be ridiculed by students but far from it there seemed some acceptance. Can sleep be used in learning? How important is sleep in learning? What about the crazy hours of revision that would occur during exam time? Were these beneficial? Now in some schools drugs are used to keep students awake so they can study longer, how can we accept this? We need to help students understand sleep as part of their self-realised education.

And as for dreaming, this is ignored yet children dream. So they have such powerful experiences and yet all that happens is that, if these dreams are bad, parents console. But what is the function of dreaming? According to Wikipedia "dreams have been described physiologically as a response to neural processes during sleep, psychologically as reflections of the subconscious, and spiritually as messages from gods, the deceased, or predictions of the future. Many cultures practice dream incubation, with the intention of cultivating dreams that were prophetic or contained messages from the divine." If there is so much power in dreams, why aren't we trying to educate our children to learn from this power?

In this beginning consideration of mind much that has been discussed has to be considered almost impossible in the current paradigm as it is so far from the existing curriculum. But what that statement is actually saying is that what might be considered self-realised and natural is too distant from what is being taught - because of corporate interests. For education of the whole person that should be sufficient to embrace a paradigm shift to what I have called a nature paradigm. And I mean a paradigm shift, and not tinkering. Attempting to massage the existing system by adding a course on love and compassion would be absurd. I contend it benefits the children in our system to devote their energies to exam success, my only hope would then be that as an adult they perceive the damage our education in this paradigm does them. And that as adults they have sufficient opportunity to change and mature.

Sadly that rarely happens, and so our education system is successful in its corporate terms.