Self Actualization through language learning? Pt. 1 :Paradox of education.

  • We should teach people to be authentic, to be aware of their inner selves and to hear their inner-feeling voices.
  • We should teach people to transcend their cultural conditioning and become world citizens.
  • We should help people discover their vocation in life, their calling, fate or destiny. This is especially focused on finding the right career and the right mate.
  • We should teach people that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life, and if people are open to seeing the good and joyous in all kinds of situations, it makes life worth living.
  • We must accept the person as he or she is and help the person learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes and limitations we can know what to build upon, what potentials are really there.
  • We must see that the person’s basic needs are satisfied. This includes safety, belongingness, and esteem needs.
  • We should refreshen consciousness, teaching the person to appreciate beauty and the other good things in nature and in living.
  • We should teach people that controls are good, and complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of life in all areas.
  • We should teach people to transcend the trifling problems and grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, of pain, suffering, and death.
  • We must teach people to be good choosers. They must be given practice in making good choices.

Would you agree that those should be the goals of EDUCATION? And if so, which subjects are the best to teach these and if none are suitable, how must education be restructured in order for us to be able to teach these things?

The above points would be much easier to deliver if the goal of second language acquisition focuses on Language Acquisition, the bits of language, instead of a focus on Language Teaching, the atoms that build up our idea of language instruction. But is self-actualization the responsibility of the language teacher? Should it be?

Abraham Maslow believes that the only reason people would not move well in th direction of self-actualization is because of hindrances placed in their way by society. He states that education is one of these hindrances. He recommends ways education can switch from its usual person-stunting tactics to person-growing approaches. Maslow states that educators should respond to the potential an individual has for growing into a self-actualizing person of his/her own kind.

It is a paradox that education is a hindrance to Self-Actualization. “The current education system, in fact, has dissected and inverted Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so that belonging has been transformed from an unconditional need and right of all people into something that must be earned, something that can be achieved only by the “best” of us.”

“The perception that we must earn our right to belong permeates our society. A central tenet of our culture is that we value uniformity, and we make uniformity the criteria for belonging. Moreover, we exclude people because of their diversity.” [the full article here.]

Our schools, being a reflection of society, perpetuate this belief.  – When a school system makes belonging and acceptance conditional upon achievement, it basically leaves students with two options. They can either decide that they are incapable of attaining these expectation and therefore resign themselves to a feeling of personal inadequacy, or, they can decide to try to gain acceptance through achievement in a particular area (i.e. sports, academics, appearance). In either case, there are potential serious negative consequences for the students.

The question of attaining proficiency in ESL cannot be resolved independently of the problems facing education. Students wish to acquire English so that they feel a sense of belonging to the rest of our increasingly global and inter-connected world. But students should come into class equipped with the knowledge that the right to belong is already theirs and that pursuing a second language as part of a larger global community  is recreational as well as reflecting an innate motivation to learn for the sake of learning.  It is because students enter ESL classes with a sense of shame and failure that it becomes so much harder to immediately work on the language acquisition. My job as an ESL tutor becomes so much harder because I have to be counselor, therapist, motivator, role-model, instructor and surrogate parent all at once.  If I ignore the need to play all those roles, instruction alone would do nothing for learning. Isn’t our job as educators not to make sure teaching / instruction happens but instead to make sure learning happens?

However,  the things I have to do are negated in the wider scope of things because those hours of healing for learning are not reflected immediately in the barrage of standardized testing and world judgments students face on a quarterly or annual basis. I can understand that a student with low self-esteem would feel that a lack of outward representation of achievement (distinctions in certification, awards, etc) would mean they have actually failed in language learning. But what if the goals of education is about healing learners from their miseducation about learning, about life? If society becomes aware about the paradox of education and parents become aware of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs then only will the true meaning of education have value.

Should our goals, even as ESL practitioners, be about the bits that make up wholistic learning instead of the atoms that currently structure curricula around the world?

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1 Comment

Filed under Education 2.0 for 2020, ESL in Asia, learning about learning, Rethinking Parenting & Teaching, schooling

One response to “Self Actualization through language learning? Pt. 1 :Paradox of education.

  1. Pingback: The responsibility for learning lies with…. « Englishforasians's Blog

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