What IS the Purpose of Education?
Last week in a class I shared a quote I had come across :
”To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” (Theodore Roosevelt)
I then asked the group of teens : so what is the Purpose of Education?
I’m going to share a few of my favorites :
The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals. – Martin Luther King.
(I urge you to read the full context here.)
The function of education, then, is to help you from childhood not to imitate anybody, but to be yourself all the time. – Jiddu Krishnamurthi.
(lifted from this source.)
The Purpose of Education is to be a Light unto oneself until one can be a light unto others.
To be yourself all the time. To be Authentic. To be your own light. And the beginning of that Light is Love.
What is Love-based learning?
We hear it all the time – that the child has to love what they’re learning. And so teachers and education-based business owners like myself bend over backwards to make sure the child is “never bored, stimulated and runs back to Mommy saying how much she loves the class.” (Actually, parents have it even harder. We have their kid for a few hours and they have their kid the rest of the time. I can just imagine their need to keep trying to find something their child loves.)
No, that’s not the kind of love-based learning I’m talking about. That’s the kind of love we’re trying to bring up in others based on a need for their approval – for fees-paying parents’ approval. No, I’m talking about a more all-encompassing concept of love and to base all learning on the understanding and introspection of the meaning of that kind of Love.
Healing the world with Love and Education as the conduit.
I have come to an awareness that the biggest problem our world is facing right now is a deficiency of Vitamin L – Love. Not Vitamin M. Because the secret of generating tons of Vitamin M with ease is to have Vitamin L for what you’re doing.
It is a crisis – a Love crisis. It sounds absolutely crazy that we would even talk about Love in a blog about education and self-actualization through ESL.
At the beginning of my career as an ESL teacher I didn’t think teaching about morality was my job at all. I still doubt whether it is – morality in its scholastic sense. Not until the kind of dis-empowering mindset and disruptive behavior brought into class impeded language acquisition and learning.
At one point of my career I recalled watching re-runs of this movie as a child:
What is this Light upon oneself?
I am sure in different religions they have a different way of expressing this same thing. This Light upon oneself is what separates us from animals. It is a high form of Intelligence, an exquisite form of Beauty and a refined form of Constructive Creativity. It is a power house of Energy that brings together, heals, builds and whatever it touches, flourishes.
Education should be about bringing out this Light so that a human can rise to their Greatness. I’m not talking about Comparative, Competitive and an Alexander the Conqueror sort of Greatness. We’re not talking about athletic feats and business empires. I’m talking about Peak Potential kind of Greatness – to borrow from my favorite mentor on earth, T. Harv Eker.
Yes, I’m talking about an education that can show a person their Peak Potential. And once a person can be a Light unto oneself they can pursue what is True for them and achieve Greatness in their own right. A Greatness that does not seek approval, does not seek recognition, does not seek anything but its own Truth – a Greatness that comes from discovering and pursuing one’s Purpose in life.
I think the first step to discovering that Light in Oneself is to honestly ask ourselves these questions and again I will borrow from Harv :
So, who are you? How do you think? What are your beliefs? What are your habits and traits? How do you really feel about yourself? How well do you relate to others? How much do you trust others? Do you feel that you truly deserve to be loved, to be happy and fulfilled, to be rich and to make a difference in the world? What is your ability to act in spite of Fear, in spite of worry, in spite of inconvenience, in spite of discomfort?
I have not been able to find the proper reference for this next point that was reflected back to me by an adult student of mine who happens to be a Chinese teacher : “In Confucius’ Di Zi Gui it says that if each person were to pursue the purpose they were born for, that if each person did what they’re supposed to do then the world will be at peace.”
We are all aware that dear old Confucius is quite the advocate for proper education – not schooling, mind you, Education. Nurturing. Proliferation of Thought. Refinement of Thinking. Unfolding of Higher Self. Lotus blooming above the mud. That kind of thing. What if I’m closing in on the same lineage of learning philosophy? What if, to build a better world is to help each learner discover the answers to the series of questions above? And what if to find those answers require us to reject all forms of Fear-based thinking?
To understand Love and to find our Light is not so easy in today’s world. But it isn’t impossible. ESL teachers, English teachers, they are the crazy ones. They’re the ones crazy enough to think they can change the world – and it’s the crazy ones who usually do.
I’m not advocating direct indoctrination in language learning classrooms. Love-based learning means to Love what we see in ourselves so that it becomes easy to see everything else we do in the classroom with love.
So, who are we?
How do we think?
What are our beliefs? How do we reframe beliefs that are based on fear to beliefs that are based on love?
What are our habits and traits? How do we really feel about ourselves as ESL practitioners and the work we do? How well do we relate to our students and our colleagues? How much do we trust our students ability to learn and to succeed? Do we feel that we truly are creating wealth doing something that would make a difference in the world? What is our ability to act in spite of Fear, in spite of worry, in spite of inconvenience, in spite of discomfort?
It’s a tall order telling teachers that their personal philosophy and how they live their lives outside the classroom is going to show itself up in the classroom as well. If we are making decisions in life based on fear then the way we parent / teach is going to be from that perspective as well.
Here’s an example of how my classroom perspective as an ESL practitioner would look like :
Children are naturally curious and have a built-in desire to learn first-hand about the world around them.
What would you like to learn today?
Children know best how to go about learning something.
Let’s see if left alone how you’re going to make sense of it. Maybe you’re not going to attempt the work at all. Which tells me other material might suit you better. Maybe you’re going to attempt it half-heartedly which tells me you’ve started believing that learning is a chore of getting the right answers – so I’ll encourage you to make mistakes. Maybe you’re going to race the student next to you to finish off as many pages as you can – which tells me you’ve retained all you’ve learned and you’re hungry for more. Maybe you appear bored – which tells me you need your space to realize that creativity usually is born from boredom.
All these support the idea that it’s OK to be who you are, supports problem-solving and critical-thinking development. Once you’re OK with who you are, once you’ve let your affective barriers down you’re going to be the kind of language learner who is Unstoppable. And isn’t it better to wait for a few years for you to become an Unstoppable learner rather than to cram things down your throat only for you to end up like the many laggards we see in college and in most jobs?
Children need plentiful amounts of quiet time to think.
It’s OK to take your time – you’re a child, you’re a teen. Time is on your side. I took my time a lot too and I turned out more than OK. There’s no point to rush your experience of learning as if it’s a prison-term to serve up and get done with. Learning isn’t a ball and chain on our ankles; it’s not something we “get done with”, it’s something that we grow to love and to grow alongside with for the rest of our life. I believe that quality is now being coined as that of a “Lifelong Learner”.
Children are not afraid to admit ignorance and to make mistakes.
And if school has made you forget that ability then we’ll just have to relearn that in class.
Children take joy in the intrinsic values of whatever they are learning.
And sometimes the thing they need to learn the most comes from watching / observing their friends and having enough time to get to know themselves and trust themselves as a learner.
Children learn best about getting along with other people through interaction with those of all ages.
And that is why we have a mixed age, mixed ability class. Contrary to popular belief the strong ones are not being held back but with their presence provide the energy and motivation for other children to look up to.
A child learns best about the world through first-hand experience.
While it’s a luxury to organize field-trips, real-life anecdotes are another way of learning – something that relying on textbooks and pre-made material alone cannot provide.
Stress interferes with learning.
Some of the best inventions, business decisions, literature, music, art – was created during a “time-off” situation; on a golf-course, on a vacation, during a sabbatical, on quiet walks. That is how learning happens – without the stress of getting it right, moving faster, producing more, etc.
Parents need to think about some paradoxes here. If students aren’t learning enough English in schools (evidenced by the endless newspaper headlines about the dismal level of English of a majority of Malaysian students) it means we have to LEAVE SCHOOL OUTSIDE the ESL classroom instead of doing more of school. In fact I think it would really serve us to experiment with UNSCHOOLING in the ESL classroom.