Published November 19, 2016
[Editor’s note: The following is the fourth part of a ten-part series of reflections on education, presented by Wayne Weiseman. These remarks are reprinted from his Facebook site with his permission.]
A Rumination on Relevant Education and Great Teachers (part four)
A New Paradigm for Education
“Every living culture and language is the result of countless cross-fertilizations- not a rise and fall of civilizations, but more like a flowerlike periodic absorbing-blooming-bursting and scattering of seed.” (Gary Snyder)
The Latin etymology of the English word, “educate” means “to lead out”. This means that a teacher would help a student to go inside himself/herself to find wisdom and then externalize it. Our modern concept of teaching totally contradicts this approach. We stuff students with information, sit them down on hard, wooden chairs, one behind the other in linear rows, and, nowadays, we even sit young children in front of computers and ask them to learn on their own. By taking instruction from a two-dimensional screen in this way we create tunnel vision and a lack of spatial and bodily awareness. This debilitating practice fails to take into account the fine art of observation and experience of the actual world even in the student’s immediate environment at hand. The only motor and hand skills developed are a constant tapping and pecking with very little range of motion. In later life joint pain, stiffness, carpal tunnel syndrome and countless other physical and emotional ailments may arise from this lack of wholeness. On top of this the student learns to collect thousands of bits of disconnected information that have no relevance to an actual presence in the physical world.
If we take the Latin root of the word “educate” literally we must assume that true education is an attempt to guide individuals to draw out of themselves the inherent wisdom from within. We may also assume, as we have previously mentioned, that the point where internal and external energies merge is where reality gains expression. Education causes external exposition and responsiveness to meet internal revelation and wisdom. In this meeting is where an idea finds a vehicle for its expression. At this juncture, idea sculpts matter into form. The profundity of education lies in its ability to render this process into a conscious, creative and ultimately satisfying human experience.
This leads us into our next questions: Why educate? If education is simply the process to transfer basic skills or fit into the labor market, then why take the time to nurture and guide, to train the mind, to observe and calculate and theorize? Why self-educate, read books, walk in the woods and look for salamanders under rocks and match scientific nomenclature with what is found? Why meditate and seek to learn in a deeper sense what is coming from our so-called essence or core? Why learn at all?
If our educational goal is more than job training, if we want to address the full spectrum of our humanity, we will see that everything in our environment is in a process of learning, of changing, of adapting to change. All beings are attempting to find their way back into the circle, unity, the One. Learning is built into us in and beyond our DNA. It seems to be something cosmic or esoteric, a hidden ore within that drives us to smelt our yearning for knowledge into works of art and genius. This question of “why educate?” therefore leads us into a deeper concept of what it means to be a human being. Given the current social and environmental crisis, isn’t it just and good that we teach our students how to think for themselves no matter how much pain or frustration this might cause them? Why do we teach children algebra? Why do we as human beings continue to invent newfangled ways to view and manipulate the world and use our principles, theories, strategies and tactics to teach others?
It is time, I believe, to rock the boat, to watch the tidal wave crash the shore and sweep away, if necessary, the very foundations upon which we build our social edifices and start afresh. If we wish to jump into this life whole and not just as another cog in the globally destructive economic system, we must be willing to steal the child out of childhood. And steal education from the education system.
If we know why we need a new education model, then the next question to ask is: “How do we educate?” The how of education entails instruction in a relevant and meaningful manner. Each teacher is unique in his or her approach. Some teach hands-on, some assign readings, some lecture, some combine all of these. The methods of whole learning have evolved over a number of years to aid in the development of an education that can “grow” balanced, happy, hopeful, unified and focused human beings. More important than any accumulation of knowledge or specialization in a particular field, whole learning seeks to locate the thread that runs through all understanding and begins a path toward knowledge acquisition from the springboard of “unity”. If identifying a particular field were necessary we would call holistic education a “unified field”.
The teaching principles of holistic education are founded on the fact that we are spiritual beings involved in a human situation. Whatever causes separation and isolation in our lives, whatever takes us out of the present, whatever fractures our awareness, and divorces us from pure focus in the moment, whatever takes us from our goal of remembering our divine inheritance does us a disservice. The how of education is in the doing, in cooperation with others and with one’s environment. All methods are, therefore, directed at breaking through the programming that has been instilled in us by our social and political milieu since the day we were born. It is the illusory mountain we climb to outdo our neighbor that leads to separate and disconcerting lives. It is the illusory mountain that leads to insecurity, depression and misdirection in our daily routines.