We are indebted to Erika Christakis (Yale Child Study Center) for our latest update.
Enlightenment--in a word.
With knowledge comes ability to deal with and control our environment within the limits of nature. Knowledge can free mankind from the yoke of oppression from whatever source. With knowledge comes freedom and "ultimately" safety. Effective education generates insight into how it all fits together, brings wisdom and enables progress. In the hands of dictators like Hitler and Napoleon, it brings awfulness to too many. Napoleon played a key role in removing dynastic governance from Europe, but he was still a conquering dictator at heart.
If we the people educate ourselves properly, we can deal not only with the present, but anticipate and deal better with the future. We could be less susceptible to, or even avoid, events like 9/11 and Katrina. Mr. Bush had advanced warning of Katrina and that it would be a killer. Critical reviews of his personal history could have raised red flags. We were just not smart enough. Critical thinking by the American populace could also have called a halt to the aftermaths of both via impeachment--by popular vote if necessary.
This type of education is best driven from the ground up, at home, at school and by neighborhood authorities (not the police we know, but something akin to the Japanese model perhaps). As it was, like a flock of "unknowing sheep", we followed our "leader" off the edge of a cliff that he could not see. Many others, thinking people, honest people, did see danger in invading Iraq. His own father did, so one need not be a Democrat to have wisdom. In fact many, maybe most, Democrats fail the wisdom test. Yet many stand to be re-elected and likely will be.
Continuing education can be a universal liberator if learning how to think, judging for one's self, and acting accordingly comes with it. Self actualization with an effective balance between an Internal and an External Locus of Control enable self-realizations we need to reach. In many cases, maybe most, we can modify our own individual behaviors without resort to further education or on another level, to psychological intervention that might be required for the near-sociopath. Continuing education works. It does right now. Psychology, sociology, and history courses are available at almost every college in the developed world.
Core reasons for continued learning:
- There were times way way back there when education was not formalized like it is today. Of course humanity needs it. But the process of formalization was a relative random event. And its effectiveness was, and still remains, difficult to measure. Nevertheless, during its earliest, prehistoric times, it was nevertheless effective. Taming fire, making stone tools, designing weapons for hunting, growing instead of gathering food, collecting in cities for common defense, all arose naturally, without any formal education as such. babies, toddlers and older children learned form their elders and from and by their own experiences. To the extent insight developed, new technology was born to be learned and copied by the next generations. In modern times formal education accelerated that process.
- But lest we forget, it was our evolutionary origins that brought us to were we are now via the means of the previous bullet. In essence, our evolutionary origins gave us the grey matter to go beyond the obvious means to survive. Educational policies that rely on how the insights so evident in the previous bullets developed will be the most successful in our times.
The society that has come closet to doing that most effectively is Finland. Their system puts off cognitive developments until the age of seven. In preparation for that, they build on nature's way.
- Promote personal well-being in every child.
- Reinforce considerate behavior and treatment of others.
- Build autonomy gradually.
- Technology is moving so fast and changing the world so rapidly that one cannot just attain some level of education by seemingly random means, call it that, and expect to stay in tune with the times.
- Dealing with human events effectively requires early and specialized training in its own right, and should be central issues beginning early in "preschool" and continuing through all advanced curricula.
- The art of asking questions and being receptive to hearing answers are keys to learning and staying in tune with the times. The art of Dialogue comes naturally to many, not so naturally to the shy or to people with hang-ups that interfere with clean, respectful, and congenial two-way communications. Socrates was among the first in recorded history to use questions as a tool for education and his procedure has become know as the Socratic Method.
- By alert thinking we can deepen insight. Deeper insights raise performance standards in the individual, family, tribe, nation, and world community. Having a wealth of facts in one's head is one thing, knowing how to integrate and use them is quite another. The latter is insight, not so easy to simply teach or learn. But practice can deepen insight and avoid the mere pedantry that too often passes for education.
- Recent research has shown that while intelligence is enabling, persistence is more important in making the best of what we can and do know. He makes the point that for most of us, 10,000 hours are needed to reach world-class performance in the practice of our specialty, whatever it is. This can be a life-long affair, and why not?
- Continuous learning prepares us for when opportunity knocks. [We just returned from an adventure where people in thier 80s were deep into their second or even third careers--still learning new tricks.]
However: things don't always work our nearly as well as they could or should--politicians get in the way. See Eduwonk.com for popular commentary on what is and what might be.
Further links to peruse: