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Posts Tagged ‘education’

“Collaboration is the stuff of growth.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Anyone concerned about the future of the world should spend time considering how we educate our children. I have friends who have children in different educational programs – public schools, private schools, Montessori programs, home schools, international schools. religious schools and so on and I know that they would all agree on at least one thing: education is important.

I came across this presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, a remarkable presenter I wrote about months ago in my post called “Bring on the Learning Revolution.” This lecture is well worth the next eleven minutes of your day:

I’ve long felt that education should be more about drawing out the inherent value, talents, radiance, etc. from children than it should be about stuffing them full of facts and figures that will hopefully be useful at some later date. Individuality creative expression suffers in our current system, and this unnatural homogenization is resulting in a pressure that our youth are increasingly incapable of bearing and navigating.

It appears that the presentation stops before you hear Sir Robinson’s suggestions as to how we might best revitalize education in this new era, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

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“The spirit of the age is filled with the disdain for thinking.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Learning to think is one of the most underrated and overlooked of the steps that lead to living a purposeful, meaningful and fulfilling life. Far more than developing the ability to ingest, digest and retain information, learning to think involves developing that uncommon sense called wisdom.

I once heard wisdom described as the “sense of the fitness of things” and I have yet to discover a better definition for this rare commodity. Wisdom comes only from those who are truly at rest in themselves and it only emerges through a heart and mind free of tension, fear or greed. Wisdom, in a way, is the natural expression of one who stands assuredly yet humbly in this place that is uniquely his or hers to occupy.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca once wrote that “No man was ever wise by chance.” Wisdom is not cleverness, neither is it the ability to manipulate knowledge. Wisdom, instead, is received as you learn to think in the sense that I believe Dr. Schweitzer was describing.

Every flash of inspiration or stroke of genius was nothing more than the evidence of an individual who was, at least for the moment, open to the ever-flowing fountain of wisdom. Thinking is much more than mental machination. Thinking involves both heart and mind, and both must be at peace for the windmills of your mind to work properly.

Have you ever focused intensely on resolving a problem and then walked away from it for a moment, forgetting about it in the process and then somehow had the solution magically and suddenly “come” to you? Well, duh, you came to rest for a moment and voila, the wheel could turn and wisdom flowed freely.

Your level of education is no more a measure of your ability to be wise than your shoe size is a measure of your ability to run quickly. Neither is your relative accumulation of “street smarts.” Wisdom comes only to those who are captains of their soul, those who have come to the point where they are not defined by the outer things – clothing, looks, social position, wealth, wit and so on – but instead those who are at rest in themselves.

You can and should be an aperture for the expression of wisdom into the world you center. Don’t be afraid of thinking, truly thinking. There is an old saying: “Teach a man to think he thinks and he will love you. Teach a man to think and he will hate you.” Well, I for one stand ready to be hated if those are indeed the terms.

Thinking in the sense being described here is a tremendous privilege. It is the means by which purposeful, meaningful contributions are made. Without thinking you may live a life that feels comfortable at first, but in the long run you will miss out on the fulfillment of your life’s true purpose.

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Manessische Liederhandschrift, Image by Wikipedia

“Though the practice of chivalry fell even more sadly short of its theoretic standard than practice generally falls below theory, it remains one of the most precious monuments of the moral history of our race, as a remarkable instance of a concerted and organized attempt by a most disorganized and distracted society, to raise up and carry into practice a moral ideal greatly in advance of its social condition and institutions; so much so as to have been completely frustrated in the main object, yet never entirely inefficacious, and which has left a most sensible, and for the most part a highly valuable impress on the ideas and feelings of all subsequent times.” ~ John Stuart Mill

 

I once inadvertently upset a young woman by holding the door open for her. She took offence to my gesture, interpreting it as a chauvinistic power play rather than a gesture of respect. I wrote it off as a poorly executed sign of the times, where young women are eager to assert themselves in a show of equality. I must admit, though, that I continue to hold the door open for women of all ages to this day.

The incident did stick with me over the years (hence this post!), and I think that part of the tension that surrounded the young lady’s heart in the matter is rooted in a misunderstanding of equality. Equality is not sameness. Men and women are different from one another and I believe that it is healthier to respect those differences than to smother them through political correctness.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are women who are smarter, stronger and wittier than me. Stereotypes based purely on anatomical differences are foolhardy. Women are no more the “lesser of the species” than they are from a different planet.

Men and women, when comfortable in their own skins, complement one another wonderfully. They exist along a spectrum – from “girly-girl” to “manly-man” with significant overlap in the middle. That said, some of the most masculine men I’ve known possessed a surprisingly sensitive side while some of the most feminine women have proven to be the toughest and meanest creatures I’ve known.

Whether you believe that men and women are the product of evolutionary forces or the crowning achievement of a divinely designed world, it is clear that we’re both here for a reason. A friend of mine in high school used to joke about women being “obsolete fertile vessels” when he read about test tube babies and oddly enough the young lady who was most offended by his poking ended up marrying him several years later. Obsolete? I highly doubt it. Pigs will fly first.

We need one another. The line, “You complete me,” made famous by the movie “Jerry Maguire” (or was it Austin Powers?) is a great way to look at it. We are two parts of a whole, not opposites, and our differences are what makes the union so powerful, meaningful and creative.

The principles of chivalry also apply to generational differences, in fact, many of the principles of chivalry can and should be exemplified and taught to children at a very young age. Giving up a seat for an adult or not talking balk, for instance, are perfect symbols to children of how the different sexes can and should relate later in life. Respect is a fundamental building block of chivalry.

There are many implications to the continued practice of chivalry that I hope to investigate further with you in future posts and I hope that you take no offense to me holding the door open for you as you take steps to develop a deeper understanding of the topic.

Good day!

 

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Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe.  It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished. ~ Michael Strassfeld

My son’s school had its annual “Candlelight” assembly yesterday evening, a ceremony that celebrates the coming holiday season as well as the achievements of the graduating class. The school houses Pre-K to 12th grade and each class performed a song, with video interviews of the seniors interspersed between each act. The evening culminated with the senior class lighting each others’ candles while representatives of the freshman class read quotes about “light.”

The quote above stood out to me as much for its elegance as its timelessness. I wonder at what point humanity began to care more about other things – if it went down that way – than the expression of inner light. I have no doubt that the beauty and joy that shines brightly through babies, for instance, is something that should only be amplified as life goes on. For most, however, it is attenuated by the passage and ravages of time.

Take time this season to let go of those elements in your heart and mind that have clouded the expression of the light in you.

He that has light within his own clear breast
May sit i’ the centre, and enjoy bright day:
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the mid-day sun;
Himself his own dungeon.
~ John Milton

 


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“I swear…to hold my teacher in this art equal to my own parents; to make him partner in my livelihood; when he is in need of money to share mine with him; to consider his family as my own brothers and to teach them this art, if they want to learn it, without fee or indenture.” ~ Hippocrates

I counted and considered the ten most influential people in my life yesterday afternoon while watching the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean. Much to my surprise, all but one of them was a teacher. Imagine that? Nine out of ten were teachers!

Teachers are stewards of the golden thread of knowledge that connects one generation to the next and humble yet noble torchbearers who light the way to self-realization. While some claim that “those who can, do and those who can’t, teach” I believe that such a statement fails to give credit where credit is due.

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” ~ Robert Frost

The role of the teacher in my estimation is exactly as Mr. Frost put it, that of an “awakener.” Teachers can serve to awaken many things, including:

  • A passion for lifelong learning
  • A hunger for self-realization
  • The spirit of service
  • Compassion, enthusiasm and assurance

Above all, teachers can help to cultivate the connection between the inner and outer selves, a never-ending process of refinement called maturation. Why is this important? or starters, there is greatness inherent in every person on earth and in a properly matured individual is capable of the easy and constant expression of genius resident in him or herself.

Teachers who limit themselves or who are limited by the rules of the game to only convey information are only scratching the surface of what is possible for a true teacher. Policy-makers must find ways to give teachers the tools and the room to create an atmosphere of inspiration, one that draws forth inherent greatness. I fear that too many of our students and potentially productive citizens are shut down in school rather than opened up.

Formal education should prime the pump for lifelong learning. Commencement should be more starters flag than checkered flag. Having been out of school now for nearly two decades, I can assure you that my happiest friends are those who never stopped learning, despite the fact that their formal education ended.

Good grades are no guarantor of productive citizenship. Neither is a diploma from the “right” school. Doors may be opened thereby, but at the end of the day, the value of each one is determined by the expression of each one, especially during times of adversity or pressure.

I believe that were each student to take the lesser-known Hippocratic oath articulated above, all things would be made new in the world. Such a statement of value would bolster the teaching community while enriching the experience of those taught.

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A friend sent me a fascinating link to a captivating TED talk given by Julian Treasure, chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises businesses on how to use sound. Just seven minutes long, the talk is sure to revitalize the way you relate to sound. Here it is:

My sons never cease to amaze me (as do children in general), particularly when it comes to seeing how quickly their ability to interact with the world around them expands from day to day. Long gone are the days when children were to be “seen but not heard,”  and I think that we’re better for it.

One of the primary tools children use in their quest to understand and have dominion in the world is sound. Children mature at a remarkable pace through an exploration of language, song or just making noise.

I recently introduced my youngest son to the greats of scat singing, including Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. He was fascinated by it (who wouldn’t be?) and has taken to scatting all the time. He also loves to improvise on songs he knows, using new experiences and new words. Each day his scats and songs become more complex, meaningful and delightful. It is fascinating to hear!

Sound, used correctly, improves health, orders consciousness and enriches experiences. However, when sound is misused it leads to disease, frenzy and unrelieved tension. Sound health depends on a sound relationship between you and your world.

Take care when it comes to the sound in your world. Remember this: you are a chord and harmony, not dissonance, is your birthright.

 

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Have you ever noticed how easily children make friends? I’m always impressed by their untempered ability to walk up to another child and say “I’m Jack, do you want to play?” Young children are especially facile in this regard, perhaps because they have yet to develop complexes, self-image issues, prejudices and bad habits.

I have yet to meet a four year old who questions the motives of another the minute he meets someone. Neither have I seen a five year old shun another for his looks or social standing. The relative lack of judgment is refreshing and while I do agree that a well-developed capacity for discernment is valuable, the judgmental attitudes that most adults take toward one another is tragic and unnecessary.

Were people to mature completely, there would be no judgment. Judgment, and the condemnatory attitudes that accompany it, is employed by those who have yet to grow into the noble and magnanimous shoes given to every human being at birth. A refined, empathetic, self-assured and humble bearing is the birthright of each one, yet few on earth are given the nourishment, respect, challenges and guidance required to arrive at the point where their inner greatness is fully revealed.

Mankind has created a world for itself that essentially makes it so that no one is born into a perfect set of circumstances. That said, no one should accept the fact that they have a valid excuse for not revealing the highest and finest of which they are capable in any and every situation.

Part of the reason why children are so effective at making friends is because they have not yet begun the process of cataloging the reasons why they can’t do their best, why they can’t approach life and others with a pure and uncomplicated heart and why they feel justified in retiring from life rather than embracing it. No matter where you are now, it is important to remember that you were there once.

Your childhood may have been shorter than that of others, but there is no reason why you cannot let go of that which separates you from your birthright and let go to a less cluttered expression of who you are underneath the scars, bumps and bruises you’ve accumulated over your lifetime, here and now.

Making friends can be easy again. True friendships are not formed on the basis of commiseration. They are formed on the basis of a mutual appreciation for one another and for the opportunity to “play,” that is, to engage in a shared process of imagination, enjoyment and doing. Life really can and should be that easy!

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