Creating a new and sustainable world needs humans who think differently and have the appropriate skills, whereas the education system can play a critical role in developing such generation with the required abilities and mindset. In this post, I discuss the skills and mindset required for creating a sustainable world, and use that to elaborate on the characteristics of an education system that can train a new generation with such capabilities.
I argued earlier that creating a sustainable future requires transition to a culture that is based on community values. In such culture, collaboration and co-creation are valued more than competition. Trust and vulnerability supersede protection, and council and consensus takes precedence over hierarchy and authority. In order to preserve the environment, such culture values conservation over consumption, simplicity above accumulation, and tends to work with nature instead of exploiting it. Undoubtedly, the education system could play a significant role in developing the next generation with such cultural values and lifestyle. However, this necessitates the education system itself to go under a fundamental transformation, as follows:
First and foremost, I believe the education system needs to become intrinsic, i.e., one that strives to empower students and further encourages their own distinct curiosities to learn and expand on what they find most interested in. In contrast, an extrinsic education system is one that is based on a fixed curriculum regardless of the individual characteristics & strengths of each student, which for the most part is how the education system currently operates. Such fundamental change in our education approach would have a profound effect on students, which I believe would also make them skilled and suited for a community-based lifestyle. This is because the fabric of a community culture is weaved by individuals offering what they are passionate about, as oppose to a hierarchal order of duties and responsibilities.
For one to be connected, inspired, and empowered in his or her passion, the muscle of self-inquiry and pursuit of inner calling needs to be greater exercised and strengthened. As an academic, I often find myself as someone who personally engages and interacts with the new generation of students. Amongst them, I frequently inquire about their chosen field of study, and very often find them not clear in their reasoning. Through conversing I sometimes learn that external factors such as potential job availability or parental pressure has directed them one way or another; as opposed to their interests, passions and most importantly, what should be their inner calling. In a school system that dictates the material, many don’t get the opportunity to find their passion. In short, I believe the education system needs to be flipped on its head by placing a greater attention to each student’s own individuality, and encourage each to further explore their distinct interests to guide them in discovering their passion and bringing it to the world. This facilitation would give the next generation a new enthusiasm towards education in general and would stand to starkly contrast common disenchantment with the current system that often opposes student’s own individual passions and serves to impose on them a curriculum they often find uninspiring.
My other criticism of the education system is that it is primarily focused on analytical elaborations, and does little for emotional development of students. In fact, in many cases the education system is detrimental to the emotional and psychological well being of the students. For example in the modern university system, tremendous stress amongst students during the exam period is almost universal and commonplace. Drugs and alcohol often are sought as unsustainable remedies to make them feel well and connected, and in this hectic culture there is little sense of belonging to a community and support system.
It is interesting to observe the level of yearning and desire that exists in both genders for intimate relationships, and yet there exists an inability to create such connections in many cases. This is also the story of our society to a large extent, as evident from the state of our relationships; many do not have intimate relationships and crave it, and those who are in relationships face many standing and growing complications in their interactions. I believe a major factor behind that is due to our focus and priority on evolving the analytical mind, resulting in lack of emotional development, as I discussed further in a previous post. In the context of a community-based culture, emotional development is a critical factor for being able to sustain a community. Our ability to navigate conflicts, discuss needs and desires, take responsibility for our feelings, and having the tools and support system to move through our emotions are all essential for developing sustainable communities. Furthermore, the reward of deeper connection with self, community and nature, which comes from this emotional development, is the best antidote to the consumerism. To achieve this, I believe the education system needs to be built around a core of acceptance, belonging, and connection, along with tools and practices that are needed for emotional development. Shamanic journeys, men/women circles, non-violent communication, and contact improvisation are some examples of such practices. The inquiry to satisfy curiosity, which leads to analytical development, should then start from such a safe and integrated space. I believe this approach would prime the next generation out of individualism and equipped for creating sustainable communities.
I believe the other key factor for transition to a sustainable future is reconnecting with nature and changing our habit of systematically exploiting it, into one that works in tandem with nature in a manner that it provides us with its surplus. In this context, Permaculture is a set of principles for creating ecological systems that can provide us with their surplus, along with the human culture that can create such ecosystem. Permaculture not only holds a remedy to the industrial agriculture that stresses the ecosystem, but also restores many of the social values and interactions that are required for creating a sustainable community culture. Clearly, the education system can play a significant role in equipping the next generation with the necessary tools and outlook to achieve such a vision.
May we educate a generation that is in harmony with nature and can live an ecstatic life.