I used to have mixed feelings about my education. On some level I found it pointless to go to school when I could assimilate all the information I needed (and more) locked away in my bedroom, SAFE from the dramas of other people.
Over the last weeks I’ve been interviewing experts from a range of disciplines… from military peace keeping, to anthropology, from film making to eastern philosophy, neuroscience, economics, and technology, in preparation for the Think Tank discussions on world-building in a few weeks’ time.
Education is a topic which crops up often.
It will be one of our TIPPING POINTS: a variable which if we manipulate in the right way, can have massive effect worldwide.
But in the quiet moments when I’m pounding the pavements with my thoughts for company, I’ve been observing new connections about what education is, has been, and should be.
I’ve also been reflecting on my own experience in the education system in England.
Contrary to what we were told, I’m beginning to suspect that English was never about being able to write well so that people would have a good impression of you. This was the intended purpose. But what if it was more? What it is was about being able to articulate thoughts precisely so that you can speak your truth, without misrepresentation or ambiguity? What if it was so that you can wield your words to shape your world and your relationships?
English literature was about how people think and feel, how they behave and how they make decisions. I see now it though was more about learning empathy, through the stories.
History seemed to be about a different type of story. An almost infinite story that spanned time and space to reveal how men behave en masse. As I look at it through new eyes I’m wondering now if it is more about fear, and how different nations and commanders of nations, navigate and manage this fear. At least this is my impression from how it was presented to me. I wonder if it could be different.
I’ve wondered about the hours spent in language classes often watching out of the window wishing to be anywhere else. Perhaps language can be a way of reducing fear of people in different geo-cultures, and increasing our communication. I realised that for me, the purpose of learning French and German in the classroom was never to be able to speak French and German, but to have the ability to pitch up in any country and have the confidence to not just survive hostile environments, but thrive in the more friendly communities. Language seems to also be the gift of being able to look at any computer code and understand the structure and see what’s going on. That kind of confidence goes beyond the additional 40 million more people you might be able to communicate with on a planet of billions.
I’m wondering if the purpose of learning mathematics wasn’t so that we could find x (which always seems to be getting itself lost) or calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle in our day to day lives (because that crops up so often). It was a wiring of the brain to be able to gallop over concepts, and map the intersections. To look through the windows of our models, to view versions of reality.
The purpose of working through the grades in music exams, and learning a myriad of instruments, was not to be able to play Rachmaninov for the sheer enjoyment (well, maybe it was part of it), but to appreciate the intricacies in a composition, and understand how the themes and mathematical patterns weave together and play the psyche to elicit mood or state. But then how similar are these patterns to the patterns of human interactions, on the individual and the state level. What If we could understand the patterns creating the pockets of syncopated violence around the globe, and find a rhythm to counteract it and restore coherence?
The purpose of the military training wasn’t discipline or adventurous training as they would tell the grownups at open evenings. In the beginning you’re ordered around and taught to respond no matter how you feel and no matter what your opinion about the orders. But once you assimilate the spectrum of feelings (from frustration to subjugation) you may learn a new superpower: that you have a mastery over yourself that no one else can touch, unless you let them… not in the field, nor in the classroom, the office, or out in the wilds of civilization.
The purpose of having to tie your hair up and not wear make-up, the reason for being chastised and punished any distinguishing adornments, was not to make you the same as everybody else, and remove your identity, but to show you that you can become so strong in who you are without these props. You can transcend the need to display your identity outwardly, without attachment, when it serves you or your life depends on it, flaunting your inner rebel just as easily either when it’s safe, or it honours another purpose.
Science was never about proving what was correct or how the material world worked. It was about crafting an attitude of rigor that can transcend speculation and misunderstanding. It was about developing a curiosity that you can each apply daily for life mastery. This rigor allows us to never be boxed in by events or circumstances but rather liberates us as an observer of the structures we’re operating in. Shift one variable, and watch which pieces are connected, and how they change in response. With each mesh or system we master, we get to play with life, rather than be run by it.
If this is accurate, then we’re in a position of ultimate choice in everything.
Criminal psychology was never about how criminals behave, but rather how to read the indicators of human behaviour for prediction and response, just as indictors on the stock market will dictate how you will move your stop-losses. You later realise that these indicators are in fact data points on the map of all human behaviours. In collecting data points to map correlations between the internal world and external behaviours, we start to see patterns that apply to psychic containers. Not just the criminal and deviant. We start to see how different neurological structures, or identities, react to internal pain, stress and triggers. We learn to observe these patterns of those around us… the victim, the over-achiever, the narcissist, the lover, the co-dependent, the saviour, the recluse, the passive-aggressive, the scholar, the muse, the drama queen, the bully.
We start to understand, even to empathise.
We start to see ourselves in the gathered data points.
And finally we start to accept.
I used to have mixed feelings about my education, yet as I’m having these discussions, I’m understanding how much I’ve received. Maybe it wasn’t the prison sentence to a professional career I’d begun systematically abdicating from even before the ink on the final exam paper was dry.
Perhaps after everything it was a passport to freedom – and with luck, through the world-building discussions during Storytelling for Social Profit, it could also be a key to helping others find the liberation they didn’t have thrust upon them by the birth-lottery.