We are living in a time where much is being done to improve the efficiency of our education systems, especially through the way teachers teach and the way students learn. John Taylor Gatto, author of the book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling said something in an interview I recently listened to titled The Greatest History Lesson.
He said that we are facing an ’Anti-Educational school environment’. So how does this fit if we are truly in a time where we are at the peak of human evolution where more emphasis is being placed on making the education system efficient than ever before?
There is and have for well over a decade been an increased focus on using quantitative data to extrapolate information about how students perform academically. This is happening juxtaposed with the unraveling of an unstable economic system and the emergence of globalization. The idea is that focusing on the basic skills of writing, reading and math and finding ways to optimize the processes of learning these subjects, will provide students with an academic advantage making them strong contenders in the global race for knowledge supremacy. We are also seeing that as the global economy destabilizes and many countries face massive unemployment rates, fields of science and technology such as engineering are given priority over more ‘soft’ subjects such as those within humanities and arts.
Every day we hear about the importance of testing our children. Every day new tools are being developed to measure the academic performance of students as well as teachers. Every day we hear about the marvels of human invention and we bask in the glory of seeing another new gadget being developed giving us the ability to act with seemingly superhuman powers. Every day we hear about how we are at the peak of our evolution as a species. Every day billions are spent on building new skyscrapers that reaches farther into space than ever before.
So what do we have to show for it?
The UN environmental program estimates that over 200 species of animals go extinct every day due to the way we as humans live and occupy this planet. According to the website Bread for the world, over 2.6 million children die every year from hunger related issues. The World Health Organization estimates that over 7 million deaths each year are caused by air pollution. And according to the website water.org over 780 million people lack access to clean water.
“I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers to care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.” – John Taylor Gatto
The industrial revolution took off well over 100 years ago and with its subsequent development of technology and advanced and cutting edge science one would imagine that we would have solved at least some of these devastating problems by now. The enlightenment period where man first started developing the science and economic thought we know today is over 200 years old and yet our global economy continues to denigrate and unravel. We are certainly looking long and hard after the economic prosperity supposedly growing out of Adam Smith’s self-interested ‘rational’ human being. More than 2000 years ago the concept of modern education was born with Plato arguing for the removal of children from their mothers to be raised to serve the State to ensure a harmonious society. Today we see school shooters raised on violent movies and porn taking revenge on the entire system only to off themselves through the ever popular suicide-by-cop method.
Conclusively it is evident that the school environment is indeed anti-educational as John Taylor Gatto stated in The Greatest History Lesson because we haven’t learned one iota from our past mistakes as a species. On the contrary; we celebrate our mistakes as victories and we re-write history to always make ourselves come out as winners and heroes, while the world is disintegrating before our eyes.
Reading, writing and math are certainly important and basic skills that a child must learn through a schooling process, however when the starting-point of learning these skills is to make us competitive on the global market, there is a stark incongruity between what we learn and what is actually needed in this world. Furthermore, as has been seen over and over, the more we focus on controlling and testing these skills to enhance them, the worse children’s ability to read, write and do math have actually become.
The global race for knowledge supremacy is not only redundant in this context but also becomes destructive when its primary focus is on innovation and technological development for the purpose of optimizing profits for the few. There are so many issues around the world that requires our innovative and collaborative abilities to be solved, like the world water crisis and the extinction of countless animal species. We could use this competition to find ways to develop the best possible solutions to optimize life on earth, yet we focus on things that are not only irrelevant to such solutions, but also thwarts and corrupts them because our emphasis on ‘evolution’ and ‘efficiency’ is based on priorities that does not include what is best for all life.
“Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.” – John Taylor Gatto
If we want to continue living on this earth for generations to come, we must change the focus of our education system, we must change our priorities. Because with the current course that we are on, we are steering ourselves directly into the abyss with a madman at the helm, this delusional and self-aggrandizing ‘captain’ that is the corpus and collective sum of humanity’s efforts and priorities.
Education is one of the single most important factors in changing the course of human evolution, because it is through education that we pass on the values and principles of one generation to the next. We cannot disconnect and separate what is happening at a real and physical level on this planet from what we are teaching in schools, because the first is a result of the latter and considering the current state of the world, it is evident that what we are teaching have nothing to do with how to live effectively in fact. In many respects, what we are showing our children is that we don’t even know what it means to be alive, let alone caring for life. On the contrary it appears that the more knowledgeable we become the crueler our ways of destroying life get and the more delusional we become in thinking and believing that we are advancing and evolving when we are doing anything but.
It is time we change the course of education, starting with ourselves. By taking education into our own hands through understanding the connection between the current state of the world and what we have been taught to prioritize, we can intervene and change course on an individual level. From there it is necessary that we start changing the course of the world-system through standing together with the aim of creating a world that is best for all life, because we understand that nothing is worth anything if Life itself is not prioritized and cared for at a fundamental level. That is what we are working towards in the Equal Life Foundation with the proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. So for the love of life, I urge you to investigate what we are proposing and I urge you to embark on this process of discovery and self-education to change your course, understanding that you make up a part of the whole and that we cannot do this without you, without all of us.
Suggested documentaries to watch for further Self-Education:
The Greatest History Lesson:
PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
The Century of the Self
The Power Principle
Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
The Story of Your Enslavement
Inequality for all documentary:
The Four Horsemen:
On Advertisement and the end of the world:
Third World America – Chris Hedges