Education can be defined and reflected upon through many layers or dimensions, some of which are more pure and practical, where others are constructed for the purposes of promoting particular discourses in society.
The most superficial dimension, the one we take for granted in our daily lives, is for instance the belief that all children need to go to school from the ages of six to sixteen, that they should read textbooks to learn about the world and that they should be taught by a teacher. In some cultures education happens when the child is integrated into the daily work of the adults and through a process of apprenticeship learn how to navigate and handle the reality they are a part of. There is no school, and yet – the child is educated.
As such, how we see education is very much dependent on the discourses that we have been brought up with and have come to take for granted.
Looking deeper into the layers of the word education, in a primordial sense, at least in the context of human experience, education is a process of learning from past generations to find the most effective ways to survive. As social animals, we do that through our societies and through our relationships with other human beings, but what if it is possible to look even further?
What does education mean in an existential context?
Why are we here and what are we here to learn?
Some would claim that we are here by the grace of divine intervention, to learn about what it means to be human or to go through a process of karmic evolving, eventually resulting in a form of ‘graduation’ that they call enlightenment. Others believe we are here due to the sins of our ancestors and that our purpose is to earn the forgiveness of God to be accepted back into his graces.
Education is thus on a an existential level, intrinsically intertwined with the question of why we are here and what the meaning of life is, as much as it is grounded in a practical reality question of how to survive in the most effective way.
It is an interesting conundrum because as soon as we ask the questions “Why are we here?” and “What are we here to learn?” we are implicitly implying that we exist in a predetermined existence with an intentional beginning, middle and ending, as were we nothing but the mere fictional characters in a story sprung from an author’s imagination.
But what if there is no such preordained purpose with our lives? Or what is there is, but it is steering us towards the path of destruction? Wouldn’t we want to reexamine that which we call education and to what purpose we engage ourselves within it?
Instead of looking for a preordained and finite answer through which we define ourselves as but the instruments of an abstract divine will, we can change the way we approach these questions. Instead of looking for an answer that is already decided upon, we can decide to answer these questions for ourselves.
In investigating the answers one would give to these questions, one can then also investigate the potential consequential outflows that follow. If you for example decide that we are here to have fun and experience as much as possible, then the point of education becomes a process of learning how to do just that. But what would the world look like if all we focused on were having fun? How long would we be able to sustain ourselves on the planet?
As such, the logical way to answer these questions for oneself would be to look for the most optimal and sustainable long-term approach. If we were to decide that we are here ‘to live’ for example, we would want to make sure that we could actually do that, by taking care of our habitat, because otherwise we would be antagonizing our very own purpose for existing, which would be rather pointless.
If we are interested in the process of creating an optimized, fertile and expansive life for ourselves on this planet where we thrive on an individual level as well as through the global ecosystems that sustain us, we ought to investigate the predetermined and implicit answers to the questions of why we are here and what we are here to learn because whatever the answers to these questions are, is what we are already living.
It could look something like this: “We are here to destroy life.” Or “We are here to consume all resources until there is nothing left.” Or “We are here to compete with each other with the goal of one of us being king over existence and become immortal and untouchable and have control over all life.” It is quite absurd when you look at it this way, but isn’t this what we are already living?
The question of what we are here to learn thus cannot be answered without also answering the question of why we are here and as such, educational process, even in the most surface layers of dimensions will always be connected to this question and the way we answer it, whether implicitly or with intent.
Education is therefore something that ought to be revised and questioned and evaluated on a continuous basis – and not as it is now, taken for granted and locked into static and archaic models, models that does not in any way support life to thrive.
In answering the question of why we are here, with awareness and responsibility, through making a decision based on common sense, the process of education can be clearly determined. In not answering the question of why we are, ghosts of the past will continue to haunt our existence and will possess our every move, as were we nothing but marionette dolls on imaginary strings held up by the figment of our own imagination.
We can make the decision – through directive deliberation and consideration – to decide that we are here, firstly and foremost to stop the destruction of the planet and our habit and to stop the unnecessary suffering of billions of life forms, and secondly, to create a co-existence on the planet that supports all individual life forms to thrive in the most optimal way for all to thrive.
This in fact, ought to be the most fundamental and commonsense form of education, because without it we will always be doing nothing but putting out fires only to reignite them, to do damage control and create makeshift solutions that doesn’t ever really get us anywhere.
We ought to have a common living principle of saying that: first we make sure that our habitat is optimal and that all life forms are supported to thrive and only when this is ensured can we begin to explore what other reasons we will decide to give ourselves for existing. Only then can we begin to explore what it really means to be alive. Isn’t that why we are here? To discover the real meaning of Life?