Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Breaking the Cycle

There is an idea that a simplistic, happy life is ignorance. At first I thought it was steeped in racism, but then it occurred to me that it was more a lack of awareness when a certain paradigm came in contact with sustainable communities of equal intellect who consciously chose to live within the parameters of their landscape. In the last article if you got the idea that we are raising our kids like we raise our foods, a vast monoculture of standardized minds conditioned to respond to stimulus rather than initiate creative and intrinsic problem solving skills, than you'd be right. The institutions, born out of the industrial revolution and based in getting as many folks through the program as possible, are self perpetuating. The teacher is a product of the system that he or she facilitates. The obvious results are unquestioned, even embraced. The answer isn't change, it's catch phrases extracted from research done by fellow educators, and documentation to cover ones butt in case a "radical" challenges the idea that real learning happens in an artificial, sedentary environment where there is no intrinsic reward, emotional investment, or cultivation of natural curiosity. We see this institution take bright eyed, eager college graduates who have a passion for life and, in the same amount of time it takes an elementary school to subdue childlike curiosity and produce a glassy eyed disinterested middle schoolers, that same teacher has moved from the center of the room interacting with each student at their own level to a position behind a desk in the back of the room. We blame development for this, but again, culturally, this has been shown to be inconsistent. Well adjusted, very curious, and socially responsible adolescents abound in nomadic cultures around the globs. The impossible task of developing whole human beings in a classroom with a twenty student to one adult ratio degrades in to a cosmetic shell game. Each "seasoned teacher" knows they have about 185 days to cover the material the state requires, the district requires, the Principal requires, the parents, IEP, RTI, and standardized testing requires. Factor in grading and what's left is designated time for mentoring, challenging, and eeking out the innate curiosity about the world. Actually, what's left is a frazzled shell who fails to give up until retirement, and too often dies within the first five years after that. So how to we break free of this relatively young model of cultivating minds to conform and perform in a post industrial society? Do we really want to? School was not started with Plato and Socrates, as is normally touted. These folks had students wander the landscape and share from their direct experience. The model we work with today first manifested in Germany about 500 years ago in an effort to train members of agrarian cultures for jobs in the city. Dewey and Ford refined the process. To this day we rate our workers with grades. Grade A or "Meets the Standard" means you can perform the task well. You may be suitable for management. Grade F, and your the guy they send into the mine to see if the canary is still alive. It made sense 500 years ago. We didn't understand the many ways a person learns, or how the brain makes neural connections. Besides, the way we did it before, the invisible school, was compassion based members of our extended family allowing us to experience hardship, failure, and success in a supportive community of active and aware learners. How does one measure that? So, if your interested in breaking the cycle, for your kids, your self, your class room, your community, it's pretty easy. It's also supported by the latest in brain research and thousands of years of evolutionary processes. The latent, sometimes atrophied parts of your brain designed to utilize childlike curiosity are still in there! How many of you used to make forts as a kid, pretend to be an animal, make a bow and arrow or spear, have adventures? This genetic predisposition is nothing less than the whole bodies programming to interface with a multidimensional and dynamic organic landscape. In many educational institutions, if these traits can not be subdued by behavior modification through parental and teacher pressures, even peer pressure, than the child is medicated. Outside, these children flourish. They tend to have quicker responses, higher awareness, and an insatiable curiosity compared to the sedate industrialized minds that have "surrendered to the game". After all, the convenience of the game is what makes it alluring. Jump through the hoops, do what your told, write neatly and be on time, quiet, and respectful, and you will be handsomely rewarded. If not, hmmmmm. Sadly, the 10% who flourish in the contrived cells of the public school environment are rarely fully challenged themselves. They "do the work", but yearn for something more engaging. In fact, most students would rather be outside, or participate with more of their senses in meaningful interactions with their environment. We know this, and have known it with increasing realization since the early eighties. Most of the efforts to bring real learning in to public schools falls flat as a fad, again, due to brain patterning on the old way and convenience. "Convenience kills" doesn't only refer to a sedentary life, but a sedentary routine, mindset, awareness level, perspective, passion, body, and being. Movement, joy, pain and the sense that one is the hero of an amazing story instead of the victim of (fill in the blank). As a mentor, I would rather have a sneering, "How do you know" over a "Why do we have to learn this" any day. The first is based in inquisitiveness, the latter is based in a sense of futility. How does this all relate to "Breaking the Cycle of Empires"? By focusing on our species' true source of wealth, the health and well being of our children (collectively and as a community) and the environments they're raised in, we change the paradigm. The world of talented mechanics, engineers, farmers, midwives, herbalists, naturalists, and so on becomes an endless resource of mentoring talent. There is a LOT more though. We have to reclaim some of the wisdom we threw out with our pre-industrial ancestry. Cultural tools that bring awareness to a point of compassion, connection, and empathy, grief recognition and resolution technologies that strengthen the community, and whole person experiences designed to increase understanding of the world and ones role in it that are based on first hand interpretation are just a few of these elements. The rest are coming in the next article. Until then, push buttons, take people out of their comfort zone, and have at least one adventure each day that is not only worth writing about, but worth reading. For more information, instructional videos, details about our staff, school, or courses, please visit http://www.primitiveskills.com

1 comment:

Deus Ex Machina said...

This is precisely the point of my blog, MooseBoots. I have recognized this very point. It is why I learn. It is why we, as parents, homeschool our kids.