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The Daily Paradox

Education: a Rethink Part 2 – for the 2020s

Education begins at home but some homes are not equipped to provide what is needed today. True in the past, that will be true in the future, too. We don’t want ‘professional parenting’ if our purpose is to keep a diverse mixture of brains and brawn in our population. We do want parents taking responsibility for their children. The two main reasons that schools, universities and all other places of learning now play a more important part in education are the speed at which we discover new ways of living and the proximity of the planet’s over-population.

Education begins with information. There are three ways in which information should be available to us. First we must understand it, second we must assess its validity and finally we must know whether, when and how to use it. Formal education and training are today as deeply involved in the first two of these as parenting, certainly from the age of seven. Almost all of the third is now, and will increasingly become, regarded as a job for society.

A child (7 to 17) is already partly equipped to handle the essential bodily functions of life. S/He will also have received emotional imprints from all their contacts, especially those in home and school. In the 2020s these influences have expanded to everything and everywhere in the world through the internet. Even babies display fingers prodding at an imaginary keyboard. Once a child has a mobile phone there is no information it cannot access. Protective measures don’t work if the child has contact with others. At the very earliest age, a child must now know what information is safe, truthful and acceptable to society.

Children mature at different paces. Parents and teachers must know how to read a child’s progress. Reading people is a primary requirement for everyone, child, parent, teacher and beyond. It should now be top of the education agenda. It enables educators to teach what is suitable for a child. It also allows children to handle such information sensibly. If reading people had been taught for the last 100 years the world might not now be tottering towards WWIII.

A child’s purpose is to live, grow and have fun. In an overcrowded world survival is more than avoiding being killed. It is to develop, without receiving fatal or life-damaging physical and mental scars. ‘Developing’ means growing the intellect and personality of the child as fully as possible. Openness about honesty values and collective happiness should involve a minimum of aggressive teaching and a maximum of logical understanding. Social rules are guidelines, not infallible commands. Thrashing and trashing children is counterproductive.

Children need to be taught appreciation. The lightning-strike pace of today’s events leaves us with superficial understanding and barely discernible enjoyment. Life will be fast, but only appreciation of beauty, taste, the quality of creativity and personal relationships can make it worthwhile. Understanding of all these life assets begins – or doesn’t – in childhood.

Humankind has already created many facets of the modern world. We are in the process of creating more, with possibilities for life on earth and in the universe so far undreamt of. Much of this invention has been consequential rather than planned. Technological advance is now a looming benefit and a haunting threat. If left to a contest of competitive superiority it will become destructive, possibly of our planet, maybe even of our species. Humans must agree what sort of a species we want to be in the future and how we can attain that peacefully.

We have the means of communication to do this. Our education of the young must now include a study of the whole world and its peoples, perhaps ‘Worldography’. This should be supplemented by study of the Universe, maybe ‘Univography’. If people talk to each other enough we won’t need to label our political systems democratic or autocratic. Communication will have come into its own.

These are broad brush requirements of education today. In the third part of this trilogy we shall consider the needs for forty years hence – the 2060s. This will deal with what we need to do today for then, not with what we can leave for others to worry about.

What tomorrow’s world will look like is being determined by you and me.

Good morning

John Bittleston

Thank you for your interest in Part 1 of this trilogy. After Part 3 I will ask some questions and be very grateful if you have a little time to respond.

8 February 2024