What is education? In a wide sense, education is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. As soon as we are exposed to outer influences we experience our environment – consciously and subconsciously. We learn!
For example, I learn something about traffic when I observe cars on the street. I experience characteristics of water when I swim in a lake. Learning happens throughout our entire life. Consequently, talking about education means considering the environment in which a human being lives over the course of her or his whole life. In a narrower sense, we would like to define education as follows:
Education is the acquirement of knowledge and skills.
Every individual acquires knowledge and skills in order to be able to satisfy needs, realize ambitions or solve problems. Thus, learning is a process through which every human being might find happiness and satisfaction.
Question: What conditions enable a human being to learn most effectively?
A human being is most receptive to new information when her or his interest is derived from inner motivation. In our eyes, children bear an inconceivable amount of inherent motivation to discover their environment or to understand gathered experiences. Something that establishes curiosity motivates a human being to ask questions, to listen to experts, to collect information and to train personal skills (→ The Scientific Method). The human being can only be educated by her or his self. Others can only provide the necessary assistance (e.g. information, tools, space to practice, etc.). Education is a process chosen by the individual.
The diagram above illustrates that society provides education for an individual all the way along the path to achieving her or his personal goals. Furthermore, this model of an education system assists the individual without insisting on any reward or condition. That is because any process that hinders an individual from acquiring knowledge or skills might diminish or even suspend inner motivation (→ Human Behavior). This interpretation of education harmonizes with the ideal of a model society (→ Values).
Question: What is the best way for a human being to learn?
Since everyone differs in knowledge, experiences and biology, every human being learns in individual ways. However, the more education stimulates as many senses as possible the easier a human being can grasp new information. Thus, education should take place as close as possible to the object of interest. Hence, in our eyes, the global society should endeavor to achieve the following:
Each individual should have access to humanity’s knowledge that is available in libraries, museums, on virtual platforms and through many other mediums. The global society should enable everyone to travel everywhere on the planet. It is necessary that everybody has possibilities to put acquired knowledge and skills into practice. Additionally, society should enable every individual to establish contact with those who share the same interest or those who want to present knowledge and skills.
Question: Who wants to present knowledge and skills to others?
When a human being is passionately interested in something, in the majority of cases he or she loves to share thoughts about it. Nearly everyone who is concerned with a particular subject shares experiences and knowledge – from the beginner up to the expert. In our experience, sharing knowledge and coaching special skills is most satisfying and even joyful when the dialog partner is really interested.
Based on the understanding that the learner’s interest is the most important factor for an effective learning process, we would like to introduce the following guidelines that have proven successful in helping humans to educate themselves about the topics of their choice:
Education should elate, enthuse and inspire
by fostering curiosity, creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness.
The inherent self motivation that, in our eyes, every human being possesses, needs to be supported and developed. Following one’s inner curiosity and interests is the most efficient way of learning. Concentrating on something by which one is enthused, provides enough mental energy to help to solve even very complex problems. This enthusiasm and ingenuity must be supported and encouraged to enable people to effectively learn throughout their entire life.
Education should be practical.
For education to be a success, it needs to be combined with feelings and sensory experiences. Thus, education systems should present the whole world. That also means not only talking about e.g. deserts, studying them on maps, but also traveling there to explore these deserts. Human beings learn most effectively and remember best if new information is connected to self created or experienced feelings, images and impressions. And the most effective way of getting an image of something is by actually seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, feeling and experiencing the object of interest oneself.
Knowledge and skills should be communicated in easily comprehensible fashions.
Descriptions and instructions are of little value if they are written in “cryptic” language and hardly anybody can read “cryptic” language. Knowledge must be presented in easily understandable ways. Skills must be presented in fashions that enable the learner to understand, practice and apply them easily. The better an individual internalizes something, the easier she or he can continue the educational process.
The global society should provide all existing information.
If information is only partly accessible, it is very hard or even impossible to draw exact conclusions from it in order to develop sustainable solutions for problems. The more information is readily available, the better one can base her or his own research on it.
The holistic understanding of interrelations and interdependencies
should be part of education.
The universe exists as a whole entity, and thus everything in it is somehow connected with something else. That is why we consider it important not only to look at the different aspects separately, but also to consider the interactions between them.
The following examples might visualize the points we have made above:
- I am interested in elephants. Experiencing elephants in their natural environment offers me a graspable imagination of an elephant’s life. The observation might create further questions and ideas that I like to talk about in conversations with elephant experts or those who are interested like me.
- I would like to learn French. Besides reading books, watching films and taking part in language courses, the best way to study the French language is to talk with people speaking French. Hence, it would be very helpful if I could find French people who want to teach me or simply like talking with me. Maybe I can teach them my mother tongue at the same time.
- I want to play the clarinet. Thus, I need the instrument and a place to practice where I don’t disturb others. Inspired by listening to music by skilled clarinetists at concerts or on records, I can practice my skills with the help of those who already play this instrument. Additionally, it might be interesting to know about the materials the clarinet is made from and how it creates sound.
- I endeavor to understand the processes in computer systems. Access to well written books and similar sources of information, conversations with physicists, computer scientists, programmers and engineers, and the possibility of experiencing those processes in experiments, enable me to expand my knowledge as effectively as possible. Moreover, information about energy consumption and raw materials that are necessary for building up a computer system, can sensitize me to interrelations between computer technology and the Earth’s resources.
To this end, through effective communication and organization systems (→ Technology), the global education system should enable every individual to easily find sources of knowledge, skill training possibilities and other individuals who like sharing their experiences. Tools that are required for education processes (e.g. books, pens, computers, special equipment) should be provided by the societal economic system (→ Handling Resource Scarcity).
Every human being is interested in the world that surrounds us or the world inside ourselves. From the moment we appear in this world we wonder about it. We discover needs we have and that the satisfaction of these needs can bring us happiness. At that point we become interested in education. Education as the acquirement of knowledge and skills is a means of satisfying needs and realizing dreams and ambitions (→ Basic Understandings).
— A short comparison to our contemporary society (2012) —
There is a significant contrast between the form of education we have described above and education in our contemporary society. Most education systems oblige people to acquire knowledge. Often society understands institutions (e.g. school) as a duty and “forces” people to acquire knowledge that is preselected by others, using static, non-individual methods.
When talking about education, people often say that it is important to teach humans in order to make them “socially responsible”. What does it mean to be “socially responsible”? Well, it could mean: “It is important to know how to read and write”, “It is important to know certain behavioral rules”, or “Everyone must learn something in order to be able to find a job, so that he or she can feed the family.”
However, people that understand education in this way argue that society has to communicate its values to the following generations actively. They name values like “It is necessary to be polite, smart and tough in order to make a living”, “Being diligent is important”, or “Stealing is wrong.” They often conclude: “Our kids would end up on the street if we didn’t force them to go to school.”.
Question: What about an environment that does not operate on competition? What about an environment in which quality and sustainability are of higher importance than working as hard as possible? What about an environment in which stealing is not necessary to have access to goods and services? And finally, what about an environment that provides a lot of possibilities for every child to follow their curiosity by playing, discovering and experimenting? Do you think they would still develop an interest in street business in an environment that offers attractive courses in art, music, natural science, dancing, sports, photography, drawing, languages, engineering and all the other fields you can think of?
You see, the values that society might feel obliged to communicate actively depend on the environment a human being grows up in. If the individual grows up in an environment where no one is tempted to steal or hurt anybody in order to satisfy her or his needs, it may not even be necessary to actively communicate values like those mentioned above.
However, our contemporary education systems rarely consider understandings that have the greatest potential to make the world a safer place. These are understandings about the importance of communication or values that spring from understandings about interrelations in society.
Furthermore, our education systems rarely encourage creativity and critical thinking. Quite to the contrary, contemporary education systems try to determine right from wrong through tests and exams. Far too often the context is forgotten and right and wrong are presented as universal truths. This reveals a lack of understanding in society. It is a lack of understanding about truth, since the shared truth of education institutions is neither of lesser nor of greater value than the individual’s personal truth (→ Basic Understandings). Rather than “correcting” learners, education institutions should focus on explaining this shared truth to the individual for the individual to decide if she or he shares it.
In education processes that were not chosen by the individual, any kind of judging or labeling (e.g. by using marks) might raise pressure to perform within the individual. Pressure to perform or any expectation by society towards an individual may produce negative experiences with education. For example, it raises fear of making mistakes although mistakes are an important component in learning.
Additionally, our education systems often avoid cooperation between individuals when demanding tasks processed by each student alone. That stands in contrast to the sole idea of society, for society itself is a synonym for cooperation. That prohibition of collaboration can foster attitudes of distrust, dishonesty and non-support amongst the students. Furthermore such experiences can be very unpleasant for the individual. The fear of being labeled and judged for doing something “wrong”, coupled with the impression of non-support often create very negative experiences.
Negative experiences associated with education increase the probability that an individual loses interest. As mentioned above, the individual’s interest is the most important factor for any learning process to be successful. Hence, the way that society handles education today discourages people from learning rather than supporting their will to learn. And now many of us talk about the many “lazy” people out there. In our eyes, at one point, “lazy” people were interested in something, but their interest did not fit into the limiting frames of our contemporary education systems. Their curiosity diminished in part. Curiosity can be suppressed, for instance if adults judge children by saying “Keep quiet!”, “Stop dreaming!” or “Bother somebody else!” Curiosity can disappear if a family has no money to buy books or to finance the visit to the zoo or museum. Financial limitations appear to be the most hindering factor for educational processes in our contemporary society.
Furthermore, it is important to point at the unaccessible knowledge that must be kept back by companies for creating competitive advantages or knowledge that is held in thousands of patents. In a competition based society, patents are necessary to ensure that an inventor has exclusive control over an idea and its usage. Patents, however, hinder the free usage of knowledge and thus education.
We think, the contemporary education systems are rarely designed to optimally assist the individual in experiencing a satisfying educational process. They limit people in their ways of acquiring knowledge and skills rather than supporting them in the pursuit of their interests. If education systems served curiosity and interest instead of crushing it, human beings could be enabled to acquire knowledge and skills effectively throughout all ages.
Nevertheless, with the development of communication structures like the world wide web in the recent past, there have appeared an unimaginable number of educational sources that are now available for those who have web access. People talk about their experiences in blogs, explain interesting ideas on video platforms, or write down knowledge on Wikipedia. Additionally, search engines allow us to find sources that are related to particular keywords. Social networks make it simpler to find people that share similar interests. These communication structures allow the exchange of knowledge throughout the entire world and thus they are the beginning of a global education system. A global education system providing local education institutions in which people can meet to talk, discuss, create, analyze, practice and simply share everything they want to, whenever they want to.
—– Myths and Opinions —–
In our lectures and conversations about society we established a collection of Myths and Opinions that have crossed our way most frequently. Some of these statements are widely spread amongst the people in this world. We would like to give you some thought provoking impulses concerning some of the Myths and Opinions of our collection.
“Itʼs impossible to bring everyone to the same level of education.”
We agree. Everyone is different. Bringing everyone to the same level of education is of importance in a system that operates with competition. In such a system “equality of opportunity” is a factor that people are eager to establish. In such systems it is important to make sure that everyone feels able to start from the same point in regard to the “race over the acquirement of resources”, so that people do not feel disadvantaged and turn against each other.
However, bringing everyone to the same level of education might not even be necessary in a system that values cooperation rather than competition.
We all are individuals. And even though all our lives may be based on the same principles (e.g. breathing, eating, sleeping, etc.), we are still very different in the way we think, feel and thus learn. Our different interests and the variety of our ideas is exactly what makes life with one another so interesting and colorful. So instead of trying to make everyone “as equal as possible”, we think the global society should endeavor to satisfy everyones needs so people can enjoy their differences rather than being afraid of them.
“Making mistakes is proof of one’s weakness.”
This is less an opinion and more an attitude. An attitude that often has very destructive consequences. If society equates “mistakes” with “weakness” people might become afraid of making mistakes – especially in a competing society. This fear can distract people in a way that slows down their learning process and lets them make way more mistakes than they would do without facing this pressure. People that are afraid of going wrong usually are not the best at learning new things. That is because one has to be prepared to “go wrong” to find the “right way”.
Such statements also assume that there is a universal “right” and a universal “wrong”. From our point of view, this is not the case. “Right” is always to be seen in a context: being loud is right if one wants to sing an opera. Being loud is wrong when one is working the night shift in a children’s hospital. To be loud is neither right, nor wrong. It is only right or wrong, once set in a context. And even when set in a context the decision about right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, will be derived from the individual’s personal truth (→ Basic Understandings).
Consequently, it is even “right” and important to make mistakes if they advance the learning process. Finally, a “mistake” can be a source of new observations or ideas, as often seen in scientific developments in humanity’s history.
Further inspirational information and research material is available on our link pages (→ Links about education).