Rethinking Education

I live in a place called `The New Forest’.  If you haven’t been to England, you could be forgiven for thinking it had only just been planted.  In reality, the name ‘New Forest’ is a thousand years old.  The forest was named by William the Conqueror, who declared the whole area a royal hunting ground.  (Even he didn’t plant it – it used to be called Ytene Forest, pronounced ee-ten, after the Jute peoples who lived here. That’s another story…)

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The point is, names can be misleading.  When you hear something referred to as ‘education’, it’s easy to assume that it must be a good thing, and that it’s useful to humanity.  I mean, who doesn’t need educating, right?

The trouble is, most of the schools in existence today have their roots in a particular type of `education’, created by European colonial settlers between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.  It had several purposes, but one of the primary ones was to convince Indigenous people in Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Americas that the things they already knew were not really ‘knowledge’.  Knowledge, by definition, came from Europe, and could be divided neatly up into subjects: mathematics, history, geography, biology, chemistry, physics, and so forth.

This so-called ‘Western education’ has had disastrous and often tragic consequences. As well as leaving a toxic legacy of racism, xenophobia and white supremacism, it’s also led to a profound and pervasive sense of disconnection.

For Indigenous communities – who tend to be acutely aware of what’s been lost – this disconnection has all too often resulted in intergenerational trauma, showing up as addictions, abuse, and some of the highest rates of suicide in the world.

For white Europeans, North Americans and Australians, who generally aren’t even conscious that many of the essential ingredients for a healthy human life are absent in post-industrial societies, it usually manifests as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, or other so-called ‘mental health problems’.

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There’s been a lot of talk about decolonising education and ending racism, but what’s needed to address the world’s most challenging sustainability problems runs far deeper than that.  It’s fundamentally an anti-colonial education:

  • An education celebrating diversity, not only in relation to human beings, but also the other species who share the planet with us…
  • An education which admits that not everything which deserves the title ‘knowledge’ can be read in books, written in essays, or even put into words at all…
  • An education that doesn’t just ‘tolerate’ different ways of knowing, seeing and being in the world, but actively explores, applies and celebrates them…
  • An education that makes space for words like sacredness, wisdom, trust, faith, mystery, spirit, soul, and Love, instead of regarding them as taboo…
  • An education that recognises the importance of helping people to reconnect with nature, with creativity, with community, with their own emotions, and most crucially with Deep Love – and learn to thrive.

This is the vision of Reconnecting Education, our global movement to put `Deep Love’ – not romantic or sexual love, but what the Greeks called agape, a pure and unconditional form of love that is patient, kind, and non-egocentric – at the heart of education.  

We can use the four elements of Nature, Creativity, Community and Emotions as paths to experiencing Deep Love in our everyday lives.  Yet, depending on our religious or spiritual beliefs, we may also use many other sacred practices that offer other routes.  The challenge is to prevent names such as God, Goddess, Allah, Krishna, Jehovah, Mungu, Wakan-Tanka, Great Spirit, Engai, Dieu, and so forth, from becoming barriers that keep people apart and keep them away from Deep Love.

If this resonates with you, please contact us to find out how you can join our movement!

 

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