“When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight.” –Joyce
Whats the difference between a society composed of members that are intrinsically motivated to discover more about themselves and the place in which they live, and a society where each person is taught only what they need to know to survive?
Group Think in Our Society
For most people living in the US, public education has told us what to think based on decisions made by politicians who have very little inside knowledge of what is actually going in in the schools. This has been the case for so long that we don’t even realize how limited and purposefully selected this content is.
The only motive for this kind of system that comes to mind is control. For example, the way the Native American story is portrayed in our history books comes to mind. For the most part, the history that is told in public schools is that the Native Americans were “savages,” who organized “war parties,” against the white settlers and murdered women and children.
However, one need not search long before finding other accounts, outside the domain of public education, that suggest the American Government committed one of the greatest atrocities of genocide in the whole of human history, by rounding up and exterminating millions of Native Americans. How is this any different than the Nazi regime?
Another aspect to consider about groupthink mentality is who is making the decisions? For example, just how much power does the president of the U.S. have? From what I have heard and read, “money talks,”and in this case, that means those who financially back the presidential candidacy, and later the elected party policies, are the ones with power, because they are the ones who influence the decision making.
The president, according to this line of thinking, may merely be a figurehead.
If this is true, then it is the CEOs of major corporations with the power of decision. More specifically, it appears that those with the greatest influence over Wall Street, such as the Rockefellers, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan Chase, etc., are the ones who control political decision making.
Returning to the public education system, and how it was selectively groomed to support the economy, even the schedule itself was designed around the economy, and not, as is widely believed, to free the summers of the youth so they could help out with the harvesting of crops. Rather, it was originally tailored for year-round education of the wealthy in urban areas, and designed with spring and fall “vacation” for families in rural areas, when it was the best time to plant (in the spring) and harvest (in the fall).
Later, because the general ideology of the wealthy was that it was “too hot” in the summer for their kids to be in school, and that they “should be on vacation” during that time anyway, summer vacation was added. Next, in order to “realign” the school year to make it consistent with all families, the schedule was formalized to how we see it today. In other words, the public educational system has been designed to fit the desires of the wealthy families and not to meet the needs of the individual learner. Moreover, this demonstrates that the phrase “money talks” actually has some merit.
Based on the information presented above, it seems that American education has never been about what is best for the individual, only what is best for the economy which, in and of itself, would not be a “bad” thing. However, we must consider the depth of the reality of this line of reasoning in order to understand both the underlying implications, as well as the overarching reality we create by adopting such a far reaching “groupthink” mentality.
In order to clarify what I am suggesting above, it may help to consider the difference between an “inside/out” and “outside/in” approach to education. First lets consider the system in its current state, which is outside/in. This means, quite simply, that the content of learning is selected almost entirely by someone other than (outside) the individual learner.
Okay, no big deal, as that has always been the case. Even before public education the parents and their “tribe” decided what was best for the individual, and it was based on what had been determined to be the “best” for the tribe. Indeed, that is the essence of groupthink mentality, and anyone who “agrees” to be a member of the tribe will fall under the influence of that particular tribe’s groupthink philosophy.
This outside/in approach to teaching an individual has most likely been going on as long as humans have walked the planet, and when it comes to establishing social norms and expectations in relation to the rule of law as a means of maintaining social order, it is probably vital.
However, is this technique best for all learning? In other words, this may be an excellent way to teach how to get along with others, but is it a good way to teach how to learn other information, such as psychology, philosophy, biology, anthropology and the like?
Is there another option?
Do we really want to create a flock of sheep that simply follow along with the knowledge that is proposed to them by their tribe?
And furthermore, are we okay with accepting the fact that a large percentage of the youth will rebel against this form of education because they feel a pull toward something else?
Indeed, this is one of the key reasons for the high dropout rate in so many schools around the country. More importantly than that, however, it is a key reason why many of those who do comply simply go through the motions, or “jump through the hoops,” and are not inspired to continue to learn on their own once their formal schooling is complete.
Moreover, the lack of inspiration to learn leads to a stagnation of the individual and, unless one somehow stumbles across that which inspires him, he will likely go through an emotional crisis.
The need to grow is a fundamental aspect of life.
How are we any different?
If what is presented above is true, why have we, as a nation, accepted the groupthink mentality that the outside/in approach to education is the best way to go? I propose it is because we are only in a groupthink mind set when we are unaware of its presence, that is to say, it is subconscious thought.
Only when we become aware of it can we act independent of it.
This may suggest our forefathers and policy makers were largely unaware of squelching the inquisitive human spirit by the formulation of the educational system as it is today. However, it is possible that our predecessors were very aware of it and actually acted with that particular purpose in mind, knowing full well it was the best way to control the population by making the people feel dependent upon the leadership of those who “know better.”
“If you follow your bliss, you will always have your bliss, money or not. If you follow money, you may lose it, and you will have nothing.” – Joseph Campbell
The inside/out approach to education would look vastly different than the traditional system. Most importantly, it would be based on the individual’s intrinsic motivation to learn, rather than the current methods of external motivation such as grades, degrees, and the promise of a high paying job.
In order to engage the individual’s intrinsic motivation to learn, we must begin by asking questions to determine what excites her.
Once we determine that, we can begin to probe further and ask what she needs to know in order to know more about her passion. Given enough time and consideration, eventually the student would stumble across all the basic learning principles in education, from language arts to mathematics, to science, psychology, sociology, and so on. Indeed, in order to understand one piece of any system we must be able to understand how it fits in relation to the whole. That is the entire premise of the field of systems science.
By following the methodology described above, the individual would learn the comprehensive education that would serve him and his society’s best interest. Moreover, it would be coming from the inside/out, which would stir in him the intrinsic motivation to learn, and perhaps most importantly, instill a life long desire to understand.
Begin Teaching Self Awareness Early
“Now in every human being there is a built-in human instinct system, without which we should not even come to birth. But each of us has also been educated to a specific local culture system… We are taught to respond to certain signals positively, to others negatively or with fear; and most of these signals taught are not of the natural, but of some local social order. They are socially specific. Yet the impulses that they activate and control are of nature, biology, and instinct.” Joseph Campbell
I would like to share a story with you that exemplifies what Campbell suggested in the above quote. Not long ago I was on a walk along a nature trail when I came across a beautiful scene with a father showing his young daughter the seed pod of a plant. He was pointing out all of the features inside and was engaging her in dialog about it. At the time, the girl’s mother was about 20 yards away with a dog on a leash and I watched as she turned and headed toward the father and daughter. After the father finished what he was saying the little girl took a good look at the seed pod and said simply, “Yucky!” Immediately the father responded by saying, “That’s not yucky! It’s really cool.” The mother echoed his words as she was walking toward them.
At first, as I observed the scene described above it occurred to me what a beautiful thing it was that this couple, who appeared to be very loving and supportive, was teaching their daughter to respect nature. However, that thought was followed up by the thought that what they were actually doing was teaching her not only what to think but also what to feel. In turn, they were conditioning her from the outside/in, which is to say, they were teaching her that she ought to see and feel the same as them. The question then occurred to me, might there be a better way?
What if instead of saying, “It’s not yucky!” they simply asked the question, “Why yucky?” This would certainly create a vastly different experience for the youngster. Instead of being taught to believe only what others think and feel, she would be directed to turn inside and examine her feelings about what she was experiencing. It may be that it was an innate reaction, as we do have psychological archetypes that are present at birth. For example, most people are uncomfortable around spiders, snakes, and other creatures that may be poisonous. In addition, people in general are not comfortable around decomposing organic material, which is why we typically don’t like the smells associated with this particular life process. These archetypes serve as a protective mechanism because they help prevent us from ingesting or coming in contact with toxins that might be harmful to the body.
On the other hand, it may be that the little girl was coming from the place of a previously conditioned response, in which she remembered her parents telling her that something that reminded her of the plant life was “yucky.” For example, perhaps something fell on the floor and the little girl went to pick it up and put it in her mouth, which many babies do early in their lives, and her parents said, “No! That’s yucky!” In turn, they condition her to believe that food on the floor is yucky, which is not necessarily a “bad” thing. However, if it causes the youngster to project “yucky” onto the beauty of nature, it isn’t a good thing either.
What I am suggesting above is that we need to learn to ask kids more questions about what they are thinking and feeling, rather than attempting to always teach them what they should think and feel about each life event. In turn, they would become more adept at observing the inner sensations of the body and learn to find and follow their bliss. Moreover, the natural tendencies of their authentic self would be allowed to shine through, rather than to be suppressed by a societally imposed belief system.
Imagine the difference between a society composed of members that are intrinsically motivated to discover more about themselves and the place in which they live, versus a group of individuals who are taught only what they need to know to survive. The former would be educated from the expansive energy of growth, whereas the latter would be taught from a place of fear.
Which society would you want to live in?
Which society would you be more likely to thrive in?