Education, the silver bullet

I watched a film called Battlefield Earth once. It was sci-fi, and I loved it. There were people who lived in a Stone Age society. Their planet was colonised by advanced aliens. One local was captured and was put on a machine that educated him quickly, so he could organise his fellow slaves. Unfortunately for the captors he learned how to fight and win. Knowledge is power, so they say. Proper education can turn us from cavemen to scientists who can change our world, both personal and corporate, for the better. That was the premise of the film.

When I was at school in the 1970’s and 1980’s, we were learning to prepare for a career that would last until we retired. There were the usual subjects. Maybe it would have been better to have learnt more about life. Maybe we could have learnt about why we needed to learn and how to learn. That might even motivate a teenager. Now there are some that lead and some that follow, but to me it seems that there is not much choice for students. After college, they are saddled with debt and enter the workplace. They find somewhere that is inhabited by sharks, not the protected environment they were used to in college. Many can become disillusioned and lose their potential. For kids today, success is expected to be instantaneous. Get love, get liked on Facebook. Change a mood, take a pill. Get a girlfriend, go on your phone. There does not seem to be a recognition that achievement comes from work and preparation. There also does not seem to be a recognition that we need to take responsibility for our actions and learn from our mistakes.

Teaching kids to learn the knowledge to get a career is fine. But there are other things in life. Love, people, community and ethics. But if there was an opportunity to put people before money in education, then there would be a range of different opportunities opening up. If we taught about the products they sell and not just short-term profit, they could learn about how to improve those products as entrepreneurs. If they develop an interest for those products, they could improve what they sell rather than how they sell. Improving relationships with clients, suppliers and even competitors.

Teach them how to learn.

Teach them why to learn.

Teach them about emotional intelligence.

Teach them about personal development.

Teach them about ethics.

Teach them new courtship rituals.

Make it relevant.

Put the teachers in charge.

Empower the kids.

Its fine to maximise profit, but if there is nothing worth buying what’s the point. New ideas come from people getting motivated and being inspired.

The main key for me is personal development. To achieve our potential, we need to know ourselves, find confidence and assertiveness. Some people have history that they need to deal with. We do not educate our kids about this. It seems to me in this country that people who have emotions are regarded as mentally ill. I would say it is better to face your emotions, come to terms with them and learn how to use them. That will make you a better person, more able to succeed and it will enable you to help others. These things are not taught in schools or anywhere else.

Mental illness is a bad term as it implies that your thought processes don’t work. As a nurse I witnessed people dealing with new and scary emotions. Learning how to deal with these things expands the possibilities in your life. But it is a long, slow, walk from where you start. The journey of personal development can only be walked by yourself. Others may have occasional interventions, and it is good to talk and be heard. But to move on takes one step in front of the other and sometimes you go backwards. But in all you must persevere. There are no short cuts, there are no magic transformations. I would suggest that personal development is partly a bio-chemical issue. If you find yourself in a low and reflective mood, use it to think on yourself. If that turns into a creative mood, you may find solutions to your problems. These are the normal situations in life and we do not teach our kids. Just filling them with knowledge, getting them to regurgitate it in a test produces robots. Some people want to be robots. But if you want your kids to move on, get better, make the most of life and achieve, it takes real personal development.

So maybe we should think again about education. We are expecting more automation, even in picking crops. Computers take over everything and people become just part of that machine. If there will always be a non-working population, is it because they are lazy, or have we not motivated them? Do they have any hope? Is the working environment in anyway attractive? Is that why the main aim of people in this country is to win the lottery?

There is life out there. It is not just about being a part of a machine. Don’t get me wrong, we need to work and produce a strong economy. But can’t we produce people who can think for themselves and improve, rather than just be part of the machine?

We could have political statespersons.

Inspired and courageous entrepreneurs.

Investigative journalists.

Pioneering scientists.

Self-sacrificing care and charity workers.

Police and security who will lay down their lives to protect us.

Politicians who will serve us.

Lawyers who will give us justice.

Teachers who will inspire us.

And children who will achieve and make us proud.

Sportspeople who will die for the team.

In many cases we already do. But would it not be better if we made it the norm.

It may be that money is the most important factor in our lives and I get that. But it is not the only one, and it is necessary to get on in life, but to ignore other factors in life in the hunt for short term profit and personal gain is short sighted and unfulfilling.

Let our children have a better life than us. But give them the options and the ability to make the choices so they can make the most of their lives.

Conway-Laird (2017)


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