Schooling the World

A couple of nights ago I watched a documentary called Schooling the World. It was about the ways that we’re trying to teach the world in a way that prepares them for a world they don’t live in. I thought it was really interesting and gave me a lot to think about.  Although I don’t believe that our public school system in the US serves enough of the population well, I’ve haven’t thought about the harmful effects of bringing that same system to parts of the world without their own school system. In all relations, it seems to me that we use education and schooling interchangeable when in fact they aren’t the same at all. Education (at least the way I see it) is simply about learning from someone else, be it reading, taking care of a farm, or how to bake a cake. Schooling is an institution, somewhere you go to be taught things, broken into subjects and normally not based on what you want or need to know. There is education happening all over the world all the time and it is certainly needed. People passing on the skills or knowledge they have to people who don’t have those skills or knowledge and need it.

Like so many believes that we hold as truth, the first step to thinking about this concept is to understand what we believe and start to consider whether it’s really true. I think there might be a really interesting, broader discussion hidden in that idea. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but perhaps they’ll be a future post around it. I’m really interested in what we can learn from dismantling our assumptions.

In this context, it might look like asking questions such as these ones:

  • We talk so much about the importance of bringing schooling to all parts of the world.
  • How important is this really?
  • What could we do instead?

These questions bring up some others for me.

  • Can we bring important values instead?
  • Is the education we do bring really about learning things like math and reading or is truly more about learning values?

When we aren’t thinking critically about the values we bring and represent, we don’t often teach the values we want to teach.

In a lot of classrooms in the US, the values that are unintentionally taught are things like: learning isn’t fun, learning isn’t something that happens intrinsically, and learning is separate from the rest of life. Those beliefs are fairly openly shared by a lot of our culture, but when we take a minute to step back and look at them, are they really true? Is that really what we want to be teaching our children? I don’t think so on either account.

There are so many values I believe we need to learn in the US, such as respecting the place we live (both in terms of our neighborhood and town and in terms of our home planet earth), staying more connected to family, and slowing down in our day-to-day life. There are cultures that know these things inherently, but we don’t learn from them because we are forcing our own beliefs. If we approach situations in a “what can we both learn from each other” way, instead of a “let me teach you what is true and right” way, everyone would benefit far more. We wouldn’t be teaching people that the skills they’ve been passing down for generations aren’t important, aren’t necessary, aren’t valuable and worth knowing.

I don’t have a firm belief that we should stop bringing schooling to areas around the world, but I’m really interested in thinking more about this and continuing the conversation. What do you think? Have you had an experience that really changed the way you see the world?



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