Key Issues: Overripe, Low Hanging Fruit

By: Willow Dea

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

R. Buckminster Fuller

We have as incredible an opportunity as ever to provide universal access to the quality of education that everyone deserves. 

You might have noticed that the education system here in the States has lapsed, and in some states it’s kaputz. It’s also true in many other countries.  My European colleagues decry the state of education in its rigid, traditional expression and deeply entrenched policies. Change seems impossible… yet it’s imminent.

While not intimately familiar with the status of education in India or China, other than the geopolitical gains each is stealthily taking, I don’t imagine that they are free of shadow, pitfalls or tension. There is room to grow. Of this, I’m certain.

Third world nations continue to lack the infrastructure and/or resources to offer consistent access to education, thus perpetuating the conditions that beget continued poverty.  Addressing the lack of educational opportunity in developing nations is by no means a simple task, yet I believe it’s imperative. Leveraging the power of an integral operating system to solve for these complex needs is the point of undertaking an integral life practice, or educational approach.

Beyond the mere pleasure of enjoying our integral lifestyle, we are positively charged with the power to coordinate change in domestic and developing regions.  Integral Heart Foundation is a wonderful example of a non-profit undertaking extremely important work with children in Antigua, Guatemala.

In the domestic United States, many of us are aware of the ongoing saga of educational reform efforts and funding issues. I’ve made a quick attempt to organize them along a triad of aesthetic principles. By no means exhaustive, these build a quick sketch of the declared breakdowns in education, and requests for transformation.

 

True

  1. Standardization doesn’t allow teacher the latitude to take appropriate ‘poetic pedagogical license’ to bring forth the content that may be imminently arising in the collective field of any given lesson or class period. This stifles the natural impulse to follow the topic more depth with the natural curiosity that arises for both teachers and learners.
  2. Additionally, the pressure to “teach to the test” disallows whole context learning, in which the various course topics can easily be applied for broader, systemic understanding. 

Disparate Resource Allocation

  • Rural and urban regions receive varying levels of financial income, thus limiting the capacity to deliver instructional quality in under resourced areas.
  • Socio-economic and racial lines are all too often interdependently linked; leading to unacceptably compromised educational quality.
  1. Gender bias in the classroom has long been a part of the equation, and while there may be evidence of gradual improvement, it remains an ongoing issue.
  1. Teacher education lacks the foundational coursework and training to support the integration of students with special needs, learning accommodations and/or awareness of multiple intelligences.
  1. Teacher education fails to address the need to address one’s shadow: the opportunity for personal development in service of greater capacity to witness student’s differences or issues without reaction.

 

Good

  1. Payment for educators is rarely commensurate with the work done. This results in high turnover rates for teachers, the average educator lasting about 5 years.
  1. High turnover rates beget a less stable culture for administrators and students as well as other teachers. This diminishes the opportunity for a healthy school culture to build naturally, through trust, ongoing relationships and organic growth.
  1. Professional development opportunities are rarely designed to address the interiority of our professional life, in service of ontological deepening or shift. This leaves us in the same predicament: leaning always toward the measurable, quantitative aspects of professional performance and neglecting that we ‘teach who we are,’ as Parker Palmer so famously declared.
  1. Antiquated methods and modes of education are leaving young people without the global awareness or practical skills to contribute successfully to their communities or live well. 

 

Beautiful

  1. Educators very often endure extremely poor working conditions: the scale of the classes are often unmanageable, funding for classroom materials scant, schedules are harried, and the cultural rifts between the administration and educators can create ongoing stress that degrades the capacity to engage students in an atmosphere of coherence.
  1. Schools sadly lack the aesthetic sensibility to uplift the whole culture and collective experience for both teachers and learners.
  1. Unhealthy food is renowned, as a new industry sector invested in revolutionizing school lunches crops up to serve healthy meals.
  1. Nature is often ignored in the context of learning. Often viewed as separate from the “more important” topics.
  1. Art is relegated to an elective class in the core curriculum of most schools, while the most salient skills required for success in this era are creative.

While these issues are but a brief outline of the most common complaints about education, I would like to acknowledge that there are many schools and administrators committed to addressing these issues in a myriad of creative ways.

By presencing these themes, my hope is to make clear that we have a tremendous responsibility to transform ourselves, create legitimate systems and highly transparent school cultures that springboard the levels of human potential present on an school campus any day of the week.

I’m ready. Are you?

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