05 November 2009

Transformational Education

Wouldn't it be fascinating if education actually gave students practice at transformation?

Imagine that the first two years of high school and last two years of university are roughly what they are now, but the four years in between actually lead students through transformation. Along with - or even more than - the knowledge they gain they'll learn how to change themselves. Let me explain.

Year three of high school - year one of their transformation - students would go through something the equivalent of boot camp - or Navy SEAL training. The emphasis would be on physical transformation, on taking orders, on becoming part of a well oiled machine. Students would be run through grueling routines of rote learning, high-stress problem solving, intense physical conditioning, and experience a radical change in their fitness levels and levels of discipline.

Year four of high school - year two of their transformation - students would go through something equivalent to that of an initiate in a monastery. They'd go through long periods of silence, intense meditation, empty days and days full of manual labor or service, a giving of themselves to something higher, something more ethereal and experience a change in their spiritual and psychological awareness.

Year one of university - year three of their transformational series - students would go through something akin to a reality show make over. They'd be taught the latest in styles, how to negotiate and present themselves, be exposed to motivational speakers, given access to plastic surgeons, and taught how to make a profit, developing their economic and business selves.

Finally, in year two of university - year four of the big transformation - students would be taught musical instruments or art and be seeped in philosophy, taught to be skeptics, smoke unfiltered cigarettes, and have long discussions about the meaning (or lack of meaning) of life and question the system. They'd be made into mad bohemians who know jazz music and abstract art and realize that everything is made up - be in on the secret that the modern world is just a social construct.

Then, in years three and four of university, when they choose a major they will realize that this is way of being they are adopting AND they will be practiced at transformation. Even more importantly, having experienced these very different ways of being, they will actually make a choice about who they will be based on having experienced different ways of being. They will have practice at change and will know how it is done. Some may revert to the bohemian philosopher role or the good soldier role. Some may just create a brand new way of being.

Too much emphasis is put on the information we put into the container of a life and not enough is put on the transformation of the container. New wine into old bottles does little to change the world.

And for those of you who think I am joking, you obviously have not been paying close attention to what I write here. Think about it: rather than prattle on about transforming education, what if we instead emphasized transformational education?


Big Al said...

Ron, I like your idea. I'm thinking the best way to test it out is to try it as a Pilot in a Charter School. And you could be the person to develop the program, lead it, and measure the results. I'd be more than happy to assist you, dear friend. I think it'd be a VERY unique opportunity. The constraints? Parental acceptance and teenage hormones, the former in buying into the experience and the latter in year two of the transformation what with Facebook and mobile phone message texting and Twitter. With my youngest son a junior in high school, the son who has demonstrated the ability to wear out the keys on a mobile phone with his 12000+ text messages each month, I can't even begin to imagine the likelihood of him going through "long periods of silence, intense meditation, (and) empty days".

Anonymous said...

I love this idea. There are some kinks that need to be worked out obviously. (see Big Al) I think that giving students choice about first, signing up (the traditional education should still be available) and then, what classes and when... might possibly iron out some of the anticipated problems. A year is a such a long time for a teenager, a quarter would most likely do the job. No grades, just the experience or transformation as an outcome.
So many of the classes available to high school students currently do not expose them to trying on ways of thinking because they are so busy memorizing facts. Then we ask... "Why don't these kids know how to think? Memorization isn't so much thinking as collecting. (and often only in the short term memory) Finding or collecting information today is not the lack, we actually have an over abundance of information. Critical thinking about this deluge of information is what is much more rare.
Sign me up! I would redo high school even when I had very pleasant memories of my late teens, I do believe that it certainly could be improved!

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts as usual, Ron.
Our daughter attended a University Model School elementary school, and it was a joy to see a change from the typical educational model.

Adolesence is now categorized from age 10-20 approximately, and is starting younger and younger as time goes by. We are maturing at a slower rate psychologically.
I wonder if high school / university age students would be able to handle this kind of personal transormational training on a deep, conscious level, or if it would just be more taking in of information and repeating it back (think Random Access Memory).

David said...

I've always supported you for Sec of Education.