burning learning question


I’m an education student, so it stands to reason that I’ve been thinking a lot about education—and I’m talking about the framework, the institution, not the teachers.  I have a deep respect for teachers—I know how tirelessly they work and what they’re up against.

My story goes a little something like this:

Sir Ken Robinson, international adviser on education, advocate for creativity, and responsible for the most watched TED talk ever, says that the education system was borne of the Industrial Revolution, focusing on literacy, numeracy, and preparing people for the workforce.

I could not agree more.  This is absolutely the system I have experienced—still experiencing!  Dull, inflexible, uninspiring, judgmental.

I may be more disheartened than usual at the moment, but that’s still been my experience right through—am I out of touch?  Has education changed?

Please, tell me it’s changed?!

Another TED talker (yes, I learn more from TED than I do from uni), Eduardo Briceño, outlines two life domains: the learning zone and the performance zone.

School, which should most obviously be a learning zone involving asking questions, trying things, and making mistakes, is actually a performance zone—a space of assessment, right and wrong, of getting passed and failed.  Not just the students—teachers are held more to account by the credits they achieve than the dreams they inspire.

Liz Gilbert would call this curiosity vs fear.  Education should be about creating curiosity, the fuel for active, creative living.  Instead, it is instiling fear.

I’ve seen it, again and again at uni—students who are afraid to open their mouths and voice their opinions for fear of being wrong.

Or they simply haven’t cultivated enough curiosity for education?  Or life?  Aren’t they one and the same?

Work and study are both tarnished with the same societal attitude—that they’re a chore to be endured for reward.  Cash or a piece of paper, at the end of the day.

Janice Marturano most beautifully states that there is no such thing as work/life balance.

It is all life.

And Dorothy Sayers penned an essay, all the way back in 1942, that could have been written today.  In it she says how ingrained a pay cheque is in our society and what an incredible revolution it would be to think of work, instead, in terms of the work done—of what is accomplished, of who it serves.

To allow the same joy in our work that we do in our hobbies—the same motivation for Monday that we have for Sunday.

Education should be thought of in the same way.

It’s life.

What will your education accomplish?  Who will it serve?  How will you enjoy it and use it for good?

Education builds our life experience and our life experience creates who we are.

Ultimately, it comes down to purpose.

Or, as Simon Sinek puts it (in another TED!), the Golden Circle.

golden circle

Many organisations and institutions operate in that way—from the outside in.  What?  How?  Why?

But, effective leaders think from the inside out—with why front and centre, the what and how serving that purpose.

I think our world’s suffering right now because it’s lost its purpose.

Its why.

And education, if it would break free of its rules and assessments and whats and hows, could be that vital source of life that sparks hope and curiosity and purpose and vitality in all beings, every being, that passes through its influence.


What’s your experience of the education system?  As a teacher, student, or parent?

This expectation or this reality?

I’m sure it’s not that simple—nor this black and white.  I know there are good things happening (The Mind Lab, as an example), they’re just all too few and far between.  And outside the mainstream?

Could this expectation become our reality?  For all, not just the few?

Golly, I hope so.

I think our future depends on it.


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