Oh dear!!!! Here we go again. Everyone is huffing and puffing about the “evil” in our society. What I do know is that repetition improves learning.
Therefore, I repeat. At birth we are but mammals, because we give birth through what is called the birth canal, we suckle our young, and have hair at some time during our lifetime. The two basic instincts that motivate us at this point are sex and aggression. However, we were created with two characteristics which make us different from our four-legged friends and put us in the category of higher order animals. These two characteristics are intelligence or the power to think for ourselves and will, which is the power to choose our good. These two characteristics must be nurtured if we are to become human, and an asset to the environment or society in which we are born.
Our culture or way of life and the education to which we are exposed must help us to manage those two basic instincts. If our education system does not acknowledge this and put things on place to help us to manage our propensity for sex and aggression, what we are seeing on display in our society today is what we will get. Culture nurtures conscience. Our culture prescribes for us what we must do to maintain and perpetuate order in our society, but it must also teach us the don’ts. With don’ts, we learn choices which build character, and which help us to help others build character, all with the objectives of maintaining and perpetuating order in our lives.
Isocrates (436-338 B.C.) was not a politician but believed that a proper education should equip a person for proper conduct in public as well as private life. Ideas he believed to be of no value unless they were realised in the actual world. For him education was “the cultivation of the art of discourse’ which he saw as involving not merely verbal expression but reason, feeling and imagination. Now in 2020 we are struggling to define what education means to us. We need to begin with the basics of education, which are outlined so succinctly by Isocrates. My father introduced me to Isocrates years ago through a type-written handout when I was abroad studying. Today you can google and get all the information you need.
We are all born with an “evil” streak but we must be taught who we really are. Human beings who can think for ourselves and have the ability to choose our good.
We have to know what “our good” means. We must learn about our reason for being born. If we are born by chance just because our parents had the biological ability (just like the four-legged mammals), we will not know our purpose, or our talent. We will not be able to reason and express how we feel, and use our imagination to dream about a brighter future. Whether male or female we need to learn to express ourselves, understand where we fit, in the scheme of things and be able to dream of a better life.
The classroom must be a living experience. Boys and girls must learn about each other, not only as sex objects or as an object on which aggression is displaced but they must be taught how to reason with each other, share with each other how they feel, and enter that world of imagination, the world of the future, a world in which they can live together in peace and harmony, and create a world in which their children will thrive.
Literacy and numeracy skills will be part of the reasoning, the feeling and imaginative journeys. This is all we need at the primary level and as our children grow older they will begin to create a world in which they will share their talents and dreams with their communities.
In studying Carl Rogers, a psychotherapist who was fully client-centered and encouraged teachers to be student-centered, our professor at Columbia University imagined if Rogers were in our world today, what would he say to educators? These are the questions he said Rogers will ask of them, (1) Do you have faith in your student’s fundamental motivation to learn? (2) They are eager to learn. Can you stay out of the way? (3) Can you as an educator accept education?
ANNA MARIA MORA