Alive — Fiat Lux

Fiat Lux
Education, for the most part, was painful, dull, a prison — sitting at a desk surrounded by four walls with no windows.  I can think of only a handful of teachers that made education interesting from elementary through high school.  It wasn’t until I entered the gates of Berkeley that the university’s motto “Fiat Lux” kindled a passion inside me for knowledge.  And it wasn’t just a passion for knowledge, but a passion to learn how to write and think…for myself.  It was this challenge that led me to major in Rhetoric — a very difficult and challenging liberal arts program that focused on ancient classical literature and persuasive writing.

Doe LibraryThis period in my life was truly beautiful…”Mens sana in corpore sano”.  In the morning and early afternoon I would attend class.  In the late afternoon I would spend hours on the green field playing baseball.  In the evening I would go on campus to one of the beautiful large libraries to study.  Ah, the libraries on this campus were truly divine — the musty smell of the past…the quiet echoes…the purposeful architecture and decor…a place…a temple…constructed so those within could appreciate and worship knowledge.  This beautiful place was built to pay homage to great minds from the past that cared enough to speak in hopes we will be supple enough to listen.
campus2It was in the depths of library halls or basking in the dreamy sunlight on some grassy campus knoll that my passion for knowledge began to over-shadow my passion for baseball.  Over-time, ironically, it was the baseball field that began to feel like prison — mechanical, repetition, compulsory, a burden.  I was no longer interested in devoting so much time and energy to a game with defined rules.  I didn’t want to become a full-grown man still playing a child’s game.  The world was so much bigger and wider and freer than the walls of a baseball field.  And so I let go a big piece of who I was.  Feeling alive and free was now more about thought, contemplation, observation, and exploration — it was about noticing the light.               

Generation Skip — Education Broad and Open

I want to make it clear that these utopian frameworks and structures do not negate or destroy what currently exists as our world.  In creating these utopian frameworks I am not turning my back on humanity or what humanity represents.  I am not dictating that all of humanity must conform to these utopian frameworks.  These frameworks do not deny or limit what is from continuing on its current course.  In fact, I need what exists and what existed to develop these utopian frameworks.  I view what currently exists and what existed as the parents to these small utopian upstarts.  The greatest gift these parents can bequeath to their children through love is their knowledge and altruistic support.  The parents, if they truly love their children, want them to reach greater heights and fulfillment than they themselves achieved.  Humanity has much to offer their children or utopian frameworks.  Humanity has fought so many battles, reached great heights and also plummeted to great depths, and continues to fight with all of its existence to push forward.  And, as other people have pointed out in comments on previous posts, how do we know that this current human construct isn’t absolutely perfect or exactly as it should be?  Perhaps what exists is complete, natural, as it was meant to be.  As such, I am not destroying what is, I am merely offering a small skip and alternative path that can be possible because of what was and what is.    

The greatest gift humanity has to offer these utopian frameworks are history and knowledge.  History and knowledge encompasses all – art, history, philosophy, religion, architecture, music, language, economics, science, technology, engineering, and the list goes on and on.  I am so grateful for all that humankind has endured and recorded in the form of knowledge and this is the greatest gift we have to offer our children.   So many utopian frameworks attempt to deny what is and what was.  I on the other hand, fully embrace these things and in fact define these things as the ultimate gift, right up there with the earth, the rain, and the sun.  I thank you noble humankind for your ultimate treasure, and I kneel before you in gratitude. 

Now, just as you find that altruistic strain to help the poor, the weak, and the suffering, I also ask you in a similar vein to employ that altruism to support the potential of a strong, healthy, and vibrant upstart culture.  I am asking you to play the role of parent, where the children are given all without expecting money or a return on investment.  Indeed, in time, they will be in a position to become self-sufficient and fly from the nest, but in the beginning, these upstart frameworks are going to need your support on all fronts that involve creating, building, nurturing, and maintaining a small town full of infants and youthful beings.  The key assumption is that money is not part of this construct and the return on investment cannot be measured in terms of financial theories.  All that I ask is that this support come from the most talented and worthy individuals society has to offer, with particular focus on the teachers.  For the teachers would be the most admired, respected, and noblest of professions in these upstart frameworks.    

My key principal for Generation Skip, which is the first generation to occupy these upstarts, is that Education is continuous from birth to death.  Education is the primary goal for Generation Skip.  In order for this goal to be achieved, money and profit cannot be a part of these utopian frameworks.  There must also not be an expectation or defined point where one is pressured to go from learning to doing.  These beings must be given total freedom to absorb, explore, and contemplate the gift of knowledge that we lay generously before their feet — the books, technology, and art that will fill their schools and libraries.  In fact, I wouldn’t impose a time restriction on any one of the following generations in these utopian frameworks where they are required to transition from knowledge absorption, contemplation, and thought formation to action until they have reached a point where they believe they ‘re in a position to begin acting.  For they have much to absorb and contemplate.  It may take several generations to come to terms with what is and what was before they can formulate an intelligent response.  Not only must they absorb what was, what is, but they also must absorb what their previous generation recorded as thoughts about both.  In fact, one could argue that Education is in fact action.  Now we must attempt to describe Education in a very broad sense, for I have already mentioned in the previous post that I do not in fact have answers to the questions posed there.

I envision an educational construct that not only begins at birth and continues up until death, but also one that is extremely broad and open.  Broad incorporates not only a varied curriculum (philosophy, world religions, art, music, math, languages, literature, engineering, economics, astronomy, anthropology, chemistry, et cetera), but also practical and hard work.  Open incorporates not only the education methods where the students constantly learn to ask why am I learning this right now, but it also includes outside excursions, travel, and exposure to real life learning.  I do not envision this generation to be locked up in a temple reading dusty old books isolated from all that exists in the outside world; rather, I envision book reading supplemented with a traveling classroom throughout the world that observes firsthand history, science, art, religion, people, culture, language, nature, and current events.  Education will become life, breathing, exhaling, smelling, touching, seeing, hearing, observing, absorbing, and then ample time to contemplate and compose thoughts in leisure, pleasure, beauty and solitude. 

Education will also incorporate physical work and activities.  They will participate in collecting and disposing of garbage, cleaning dishes, working on farms and ranches, constructing or maintaining buildings, plumbing – they will learn and know how to use their hands as well as their minds.  There is no such thing as child labor laws in these utopian frameworks.  These children and young adults will learn to work to maintain and create the society in exchange for living and learning in that society.  Not only will they learn by doing, but they will also gain an understanding of how things work.  Each one of these beings will be fully capable of surviving on their own if needed but will also develop a sense of how much more can be created when they work in groups or as a whole.  One man can build a house over a certain period of time, but a group of men working together can get the job done in less time to enable additional time to be allocated to other individual or group pursuits.  In practical pursuits, man does not become specialized and focused in one field to serve man; rather, broadly trained men and women tackle practical matters together to free eachother to pursue higher levels of education and or leisure.  

Given this broad and open education, it is clear that these beings will not be confined to prison like structures for eight hours and then returned home with a back pack full of homework which is tossed aside in favor of the TV or X-box and a bag of chips.  These beings will go to some sort of freeing and spiritually uplifting structure for instruction but only for the number of hours that these beings can fully concentrate and absorb what is being taught.  After those instruction hours are complete, they then go about their practical and physical education within the community.  Of course there would be ample time for playing, sports, martial arts, or what have you, but these things would be balanced with other community needs and responsibilities.  The pace of life does not run to a time clock or rigid structures loaded with stress and deadlines; rather, the pace is relaxed, productive, and self-willed.  The time clock is the sun rise and the sun set, the incoming and outgoing tides, the position of the earth relative to the sun. Beings learn how to take the time to communicate and interact with one another, how to savor a moment, how to work and learn together and as individuals for a slow and steady progression forward.  People know one another.  People know what makes each one of them who they are.  People recognize each other’s faces and observe behaviors and deeds which define who each individual is within the community.  People smile and say hello or frown and ignore and mean it.  There isn’t anywhere for a free loader to hide. 

The family unit doesn’t consist of three or four beings in a house isolated to pursue their direction behind closed doors with lightly tied relations with neighbors or friends.  The family unit is expanded to in fact include the community.  As mentioned before, the father and mother are really considered guests in this utopian framework at the upstart.  They serve their roles and contribute like all the other outsiders, but they don’t serve as the primary influence on these young supple beings.  They aren’t taking them to church on Sunday, or to the temple, or to the mosque, or influencing them to pursue practical and safe careers, or mocking their imaginative or misfit notions.  They are present, they are there, to give love and support to promote these young beings pursue their open and broad education.

The next post will discuss the types of questions these educated beings will confront including their potential impact or involvement with the outside world and other upstart utopian frameworks.

Generation Skip — Education (Status Quo)

What is education?

When does education begin and when does it end?

What is the purpose of education? 

How does one go about educating? 

Who should do the educating? 

Where should the educating take place?

When and how does the individual take control of his or her education and how can we make sure we get them to their own self-created launching pad? 

These are truly epic questions.  I would love to end the post prior to this sentence, but I will go on and corrupt with further words and expressions.  For the record, I do not have the answer to these questions.  Do you?  Does anyone?  If you or anyone does, then I invite you and them to these utopian frameworks to begin the beautiful and creative process. 

How does our current world answer these all important enigmas?  Here we have before us intelligent little beings, supple, fresh, clear minds, bodies, and souls, equipped with the means to absorb, grow, and expand along with their minds.  Indeed the brains are pre-wired to some extent as are the genes, but how to do we maximize the potential of each individual’s wiring and stimulate their innovation, creativity, and self power?

Under our current construct, I fear we confine education by a time clock, a balance sheet, a profit and loss statement, and by practicality.  Education isn’t viewed as a means to something new; rather, education is viewed as a means to an end – the end being perpetuation and servitude of what already exists.   The ends then dominate and justify the means.   And, if the ends are struggling financially, what happens to the means?  And if the ends have very limited visions, then doesn’t that in fact limit the means?  Are our latest and greatest inventions the IPOD, IPAD, Viagra,and Zoloft?  Shouldn’t education be thought of as the platform to transform, broaden, expand, push the envelope, and challenge what currently is?  Shouldn’t education be proud and highlight a creation like the Hubble Space Telescope — a creation that has enabled us to view the gigantic universe through which our little planet is plunging?  I think so.  

For a moment, I want you to contemplate and think about our current education systems beginning at the point that the baby comes out of the womb all the way through high-school, through college, through graduate school.  I would like to say through death but under our current construct, we do believe that there is a point where education ends and “real life” begins.  Apparently, “real life” begins when a being has to start making a living.  Have we, as a human civilization, done everything in our power to create the best education system possible?  Are we constantly reworking  and questioning our education systems and methods to continuously improve them?  Is education our number one or even number two priority?  I’ll answer that question.  No.

Let me start at the beginning.  What type of professional help, support, and philosophy is made available to the parents of newborn beings?  What type of environment, sights, noises, foods, temperature variations, clothing, activities, are ideal not only for “a” new born, but for “each” new born – for “each” new born is truly unique.  Even identical twins have differences.  Instead of treating these little creatures like cute little stuffed animals, might we have room to start treating them like something more?  Could education in fact begin right out of the womb?  There are creatures in the natural world that learn to stand up right out of the womb, or must immediately fend for themselves as they hatch out of their eggs.  Have you ever seen those little turtles fresh out of their eggs crawling all alone on the beach to the ocean as death pounces upon them from the skies?  But what do we do with our newborns?  We stick a pacifier in their mouth and often abandon them to some half ass day care center so both parents can work — just like we abandon the old to mind numbing bingo retirement homes.  We talk to them like little puppies.  People, these are potentially powerful and creative little creatures that are soon to become both man and woman.  Is there a chance, a possibility, that we can help them along that process with more true love and admiration than that which we give to a newborn puppy or plastic doll?  Don’t misunderstand me.  Kiss them and hug them, let them know they are loved, talk to them, but talk to them like they are your equal, for one day, if they are raised properly, they will in fact be your superior.

As the young infant begins to grow, we then begin to feed them other things besides breast milk or formula.  Now we enter the world of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, Kibble n’ Bits.  People, these little beings must be fed powerful and healthy food.  We also begin to introduce them to cartoons, stuffed animals, guns, dolls, and the list goes on.  While we feed them nuggets and mesmerize them with cartoons, we might also stuff them into day care or pre-school for eight hours.  Who makes out on this deal described above? Who is profiting by this process?  Are the kids?  Might there be some alternatives that are more in the interest of developing these little creatures into awe-inspiring beings?  Again, don’t misuderstand me.  I agree they should enjoy their childhood and have a ball, but can we make it a little more interesting and creative?

I think you get the idea so I am going to move along now to the basic school system from kindergarten through high school  — there isn’t much difference along this continuum so I can cover it with one broad stroke.  How do we select our teachers?  How much do we train, evaluate, value and pay our teachers?  How do we decide the curriculum?  What kind of school buildings do we construct and where do we build them?  What is the ideal student to teacher ratio?  How do we integrate technology into the classroom?  How do we account for differences in individuals?  What do we feed children at the schools?  How long do we keep them at school during the day?  What types of practical and community activities do the children participate in?  How often are field trips used to bring education alive?   Is the curriculum focused on getting good results on standardized tests, or on “education”?   

In my blunt opinion, the schools look and feel like prisons.  The teachers are not the crème of the crop due to low pay, lack of training, and relatively easy selection standards.  The student to teacher ratios is high.  The curriculum is wrapped around standardized tests.  Field trips are boring.  School hours are way too long.  Students do not do any practical work in the community with their hands.  Technology and exciting videos are not available or incorporated at potential.  The food sucks.  And we wonder why kids feel like they are going to work when their alarm clocks ring at 7 am?  Ok kiddies, take your SAT and off to college you go.   Go become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, software engineer, or business person.

Now, let me briefly cover college in the United States – the best “higher education” system in the world.  College is corrupted by enormous tuitions and expenses, professors that must publish or perish, time and major limitations, and fraternities and sororities that turn education into a drunken blurred orgy.  If we mix in a little football that pretty much completes the college experience.  At the end of this cycle, it is time to enter the “real world”.  The time has come to choose a career and start making the coin.  It is time for those philosophy, English, and art majors to get a life and a real job. 

Of course, others may elect to assume even more mountains of debt and go on to graduate school to become lawyers, politicians, and doctors.  If they don’t have rich parents or scholarships, they will graduate from higher education with a giant anchor of debt.  That must really inspire our best and brightest.   But no worries.  There is always a way out.  In general, the best and brightest conform and go to Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, Fortune 500 companies, and powerful law firms.  And so, the wheel keeps spinning, round and round and round.  There really isn’t another alternative – if you can’t beat them, then join them.   Of course, you could challenge the status quo and reach the pinnacle rebellious heights of geniuses like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.  These visionaries have completely altered the status quo – we no longer have to worry about debt, profit, unemployment, economic or mental depression, poverty, ignorance, over-population, environmental destruction, catastrophic war, nuclear bombs, extinction, or in short, Gridlock.  Next post will offer a potential framework for education in Generation Skip.

Treating Children like Dogs

There aren’t too many other observations that bring my spirits down harder than witnessing our little children, the future of our species, being dragged around on a rope or a leash.  Yesterday, I took my eight year old son to the baseball field for some hitting and fielding practice after we worked through a new piece on the piano.  You know what I am going for — sound mind sound body.  Well, as I was getting stuff out of the trunk, two women were walking about eight little children and they were all attached by a makeshift rope.  Each had one hand tied to this rope and they were being led along the side-walk like a pack of dogs.  I was waiting for one of them to lift their leg.  I wonder if these day care employees were equipped with plastic bags in case the kids had to do number two.  I looked up some images for this post on google and of course I find all kinds of products available to bind our children up.  Wow, creative capitalism at work. 

I don’t want to make this a long post for I think the image or concept of binding up our children speaks volumes.  The issues that come to mind are overpopulation, the control economics has over a couple, poorly planned cities (schools should be located surrounded by beauty and open space and walking only zones), commoditization of the human being starting with the young, poor education, training kids to obey like dogs as opposed to growing into a wild intelligent being, parents that can’t give their kids full attention and the leash allows them to look at their phone or computer when in public.  Enough said.

Do WE Control Economics or does it Control US?

I walked into a local grocery store the other day and realized it had been completely reorganized and remodeled.  The biggest change was the checkout stations.  There used to be about six checkout stations manned with people — now there are only two “manned” stations and the rest were replaced with computers.

Replacing people with machines and technology to do work has been going on for quite some time in manufacturing, science, technology, military, and customer service, at gas stations, toll booths, airports, and retailers (including on-line purchasing).  Indeed, these machines are more efficient and less expensive than people, but I have to ask the question — if our population keeps growing or stabilizes at the current level and if our education system doesn’t pick up the pace, how we will keep employment up?    

Alternatively, could we in fact use machines to do a large percentage of the work for us?  If machines can do most of the work what could we do with more spare time?     

The big question is — does economics serve the human being or does the human being serve economics? Why can’t we find jobs for people?  Why aren’t companies hiring?  Why are companies laying people off?  Why do we have under-employment?   

If we indeed serve economics, then we better start ramping up the “quality” of education or we are going to experience huge unemployment and social unrest – and we know where that leads.

Learnings from Little League World Series 2011

Did you happen to watch any coverage of the 2011 Little League World Series?  I was fascinated with the event this year and I watched several games.  My interest level was elevated higher than usual because I have an eight year old son who has really become passionate about baseball and I coached his little league team.  I also played baseball at the collegiate level and was fortunate to play in the College World Series many…many years ago.  But I lost interest in the game until recently.  

I was so impressed with the level of play these pre-teen kids put on display.  I was particularly impressed with the Japanese team.  These kids pound for pound were by far the smallest team, but man could they play.  I couldn’t believe how disciplined, knowledgeable, and passionate they were about the game.  Japan had one superstar, but he was a humble leader amongst a group of kids that played like a team with a purpose.  These kids confirmed two thoughts I have developed in recent years.

First, children can learn and progress so much faster than we can imagine.  If we provide the right environment the sky is the limit.  I am by no means an expert to define what the “right” environment would look like, but I am certain that such an environment would be different from the one we have created for them today.  Well, back to baseball.  The Japanese coach was very controversial in Japan because his style was very different from past coaches. He instilled all the discipline and hard work expected from a Japanese coach, but he brought something new – a smile.  And that smile was contagious and spread like fire throughout the entire team.  These kids played amazing baseball and they smiled and had fun.  They didn’t win the final game but they held nothing back and had no reason to be ashamed. 

Second,  these kids played as a team with passion and purpose for free.  What?  Yes, these little men put all their energy into a purpose with passion and not one of them made a single buck.  I am sorry, but now I have to get a little philosophical.  If little men can reach such a peak performance without earning a buck, why then can’t man in general achieve the same goal?  Why can’t we define great visions and purposes that inspire passion and teamwork without sticks and carrots?  These little men didn’t need money to work together to achieve something remarkable.  These little men simply used their energy to make it happen.  We can have a better world if we really want it.  All it would require is our energy and great visions.  We don’t need money, loans, and financial institutions.  All we need is our brains, energy, and visions.