The fourth and last purpose of education, according to Robinson, is personal: “Education should enable young people to engage with the world within them as well as the world around them.”
He then distinguishes between these two worlds: “There is the world that exists whether or not you exist. It was there before you came into it, and it will be there when you have gone. This is the world of objects, events and other people…There is another world that exists only because you exist: the private world of your own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions…This world came into being when you did, and it will cease when you do.”
Conventional education focuses a lot on the world around us — scientific and mathematical principles, historical data, language, grammar, and literature, and a little of the arts. Very little attention is given to the world within us — to our own thoughts, feelings and desires. In fact, they are hardly considered at all in school.
The teacher walks into his class, fully expecting you to listen and pay attention to what he is teaching; never mind that you are not interested, or falling in love, or having a fight with your parents, or just lost your dog, or just plain sleepy.
Even subjects that are meant to explore one’s inner world are given external and academic trappings — values education become just another list of things to memorize. Art and music focus more on learning what others have created and again memorizing what others have done instead of becoming a means of self-expression.
So called educational “experts” miss this very important point: “We only know the world around us through the world within us, through the senses by which we perceive it and the ideas by which we make sense of it.”
Is it any wonder then that most kids in school, even those that do well, are bored, disengaged, uninterested, stressed, anxious or even depressed?
Children are not incomplete humans needing to be filled with “basic knowledge.” They are not broken people who need to be fixed. They ought to be seen as unique individuals with their own special set of aptitudes, attitudes, personalities, interests and ambitions. Not one fits into the mold of a “model student” because no such mold and no such student exists.
Education must first allow people to connect with themselves, to understand their own thoughts, feelings and desires, to be attuned with who they really are, to attend to the world within, before it begins to engage with the world around. That is, in fact, what children are doing from the moment they are born. They are continually trying to understand the world within them as well as the world around them.
They do this as they learn to coordinate their different body parts, to grab things, to taste them and smell them, to roll around , then crawl, then walk, then run and play and dance and sing.
Sadly we interrupt this process of self-discovery with school and give the world around them too much importance, while the world within them suffers and cries in silence.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.