Category Archives: Education

Education for Self Determination

Education for Self Determination

Ron Brenneman

This reflection is by no means to be taken as a academic paper on the philosophy of education, too much has already been written on the subject for most of us to ever actually read. As to originality, who knows? A very wise man is quoted as saying “There is nothing new, under the sun” and that was over 3,000 years ago. Furthermore, I will delve headlong into the matter of the meaning of life which some may consider very unacademic. Also, this is not to be taken as an institutional policy or position, just me thinking out loud.

Independent of the geographical location and social economic circumstances we are born into, we can generally condense life itself into what we do, who we are and how we interact with those around us. Likewise, given the purported reason of preparing one for life, we can also divide education into three corresponding themes: labor skills, personal development and ones place in the world (commonly known as citizenship). Plato described this as “three stages of development of knowledge: knowledge of one’s own job, self-knowledge, and knowledge of the Idea of the Good.” ¹

Indeed, the journey through life is one of constant decision making within these three areas of self-development. The actions we take or do not take, coupled with our perception of our surroundings and circumstances, shape our awareness of reality, our understanding of ourselves and of the world. These decisions are an exercise of Free Will² which permits us  to control our own actions in the face of circumstances seemingly beyond our influence.

We could look at life as a sea complete with treacherous currents, tides and storms and where each of us find ourselves alone in a boat.³ We would have choices to make: hang on for dear life while the currents and wind batter us about, or learn to use the rudder, sails and compass, and then actually use the elements to navigate to our chosen destination. Once adept with sailing skills and having gained self-confidence and the courage to set a course, we are faced with another choice- that of taking the responsibility or not to assist those still floundering in the current.

The question of freedom is lodged firmly at the center of life itself. The offer of safe berth or of being towed behind a larger more experienced ship on the sea of life is always tempting and always carries a price. This is not to be taken as a judgement, rather as a suggestion to make clear headed decisions when trading freedom for safety. Free will is vulnerable to trickery and the slight of hand. Exercising free will does make us fully responsible for our decisions and nondecisions.

This quest for knowledge naturally leads us to ponder the meaning of life itself. We note that other manifestations of life around us, namely the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms do not question the meaning of life. On those levels the only meaning of life is life itself: natural cycles of birth, growth, reproduction and death. We as well, through our free will, may choose that route- a type of default life devoid of our active participation and lacking in any further profound meaning. On the other hand and with our limited skill and understanding, we may choose to work towards deepening our self-perception and self-understanding on the journey to become conscience of the meaning of our life.

We gaze at life through the smoky glass of our perception and make out vague images. As we deepen self-knowledge, those images will start to become clear.4

Our perception of reality itself undergoes constant change as new circumstances are created, either as a natural timeline or as a manner to keep things interesting. I am thankful to my parents for the support and upbringing they provided while I was young, but that world no longer exists. Had I limited my education to confront the challenges my parents faced, I would be wholly unprepared for the present. In that same sense, if we insist on preparing our children and students for the challenges of our current perceived reality, we become the primary obstacle for their full development of potential impact in their world and in their quest for self-knowledge.

Within this overall context, the challenge is to bring into perspective the concrete elements to be dealt with in designing education for self-determination. We will do so, within the structure of the three stages of knowledge as described by Plato and many others. I am compelled, as well, to note the correlation of these stages with the concepts of body, soul and spirit, as manifested in doing, being and consciousness.

Labor skills

In practical terms and in order to keep body and soul together, we must all occupy ourselves in some type of labor. Whether by choice, “accident” of birth or overwhelming external conditions, the options are endless and range from self-subsistence activity, unskilled and skilled labor to administrative, management and professional positions. Within these occupations, we find the further option of self-employment or entering into a contractual agreement as an employee.

Furthermore, we may deduce from history that many current occupations will disappear or be modified and that others yet unforeseen will open, even before our students are in the labor market. The question then is how to educate for labor skills given the wide range of options and types of employment and even more so, in light of the everchanging opportunities for employment.

We must accept that most educational programs are actually social conditioning, focused on creating good workers, consumers and citizens. This is not to be taken as an absolute criticism, rather as a candid observation. There are occupations that require very disciplined employees. As well, all production depends on consumption and we all benefit in an orderly society. We generally accept the “popular view common in East and West that businesses should indirectly control or even take over education to economically compete with other nations.”5 What is lacking however, is attention to models for self-employment and independence, along with the ability to naturally transit from one employment activity to another as options close and open.

I would contend that the current educational model of focusing on theory, through academic subjects, which are sometimes superficially applied (and more often not) through projects, leaves the student ill prepared for life and without the ability to abstract and further develop that knowledge. Indeed, many go through further training for particular jobs and the academics are completely forgotten in the process.

A simple change in direction and priorities would equip students with the ability to extrapolate from relatively simple projects out to any desired field of study and employment. With the project as a starting point, the academics become integrated as tools (no longer theory) to implement the project. As students develop the skills needed for the project, their interest will motivate an extrapolation in specific skills and the ability to adapt those skills to ever increasing complexity.

As a quick example, let’s take a greenhouse project and apply it to a school with students from kindergarten through high school. By involving students from the start and according to the capacity of each grade, we cover:

  • Engineering: Architectural design, energy and water systems, building costs, planning and scheduling, and construction.
  • Production: Agricultural production, investment return, programming of automated systems, investigation and lab work, pest and disease control, nutrition and organization.
  • Promotion: Graphic arts, audio-visual presentations, consumer education, advertising and public policy.
  • Marketing: Market studies and strategy, commercialization, financial management, administration and logistics.

Each of these activities can be extrapolated even further into specialized professional fields. The real challenge then becomes trying to keep up with the students.

It must be noted that this proposed change in education for labor skills has no ideological bend. It allows for the formation of good workers for the business sector, probably even much better qualified. At the same time, it provides training and support for independent labor and entrepreneurship, which has proven to be increasingly important for national economies.

Personal Development

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; Mastering yourself is true power.” -Lao Tzu6, Chinese Taoist Philosopher.

Who we are is much more important than what we do and yet little attention is given to this in education beyond games for leadership training and courses for problem-solving and creative thinking. The fact is that key elements in the makeup of who we are, namely character, temperament, intellect, will, emotions, responsibility, self-discipline and self-confidence must be developed internally and individually. They may be influenced or motivated to a degree from the exterior, but they cannot be taught.

Pre-urban societies managed to deal in part with this need for personal development through rites of passage as a condition to transit from childhood to full acceptance as an adult. A rite of passage tested courage, willpower, emotional maturity and survival skills, among others. We have done away with this ritual and replaced it with over-protection, lowered standards and have basically thrown ours hands in the air, “well, what can you do?” Forsaking this responsibility brings serious consequences, evident in our current society.

“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” A very thought provoking quote by G. Michael Hopf7, in his work “Those Who Remain”, one which could actually lead us to view living in hard times as advantageous with regard to forming character.

The challenge then, in an educational program, becomes how to assist and motivate students in their building of character, of self-awareness and self-mastery. And how to do so without forcing hardship on those students. Indeed, we must not dismiss personal hardships which many students already face which need avenues and mechanisms to process and resolve.

Moving from rhetoric to action in assisting personal development is complex. Little has been done beyond the experimental stage within educational programs. Nevertheless it needs to be made a priority. A good starting point would be to incorporate empathy8, resiliency9, life skills and challenges into our program.

  • Empathy: The age old adage “Know thyself”10 later emphasised by Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living”11 remains central to personal development. As it is also true that “The eye can’t see itself, except by reflection in other surfaces.”12 the examination of others may enlighten our own self-knowledge. This is call not call for judgement of others as part of school curriculum (we have much too much of that already), rather the incorporation of empathy as a means to discover our own motives, reactions and feelings through others.
  • Resilience training must form a central placement in educational programs, with the purpose of motivating individual internal processes in stress management, thought awareness, learning from mistakes, choosing response and maintaining perspective.
  • Life skills: Self-confidence stems from independence, the ability to survive and thrive without help. Establishing a list of activities with student participation would be a great start. Perhaps the Scout merit system could be used as a guide, although the list could include public speaking, singing and theatre, activities which make most of us cringe with fear.
  • Challenges: Students should be motivated to create their own challenges, establishing goals and making a commitment to complete- a type of do-it-yourself rite of passage. Tests of physical/mental endurance, including fasting, should be encouraged.

Self-knowledge is a continuous process and not a stage which will be completed. The next stage of “knowledge of the idea of the Good” will naturally feedback into and expand self-awareness. We may leave a profession at any point in time, but who we are is a continuous work in process.

Knowledge of the Good, or ones place in the world.

The True, the Beautiful, the Good – through all the ages of man’s conscious evolution these words have expressed three great ideals: ideals which have instinctively been recognized as representing the sublime nature and lofty goal of all human endeavour.”13

The endeavour to reach these lofty ideals inspires the pursuit of the higher human values of peace, respect, equality, responsibility, integrity, loyalty, justice, honesty and love. This is where the who we are interacts with others (and with our own reflection in others). These values originate through inspiration and imagination which cannot be taught as such, rather they are authentic manifestations of our ideals.

The practice of these values create our ethics or code of behaviour which guides our interaction with others. Often values and ethics are viewed as limiting of our freedom which may be true to the extent there are imposed as rules and regulations by an outside force. When arrived at through inspiration and imagination, values actually free us even more so by removing our lower ego from the discussion. As this occurs, we do not lie or steal from others because we understand that we are only affecting ourselves, in the sense that we lose much more than we gain with each negative act.

We are obviously living through a period in which this third stage of knowledge is not a priority and the lack of authentic values and ethics has opened the way for extravagant political correctness as a poor substitute. Furthermore, and perhaps indirectly, the commercial approach of promoting “good global citizenship” by establishing universal objectives as benchmarks for access to international “development” funding, among other perks, while good intentioned, drastically cheapens those same values ostentatiously touted. These approaches twist values into regulation. When we create communal regulation bypassing the authentic individual process of building a code of conduct, we are only creating an enforcement problem.

Recognizing our current societal mentality that everything spiritual has religious connotations and as such has no place in education, the route we have open to develop the knowledge of the Ideal of Good is philosophy. Selected literature, iconic historical events, art and music which mirror relevant current dilemmas may be a good starting point. Individual reflection and Socratic debate would be the applied methodology.

Wrapping it up

It is notable that as we progress from the tangible to the sublime, from labor skills to ideals, we find a drastic reduction in available resources and experiences. In all likelihood, this may be given the increasing internal nature and personal responsibility required with each stage, although we need to be realistic regarding other interests at play.

This brings us back to the matter of freedom. The three stages of knowledge as proposed by Plato, and fleshed out here, have the potential of freeing us from ungratifying labor occupations, freeing us from greed and envy which turns us into debt slaves, and freeing us from our lower nature which allows us to be managed as sheep by those who may not have our best interest in mind. Education for self-determination requires attention and balanced focus on all three stages of development of knowledge: knowledge of one’s own job, self-knowledge, and knowledge of the Idea of the Good.

“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility — these three forces are the very nerve of (true) education.” – Rudolf Steiner

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”—Frank Zappa14


 

  1. Myungioon Lee, Plato’s philosophy of education: Its implication for current education, https://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9517932/, 1
  2. Without trying to oversimplify the debate between Free Will and Determination, I will take the position that accepting determination (our actions being determined or pre-determined by forces beyond our control) is actually an exercise of free will.
  3. I cannot take credit for this analogy, but learned it so long ago that I cannot remember where it originated.
  4. My personal take on 1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” KJV
  5. Myungioon Lee, Plato’s philosophy of education: Its implication for current education, https://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9517932/, 1
  6. A semi-legendary figure, Laozi (or Lao Tzu) was usually portrayed as a 6th-century BC contemporary of Confucius, but some modern historians consider him to have lived during the Warring States period of the 4th century BC, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laozi
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._Michael_Hopf
  8. the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy
  9. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_thyself
  11. ibid
  12. http://nfs.sparknotes.com/juliuscaesar/page_12.html No Fear Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2, Page 3
  13. Truth Beauty and Goodness, A lecture by Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, January 19, 1923, https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19230119p01.html
  14. Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, composer, activist and filmmaker. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zappa
Advertisements

Educación con un Objetivo

Application

Educación con un Objetivo

La educación es relevante en la medida que deja al estudiante equipado para la plena participación productiva y social de su entorno, capacitado para innovar dicho entorno y motivado para excursionar más allá de sus horizontes.

Necesitamos definir el objetivo de la educación, en cuanto si es para formar buenos estudiantes ó para mejorar la productividad y calidad de vida en el país. Mantenemos que el rendimiento académico es importante sólo en su aplicación al entorno y como soporte para la formación técnica eficiente y pertinente. El debate continuo sobre las bajas notas académicas en las pruebas estandarizadas tiene sentido solo en la medida que éstas pueden mejorar las capacidades laborales y sociales del estudiante.

El objetivo de los doce años de educación básica y media debería ser formar con capacidades personales y técnicas para la inserción laboral, autoempleo o especialización con estudios superiores. Y la oferta educativa debe responder a las condiciones de oportunidades reales presentes en el entorno del estudiante.

Para el entorno del norte de Morazán, la inserción laboral de un bachiller técnico tiene tres posibilidades: fortalecer la capacidad instalada de las asociaciones productivas, lograr uno de los limitados puestos en la industria turística, ó el autoempleo. La escasez actual de puestos de trabajo de comercio, manufacturero y procesamiento en el entorno nos lleva a establecer una prioridad en la formación técnica para el autoempleo.

Los enfoques técnicos más indicados para el norte de Morazán son en las áreas de Producción, Comunicaciones, Comercio e Ingeniería. Proponemos que todo estudiante debería pasar por un Bachiller Técnico Vocacional (BTV) de uno de éstas áreas aún y cuando decide por estudios superiores.

La base formativa de las áreas técnicas deben ser incorporados plenamente en el currículum académico, por medio de las competencias metas, las actividades de aplicaciones y los indicadores de logro. La educación básica debería incorporar elementos de los cuatro áreas ( Producción, Comunicaciones, Comercio e Ingeniería), dejando a cada estudiante, por decisión propia o capacidad nata, optar por desenvolverse en una área en particular. La educación media, con el BTV, llevará un nivel de especialización en una de éstas áreas que permite la inserción plena productiva y social.

Necesitamos superar la división entre educación y desarrollo. Actualmente, el sistema educativo se lava las manos con la graduación del estudiante, quedando con la responsabilidad de proveer y constar títulos y notas, no así dar seguimiento a la inserción productiva del estudiante. Una vez graduado, sin embargo hay una amplia gama de oferta de capacitaciones productivas y cursos formativos para adultos de organizaciones nacionales y internacionales.

El reto es incorporar los conceptos y las técnicas productivas en el currículum escolar para volver relevante a la educación básica y media. Así las capacitaciones posteriores tendrán el efecto de especialización sobre una base sólida de formación técnica y no de empezar de nuevo. Recordamos que los años escolares son el periodo de mayor capacidad de absorber, procesar información y aprendizaje en el ser humano. No se puede desperdiciar semejante oportunidad en una rutina irrelevante para el graduado en el mundo real.

Relevant education

Planting

traslated from Educación pertinente

Relevant education. Exactly what do we mean by relevant education? Whenever a new phrase is used to describe some new process, there is a danger of falling into the assumption that we all handle the same interpretation, moreso when it becomes a fashionable term.

So that we are on the same page on the subject, we should define it. For us, the Perkin Educational Opportunities Foundation, relevant education is defined by the concepts of Adaptation, Transformation and Insertion.

Adaptation refers to situational awareness, of being conscience of our position in the economic, social and cultural processes of our environment and the relationship and connection or influence with the broader environment, including global trends. Then, once aware, to equip ourselves in the best manner to face and even thrive in those conditions.

Transformation involves starting with what we have at hand, what we know, with our experiences and practices, and then based on those, and with the needs and opportunities of our environment, to build new practices and processes to improve our surroundings. We can not confuse transformation with transplantation. The transplant of methodology and practices implies maintaining dependence on external forces. Transformation develops from strengthening our own roots.

Insertion into the labor market and full participation in the transformational processes are required in order for an educational program to qualify as relevant. Access to real employment and self-employment options and access to specialization training for this purpose are the only evidence of the relevance of an educational program.

Education is relevant to the extent that the student is equipped, not only with academic and technical skills, but with the skills of adaptation, the power of transformation and with full integration into the socio-economic and cultural development of their environment.

-Ron Brenneman

Educación pertinente

IMG_20180607_141209

Exactamente qué queremos decir con eso de educación pertinente? Siempre cuando una frase nueva se utiliza para describir algún proceso nuevo, podemos caer en la suposición que todos manejamos la misma interpretación, más cuando se convierte en un término de moda.

Para que estemos en la misma página sobre el tema, mejor lo definimos. Para nosotros, la Fundación Perquín para el Fomento de Oportunidades Educativas, la educación pertinente se define con los conceptos de Adaptación, Transformación e Inserción.

Adaptación se refiere a la conciencia situacional, de ubicarnos en los procesos económicos, sociales y culturales de nuestro entorno y su relación y conexión o influencia del entorno más amplio, incluyendo las tendencias a nivel global. Eso, para luego equiparnos de la mejor forma para enfrentar y hasta prosperar en dichas condiciones.

Transformación implica iniciar con lo que tenemos a la mano, lo que conocemos, la experiencia y la práctica nuestra, y luego en base a ello, y a partir de las necesidades y oportunidades de nuestro entorno, ir construyendo nuevas prácticas y procesos para mejorar éste entorno más cercano. No podemos confundir transformación por trasplantación. El trasplante de metodología y prácticas implica mantener dependencia de fuerzas externas. La transformación sale desarrollándose de las raíces propias nuestras.

La Inserción laboral y participación plena en los procesos de transformación son requeridos para poder calificar de pertinente a la educación propuesta o programada. Acceso a opciones reales de empleo y autoempleo y acceso a formación en especializaciones para tal fin son las únicas pruebas de la pertinencia de un programa educativo.

La educación es pertinente en la medida que el estudiante es equipado, no solo de capacidades académicas y técnicas, sino con las competencias de adaptación, el poder de transformación y con la plena inserción en el desarrollo socioeconómico y cultural de su entorno.

-Ron Brenneman

Cause and effect- the migration problem

North Morazan

The north of Morazán, in the mountainous north-east of El Salvador is hands down the most beautiful place in the world. Yet it has one of the highest rates of migration in the country of young people seeking opportunity elsewhere. Many are in the USA, most with no legal status to be there.

Why, you would ask, would anyone in their right mind leave the most beautiful place in the world and leave family and children behind to live in the shadows in a foreign land where they are not fully welcome.

Leaving politics aside, where all positions may be justified, let us take a look at cause and effect. The north of Morazán was a free fire zone during the Salvadoran civil war, causing 100% displacement of the civilian population and complete destruction of productive infrastructure. As a volunteer during the 80s in the Colomoncagua refugee camp, across the border in Honduras, I watched the daily bombing runs of Dragonfly jets over Morazán, part of the one million dollars a day in USA military aid to El Salvador. This period marked the beginning of the migration problem, which continues today given the failure of post-war reconstruction in providing economic opportunity.

Regarding President Trump’s remark that the USA should only accept the best, I would argue that we need them here. Our brightest and best went to war in the late 70s and most were killed or maimed. They continue to leave today in search of a means to care for their families. We need to create conditions that allow the brightest and best to stay here and build Morazán into its full potential.

Morazán was not destroyed in one day. It took a decade of pounding and a lot of resources to do it. It will take some time, resources and determination to reach our goal of prosperity.

Amún Shéa is focused on assisting the creation of that reality in which  the brightest and best may prosper and thrive here at home and migration is no longer the only option. It is no magic formula and offers no quick political solution. It is an arduous task, one step at a time, one student at a time, often seemingly against the current.

Public policy is important, but if you would like to join us on the groundwork, building change from this remote territory, we would more than welcome you.

Thank you
Ron Brenneman

 

Building the Great Wall

There is certainly much ado regarding the construction of a wall on the border of the United States with Mexico. Known primarily as the Great Wall or Trump’s Wall, the objective is to stop undocumented movement through the southern border.

As with most politically motivated projects, this proposal has created tremendous emotional reactions, both pro and con. In an emotionally charged debate such as this, everyone on both sides of the issue is absolutely convinced they are right. The emotions of this debate are fostered by frustrated illusions on the one hand and fear of unpleasant changes of lifestyle on the other. There is little effort put forth by either side to inject a bit of objectivity into an analysis of the situation. It is within this continuing disorder that a parasitic industry of traffickers, lawyers, jailers, and unscrupulous employers rake in tremendous profits. Many special interests are involved, some representing very powerful financial pursuits and a very few working for a solution.

If the answer to the problem of controlling illegal migration is to be reduced to simply putting an obstacle in the way, that is to build a wall, it is doomed to failure from the start. Actually it would likely result in strengthening the same parasitic industry of human trafficking by provoking an increase in the fare paid for transportation as they become more creative in their methods.

If we are able to overcome the emotional part of the discussion, perhaps we can come to the same conclusion as the American poet Robert Frost, when he wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” That is to say we need some order in the backyard and a clear definition of the boundaries in order to avoid a constant dispute with the neighbor. Remember that a good fence serves in both directions. In looking at El Salvador and the USA, it is clear that a case may be made for mutual accusation of invasion and abuse in recent history. It is also very clear that neither party has been represented by its most favorable spokespersons in this exchange. Fear is not a good advisor to either party. In order to move forward, we must quiet emotions, identify appropriate counterparts and start dealing with this in an objective manner.

In most cases, the decision to set off on the journey to the USA is made with the perception that it is the only option to obtain a decent livelihood. It is not a decision taken lightly. Loved ones are left behind, knowing that some will never be seen again, and children are left with grandparents. The sale of land or debt incurred provides the veritable fortune demanded by the trafficking industry. This is reality for, and is the decision made daily by, dozens of men and women in villages and hamlets throughout El Salvador. We often ask how it is possible that they are willing to give up so much and to risk life itself under such adverse conditions when it is compared to the option of investing a modest amount in their own country. The answer is very simple. The confidence factor. There is little confidence that conditions in the country can actually provide a secure enough opportunity to motivate such an investment.

Following the illusion of the “American Dream” requires a high level of courage and sacrifice. It also demands resignation! This combination forges a determination that will not be interrupted by concrete walls or razor wire. To put this in perspective, most are already paying 20 times the cost of an air ticket, and in addition, are willing to risk their very essence and being on a route fraught with inconceivable dangers. Can any wall actually contain this level of determination?

The only wall feasible for containing the migratory flow from El Salvador to the United States is one that makes it more attractive to stay here than to leave. It must replace the “American Dream” with the “Salvadoran Sueño”. It must be a wall that displaces the perception of migration as the only real economic option. That is a wall built of opportunity, in El Salvador.

The foundation of this wall must be an integrated educational program that prepares the young with a proactive attitude and sense of responsibility, real life skills and opportunities for achievement. This implies a true technical-professional preparation and scientific focus in the development of a new enterprises and technologies. The wall itself must incorporate innovation, investment and open access to all technical information and productive processes. The top of this barrier must be a public policy that motivates initiative and protects local and individual economic activity from outside intervention.

So, let’s come together and build this Great Wall. Let’s create the Salvadoran Sueño that keeps our talent here through a solid program of training and opportunity and keeps your opportunists on your side of the fence.

The practical issue that comes to mind of course, is the cost. Who is going to pay for all of this? A very good question and one which deserves serious discussion. A good question to start with is, who is paying now for the disorder? The information on security and protection costs is readily available for review and is staggeringly high. As an example, in 2015 the daily cost for holding a minor in custody for illegal border entry into the USA was $252. That amount would pay a full scholarship for 45 students at Amún Shéa, a private innovative problem-based learning program in Morazan, El Salvador, which is an area of extremely high migration. Does a 45 to one ratio sound like a good investment?

Mr. Trump, you are a businessman and fully understand the difference between an investment and wasted expenditure. Let’s make a deal and work together on building a wall of education and opportunity that works for both of us. If we accept that good fences (walls) make good neighbors, then great gates may be built as well, wide open and welcoming, making us even better neighbors!

Finding the starting point

img_5791Opportunities for learning have never been more extensive and accessible as they are today. The digital era opens the opportunity for anyone to learn any field, whether academic, technical or artistic.

Everything anyone desires to learn is literally at the distance of their fingertips and often under the guidance of world class experts. The major difficulty is actually choosing an appropriate package for oneself from among the many resources offered. Indeed, the offer is so overwhelming that it exceeds our ability to actually conceive it. Clearly, it is necessary to find a pathway, a starting point from which to navigate.

Some areas  of discussion on education and methodology will be phased out if we really enter into and seize the opportunities of the digital world. The controversial discussion regarding the role of the teacher and the conflict between the focus on content and processes, will tend to dissipate before this magnitude and diversity of learning opportunities.

How is it then that we have not taken full advantage of what the digital age offers? And how can we find that starting point?

From my observation of the educational process, while working in the Amún Shéa School in Morazán, I would argue that the current process of teaching and learning in general is governed by imitation. Many teachers do not teach from their own knowledge of the subjects, but reproduce the style and method of teachers they studied under during their own educational process. This lack of comprehension skills is replicated in students, cycle after cycle. It then radiates out into all areas of society where the norm becomes a game to provide the correct answer, albeit without much real knowledge of the subject.

This same phenomenon can be  observed daily, even outside of school. In my activities in tourism, as owner of the Hotel Perkin Lenca, on a daily basis I see the difficulty of understanding of my employees, suppliers and even the personnel of governmental agencies that visit us.

We have wasted effort and resources on motivational courses, technical training and the development of methodological manuals that in the end produce little progress in the participants. We have been commenting for some time now on the need to teach by example, because the difficulty in transferring new techniques and procedures, via both written and oral, is so evident. It turns out that this does not solve the problem either as it only provides another model to imitate.

Changes in knowledge and processes have reached an unprecedented rate. There is no longer time to imitate. Any copy, very soon becomes obsolete . It may sound extreme, but the accumulation of knowledge and processes is no longer valid. Where then does this leave our educational systems?

Regardless of age or position in society, the future will depend on individual capacity of comprehension, not only for success, but to maintain a minimum level of well-being.

The starting point then, is comprehension. Educational  institutions will maintain their relevance to the extent that they focus on promoting comprehension at three levels: oral, written and social. The concepts of oral and written comprehension are well known and basic. Social comprehension refers to empathy, the understanding of the human condition in others.

Those who are equipped with comprehension have all knowledge at their disposal. No barrier exists that can stop them.