“EDUCATING THE NEXT GENERATION”
While Education is conceived narrowly as schooling, improvements to schools do not necessarily correspond to an improvement in the education of children. Whether or not children will learn does not depend primarily on what happens in school, but on the experiences, habits, values, and ideas they acquire from the environment in which they live.
Another limitation of the schools is that they concern themselves almost exclusively with the development of cognitive skills, or the passing along of factual knowledge and-at best -critical thinking abilities. Knowledge of facts and how to interpret them will not result in an educated population unless some wisdom or the goals and priorities that justify the use of knowledge-is also acquired. Thus, instead of concentrating exclusively on schools as the sites for change, we must take into account the broader processes involved in formative education.
The social environment is perhaps even more crucial for a young person’s future development, the facts are particularly significant when considered in conjunction with the rapid technological changes in life-style of the past few centuries, and specially of the last few decades. Human groups could observe which practices had positive consequences for the formation of the young and which had negative ones. this slowly accumulating knowledge could then be applied to education in a way that was relatively effective given the stage of development of the society. But since the beginnings of the industrial revolution, the life experience of the young people has been transformed again and again, and we have not had a chance to evaluate and understand the impact of these changes on the formation of individuals.
We help the young people lead lives that are full of energy, joy, and meaning, when their life-styles encourage passively, boredom, and alienation and reducing the effects of “age segregation” of young people, children and adolescents who spend their time primarily without their adult peers, to develop a more binding sense of responsibility and character.
Despite such very real difficulties, we do have bits and pieces of knowledge about the forces that shape children’s lives, but we lack a total picture, a workable blueprint that could serve for a societal intervention that is more than a local, partial solution. it is essential to lay down the foundation of a comprehensive study of the various forces that shape the hearts and minds of our children.
And what we need now is an approach that is interdisciplinary, combining all the perspectives bearing on the study of children’s lives on their actual context, from anthropology and economics to psychology and sociology, and that is closely tied to the community and business initiatives for change, so that the findings can inform action. without such understanding, the formation of future generations will be left to chance.
What is imperative is that our understanding of the forces involved in the formation of the next generation be comprehensive and systemic, so that we do not miss the potentially important interaction between different conditions, prudence dictates that we should focus on the most promising questions first.
Mapping the field of forces, choosing targets for research and intervention, could select for further study one or more factors that may be amenable to change environment on the life experiences of young people. The next logical step to find practical ways and to use the information. Useful psychological research to be implemented to connect between the generation of information and its application. Efforts should be devoted to the application of the findings as was devoted to the collection of the information. intervention in the formative of education.
Guiding principal for a successful education is helping young people to be happy now as well as in the future. This is not a revolutionary idea; Aristotle had noted 25 centuries ago that health, knowledge, power are good only insofar as they make us happy, but we want happiness for its own sake. The founders of the great American experiment in democracy considered the pursuit of happiness to be one of the most basic of human rights, which it was the government’s responsibility to protect. It is the legacy of the Enlightenment that we are now in danger of losing forever.
The most enjoyable experiences do, in fact, tend to come from the “right things”. that is, from activities that require skill, concentration, involvement, the arts, sports, music, a well designed science experiment, the solution of an intriguing math problem, a good conversation, a job well done. These are activities that lead to formative education, to personal growth, and to a lasting sense of happiness. In contrast, purposeless activity and passive entertainment are experienced as relaxing but rarely produce happiness.
We certainly cannot change this situation by simply telling the young that purpose and discipline will make them happy. The only convincing argument is the one made by example. it is for this reason that the isolation of young people from adults has such tragic consequences. If parents spent more time with their children, introducing them to the things they love-whether music or fishing, computers or volunteer work-the problems would surely diminish. But not every parent can do this. in such cases, the community must pick up the slack. Not because this is its moral duty, but because if the community cannot convince the great majority of its members that life can be enjoyable and meaningful, it will be destroyed by a generation of desperate people.
The problem is that in our current environment opportunities for passive and purposeless behavior seem to far outnumber opportunities for experiencing active, growth-producing happiness. The life-styles of even our most fortunate children, while providing comfort, physical health, and material objects, rarely offer possibilities for excellence. And because schools conceive their task to be to pass on information rather than to foster the love of learning, children tend to forgo the serious pursuit of formal education.
The central purpose of educational policy should be to understand better the dynamics of happiness and to find ways to increase its occurrence in the lives of the next generation. More than any other goal, to lead a future worth hoping for.