IV. Education's Contributions to the Paradigm of Connection
Although public education is a relatively new institution, it is firmly entrenched in the patriarchal paradigm. The concept of education was introduced with the power structure that emerged during the Reformation. Inherent was the idea that people were born incompetent for society and remained so until provided with "education." Those who could afford "education" claimed the right to take power over others.
The Victorian Age fostered a patriarchal model of education. Teaching followed a one-way path from teacher to student. The focus was almost exclusively on deductive, logical, rational ("left brain") thinking and learning, with virtually no attention paid to the intuitive, feeling dimensions ("right brain"). The content of education supported the power structure rather than the needs and individual potentials of students. Even today, our education system is primarily directed toward perpetuating the existing system.
Earlier in this century, a few radical educators called for education that addressed the needs of the individual. Rudolph Steiner, (Waldorf schools), Maria Montessori, and A. S. Neill (Summerhill schools) recognized the destructive nature of the school system and began developing experiential and participatory educational programs.
In the sixties, we witnessed a new impetus in child-centered learning that drew on the work of these leaders and of people like John Holt (How Children Fail) who showed that when a child is ready, she can learn to read in a week.
So-called alternative education continues to develop and offer more accountability-oriented routes, despite its being greatly hampered by lack of funding and accreditation.
The parallels between education and the health arena are strong. While some public schools are exploring and incorporating new ways of learning into their curricula, the educational system as a whole meets proposed changes as a threat to its established authority. While there is no doubt that this century has boasted tremendous educational changes, public education has taken little advantage of information now known about "how children fail," and the most innovative programs remain little known and poorly funded.
Standing back, however, we can look at the waves that are moving through the educational arena, as through the other areas we are documenting, and from these draw inspiration. Tertiary education is beginning to respond to the needs of the times. Accredited programs such as those of John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California; and University of the Redlands in southern California, and various branches of Antioch University around the US, now offer degrees in holistic studies.
An innovative technique, developed in a classroom setting, but not limited to it, is that of Georgi Lozanov (Suggestology and Outlines of Suggestopedy). In the seventies, Lozanov founded the science of Suggestology in Bulgaria while working with school children. His data showed dramatic increases in learning while students listened to classical music at low levels. Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder in Superlearning describe many practical uses of this technique, but by and large, it has never been taken seriously in the US.
Elaine Sullivan, after teaching school as a Roman Catholic nun for 13 years, became disillusioned with the educational system. Gifted in the art of helping people open up and feel safe in group settings, she resigned in order to work with teachers and students in community colleges where she emphasizes the vital importance of incorporating the human element in interactions and teaching. (She says she is doing penance for all the years she made children sit in rows and be quiet.) In keynote addresses at conferences, she reaches thousands of people, encouraging them to try new educational approaches integrating psychology, mythology, wellness, and the healing of childhood wounds.
Non-Classroom Educational Alternatives
Recent decades have seen the emergence of a plethora of "how to" books, magazines, and newspaper articles, as well as television, radio, and videotaped educational programs. There is more knowledge outside the school setting available to more people at less cost than ever before, slowly but surely undermining the control of "education" for and by the privileged few.
Besides self-learning resources like Popular Mechanics and Better Homes and Gardens, a variety of excellent periodicals bringing holistic concepts to the layperson are became available in the 1980s and beyond. Some of the leading publications were the Brain/Mind Bulletin, Yoga Journal, New Age Journal, Whole Earth Reviewand the Utne Reader. The latter is a reader's digest for a wide range of publications known as the "alternative press."
With inexpensive photocopying and offset printing it became possible to publish newsletters of a highly specialized nature at low cost, making more unique viewpoints and unusual information readily available. Desktop publishing using personal computers allowed these newsletters to appear more professional and gave them a much wider appeal.
The Many to Many (M2M) Network, Wickenberg, Arizona, founded by Robert Theobald (The Rapids of Change), is an experiment in a multifocal form of communication as an alternative to the usual small group of writers addressing a large group of passive readers. Members of the M2M Network engage in dialogs on a variety of topics similar to those of this module. They send in their ideas and responses that are printed together with others' ideas and responses, forming a giant party-line type of written conversation.
George Leonard (Education and Ecstasy), a former editor of Look Magazine, has written many vital and controversial books on issues of educational interest. His ability to synthesize knowledge from many disciplines has contributed to the integration of the ideas of the "human potential movement" into the educational system.
On the leading edge of conceptual ways of seeing the world was Marilyn Ferguson (The Aquarian Conspiracy). A journalist gifted at understanding complex scientific ideas and translating them into lay language, she has published the Brain/Mind Bulletin since 1976, and plays an important role in keeping people in many fields aware of developments in other disciplines.
Private institutions like Esalen (already mentioned) pioneered the "human potential movement" in the sixties. Esalen continues to provide a stimulating environment for students of wellbeing.
Tamara Slayton (co-author, Conscious Conception), founded the Menstrual Health Foundation in 1983 as an educational project to support women in a new way of thinking about menstruation, menarche, and menopause. After Tamara's untimely death, the Red Web Foundation was formed and now support women and men alike in reclaiming the innate power of biologic cycles.
Education is moving from the schools and traditional ivory tower environments to the marketplace. Today there is an overwhelming glut of information accessible to a previously unprecedented proportion of the population. Education is being recognized as occurring both inside and outside the classroom, and it is no longer considered the prerogative of the young.
Again, we see distinct movement from a rigid patriarchal system to one in which knowledge is communicated through more participatory and horizontal modes of networking.