This perspective paper is seeking to answer the question, “what is the purpose of education and how do you pursue and achieve that purpose?” The role of education is relevant to pursuing some purpose whether in K-12, Corporate Learning and Development, college and University settings, private or public education of adults, as well as homeschooling. This includes any setting or job title that considers the work is to bring knowledge, learning and development to another. And maybe other settings and audiences.
The standard answer to my question is most often stated as, “the role or purpose of education is to educate individuals within society, to prepare and qualify them for work in an economy as well as to integrate people into society and teach them values and morals of society. The Role of education is the means of socializing individuals and to keep society running smoothly and remain stable.”
That direct quote explains a lot about why we have the system and practices we have. “Educate people to make a living so they are not a drag on others and to fit in, so nothing is disruptive.” That is truly a depressing description offered in the four scholarly journals off of which I pushed my own thinking to prepare to write this paper. I refuse to cite them because I hope they are ignored. Just search “role of education” and see what you get.
I know that most people associate the word educator with professional teachers working in classrooms. Indeed, some educators are teachers, but the term is much broader than this in its meaning, and many of us play the role of educator in various aspects of our lives. I see myself as an educator in most settings I am in. I prefer to begin with something based on ideas more like this.
The root word is the Latin educare, which means “to draw out or draw through.” To educate someone is to draw out of them their inner potential for intelligence and wisdom. True educators don’t teach people what to think. Rather, they teach them how to think. Education is a process of disruption and liberation that enables students or learners to develop the critical thinking necessary to form thoughts and judgments independently. It is our primary resource for maturation and the development of agency.
The first scholarly proffered ideas are more typical of the earlier definition with which I opened. In fact, education is the primary means, after family, by which we are socialized and conditioned in the Modern Era. We have elaborate systems built to engage in the indoctrination and transfer of “approved” knowledge (often called received knowledge), skills and behavior to be mimicked. Let’s call that the older paradigm.
The old paradigm is based on arresting the disorder that unsocialized and unproductive citizens can wreak in terms of havoc on a society. If we get citizens and workers to behave in predefined ways we can use their collective labor to achieve ends that will never serve all but perhaps serve most.
The new paradigm is based in ancient and indigenous wisdom which has often been stripped away from even the peoples from which it emerged, though the culture denuding processes of colonization. The new paradigm is based on understanding the complementary ableness of developing and utilizing the mostly undeveloped inner working of the human mind and the never taught in any system the outer working of system (not names for parts), both social and planetary, and shifting it to more promising ends for the learner and the system. I call this having a Living Systems perspective and practice. The work of education for the twentieth-first century society, and nations.
It is diametrically opposed to the old paradigm and the aspirations it holds. It also takes very different skills to engage in the ancient/new paradigm since the conditioning of the old indoctrinated paradigm’s processes of seeing and interpreting tend to supersede, superimpose themselves, and obfuscate the new thinking being offered. That is why a new system and epistemology of educating is needed. This paper is to articulate that work and the paradigm it emerges from, as it is applied to, informs and guides educators as well as the working of education systems. It is time for the Regenerative Paradigm to be reclaimed. We need it to birth a new education system, new practices of the educator, and newness in pretty much everything that education affects.
The regenerative work is to be the integrated work of educators and systems providing the ableness required to do nothing short of transforming whole societies and evolving all the systems within them to meet the new global imperatives. And, because there is so much toxicity in the ideas and practices of the current “old paradigm” system, it tends to prevent the movement of mind and action. We need the new systems to build the capability to be highly discerning of what will advance the next society and what has to be stripped away, overtly, and replaced with the new. That is the ground of the work, strip and replace as the way of seeing and feeling how outdated and damaging it truly is. Otherwise, we try to design the new with the old mind. New wine in old bottles.
This is true no matter where it happens. Home schooling, corporate training and development, K-12, or colleges and universities to name a few, since all of the circumstance, curriculum, and practices are firmly locked into the old worldview. No matter the audience, the subject, the institution, or the person in the role of educator.
But how do you know what you are designing is regenerative? Too often it is relabeling current work with a new name, regeneration, which we really like. It feels sexy, current, or “dope” as some of the learners might say. But just relabeling it does not ensure it meets the new purpose of enabling a transforming society and evolving the systems in it. I use the 7 First Principles of Living Systems to be rigorous in examination, precise in focus and in order to rise up and venerate life. Otherwise, we fool ourself for the sake of our ego.
Educating the Systems Designers
Where to start? I propose we get good at examining our current paradigm and feel what it is really creating. In this way we discover what we have been accepting, hiding behind and even blinding ourselves from seeing. We begin by asking what must we stop, in order to create space for the new. Break our attachments to it. And maybe most importantly, to keep ourselves honest and doing the ‘real’ work that will make the difference. This discovery is aided by examining seven capability gaps that hide Living Systems ways of seeing from us and that the new education system must take on.
These seven make up the core shortfalls of the mental models that are on auto dial to our brain even though the wrong number is programmed in. Redialing will not get us through to the other side. And you can’t just take the red pill and get out of the matrix to see reality and how fundamentally different it is. We have to do the work to leave the womb. We will use the 7 capability gaps (the blue pill illusionary world if you will), as a contrast in each case to be able to see the difference in the two minds, the old and new paradigms. It gives us a chance of either calling out the ego which leads to trying to look good, contrasted to pursuing the potential of a purposefulness society that works for all.
The 7 capability gaps are based on having adopted, unexamined, an artificial worldview that is not based on living systems. It is filled with ideas that are whitewashed with paint based on the metaphorical interpretations and extrapolation of a reality from the world of machines, rats in a maze, and a human filled world with hubris about their centrality in it all.
If the purpose is to get people productive for the economy and fitting in, you design one kind of system. If it is to build the world of the 21st century where only the innovative, significant, and meaningful matter, the design and conduct is very different. One in which the transformation of society becomes a central matter, as well as transforming great institutions and organizations in the process. The education system looks very different.
The New Paradigm
The ancient/new paradigm of Regeneration is best understood from the 7 First Principles that guide the working of all living systems. Human and non-human animals, lifesheds, communities and neighborhoods, biota in soil in a region, from savannahs with endangered species, to oceans trying to survive The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a plastic island the size of Texas. They all have the same way of working when it comes to life. We would do well to learn to see it. It is not about understanding nature, but life itself in which natural systems are nested. Let’s pair up the 7 capability gaps that come from the old paradigm with the 7 First Principles to make it blatantly clear what we are seeing through the different minds.
Two Ways of Viewing Life
In the coming parts of this series, we’ll explore each of the 7 First Principles and the corresponding errors from the older paradigm, in an attempt to articulate The Regenerative Paradigm for Education and show the kind of world it’s intended to create.