“To repair the world means to repair education.”
Janusz Korczak, an educator
How Children Can Best Succeed Together
We have evolved into a globally interconnected and interdependent world, where our previous methods and tools based on a fragmented, isolated, ruthlessly competitive worldview have become obsolete, even harmful.
In such a radically new system our future depends on how we educate our children, not ourselves. For this reason, it seems appropriate to introduce some of the fundamentals of children’s education in the new world.
First and foremost is the school. The purpose of the school in the new world is not merely to inculcate knowledge just so a child will pass a test. Rather, the school should rear children into being human, or better yet, humane. Children should be educated about the kind of world in which they will be living when they become adults. They should be given the tools to be the connected and communicative persons we aspire to teach adults to be, able to construct genuine and lasting relations of mutual guarantee.
This will be accomplished by setting up a prosocial environment at school, and—very important—a pro-school environment at home. Instead of being taught how to be the best in their class, children need to be taught how to build a society where all children are connected to one another, where the atmosphere is one of friendship and equality. They can begin, for example, by sitting in circles instead of in rows next to separate desks. They can be taught through games that reveal how much power and sense of belonging this form of study offers.
The concept of social learning, rather than individual learning, is not a theoretical notion. It has been tried numerous times with repeated success, to the point that one must wonder how we could have been oblivious to its obvious advantages for so long.
In an essay called, “An Educational Psychology Success Story: Social Interdependence Theory and Cooperative Learning,” University of Minnesota professors, David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson present a compelling case for the “social interdependence” theory.
Johnson and Johnson compared the effectiveness of cooperative learning to the commonly used individual, competitive learning. The results were unequivocal. In terms of individual accountability and personal responsibility, they concluded,
“The positive interdependence that binds group members together is posited to result in feelings of responsibility for (a) completing one’s share of the work and (b) facilitating the work of other group members. Furthermore, when a person’s performance affects the outcomes of collaborators, the person feels responsible for the collaborators’ welfare as well as for his or her own. Failing oneself is bad, but failing others as well as oneself is worse.”
In other words, positive interdependence turns individualists into caring and collaborative people, the complete opposite of the current trend where excessive individualism reaches the level of narcissism.
A Revolutionary New Way For Teachers To Interact With Students
In collaborative learning, the teacher’s role is not to dictate the material, but above all, to guide the children. They should perceive their teacher as a grownup friend, as well as a knowledgeable person. Teachers and students should sit together in a circle, at equal heights, and discuss as equals. Here, superiority and control are replaced with subtle guidance to help children discover things for themselves, through deliberation or through their group efforts.
Children learn to deliberate, to share views and to argue, while still respecting one another for their personal merits and uniqueness. This allows each of them to express his or her thoughts freely and reveal each student’s special qualities. In this way, children will expand their worldview and absorb new ideas and perspectives.
By repeating this mode of learning, children learn to appreciate the connection between them as their most important asset, as this is what grants them all the knowledge and power they possess. They begin to enjoy succeeding only together with others, and each person’s worth is measured not by individual excellence, but by the contribution of one’s excellence to the group’s success.
The study groups will be relatively small, and each group will be joined by one or two children who are two to three years older than them. These older children will serve as instructors. Because of a child’s natural inclination to copy older children, these child-instructors will actually be the best teachers, as students will naturally try to imitate them. The older children who teach also have much to gain—a deeper understanding of the material, a deeper understanding of themselves, and an opportunity to contribute to society and win its approbation.
Disciplining children will be treated very differently than in today’s schools. When there is a case of misconduct, the children themselves, together with the adults and professionals, will decide how to handle the situation. Children must be taught constructive critical thinking, and analyzing moments of small crises are great opportunities for teaching such thinking. If one child misbehaves, the class will congregate and discuss what should be done about it, and how to prevent it from recurring.
The discussion would not be a theoretical process. Rather, children (not the ones being discussed) will simulate the situation and report to the class how they felt, what drove them to behave as they did, and so on. They will then conduct a group discussion where all the children take part, so that once a decision has been reached, all the children will actually have “experienced” being all parties in the incident. They can thus make a decision in a much more just, yet compassionate and understanding manner.
Such discussions teach children to consider issues from different angles, and to know that it’s okay and even natural to have many views on the same issue. Moreover, through repeated simulation and examination of ideas from different viewpoints, children will learn to expect to change their minds, have regrets, admit mistakes, and justify their friends’ views rather than their own.
How Practical Experiences Enrich The Development Of Children
At least once a week, children will go on outings and tours to help them know the world they live in from “up close.” Recommended outings would include places they would usually not get to see and learn about, such as banks, police headquarters, museums of all kinds, factories, and courts.
Each such outing will be preceded by explanations about the place they are going to visit, what they expect to find, what they already know about that place, its role in their lives and how well it performs its role, how it benefits society, what kind of people work there, and what kind of training and schooling one needs in order to work there. After the tour the children will discuss and share their experiences and lessons from the outing, thus enriching one another with their insights.
They will learn that the world is integrated and connected through “hands on” experiences, by simply showing different places, their functions in our lives, and their connections to other places that affect their lives. This information is vital to a child’s confidence and preparation for life beyond school.
Another important learning aid is the video camera. It is recommended that all lessons—which are not “lessons” but are discussions and group work—be documented on video. Children quickly become used to the presence of the camera and will behave naturally. This allows them to see themselves from the side by replaying events that require special attention. Looking at a video of a situation, they can analyze more clearly how they worked as a group, how they dealt with interferences, and how they related to one another. Accordingly, they can judge themselves and their relations with others and see where they are successful and where they need to improve.
With such a revolutionary new study method the next generation will not only gain knowledge of the global reality they exist in, but they attain it, become part of it, become partners to it.
Written by Michael Laitman
Michael Laitman is a global thinker dedicated to generating a transformational shift in society through a new global education, which he views as the key to solving the most pressing issues of our time. He is the Founder of the ARI Institute, Professor of Ontology & Theory of Knowledge, PhD in Philosophy, MS in Medical Cybernetics. You can find him on Google+, YouTube and Twitter