An Idea for Education

Humans are thinking beings. People take whatever the environment throws at them and get to the best conclusions they can. Some take the path of science, some take other paths. Either way, people are definitely thinking. This is one of my most fundamental promises, and it is justified. Although, unfortunately, not by formal experimentation.

My understanding that people think come from my life experience. I've met a good share of people throughout my days and I have also seen people giving their opinions through the television or the Internet. My conclusions arise from that kind of experience: my interaction with other people.

I have seen people being called dumb because they don't know certain subjects - that is, they are ignorant. That is one of the main mistakes people do when they consider some people don't think. People confuse ignorance with stupidity. If you put yourself in the place of the ignorant person you will often discover that there is enough logic in their thinking.

People are often considered stupid because of their life-style. This is specially true to people from other regions expressing themselves towards Americans. People unaware -- sometimes willing -- of the global issues are called dumb. We can see how they are not dumb by a simple argument: one of the main goal of people is to be happy. If you choose to shield yourself from the world and focus on your own life and the life from others nearby, you are taking a very intelligent choice. You are taking the choice that benefits you the most. A selfish choice is not a dumb one. Society sometimes pressures you to make selfish decisions, because it often does not give you an alternative that will make you and your neighbor happy [1].

Of course, there are mentally challenged people. It is a biological problem and has little to do with the ideas I am exposing here. They are rarely the target of people who consider a group of people to be dumb.

Since people do think, given the proper environment they will reach to similar conclusions that more educated people get to. It is the job of society to help people reaching to conclusions that will be helpful for the society and themselves.

The school represents a way of giving people a somewhat controllable environment. That way we can elucidate people in premises that will lead them to the right conclusions. If there was no school people would learn things from the society and harmful thinking -- though logic -- can more easily take place. Please notice that I am not talking about brainwashing kids into thinking only positive thoughts. What I am saying is that schools should provide the mechanism to show why some logical and intelligent thinking can be harmful to society and even to the kid. If it was not for school, the kid would be tempted to test the harmful thinking himself, instead of looking at history, where the reasoning has been used, and seeing how it is not the best way to go. We have not to fear thinking, we have to fear ignorance; for ignorance gives a legitimate reason for people to try well-known (by a few people in the society) harmful things, only to find out later they are harmful.

The environment I lived in was a little different than most. I think that's the reason why I think a little different than most. For my first 17 years of life I have lived in 10 different cities. Also, being not the most outgoing kind of guy for the most time, I've spent a lot of time on the Internet, reading whatever lots of different people around the world had to say. Would I reach to the same conclusions if my life had been different? Probably not. For instance, before living in the US I would bash them at every opportunity, and if I never went there I would never have changed.

It is possible to argue that the biological factor has much greater influence than environmental. The argument is not very strong if you consider the case of immigrants and their children. It is very common that the children of the immigrants think much more like people on the country they are rather than how people from their parent's country think. Specially if they have attended to school and spent a lot of time with people from the new country.

Unfortunately, the environment most people live in -- their families and the school -- makes it so they get to poor conclusions. I remember very well when I was young that studying was not considered cool. Only uncool people study. Why did I study, though? Mostly because my mom made me, I was -- and I still am, I think -- a very obedient young boy. So, even being uncool, I would do my homework, I would pay close attention to what the teacher had to say and I would despise people who did differently (much like they would despise me). I think my mom went overboard with that matter, but I think society has to make studying seem like something cool. Because it truly is. We definitely need to work on that.

The educators try, they really do. I remember my teachers and principals trying their best to be cool, to talk like a teenager, etc. Even I, the most uncool kid, would see how lame they were at their attempt. They were right at trying to change the environment to make people like education more, but the way they were doing it was a total failure. From that I draw my first proposition in order to make education a desirable thing for young people:

1. Treat your students like adults.

If you treat them like teenagers and children, they will act like so. Moreover, they will read right through your attempt to look cool, and when they do, they will have much less respect for you. I know I would read through all those attempts when I was a young boy. Maybe they do not think on this terms, but what you are doing is presenting yourself as immature as they are.

If you treat your students like adults. If you give them the trust and respect you give to your adult peers, they will act more like those adults.

Of course, that's not the only reason school is boring. Try to sit through a physics or chemistry class on high school. It is excruciating pain. Hearing someone tell you what to believe on is no way of motivating anyone into thinking by themselves or even to have any interest in the class.

Having to memorize all that stuff make the kids want to do something else. Learning that junk is not thinking by themselves. Talking to their peers and experiencing the world is, on the other hand, a way to think by themselves. Even if they are not doing science, they are taking other methods for learning the world, and just memorizing whatever they see at school. Since people do think, they will rather think outside of school than to be trapped in the education system. After realising that I understood how dumb I was for despising people who did not like me for being such a geek. Now I even agree with them that I was the one being a retard. Fortunately, I remember most of the stuff I dumbly memorized and now I can understand them. so it wasn't a complete waste of time, at least. This leads to my second proposition:

2. Do science at school.

People do not care that d = vt (distance equals velocity times time) if they have no means to use that. Why would they care? And it's not examples of planes and cars that will make them get interested. Outside from that sad little example with many given variables they cannot apply that formula as is in the real world. The formula itself is almost irrelevant, the concept worth learning from it in your early ages is that your displacement is directly proportional to the speed and time.

Have a little credit in your children, they are interested in learning about the world. They often ask questions that will make adults uncomfortable and often lie. Humans are usually very curious -- or have you forgotten how children makes questions all the time, it is even annoying sometimes --, but the approach we take at schools actually make people less curious or curious about other stuff.

The first thing in any class of science is to actually look at the world. Let the children see the world, let them tell us what they think. Let them ask the questions before we give all the answers. Let help them find the answers instead of just trying to convince them.

Interaction between people is healthy and should happen. People love to interact and all the knowledge we have now is because people interact, share their thoughts and help each other. So my next proposition has to be:

3. Let the students share their knowledge.

If you shush the first comment one person makes to another or if you do not allow one person to pass the answers of other one's questions. Worst, if you punish someone for helping a fellow student, you're just making it clearer to anyone that helping is bad. You are encouraging that selfish behaviour we all hate on people.

This is very much like the free software philosophy. When people get punished for giving answers in a test or helping someone out during the class while the teacher is speaking, they're in some sense betraying their neighbor -- just like people that are unable to redistribute software due to copyright issues. "People who make such choices feel internal psychological pressure to justify them, by downgrading the importance of helping one's neighbors" [1].

After years of being punished for helping others and spreading the knowledge. People tend to think it's right for a company to hold all their knowledge and never share. Which isn't really helpful for the society. Even worst, people start thinking education is some sort of zero-sum game, where you have to have more knowledge than the other in order to win. In that sense, you don't want to share your knowledge in fear of losing. That's also partly caused by people getting grades in their tests and papers.


By no means I am an educator, nor I am a social scientist. And my text cannot be called science. It is just an initial idea, my annotations of the world, if you will. It should be interesting to follow them in practice to figure out how helpful they are to society. Maybe there is some way to verify them in smaller scales, I'd really like to know how that goes.