More Personal Development Needed in Schools

Schooling or Education?

After the family, many sociologists argue that school as a secondary form of socialization is one of the most important things that help to shape an individual’s model of the world.  The formal education system in many countries is focused on the remembering and the regurgitation of knowledge (asking questions about what is already known) and we applaud our young (and not so young) for being able to show what they have learned, which is information that someone, somewhere has deemed to be significant.

Karl Marx, the famous 19th Century sociologist, reiterates this point suggesting “Freedom of education shall be enjoyed under the condition fixed by law and under the supreme control of the state.” So as our formal education is ideologically shaped, relatively fixed and controlled, so too is the value of the content.  Thus, very few schools explicitly teach the young how to gain knowledge of self, focusing on knowledge of subjects, such as English, History, Maths, Science and the acquisition of skills, like writing, spelling, evaluation, etc. which are heralded as a sign of intelligence (whatever intelligence is in the first place?).  The hidden or informal curriculum indirectly teaches children skills such as time-keeping, presentation, respect for authority, etc.  All of which are valuable and often necessary, yet I would argue, that if this is all our formal education system has to offer, it is incomplete! 

Over the last decade, character and values education has resurfaced in the UK and the USA, as a way of teaching the young what character traits can lead to a successful life.  This is paired with shaping them into model citizens, who are equipped to make the right decisions.  Functionalist structural sociologists, such as Parsons and Durkheim argue the purpose of education is to ensure people learn the norms and values of society, which enables people to align themselves with the societal beliefs that exist guaranteeing social solidarity.  Thus, from this perspective, gaining knowledge of self and choosing how to create one’s future self may be deemed as too empowering, as people may want to make decisions and choices that do not fit within expected boundaries. 

However, this is already happening – as there are a vast array of different worldviews and belief systems that people align themselves with, which can cause unity or disharmony.     Also, as children, many people were taught not to ask too many questions, especially ones that might cause embarrassment or challenge the recipient to provide an answer.  Maybe this is because it was perceived as threatening the power of adults – who may not always know the answer.

So to conclude, many people are not taught how to gain a deep understanding of themselves and I believe within the formal education system there should be a subject called ‘Knowledge of Self’ – to equip future generations from an earlier age, with the tools, resources, strategies and questions to teach them the process of self-inquiry and the benefits it has to offer. 

When we teach a child to make good decisions, we benefit from a lifetime of good decisions.  When we teach a child to love to learn, the amount of learning will become limitless.  When we teach a child to deal with a changing world, she will never become obsolete.  When we are brave enough to teach a child to question authority, even ours, we insulate ourselves from those who would use their authority to work against each of us.  And when we give students the desire to make things, even choices, we create a world filled with makers.” ~ Seth Godin, Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck? 

Written by Dionne Jude