For as long as I can remember, I have held the pursuit and mastery of knowledge in extremely high regard. It has always been a huge, although not exclusive, part of my life’s successes. Even in my fair share of failures, new learnings and enhanced knowledge has been the goal and the silver lining.
There is informal education such as the things we learn from parents, friends, peers, media and role models. There is also formal education that we learn from institutions in our coursework. This formal and informal education, together, determine who we are and potentially what kind of contribution we will make to the world. What and when we are taught affects our ability to thrive and to grow.
Just one example is the impact of a parent reading to his/her baby. Studies have shown that reading to a child can’t start early enough and that those children who are regularly read to versus those who aren’t have larger vocabularies, comprehend better, have more self awareness, master language easier and generally have a leg-up in life compared to their peers who aren’t read to as much. (http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/reading-babies.html
For many years, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic were the holy grail when it came to education. Today, their close cousins Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are all the rage. As an engineer myself, I agree wholeheartedly that these skills are important and that we have far too few students interested or demonstrating mastery in these areas.
In my college and graduate years, and certainly as I negotiated my military and corporate career, a repetitive theme emerged. Mastery of STEM and other traditional institutional teachings alone just aren’t enough. The concept of vital education needs to be expanded in a real and meaningful way to give students a profound understanding of and belief in:
1. The connectedness of all humanity and how no action or reaction has an isolated impact.
2. The fact that no matter how our planet was given to us (by God, nature or accident), it is a gift for our sustenance and we must protect it for our children and their multitude.
3. The saying that “no one of us is as smart as all of us” and collaboration makes the impossible possible.
4. A strong desire to meet weakness and vulnerability with compassion and caring.
5. Making room for love and forgiveness which will allow us to endure the unthinkable. This is like a muscle that must be exercised in order to avoid atrophy.
Unfortunately, these critical lessons are forgotten or replaced by a go-it-alone and individualistic mentality. One that has us in isolation and scarcity versus oneness and plenty. The sooner we are able to weave these lessons into our life curriculum, the better we’ll be able to handle the immense challenges that face us today and those emerging in the future.
In my mind, the bell has rung, and now, class in session!