Education and Maturity

The goal of education is to equip children with the ability to effectively function as an adult. I believe this process involves two things:

1) Endowing practical knowledge and skills
2) Cultivating a proper mindset

Most crises are due to a lack of the latter than the former. When we think of the former, we think of things like the sciences, humanities, arts and practical/technical skills. Arguably, our (Sri Lanka’s) education system may be deficient in dispensing these to the general population. Yet we see time and again that, even in cases where a good education is present the person tends to be deficient in other ways. In fact, one may observe that certain personality/character deficiencies are MORE common among the highly educated than the average person. This may very well be due to an imbalanced education: education where the improvement of skill and knowledge is sought at the expense of mindset.

While many educators would agree the need for both knowledge and mindset, there are differences in opinion as to what should constitute mindset. Socialists/communists/totalitarians would like to create a citizen who is docile and holds the good of the state and the ‘will of the people’ above his own. A religious dogmatist would like to create a citizen who is pious, selfless and commits himself to unquestioning servitude in the name of that particular religion’s highest good.

Therein lies the danger of this second goal of education. If we are in any way uncertain as to how we should approach it, we should not approach it at all. A purely knowledge/skill based education is better than a one that creates an improper mindset. We should avoid “mild brainwashing” at all costs.

Maturity

We may attempt to discover aspects of the proper mindset by considering what the goal of education is: to equip a child with the ability to effectively function as an adult. By this, we see that one necessary aspect of the required mindset is MATURITY. The hallmark of maturity is the ability to do what one knows is beneficial despite one’s emotions; and conversely, the ability to not do what should not be done, even under compelling emotions. As children, we all learn BASIC maturity: that we cannot have every toy we see in a shop window; that we need to study even if we do not like it; that we cannot eat sweets for breakfast. Beyond this, differences of individual maturity begin to emerge. Some will refrain from cheating, even if they feel like it and opportunities present themselves; others will not; some will afford equitable treatment even to those they personally dislike (other ethnicities, for example); others will act on their dislike; some will make it their own responsibility to earn their livelihoods; others will prefer handouts, and will work only because the alternative is starvation.

One of the ways in which this country’s destiny may be changed is to endow the next generation with maturity: train them to not act on destructive emotions; teach them that nobody is fully immune from destructive emotions (e.g. hatred/dislike of other ethnicities/religions; fear of government); teach them that the discomfort of enduring such difficult emotions without acting on them is the price we pay for civilization (as opposed to living in the wild); teach them that with practice, such discipline becomes second nature and cease to feel like ‘discipline’. Perhaps then we may see and end to our ethnic crisis and our economic crisis.

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One Response to Education and Maturity

  1. Kyle says:

    Amen! 🙂 The school I helped start and currently work at (www.beaconhillacademy.org) in Nuwara Eliya has this exact thing as part of its mission. More than cramming some technical/vocational skills into student’s minds for an exam, we really try to instill critical thinking and personal ethics. We currently use Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as a basis for one of our classes, but try to foster confidence and thinking skills even in our more technical subjects (like computers).

    It’s really hard, at first, to get students to open up and actually question us, and not just sit quietly, dutifully copying down anything we say into their books so they can memorize it for later. I think this whole exam-oriented education system is the root of the problem–too much emphasis placed on passing an exam and not on showing true understanding or mastery. There’s no room for reflection and critical thought when you are cramming 2 years of knowledge into your head for an exam that will determine the future of your educational path!

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