Child-Centred Learning & Planetary Health

When I ponder the question: What kind of education system will best support a future characterized by the most robust and vital learning? I find the answer in the natural world.

Check out any healthy ecosystem on our planet and you’ll see life sustained by rich, robust biodiversity and complex interactivity. This diversity helps systems and the individual species on which they are formed adapt to changing characteristics; eliminate this diversity and you undermine resilience and future options for adaptation, and thriving.

Our education system should reflect such diversity; monocultural impositions and forcings degrade healthy ecosystems the same way they do human society, and they lay the foundation for tyranny. In human society we recognize these attributes as applying to democracy and we honour and cherish this notion (fight for it, too, when it is threatened). 

Given the plurality of challenges we face on this planet we need to spur more kinds of intelligence and creative thinking, not less. In education the path to this is through the support and nourishing of Child-Centred Personalized Learning, emphasizing, not standardized goals but pathways for children and young people to flourish and thrive in multiple ways. Vivent les differences!

And if I was looking for some additional inspiration to help nurture this, I find it in Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman’s recent book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (2013, Basic Books). Here are a couple of poignant excerpts from Scott’s book, aligned with my points above:

“It’s my belief that it’s time for a new definition of human intelligence that takes all aspects of the human mind into account. One the emphasizes the value of an individual’s personal journey. That extends the time course of intelligence from a two-hour testing session of decontextualized problem solving to a lifetime of deeply meaningful engagement.”

“We should encourage children to dream the impossible, to think beyond the standard expectations, to dare to be unrealistic. Such encouragement promotes the importance of perseverance and questioning the established order. What’s more this instills in all people a mindset of lifelong learning and growth.”

And as for aligning with your deepest passions to help stoke learning, Scott echoes what we’ve seen for 25 years in SelfDesign:

“There is an abundance of evidence suggesting we should encourage all people with a love of a specific domain to engage in what they love.”

For information on my book: Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want, Starting Now (2011) and to order a copy, go here

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