At the end of my senior year in Dartmouth, I watched my peers line up in front of the Career Services Building. While waiting for job interviews at their company, everyone seemed to be wearing the same clothes-men in navy jackets and women in dark dresses. I think back to my first day on campus four years ago, when we all wore different colors and dreamed of a different future. It is as if our education does not enhance our personality and imagination, but reduces them to the same.
This is not a unique scene. Around the world, formal education provides the economy with workers who can increase productivity. Its purpose is to provide fuel for the economic machine, not to change its internal operations. But this machine now threatens our survival. If the entire world reaches the consumption levels of today’s high-income countries, we will need multiple earths to supply resources. The absurd idea of unlimited growth in a limited territory is the core of our economic system.
In order to make this machine work, formal education has produced more efficient “human capital.” Increasing productivity indicators (such as the income of each employee or the rate of return on investment) rather than the personality of the students promotes our civilized approach to educating young people. Although the Sustainable Development Goals call for the transformation of education into a sustainable force, the reality is often the opposite: the way that Western societies have begun to consider education has weakened our ability to deal with environmental crises. In order to survive this crisis, we need to cultivate our imagination, not destroy it.
In the process of growing up, my school education did not cultivate my ability to imagine a world different from what I saw around me. As a child in Slovakia in the 1990s, I had to memorize textbooks word by word. Decades later, as an education researcher, I saw children in other places experiencing the same situation-a group of Indian students repeating sentences written by the teacher on the blackboard, a South African child failed to accurately reproduce the blackboard The content was yelled by the teacher. textbook. Rote memorization, suppression of individuality, and inculcation of meekness in children are still the fundamental meaning of education in most parts of the world.
Many experts agree that we need to get rid of this kind of education. However, the suppression of children’s imagination does not only occur in resource-poor communities or outdated education systems. This problem is covered up in “elite” institutions that tout “critical thinking,” but it is even more harmful.Except for a few wise mentors, almost no one encourages me to imagine another future in the world During my undergraduate study at Ivy League and postgraduate studies at Oxford University. These institutions want to see their graduates succeed, and success is often related to maintaining the existing structure rather than reimagining their foundation.
In recent years, we have witnessed global efforts to achieve curriculum standardization. This reform has brought the notion of success in Western education to the rest of the world. Driven by the OECD standardized test, the test ranks the education system, Countries focus on improving quantifiable outcomes, such as literacy and arithmetic. Winning the competition in today’s most efficient education system means having the most efficient workforce and developing the national economy faster tomorrow.
Our standardized, indicator-driven, “efficient” education system basically shapes children in the image of artificial intelligence (AI). As a perfect “worker”, artificial intelligence continues to improve its own productivity, but it will not challenge the larger structure of its operation. We have invested a lot of money in building supercomputers, but have ignored the imagination of millions of human brains. This is one of the biggest paradoxes of our time.
Our focus on technological solutions to the challenges of civilization is driving our educational approach. There are more students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in British universities than ever before, and the number of enrollments in artificial intelligence courses has increased by 400% in the past 10 years. Compared with STEM, social sciences and humanities are often underfunded and are regarded as inferior disciplines by policy makers and the public. But this approach is counterproductive, because non-STEM subjects are essential to develop our ability to reimagine the world.
We even pin our hopes of solving the environmental crisis on artificial intelligence. We use machine learning to optimize energy networks, track land use through satellite imagery, and predict extreme weather. But artificial intelligence, like our other technologies, can only treat the symptoms of environmental crises, not the causes.These are us Arrogance and lack of sensitivity Our impact on the planet. We cannot outsource solutions to the political and cultural deficiencies of environmental crises to computers.
Throughout history, the implementers of great changes have relied on their imagination to solve the fundamental flaws of society. In my country of birth, Czechoslovakia, dissidents against communism have maintained their democratic dreams for decades by imagining a different future. In South Africa under apartheid, the followers of Nelson Mandela must play a radical role in their imaginations to create a vision of a fairer society.Imagining democracy under totalitarian rule is no different from imagining Degenerate When living in a world of unlimited growth.
The kind of intelligence that Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel possess is not artificial. The ability to reimagine the future and break the status quo is still an obvious human quality. Unlike artificial intelligence, children are naturally imaginative and question the premise of society. In my research, I have observed that young children are often the most radical when they imagine a different future. As they grow older, their imaginations tend to become more versatile, imitating mainstream narratives of technological progress.
As long as our imagination is limited, ideas like degradation or intergenerational justice remain fringe and utopian for many people. Cultivating imagination means learning from the destroyers of history, who make the so-called impossible things delicious. This means staying away from our standardized courses, quantifiable indicators, and authoritarian teaching methods. Instead of discarding the “childish” ideas about the future of the world, it is better to see inspiration from the imagination of children.
In an education system that advocates imagination, art and creativity are as important as mathematics and science. Teachers develop and take actions based on their own teaching concepts. Children define success by themselves. Idealism and pragmatism coexist. Expressing opinions and taking political action are the goals of education, not distractions. Some of these ideas have inspired educational projects around the world-such as forest schools in Europe, jeevanshalas (life school) in India Or Schumacher College in the UK-but these are exceptions.
The environmental crisis is not a crisis of technology or science, but a crisis of imagination. If we let our children be our guides, we might be able to imagine our way of survival.
This is an opinion and analysis article; opinions expressed Author or author Not necessarily those Scientific american.