Cadmus

Report on Future Education Symposium

6. The Value of Values
One of the top technology companies, Google, believes that when it comes to recruiting new employees, technical expertise is the least important criterion! Intellectual humility, sense of responsibility, empathy, and willingness to work in and for the team are more important. Grades determine one’s career for the first two years, according to Google’s head of People Operations. So the rest of one’s career depends on the value one adds to work, and that is determined by one’s own values.

Knowledge without values is catastrophic. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer became the emblem of a new type of technocratic power. He became a household name and appeared on the covers of the magazines Life and Time. But five years later, during the arms race between the US and USSR, Oppenheimer lobbied for international arms control. He opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb for ethical concerns. With growing concern about the social and ethical responsibility of scientists, Oppenheimer joined Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Joseph Rotblat and other eminent scientists and academics to establish WAAS in 1960.

When conflicting interests prevail, it is values that one is committed to that set the direction. Values are the quintessence of the knowledge of human accomplishment. They represent a universal ideal of conduct, an idealized goal of perfection. The common element in all instances of progress or accomplishment, in any field, at any level, individual, regional, national or global, is positive values. Just as physical skills are the channels through which physical energy is directed so that it produces results, values play a similar role at the psychological level. The quality of the values and the intensity of our commitment to them determine the level of our accomplishment.

As Winston Nagan, Chairman of the Board of WAAS and Director of WUC emphasized, at the root of the multiple crises confronting humanity today is a crisis of values that must be resolved before there can be any hope of lasting solutions to the problems facing humanity. An education without values is destructive. Civilization offers us knowledge, culture provides values. When knowledge and values are unmatched, we move towards dystopia. As Einstein suggested, new knowledge should be a blessing and not a curse to humankind. Learning and work are effective and productive only when they are based on positive values, and these need to be incorporated in every subject and course.

7. Towards a Bolder Future
We have not yet fully explored the infinite potential there is in human capital. We have disproved predictions that earth will not be able to produce food for all and devised ways to turn desert into farmland, grow plants without soil, and continuously boost agricultural productivity. Food shortage in any part of the world today is not because of shortage of food but due to political and organizational folly. Concern over depleting oil reserves has been removed by the discovery that the sun beams enough solar energy in an hour to satisfy global energy needs for a year.** We have deciphered the structure of the DNA, split the atom, and mastered rocket science. Now we are looking to move out of the earth, to other worlds. We made computers, connected them together, and have created a virtual world with unlimited possibilities. No resource is as resourceful or unlimited as the potential in the human being. The human mind has amazing resources at its command. It has faculties we have not discov­ered yet, and the potential to evolve and accomplish much more than we have ever done.

With all the focus that education gives to science, on closer examination, we see that much of that focus is on the process of validation of discovery, and not really on the process of discovery itself. An understanding of this process, and of what constitutes intellectual genius will move us closer to discovering the method that develops genius through education.

Today, our mental processes have a strong bias for physical reality. Though we know that if we went only by our senses, we would still be saying that the sun goes around the earth; even in our thinking process, we give primacy to the physical. Reality has many dimensions. Reality is in the material, emotional and conceptual planes. But our scientifically validated, rational education places great emphasis only on the material dimensions of reality. Our thinking process in general is conditioned to emphasize on what is physically verifiable and dependent on our senses. Our education often downgrades the reality of the subjective dimension and places great emphasis on being completely objective, even though the subjective reality is what we live in to a powerful extent. Ignoring the subjective dimension robs us of a rich knowledge we could discover otherwise.

Thinking is a critical faculty that education needs to develop. Thinking itself can be of many types. One is the analytical, where we take one part of the whole, concentrate on it, gain extensive knowledge and specialize in the part alone. Another is synthetic thinking, where we try to see the big picture. We put all the parts together, and find the commonality in all. We combine a number of disciplines and subjects, and make up an education course in this way. The third type of thinking, integrated thinking, sees the oneness among the parts at a fundamental level, it recognizes the essentiality in all. It reconciles apparent contradictions as complementary dimensions of a wider reality—truths completing truths—to reveal the underlying transdisciplinary principles. If our education can shift from analytical, to synthetic, to integrated thinking, we evolve collectively to function at a yet undiscovered plane of thinking, working and creating.

The unrealized is not necessarily unrealizable. Many a thing that is possible today was unimagined, or science fiction in the past. But we have an inherent bias to believe in the reality of what exists today, and downplay the reality of what has not yet materialized, even if it is inevitable, simply because it is not intelligible to our senses. The determinative power of anticipation and aspiration are not taken into account in our understanding of any development in science or the humanities. A holistic education not only imparts facts, it reveals the great powers of the mind, develops the personality and individuality, and makes students discoverers of unthought realities.

All knowledge is based on a conceptual framework. Problems are not solved when we insist on working within the existing paradigm or the intellectual framework. We are constantly learning new paradigms, but we do so unconsciously. We move to new paradigms without knowing we are doing it. In our classes, if we can teach the knowledge we are teaching, and make conscious the progress that we have made, and the process by which we shift from one paradigm to another, we will create not just knowledge but the capacity to create new paradigms, and to come out of the box.

The natural progression in the educational paradigm is a gradual shift from ‘Learning to Know’ to ‘Learning to Do’ to ‘Learning to Be’ to ‘Learning to Live Together’, as described by Stephen Yong-Seung Park, Dean at the Office of International Affairs and Professor of Human Resource Management, Kyung Hee University, South Korea. At a fundamental level, education must prepare us to strive for Truth, self-development and self-knowledge. The focus on the external that teaches one how to make a living must be balanced by a focus on how to make a life, an idea that Pierre Antoine Barraillé, President of Praneo, put forward.

In order to meet the increasing demands on quality and quantity of education, and to effectively handle the challenges we face today, our educational model along with all the involved people (teachers and students), pedagogy (of research and teaching) and organizations, should transform into a more conscious, person-centered, value-based, holistic system.

Comprehending the challenges in present and future education, identifying the changes needed, and determining a course of action are easy when compared to the task of translating the action plan into action. Change almost always meets with inertia and resistance from long time practitioners who believe in the superiority of their practice. To shake the beliefs of an old, established organization is more difficult than to move its physical structure from its foundation. Even when there is clear knowledge of what needs to be done, existing forces in society prevent or impede the execution of the knowledge from a hundred ulterior motives. Vested interests with limited vision are hostile to change that threatens the status quo. Even when change is implemented, the policy has to be tailored specially for each country, region or university. What suits one may not work elsewhere.

The challenges to be overcome in order to revolutionize education are enormous, as Zlatko Lagumdžija, Former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Tibor Tóth, Ambassador, Executive Secretary Emeritus, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization PC, said. But the stakes are high enough, and they are rising perpetually. Education is our best hope for the future. We need to translate the thoughts and ideas generated from the WAAS-WUC course on Future Education into a working reality. We could make a start with one or a few progressive universities and countries, as suggested by Erich Hoedl, Vice-President of the European Academy for Sciences and Arts. As the saying goes, nothing succeeds like success, and others around the world will follow. Many a revolution had a modest beginning.

We do not know exactly what the future will look like. A phrase from Indian philosophy talks about knowing that which all is known. Translating that into the educational context, we can teach students that knowing which, they can handle all. Alongside teaching them the facts, we can train them to handle complexity and make them capable of being adaptive and constantly reassessing the future. So no matter what the future turns out to be, our youth will be well formed individuals equipped to face it. Better still, they will invent the future.


** See http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/solar-power-profile/


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