David G. Blumenkrantz, Ph.D. M.Ed.
The second element in the architectural structure for youth & community development through rites of passage is values & ethics (E-2). What are your values and ethics for 2012?
What would our actions be if we valued education as the greatest resource?
The Greatest Resource – Education. That is the first chapter in Part II of E. F. Schumacher’s 1972 seminal work: Small Is Beautiful. The first two paragraphs offer key insights into his courageous thought provoking questions. They are worth remembering here.
Throughout history and in virtually every part of the earth men have lived and multiplied, and have created some form of culture (E-13). Always and everywhere they have found their means of subsistence and something to spare. Civilisations have been built up, have flourished, and, in most cases, have
declined and perished. This is not the place to discuss why they have perished; but we can say: there must have been some failure of resources. In most instances new civilisations have arisen, on the same ground, which would be quite incomprehensible if it had been simply the material resource that had given out before. How could such resources have reconstituted themselves?
All history – as well as all current experiences – points to the fact that it is man, not nature, who provides the primary resource: that the key factor of all economic development comes out of the mind of man.
Not out of the mines in Nature.
Schumacher is not referring to man in the singular. Rather it is man in the collective sense. He points out that sustainable survival is dependent upon the relationship between all of human kind and nature. And, this relationship must be viewed through an ecological lens.
Suddenly, there is an outburst of daring, initiative, invention, construction activity, not in one field alone, but in many fields all at once.
The fields are disconnected - narrow specialties are created into silos to uncover some specific narrow truth and to exploit that truth in economically beneficial ways. No one may be able to say where it came from in the first place; but we can see how it maintains and even strengthens itself; through various kinds of schools, in other words, through education. In a very real sense, therefore, we can say that education is the most vital of all resources.
If Western civilisation is in a state of permanent crisis,
it is not far-fetched to suggest that there may be something wrong with its education. (P.83-4)
If Western civilization is in a state of permanent crisis –
what if there IS something wrong with its education?
What does Schumacher say is wrong with education? In a word – ethics. Education produced hundreds of narrowly focused silos to contain and distinguish the different disciplines of science and technology. They reduce the primary focus to producing know-how, without knowing how to use the end result of science & technology for the highest good - to benefit of all human kind and nature. Schumacher calls for a revolution in education, whose task would be; first and foremost, the transmission of ideas of value, of what to do with our lives. There is no doubt also the need to transmit know-how but this must take second place, for it is obviously somewhat foolhardy to put great powers into the hands of people without making sure that they have a reasonable idea of what to do with them.” (p.86).
More than anything youth need values and ethics in education that make their lives understandable and meaningful. The low priority we place on values and ethics in education has lead to the “permanent crisis.” Children are not able to come of age knowing how to live in ways that serve the highest good.
At present, there can be little doubt that the whole of mankind is in mortal danger, not because we are short of scientific and technological know-how, but because we tend to use it destructively, without wisdom. More education can help us only if it produces more wisdom, (p.86).
How youth come to know how to live in a reality that science and technology produced is the rightful purpose of education. This is not yet in the mainstream of educational and youth development policy.
Schumacher characterizes our current problems as “… living the sins of our fathers.” He writes that intervening to make the necessary changes requires a long-range view of 3 - 4 generations.
What if education for sustainable human kind was of paramount value? What are the guiding principles in the creation of this educational focus for the next 3-4 generations?
Schumacher’s views are not new, but are becoming more and more pertinent as the “crisis” escalates and threatens more and more people and the planet.
Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer –
into selflessness which links us with all humanity.
Viscountess Nancy Astor
American-born British politician (1879-1964)
How can an ecological approach for youth and community development through rites of passage
inform an innovation in education that guides youth to know how to live for the highest good?
It’t time for a Paradigm Shift – a fundamental change in beliefs, theory and approach – in developing community-centered responses to the challenges faced by today’s Youth & Community. More here>>