Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Education and alternatives ?

I have grown up in a regular educational system, with only saving grace being my parents' limitations in either being available or being able to give inputs. But beyond questioning the variations in the quality of 'regular' education, I never thought of alternatives to mainstream educational system. Only till I met a few people... first a friend who had worked with Krishnamurti Foundation (a pathbreaking philosopher, almost literally) as a teacher. And then met my informal mentor, who had established a school for alternative training of teachers, based on Sri Aurobindo & Mother's philosophy. There might have been a few other influences, but the later was the strongest.

This exposure had an interesting effect on me, initially I became quite defensive. I responded, 'well, I have turned out ok-enough, even though from a regular education'. I hated the idea that I missed out something so crucial, while I was growing up. Learning being a passion, it was one of the the most important aspect of my life. Thus, emotionally this was deeply disturbing and to avoid cognitive dissonance I tried to justify the business-as-usual education system.

Slowly I came to terms with the idea of alternative education, as I started understanding the repercussions of the current mainstream education system. It also happened along with changes in my studentship status. Now I understand, sooner or later it is not what degrees you have, but the person you are, which will matter most. More and more people around the world are realizing this and taking different paths & finding newer balances, from trusting alternative schools, to open schooling to completely un-schooling their kids.

Currently my main issue with the mainstream education is same as that with the mainstream psychology, (or possibly most other social/human sciences, and may be beyond). These fields have a basic flaw in translation from theory to application. Theories are limited in nature and have multiple external influences and biases. Further, all studies are limited, and when these limited observations in time and location are applied, they lead to flawed situations. However, by the time these theories change, a generation might have grown up under constraints of faulty methods/ situations.
For example, psychology theories for long have been dominated by ideas of instincts conditioning etc, which discount the better aspects of human nature. Such predominantly negative framework might go on to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such ideas lead to an education and economic system where competition and greed is built within.
While in recent years there is lot more research suggesting an in-built altruistic nature in humans, which actually might get dampened with external reward for doing the right thing. Now what happens to the institutions of the world? They stay same (or might change very slowly, erring on the optimistic side), even though the underlying theories have changed much earlier. There are lot of nice concepts like this, such as flow, intrinsic rewards, psychological needs etc, but not really applied in a run-of-the-mill organization/ institution.

This makes me more cynical when it comes to environment- we take it for granted. We do not pay for environmental services/ products, and thus the most polluting and unsustainable practices go on to make cheapest economic sense, while these in fact are the costliest in long term/ environmentally. Anything worth having, personally or on a societal level, doesn't have economic viability. On the other hand, the no-cost means to well-being and health are not encouraged, because there is no vested interest behind and it doesn't pay!

Coming back to education, those thinking within the system-box believe, education leads to employment and thus brings people out of poverty. This model works when there is huge variation in education, however with universal education, it flops (in US, 21 percent of homes headed by a college graduate lack economic security) because it doesn't look at wealth distribution. As they have started acknowledging, "In the past, threats to economic security were supposedly clear -- dropping out of high school, being a single parent or having a large family. In today's economy, we cannot assume we know who lacks security".

I guess, this is the right time to not only question the basic assumptions we hold about how the world works or should work, but also the time to find successful, sustainable, alternative models to be implemented as the mainstream model... anyone out there with similar thinking ?
I hallucinate some other voices ... even if delusional- may our tribe increase! :)

(PS: ok ok... there are few leaps of logic here, but I'm too sleepy to explain every step ... so good night! :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Painting my poetries...

I have been in a little creative mood... so here it goes ...
Some old poems and some relatively new photographs clicked while I visited some places.

The first one is my favorite poem, written with a deep sincere call to Divine.
I still won't mind a little conversation with Her/him/It. Nothing beats it, ever! Honestly, all my plans/attempts to simplify my life in the bare minimalistic way & de-clutter it, is actually in the service of this one goal.
(Pic taken in Hollywood, Florida. Will someone tell me what is that glow in the cloud- is it a response to my call :)

This is another of my very spontaneous poems.
Most of my poetries are simply coming down of a pre-formed poetry from somewhere else. I only tinker with it later. If I try to fit any of the mainstream theories of intuition, problem solving etc. to this process, it will be dishonest. There is something more to the mystery of creating a poetry, just like making babies :)
(Pic taken in Miami, Florida. There is a fun in going about exploring a new place all alone. Although sometimes there is no other choice :)

This one is some forest near St. louis. I was randomly going about the city on Thanksgiving day, in the hope of seeing some festival crowd (like in India) so that I can share vicarious joy. But alas rarely any human body on the streets. Thankfully a friend suddenly offered to drive to a nearby bird sanctuary and we got some lovely colors of setting sun (though we found the place closed).
Though I never thought I will do so, I have fallen in love with US and the people here, I will truly miss the place :)

Here is a morning in hollywood, Florida. I was following this bird in her flight, when suddenly this unknown lady entered the picture (I have many other pics of this bird to prove it :). Picture seemed perfect, especially for this poem. Though I had to debate for long if I should post it. Well.. I guess this lady won't have an issues with it. (If someone thinks its objectionable, I will respectfully remove it).

If it is hard to read, the original poems are here, here, here & here (though I have done a little bit of editing).

What is wrong with the poverty discourse?

Often I get struck with the way poverty discourse shape up in our world. On one hand, it is well-known, how poverty can effect every aspect of human life. On the other hand, intervention programs about poverty-alleviation are often completely off the mark, not only at national level, but also at international levels. At best, they are extremely short sighted.

In brief, my main issue with poverty intervention programs is that, they polarize the discussions and keep it extremely narrow. It gets all about money, as if people above-poverty-level are having great quality of life. It misses the point that money is just a means. What humans need is not money for its own sake, but because it might improve access to products and services. In the end what is money, an exchange of one's own effort, for someone else's efforts? But people who can change this discourse are invested in keeping the current world 'as-it-is', the status quo of the institutions while anyone who might be sane-enough, never reaches the power of decision making.

How about focusing on lives worth living, in livable communities ?
Health - how about preventive and promotive health for a change? Instead of pouring all resources into the sexiest disease of the month or the year?
Education - Some of the elite groups are moving towards un-schooling, forget about imprisoning kids into a drab environment for long long hours. How about improving quality of education, with the local community resources? An education which can teach kids skills of living, and how to be a better human being - From how to build house, how to grow crop, how to cook, how to make friends, how to be kind and compassionate, regulate emotions, how to problem solve, how to reflect?
Housing? building safe and sensible space of living?
Building communities?
Art? Culture?
The list can go long ...
But it boils down to how to live sustainably, meaningfully?

Not only our GDP doesn't count this, but also our discussion is lop sided and doomed sooner or later... Well, may be the sooner it is, the better!!! When is the Euro economic bomb blasting?

(PS: It is interesting to note, on one hand many of the developing wold economies like India were forced opened, almost arm-twisted, by the developed world countries, especially US. On the other hand, the same globalization has finally lead to a situation in the same developed countries, where the regular population is now sick of globalization and (almost) ready to go local & buy swadeshi!) Strange ways of world moves... isn't it ? ;)