Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Educational System and Personal Resilience

Apropos of our educational system, the following is an excerpt from my Resilience 2010 Special Report:

Sparta was certainly a warrior culture by any definition, and those blind to its many virtues are quick to condemn it as “militaristic” or “violent”. In reality, whatever its flaws, Sparta was based on high ideals of honor and justice. 

The Greek historian Xenophon writes about an incident he witnessed personally:

An elderly man was trying to find a place to sit and observe the Olympic Games. As he went to each section, all the other Greeks laughed as he tried to make his way through. Some ignored him. Upon entering the Spartan section all the Spartans stood and offered the elderly man their seats. Suddenly the entire stadium applauded. All the Greeks knew what was the right thing to do, but the Spartans were the only ones who did it.

Sparta was widely known for its educational system for both boys and girls. The system was very demanding physically and produced people who were exceptionally tough and resilient in every way.

The purpose of this toughness and resilience, though, was to inculcate a strong sense of self-identity, values and a virtuous character, as Xenophon’s story illustrates.

Without a strong sense of who you are, of what you stand for and the inner strength to act on those values, you have no real chance of achieving real happiness or a fulfilling life.

It Has Always Puzzled Me...

As somebody who's been through the modern Western educational system from one end to the other - Kindergarten to PhD - I can tell you it's always left me totally perplexed.  It claims to want to achieve certain laudable goals and then does exactly the opposite of what it says.

That's why I have a lot of time for anyone who's willing to stand up and tell the truth about the educational system - that it's failed us and it's failing our children even more.  And that's why I'd encourage you to go and see the new movie, Waiting for Superman - and no, it's not about the guy in the blue tights and red cape ;-)

Here's one of the trailers:

I certainly plan to see it myself, because my personal commitment is to bring the cultivation of personal resilience back into the educational system, so that our schools can once again start guiding the young toward lives full of health, self-confidence, intellectual honesty and diligence, self-fulfillment and superior leadership.  

And the educational system that does this will not be the same one that:
  •  Repeatedly gave my then grade 8 daughter pictures to color as a regular homework assignment in French class.  How the f#%! do you color "in French"??!!
  •   Developed an entire high school curriculum for languages like German and Latin where you didn't even hear about key elements of grammar essential to make a basic sentence during the entire first year
  • Drove lots of kids away from their natural fascination with science by boring them to death with tedious equations about stuff that didn't interest them
  • Had me going to the dean of a graduate school to protest a final exam I considered so insultingly simple as to be a joke (masters level students getting 10 identification questions to be answered with no more than one sentence each??).  Imagine my shock when the dean informed me that several students had failed!  
Education has long since degenerated into the (largely) state-run babysitting service.  Isn't it time to do something about an educational system that's manifestly inferior in several important ways to those of many ancient cultures?  

Be sure to go see this movie!!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 

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