Choice is sacred. It is core to what makes us human. We can neither grant it nor take it away. What we perceive our choices to be however, and what we do with them depends on the depth and scope of our education!
In many ways life would be much simpler and the planet would be much better off if humans didn’t have this gift of choice. There’s the indigenous people’s proverb: “The frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives!” Only humans have the capability to destroy the ecology which supports them. Wouldn’t it be easier, clearer if this were not true?
But then, we would not be truly human – endowed with the elevated gifts of conscious reasoning, morality and choice!
So then, what is natural education?
Is it “returning to nature”, going “back to earth” as some say, reverting to a subsistence way of life, natural living, “getting off the cultural grid”…???
No. Not really. Not as a first principle. Not in the context of the 21st century when most of seven billion people live in urban habitats.
The first principle in a “natural” human education has got to come from a deeper understanding of human life! For example, what makes us different from all the other mammals on this planet? Why do we have choice? What’s different about our brains? Why don’t we see elephants writing books, doing poetry slams, playing soccer, tweeting, face booking or flying space shuttles? By the same token, flip-side, why can’t an elephant pollute its habitat, ruin its health or go to war against the baboons?
Some philosophers and theologians have argued that humans are “above” nature or “separate” from nature. But let’s take a step back from that. (Besides, I’m sorry, they’re idiots if they don’t think we are part of the natural worlds! The ‘dominionist’ brand of thinking has a lot to answer for.)Taking a step back though, let’s find a starter, a premise that is useful and relevant NOW.
What are (some of) the principles of natural education?
Humans are born with the urge to learn, to compare, to feel, to discover, to create………! How ‘bout we don’t shut that down for starters?!
Humans come into this world trusting their systems and faculties. But from early, early on, they learn otherwise. Infants can swim quite naturally!
Humans come equipped with the most extraordinary systems and faculties. Every single human being (not damaged in the womb or at birth) is naturally capable of unique virtuosity. But we are trained by osmosis and example to use only a fraction of our potential!
Humans are an integrated part of the world! We are not isolated. What we think, do and feel affects other lives, affects our environment and affects our possibility. Humans are NOT meant to experience such isolation. We are designed to learn by living interaction and connection!
Learning is a living, dynamic process, where the ‘student’ and the ‘subject’ engage in an interactive, connective relationship. Learning actually cannot happen in a static environment, ‘studying’ static facts or things with static expectations. In fact, “teaching to the test” is anathema to learning; it is just operant conditioning… and why again?!!
We are natural problem solvers! We may be good at breaking things, but we are also very good at fixing things too! It is what we bring to bear that is the challenge. Computer technology may look impressive when considering sheer volume and speed of information exchange. But compared to the versatility, elegance and finesse of the human mind and its technologies, computers are clunky, mechanical calculators.
The mind can heal the body using the body’s natural ‘pharmacology’, but we’d rather surrender our health to medical practitioners who don’t actually practice “medicine” anymore. Medical training now focuses on ‘meds’ rather than medicine, disease treatment rather than preventative health education (which would put the pharmaceutical industry out of business!).
Variety is the spirit of life! We know this! The planet certainly knows this. Think of the magnificent array and theater of life on earth. Children need to be exposed and experience variety and diversity. Mono-culture produces narrow minded, mono-chromatic, monotonous thinkers. Human life is a kaleidoscopic symphony within a panoply of possibility!
We humans know better. We know that bio-diversity is the key to a healthy eco-sphere. We know that life thrives best in symbiotic reciprocity! We know that the best conservation is using something according to its design. We know when NOT to manipulate something to our own selfish ends. We know better! We do.
Still, we have CHOICE.
In fact, choice is at the heart of natural education. But if our young companions do not realize what their choices are, we fail them as parents and educators. Our job in part, is to show what options exist, that there are other options, other ways, and to help young minds to connect to and create new options – based on natural, perennial principles and values such as – LOVE, HONOR, RESPECT and HUMANITY.