Future Of High Education

I am so inspired by Parker Palmer’s article that I can’t agree more of his saying. Here I cited two parts that I was resonated the most.

…… Institutions are us. The shadows that institutions cast over our ethical lives are external expressions of our own inner shadows, individual and collective. If institutions are rigid, it is because we fear change. If institutions are competitive, it is because we value winning over all else. If institutions are heedless of human need, it is because something in us also is heedless.

…… The fact that we have schools does not mean we have education. The fact that we have hospitals does not mean we have health care. The fact that we have courts does not mean we have justice. We need professionals who are “in but not of their institutions, whose allegiance to the core values of their fields makes them resist the institutional diminishment of those values.

I’ve heard from many people complaining how terrible our education system is and how we should reform as like the Western system. I was ever one of them. However, more recently, I began to think about what ultimately went wrong in our education, why we still can’t figure out how to figure out.

I find myself very interesting. I always hold a self-justified standpoint of how education forces me to do this or that instead of wondering why I would have such a standpoint. For example, I tend to be quiet in class. If I had a question to ask, I would first consider whether this question made me stupid. Why would I have such a weird thinking? Because I did think in this way when other students asked a question that I could answer. Still, why would I have such a weird thinking? Because teachers tend to discourage students when they asked a question that they should be able to answer. Oh, no wonder why I don’t like to ask questions but like to pretend to know the answers.

For example, I tend to differentiate courses based on their importance in the exams. In fact, I had to learn all classes such as physics, chemistry, biology, history, politics, geography, Chinese, English, Mathematics in high school. I didn’t like them all but I had to work hard to learn them. Why would I need to learn them all? Because I need to get a high score for college application. Although I was required to learn all of them, I was acknowledged to focus more on science-oriented learning. Because at the end of the first year I chose to join the science-oriented curricula instead of liberal arts-oriented curricula. I only need to take a unified examination of the first-year learning of the liberal arts-oriented curricula, but I had to take the National College Entrance Exam (GaoKao) which including the all three-year learning of science-oriented curricula. The point here is that I didn’t treat every course equally and neither did I establish any personal interests in learning it. I guess I’ve had this habit since I was in primary school and middle school and it seemed that I still had it before now.

I still have so many examples. Three days and nights may not be enough to write all down. For example, I like to memorize the answers instead of questioning the questions. I prefer to take exam exercises instead of reading the books. … I was surprised that I had so many interesting things that I never have a deep look and thought. Have been used to mentally mute myself and think that it was the education that forced me to do in this way and all else were also forced to do in this way. I was surprised that how could I say that all of these were due to the terrible education system, as I was actually a part of the education system. I had actually been able to think something different and do something different. But I had just constrained by myself, not the education itself.

As I’ve stayed in school for such a long time, I gradually realize that I’m rarely genuine to myself. The reason is perhaps, teachers are not genuine to themselves either. We always pretend ourselves to be the same as others. We seldom ask why and we just follow the crowd. What we are respecting is not knowledge, but authority. We think we know what is important to learn, but in fact, we don’t even know what the importance is. We think we know how to succeed, but in fact, we only know how to survive.

I might be too critical here. I might exaggerate a bit about our education. But ……

…… Institutions are us. The shadows that institutions cast over our ethical lives are external expressions of our own inner shadows, individual and collective. If institutions are rigid, it is because we fear change. If institutions are competitive, it is because we value winning over all else. If institutions are heedless of human need, it is because something in us also is heedless.

…… The fact that we have schools does not mean we have education. The fact that we have hospitals does not mean we have health care. The fact that we have courts does not mean we have justice. We need professionals who are “in but not of their institutions, whose allegiance to the core values of their fields makes them resist the institutional diminishment of those values.

I can’t help but to second the quote here. I can’t excuse myself anymore. I can’t shirk responsibility anymore. Future education is us. Either high or low, it depends on us. Whether it is teachers or students, never stop reflecting ourselves. Don’t just wait for the teachers to provide us an alternative to seeing the world. Also, don’t just wait for the students to change the world. Education is a dialogue with teachers and students, with youngs and elders, with men and women, with new and old.

I always believe that everything has a reason. And there is a reason for a reason to be a reason. We need to push ourselves out of the comfort zone that has been established by the seniors or the formers. To figure out the reason. To defend the reason with critics as well as appraisals. To make the reason bigger and brighter. To live in the way of finding out the reason.

 


Parker Palmer, A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited, 2007.

Dan Edelstein, How is Innovation Taught? On the Humanities and the Knowledge Economy, 2010.

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3 thoughts on “Future Of High Education

  1. Thanks for your nice post. I agree that in China we usually “mute our thoughts”. It is easy to get trouble when speaking our thoughts loud. I cannot agree more that both students and teachers are responsible for this situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. Too many people criticizing the educational system but we’ve been in the same spot for many years. Once people start thinking of solutions, only then we will start moving forward. Good choice of quotes from Parker Palmers article!

    Like

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