A Call For A Radical Reform In Education

A call for a radical reform in our system of education based on our understanding of how our mind works

John D. Kunnathu

A knowledge of how our mind works can help us make use of it better, and it calls for radical reforms in our education system. This is not a psychological explanation using psychological terms, for this writer is not a psychologist. However, this writer has been in the field of education, and the experience gained over three decades in three different continents has contributed to this study. A human individual is made of mind and body. Our body and mind work together like hardware and software. As often said, a healthy mind needs a healthy body, and we need to take care of both. We need to eat balanced diet, drink plenty of water, do regular exercise, maintain cleanliness, and sleep at least eight hours a day to keep the body healthy. Like computers, human individuals exist in networks as communities, which are further connected to form a global human community. Like software, an individual human mind has very complex structure and is made of so many different parts. What follows is a cursory look at the structure of human mind, and an examination of how it implies a reform in our education system. The Parts of the Human Mind The human mind has various component parts such as: 1. Thinking part, 2. Feeling part, 3. Willing part, 4. Attitude part, 5. Mood part, 6. Memory part, 7. Awareness part, 8. Imagination part, 9. Paying attention part In an ideal mind, all these various parts will work perfectly well, and will work together in perfect coordination. If any one part of the mind is not in a good working condition, it causes a mental disability. Actually there is no one with an ideal mind, with all the parts working perfectly well. For example, one may be good at thinking, but not that good at feeling. One who is good at both may not be that good at will power. Our current system of education seems to function with the understanding that thinking and memory are the only skills of the human mind that are worth developing. All the other skills are ignored, and thus the children come out of schools mentally disabled. Our children are never taught how to feel in a healthy manner. They are never taught how to improve their attitude and their ability to pay attention. They are never taught how to do things meaningfully and how to maintain social relationships. They are supposed to learn these things by themselves from their families or from their own faith-based communities.

We can improve the ability of each part of our mind with specific exercises for that part. It takes regular and sustained exercise to make each part function better. In schools, children are pressured to memorize a lot of information, which of course improves their memory power. They engage in problem-solving in Mathematics and other similar subjects, which improve their thinking skills. Outside the formal education, traditionally there have been ways to improve some other mental skills. Almost all religious traditions promote meditation, which seems to be primarily an exercise to improve our awareness and our ability to pay attention. Fasting seems to be an exercise of the will power. Watching a movie or drama or reading a fiction identifying with the feelings of the characters seems to be an exercise of the feelings. That is probably why Aristotle claimed that the function of tragedy (drama) was to purify human minds. Creative writing, painting, and other such creative arts seem to be exercises that improve our power of imagination. All have their specific inborn skills, and they should have the opportunity to identify their inborn skills and develop them further. This opportunity should be provided to the children at their schools and colleges. The practice of pushing everyone through the same education machine needs to stop, for it makes them mentally disabled. With our diverse mental skills, we can function better if we can learn to cooperate rather than compete with each other. In our schools our children compete with each other and struggle a lot to pass standardized tests that measure their thinking skills and memory power. But such competitions and struggles won't help in real life situations. Our children are taken away from the real life of the society and are placed in a setting where they practice an artificial life far separated from the real life of the community around. At the end of the course of education, they come out as misfits, unable to function in any real society. They find themselves misfits in their own place, and they run away to other places. It is high time for a radical rethinking in our system of education. We need an education that helps children develop all their mental and physical skills in the real-life setting. They need to learn from real interactions with the real people and situations in the community around. For example, they need to learn farming interacting with the farmers around. They need to learn to do manufacturing and to run businesses by similar interactions. It has to be mutually benefiting interactions. The emphasis should be on cooperation rather than competition. The Two Levels of Human Mind Our mind seems to have two primary levels: conscious level and subconscious level. Our subconscious mind is always active, but our conscious mind is active only when we are awake. Conscious mind consumes more energy than the subconscious mind, so it does only things that cannot be done by the subconscious mind. Almost all of our activities are managed by the subconscious mind. To get familiar with the new situations and information is the function of the conscious mind. As familiarity increases, the subconscious mind takes over. For example, you buy a new car. Your conscious mind knows that it is yours, but your subconscious mind doesn't. It takes three weeks of daily

familiarity for the subconscious mind to get fully familiar with it and realize that it is your car. They are like the land and sea. Land gets warm fast, also cools off fast. The sea gets warm slowly and cools off slowly. The conscious mind learns fast, but the learning does not last. The subconscious mind learns slowly, but it stays there longer. Our mind is a learning tool, but we should not do the mistake of forcing it to learn. We need to allow it to learn in its own way. Let us say you want to learn to drive. Don't expect your mind to learn it in a day. Give enough time for the conscious mind to get familiar with the new skill and pass on the familiarity to the subconscious mind. All learning requires time. Any creative activity can be done better if the mind is given enough time. The Role of Feelings Our feelings take huge amounts of energy. So when we have intense feelings, our minds cannot be used for anything else. Imagine a situation in which you become very sad or very angry. You can't think right in such a situation. Imagine that you fall in love. This feeling captivates you, and you lose your normal power of thinking. Unless we understand our feelings and have some control over them, we cannot function right. Our feelings may be broadly classified into positive and negative. Feelings like joy, admiration, and caring for others are positive, but feelings like hatred, and jealousy are negative. Negative feelings weaken our mind, but positive feelings strengthen our mind. In order to keep our minds healthy we need to do a regular cleanup of any negative feelings. Networking of Minds Just like computers are networked, human minds are also networked. The networking takes place at the conscious level as well as the subconscious level. Communication happens between minds consciously as well as subconsciously. Thoughts are communicated verbally. Feelings are contagious. When you watch someone with a certain feeling like anger or sadness, you get the same feeling within your mind. Subconscious communication of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and moods takes place among members of a family or of other similar close-nit groups. If we can imagine the planet earth as a living being, the humanity may be seen as its nervous system with each human individual as its neuron. The humanity works together as the nervous system of the planet earth. We communicate with each other like the neurons communicate with each other. We also communicate our thoughts and feelings with the planet earth-- the higher level being which we form a part of. Our prayer seems to be such communication with the higher level being. Our sincere prayers are always answered, but it usually takes some time. The answers most often come in the form of coincidences. Conclusion An understanding of how our mind works helps to live our life more meaningfully and successfully. It also helps to develop a better education system that can help children

grow up healthy as integral parts of a healthy society.