Q&A re future of education (2)

QUESTIONER: David, how do the children learn basic skills like phonics, writing, reading, grammar, counting, etc with the Eduspire Paradigm? My understanding is they learn from natural environments, which is so wonderful, but these other skills need to be practised through drill in order to learn, at least in the beginning. Until we become a telepathic society again, these skills will still be needed here, so how do they learn them?

DAVID: Could it be that the very idea of “drill” was drilled into us courtesy of our own schooling? Practice by drill was a requirement of the Industrial Age. The Industrial Age has come and gone. The Information Age has come and gone. We are now in the Innovation Age. And yet we still cling to Industrial Age principles. We are running Education 1.0 software in a Society 3.0 operating system.

I observe that a baby learns to walk and talk – the two most complex learning processes that any human being undergoes – without formal instruction. Babies don’t attend walking and talking classes led by walking and talking experts – in which they practise walking and talking by drill. Of course, the child receives role modelling and encouragement from his/her parent(s), but the desire to master these complex skills comes from within the child. There is an innate curiosity, an intrinsic motivation to replicate the behaviour of grown ups. What if we were to allow learning to continue unfolding in an equally natural manner throughout childhood? I recommend checking out the work of psychology professor Peter Gray. In his wonderful book “Free to Learn”, he talks about how children in indigenous tribes learn and how everything we do in school is diametrically opposed to what comes naturally to human beings. There is no formal teaching in these indigenous communities. Children learn “the basics” through observation and play.

I would also encourage you to read about the experiences of students at Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. (Peter Gray’s own children attended). This is an excellent example of a natural learning environment in which students (aged 4-19) mix freely and initiate all of their own learning. The school opened in 1968 and has inspired the creation of a further 60 Sudbury schools around the world. In its 48-year history, SVS has not encountered a single child with dyslexia. How is that possible? Because they don’t “teach” kids to read. The kids teach themselves – in their own way, at their own pace, WHEN THEY ARE READY and sufficiently interested. This is the biggest issue with conventional school: it forces children to do things they would otherwise CHOOSE to do if given the freedom to do so.

When children are in an environment that affords them authentic freedom to pursue their own interests and passions, they pick up the basics naturally. Consider, for instance, a child given the freedom to follow her passion for cooking. Weighing and measuring ingredients. Reading recipe books. Researching food of different cultures. Planning a trip to the supermarket. Comparing prices and brands. Creating and recording new recipes. Planning the menu for a party with a group of friends. Organising and running a cake stall at the community fete. She will naturally pick up all manner of skills – not because she has been ‘told’ to, but because she either perceives the need to, or because a desire is born out of her own curiosity/interest.

All of this comes down to TRUST. Most adults have a hard time trusting their kids because they don’t trust themselves. We were taught, as children, that we could not be trusted. And so we pass this distrust on to our own children. I am here to break this self-perpetuating cycle of distrust by reminding humanity that children CAN be trusted. How do I know this? Because I trust MYSELF – unconditionally. I know who I am. Human beings are not fundamentally inert. Every child is born innately curious. Every child possesses a natural drive to learn and to master life on this physical plane. This innate curiosity and creativity is crushed by the tyranny of adult theories. These learning theories are based on institutional wisdom, not nature. As writer and filmmaker, Carol Black, writes in her recent blog post (A Thousand Rivers), “Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behaviour in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behaviour at Sea World”.

As for phonics, governments around the world have invested billions in brainwashing schools into believing that this is THE way to “teach” reading. This is the source of the entirely fictitious condition dyslexia. Dyslexia is a visual learning preference. Simple as that. Kids with dyslexia have profound imaginations. They are born with a stronger connection to the right hemisphere of the brain (the visual, creative, image-inative part). They are evolved beings. Phonics is an auditory teaching approach. For visual learners, this approach goes – quite literally – in one ear and out the other. And then we hand them a learning disorder label. As a confidence and self-esteem coach for kids, I spend most of my time un-doing all the harm caused by the “phonics” scam and assuring these kids that they gifted, not disordered.

I could say much more, but, ultimately, it comes down to trust. Our willingness to trust children to be responsible for their own learning is always determined by the extent to which we trust ourselves. Many thanks for your question and interest.

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Q&A re future of education (1)

QUESTIONER: David, are you planning to include the Fibonacci sequence in your curriculum?

DAVID: Thank you for your question. The Eduspire Paradigm is not an education ‘system’. There is no prescribed curriculum. Any kind of adult-imposed curriculum is old paradigm. The purpose of Eduspire is to empower children. They are the teachers now. The curriculum is within each child. The curriculum is unique to each child. The next generation of leaders will not be adults; they will be children. They will not need to be explicitly taught the Fibonacci experience; they will know it intuitively because of their strong connection to Nature. Immersing kids in Nature is a hugely important aspect of the Eduspire Paradigm, hence Presupposition #8: Nature is our greatest teacher.

My role is to facilitate the unlocking of the creative genius inherent in each child. My role is to remove all adult interference by holding space. Again, the key to the lock is within each child. This is not something that can be programmed from the outside. Eduspire is an “inside-out” approach to learning and education. And so I am looking to connect with conscious adults who trust themselves enough to trust children to lead the way; to provide safe spaces at a local community level (e.g. coffee shops, libraries, community centres, parks) in which children can connect, collaborate, create and innovate. Humanity has lost its way. The children are here to lead us back into the light.

A message from Eddy Zhong (teenage entrepreneur)

YES!

And this is the exact purpose of my KIDS CREATE initiative: to provide supportive spaces in local communities in which children can connect, collaborate, create and innovate.

“There are not enough [adults] who are telling kids to explore more possibilities, to become entrepreneurs. And if there’s one message that I want parents, kids, and all of you to take away from what I’ve said here today, it’s that you can open your own doors, that you can stray away from this conventional, limited and narrow path that education sets us upon. You can diverge and create your own future. You can start your own companies and start your own non-profits. You can create, you can innovate…… No one has ever changed the world by doing what the world has told them to do.”
~Eddy Zhong (entrepreneur, aged 17)

A child’s inspirational plea to change our ways

Very little has changed in the 24 years since this brave young girl delivered her inspiring speech. We are still destroying the rain forests. We are still poisoning the oceans. We are still killing endangered species. We are still exploiting the poor.

Adults have demonstrated that they are totally incapable of changing their ways. It is time, now, for the children to take the lead. And I am here to facilitate this transferal of power.

Introducing the Sudbury model of education

[Live streamed on the L4G.tv Education Channel on Wednesday 24 August 2016]

A wonderful and insightful conversation with Bruce Smith (member of staff at Clearview Sudbury School in Austin, Texas) about the Sudbury model of education, a radical alternative to conventional schooling.

The Sudbury model originated in Sudbury, Massachusetts (www.sudval.org) in 1968 and has inspired the creation of Sudbury schools throughout the United States and elsewhere in the world, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Spain and Japan.

This is an inspiring example of what is possible when children are immersed in a natural learning environment in which they are free to be themselves.

Schools and sheeple syndrome

Although schools like to maintain an illusion of democracy, most are, in fact, autocratic dictatorships. There is no room for individuality in the school system. It is a hierarchy, and in a hierarchy everyone answers to the person above them. When a teacher refuses to conform to the agreed systems of operation, he causes problems for his line manager, which in turn causes problems for his line manager’s manager. This continues right up to the headteacher of the school, beyond to the local authority and ultimately to the government. Any attempts by a teacher to break the mould are therefore quashed as quickly as possible; the net around him tightens as tracking of his planning, teaching and marking by more senior figures is turned up a notch.

Similarly well-rehearsed procedures are in place to deal with children, who sit on the very bottom layer of the hierarchical pyramid, furthest away from the apex of control. A child who does not fit the system – who is not “normal” – must be fixed and forced to adapt. Any child daring to express his individuality is soon identified and beaten into submission, sometimes through the award of a “learning difficulty” label or, worse still, by being forced to take personality-suppressing drugs. Such punishments are in addition to an elaborate system of tests, reports and evaluations that constantly monitors the child’s behaviour. The widespread use of conformity bribes (disguised as “rewards”) – including stars, merits, stickers, certificates, sweets, chocolates, prizes and money – strips away any sense of personal responsibility on the part of the child and effectively places his self-worth into the hands of his adult superiors.

Operating behind an illusory curtain of democracy is very useful to headteachers and their leadership teams because it means they can force through almost any initiative they like – and then claim that everyone played a part in the decision. This is how it typically works:
(1) The headteacher (or other senior figure) makes a decision;
(2) The decision is presented to the teaching staff – usually during the five-minute morning briefing – as a “proposal” for them to discuss in their subject/year team meetings;
(3) Subject/year teams meet to discuss the proposal (decision)… until they agree with it.

It never ceases to amaze me how readily teachers play along with this game of pseudo-democracy. The problem is, they perceive themselves as having no choice in the matter. It is easier (not to mention safer) to keep quiet and to play the game than to get all worked up fighting against something that is going to be implemented with or without one’s consent.

Any individual brave enough to voice their discontent at the point at which the proposal is introduced is publicly shot down in flames and told in no uncertain terms that this is not the “appropriate” time or place to air concerns. This is then followed up with a discrete (or not-so-discrete) word from a senior figure, whose job is to discourage the dissenting individual from disturbing the peace in the future, and to remind them to raise concerns through the “agreed” channels of communication; i.e., through discussion at team meetings, or by requesting an appointment with the headteacher to discuss the decision in the privacy of his or her office.

Consequently, teachers learn to accept without question all orders from their dictators. Although they may complain behind closed doors, very few have the strength or inclination to stand up in public for what they know in their hearts to be true. Children learn that they must place their trust in the hands of “experts” if they are to succeed in life. Thus, the sheeple syndrome is perpetuated.

THE 3-PERIOD TIMETABLE

I learned my lessons about the insidious effects of sheeple syndrome during my second year in the teaching profession. The headteacher of the secondary school at which I was working at the time put forward a proposal to scrap the existing 5 x 50-minute-period timetable in favour of a 3 x 120-minute-period model. Morning break would be removed and the lunch period reduced from fifty to twenty minutes. The argument given to support this proposal was that increased time spent in the classroom would result in “more focused and engaged students” (I kid you not). While I could follow the logic of two-hour sessions for practical subjects such as Science, PE and Art, the proposal spelled inevitable disaster for subjects such as Maths and French, for which the best approach is “little and often”. It was hard enough keeping students engaged and on task for fifty minutes, let alone two hours! And I could find no justification whatsoever for depriving students of their morning break. This was an invaluable opportunity for students to blow off steam on the playground, not to mention a rare chance for staff (when not on unpaid corridor “duty”) to relax with colleagues over a cup of coffee in the staff room.

In the lead up to the whole staff meeting scheduled for the end of the week, I approached as many members of staff as possible to elicit their views on the proposal. All without exception were in agreement with me. Friday afternoon arrived. I stood up and articulated my concerns. Visibly outraged and struggling to maintain his composure, the headteacher simply responded with, “I disagree. There will be no further discussion on the matter”. I looked around the staff room for support from my colleagues. Not one single person came to my aid. I sat down. The headteacher moved on to the next item on the agenda. At the end of the meeting the headteacher took me to one side and “advised” me to hand in my notice. I submitted my resignation the following morning.

THE “F” WORD

What was the underlying reason behind the lack of support from my colleagues in the above story?

Allow me to pose a few other questions…

* Why do so many teachers end up teaching to the test?

* Why are teachers in schools up and down this country prepared to work together in collusive conspiracy with their students to paint a false picture of their school prior to OfSTED inspections? How can we account for such reprehensibly dishonest behaviour from otherwise honest people? Why do these “teachers” not stop to think about the messages they are unconsciously implanting in the minds of children?

* Why are teachers, school leaders and local authorities so preoccupied with keeping up appearances – particularly in relation to paperwork and the provision of evidence – rather than serving the needs of children?

The answer to all of these questions can be summed up in one word:

FEAR.

They are afraid.

They are afraid because they are contributing to a system and a societal paradigm for living that teaches and conditions them to be afraid.

The (unconscious) thought process of the sheepled mind goes something like this:
“I don’t agree with this… but I must conform. If I don’t conform I risk losing my job. I have bills to pay, a family to support. It is safer for me to remain quiet. Besides, I want an easy life…… I will do as I am told.”

For sheeple, the purpose of education (and life) is to get (and keep) a job. To pay the bills. Safety and security is their number one priority, not Truth. To question this ‘framework of fear’ (which was schooled into them as children) would be to question the whole basis upon which their lives revolve. The Truth is just too painful for them to acknowledge. Thus, denial is the preferred option.

An important question to consider…

Is the habit of denying one’s truth something we wish to cultivate in future generations?

By contrast, here is the underlying thought process of the non-conformist, or truth bearer:
“I don’t agree with this. This makes no sense. To conform would be to betray my truth. Betraying my truth is too painful…… I must speak my truth.”

The purpose of life from the perspective of the non-conformist is to be true to oneself. The problem here is that being true to oneself means breaking one of the three unwritten rules for survival inside the system: YOU MUST FIT IN. (The other two are ‘Failure is bad’ and ‘The experts know best’).

We can see very clearly, then, that there is no place for the truth bearer within the school system (or any of society’s systems, for that matter). He does not belong. His very presence is a major threat to the masks of ignorance behind which his colleagues unconsciously hide. Thus, if he is to avoid being hung up and quartered by the sheeple handlers (i.e., senior leadership figures) – themselves, unwitting victims of sheepledom – he must find a way to live and operate outside the system. His purpose then shifts to the conscious creation of alternatives.

Welcome to my world.

Kids Create (September launch)

KIDS CREATE is an initiative designed to bring young people together at a local community level for the purpose of collaborating on ‘real life’ innovation projects of their own choosing. It is a vehicle through which they can channel their innate passions and imagination into creating real value in the world. Whether the intention is to launch an awareness campaign, create a positive news channel on YouTube, coordinate a litter picking exercise in the local park, organise a fund raising concert, film a documentary or provide blankets to the homeless, this is a place where young people’s voices are honoured and heard, and in which they are trusted and empowered to take action on their ideas.

Each project takes place within the framework of a safe and supportive Creative Learning Space (CLS), set up and held by specially trained adult facilitators. Characterised by its three defining values of Play, Trust and Collaboration, the CLS is more an “energetic” space than a physical location. As such, project teams are free to move wherever their projects take them. Depending on their chosen goals, they can be expected to operate in a variety of different contexts and environments – coffee shops, community centres, parks, libraries and museums – and to interact with a wide range of individuals, businesses and organisations in their local and wider communities.

Last week I met with Linda Anne Anderson, owner of The Kitchen Croxley, an independent coffee and cake shop situated between Watford and Rickmansworth, with a view to opening the UK’s first KIDS CREATE community space in her shop. We’ve decided to get the ball rolling by inviting a group of eight children (ages 10-13) to the shop on Thursday 8 September, 4.30-6.30pm. This will be an opportunity for the attendees to begin sharing and discussing their ideas for creating a better world. What will they discuss? What will they choose to focus on? That’s up to them to decide……

KIDS CREATE was born in 2013 when a small group of home educated children in Newport Pagnell announced their desire to create a ‘Prom for Kids’. I offered to support the group in turning their vision into a reality. During the course of the next four months, this team of youngsters took responsibility for all aspects of the Prom’s planning and organisation. They chose the theme. They decided on the dress code. They worked out the budget. They phoned and visited potential venues – and negotiated to get the best deal. They agreed on the food arrangements. They organised sound and lighting equipment. They decided on the song list. They wrote and sent emails to parents. They went shopping for plates and cutlery, comparing prices at different supermarkets. They sourced fairy lights to match their chosen theme. They planned and rehearsed a performance of acoustic songs. They prepared thank you speeches. They decorated the hall on the day, including a red carpet for the entrance and neon lighting for the Mocktail Bar. The ‘Moonlight Prom’ was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for everyone who attended. However, it was the journey rather than the destination that truly mattered. The project team developed life skills and learned invaluable lessons that will serve them as adults.

I believe that KIDS CREATE has the potential to evolve into a nationwide enterprise such that thousands of projects are running in local communities up and down this country at any given time. With the help of Chris Ogle and the Link4Growth network, my goal is to see the idea rolled out to independent coffee shops all over the UK.

The biggest challenge to the evolution of this idea is identifying and training adults who are ready to hold space. This is a completely different approach to working with kids. It revolves around trust. Our ability to trust children is determined by the extent to which we trust ourselves. Most adults do not trust children because they were taught, as children, that they could not be trusted. They were schooled into viewing themselves as limited and the world around them as frightening. Breaking out of this framework of fear is not an easy task; it took me seven years of conscious inner healing work to undo the effects of my social conditioning.

The ability to hold space is more a state of being than a skill. To step into the role of KIDS CREATE Facilitator requires an internal paradigm shift to have taken place: out of the Box of Fear (in which the teacher-knows-best school system exists) and into the Garden of Trust, which is a child-led, innovation-oriented approach – free of adult agenda and unnecessary interference. My job is to convey to kids, through my example, the message, ‘I trust you’. For me, there is no greater gift that any adult can offer a child.

What we’re talking about here is a paradigm of education with the power to redefine learning, childhood, parenting and life itself. Propagating this idea is certainly not a job I can do on my own! So I’m looking to pull together a peaceful army of conscious adults who are ready and willing to support children in creating a better world for us all.

Children have the answers to all of the challenges we are facing on this planet. Our job as adults is to listen, empower, trust and follow their lead.

The Eduspire Paradigm (Aug 2016)

What I am sharing here is the culmination of almost 20 years of experience teaching, mentoring, coaching and holding space for young people in a variety of educational settings, along with extensive reading, researching, writing, travelling, networking, innovating, alone time in nature and much soul searching.

I am co-founder of ROOTS, an outdoor creative learning space in the Bedfordshire countryside (UK), which supports young people of all ages (5 through 18) in connecting with their natural selves through a variety of nature-based sensory awareness games and activities. I am also founder of KIDS CREATE, which holds space for young people as they collaborate on creation and innovation projects of their own choosing. I demonstrate my definition of education (see P4 below) as a professional singer, actor and recording artist.

Eduspire stands for education infused with spirit. It is a child-led and innovation-oriented approach to learning and education. Children are not ‘educated’ in this new paradigm; consciously awakened adults hold an energetic space in which children are ‘eduspired’ – i.e. inspired to go within and educate themselves. Eduspire sees children themselves as the key to the creation of the New Earth and our job (as adults) as being to Listen, Empower, Trust (LET them be) and follow their lead.

The Eduspire Paradigm operates within the wider context of a New Paradigm for Living and Being, which is characterised by self-sovereignty, self-sufficiency, connection with nature, ecological awareness, collaboration, community spirit, shared abundance and contribution through the pursuit of personal passion.

The following list of presuppositions are designed to provide a conceptual framework for this new paradigm of education.

THE EDUSPIRE PRESUPPOSITIONS
P1: Every child is a unique, divine spark of unlimited creative potential.
P2: The simplicity and wonder of childhood is real life.
P3: Learning is as natural as breathing; it is a by-product of living.
P4: Education is the pursuit of passion.
P5: The purpose of life is to be your natural, authentic self.
P6: Every child has an inner guidance system.
P7: We are all equals, co-learners and co-teachers, regardless of age.
P8: Nature is our greatest teacher. The purpose of technology is to enhance human experience, not define it.
P9: Failure is feedback; we always succeed in achieving an outcome.
P10: The only constant in life is change.
P11: Play, Trust and Collaboration are the defining values of a Creative Learning Space.
P12: Education is a collective responsibility of the whole community.

Clean your window first

Your perception of the world is determined by the window through which you view it. Wanting to change the world is all very well and good. But you have to start by cleaning the window first.

Eight years ago my window was covered in dirt and grime. Now it is clean. Now I see clearly.

Now I no longer want to change the world. I am creating a new world instead…

window cleaner

Smacking children

PARENT: When is it appropriate to smack a child?

DAVID: Never.

PARENT: But there are times when my son oversteps the boundaries. For example, I can not and will not stand by and let him swear at me, his father. He needs to understand the importance of respect for his elders.

DAVID: There is no conceivable circumstance in which hitting a child is justifiable behaviour. The “adult as authority figure” approach to parenting belongs to the old paradigm of education and childrearing. The need for control over and unquestioning obedience of children is based in fear, not love.
Physiological age is irrelevant; the child is a human being. Human beings are equals. Children are equals. Children are to be treated as co-learners and co-teachers; afforded the same respect as any adult. To teach a child respect for others, you teach the child to respect himself.

PARENT: How do I do that?

DAVID: By treating yourself with respect. A parent who hits their child is lacking self-respect. A parent who hits their child is not in tune with the unconditional love that is who they truly are. A parent who hits their child has inner work to do.

PARENT: What kind of inner work?

DAVID: Smacking a child is a clear sign of an adult who does not understand their emotions and is acting out their own childhood pain. There is unconscious, dysfunctional conditioning to be brought into the light of their conscious awareness. This childhood conditioning needs to be looked at, questioned and released.

PARENT: But you don’t understand how angry he makes me sometimes.

DAVID: Nobody makes you angry. You make yourself angry by virtue of your perception of a situation and your choice of response. Projecting anger towards a child in response to their behaviour is saying, “I have no control over my internal state of being”. Physically acting out that anger by hitting the child is saying, “The outside world is responsible for my internal state of being”. This is simply not true. Such behaviour disempowers both parent and child and serves only to strengthen the wall of resentment between them.
Love is the answer. Love is always the answer. In order to respond to a child with love, you must first become your own source of love. It is the only way.

PARENT: I don’t understand why my child is so rude to me.

DAVID: Perhaps he is giving you an opportunity to look in the mirror…..

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