Are We Learning in a Disenchanted World?

April 22, 2017

It seems to me that our society and our culture believes that learning and education is all about school, facts and data, tests, an OP score, a university degree to ultimately get a well paying job. I have coined this process The SUJ Train (School, Uni, Job). This well paying job then supposedly pays for hobbies we reserve to enjoy only on weekends and holidays.

This headline caught my attention recently, "Less Than Half Of Aussies Are Happy With Their Job, According To Survey" in The Huffington Post. "According to the survey, conducted by Survey Sampling International on behalf of SEEK Learning, not only were less than half of Aussie workers happy with their jobs, only a small percentage of those were actively looking to change their situation."

May I go so far as to suggest that the current thinking that the purpose of education - to go to school (memorise facts and regurgitate data) then go to uni (memorise facts and regurgitate data) in order to finally get a job (The SUJ Train) is remarkably flawed? If more than half of all Australians are unhappy with their job, it is reasonable to conclude that the majority of students on The SUJ Train are totally unaware of the potential derailments of dissatisfaction that lay ahead?

Why are people so unhappy in their job? Are people following their passions and using their God given talents they were born with? Are they going into professions because of their parents' ideals, or to be deemed 'successful', or to earn a big paycheque or in an effort to gain and display power? Does an accumulation of money, things and influence lead to happiness?

Pause and consider... does this data driven model equal a disenchanted world? Dr Ryan Messmore definitely believes so. He even goes further to say that this disenchanted world may come from disenchanted learning. This week I have been considering this and asking myself, "How can I make learning more enchanting for my students and for myself?" and "What is the purpose of education?"

In an effort to tease out some ideas I put these questions to my class of 10 and 11 year old students. I was shocked to hear that most of them believe in The SUJ Train. How can children this young be so disenchanted already? I recorded the conversation so I could reflect on their answers afterwards.

To my absolute delight, the conversation also turned to education as being a journey of life long learning. A journey of passions, talents and multiple disciplines and subjects. These little people pointed out the links between loving one another, loving God, and having fun in life. We discussed beauty, goodness and love - essential to quality education.

CS Lewis was quoted, “The purpose of education is to produce the good man and the good citizen”. “We risk training many and educating none.” Perhaps we should bravely and seriously consider educating (versus training) the next generation?

So while the masses may still believe and buy into The SUJ Train, I am boarding The Enchanting Express on a journey to discover what is good, noble, true, right, beautiful and lovely. We'll be looking through the windows of awe and wonder. What will we see? What will will notice? What will capture our attention and spark our imaginations to ask questions during this marvellous quest of quality education? What do we have the privilege of learning today?

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