The Future of Education

Via: Brain Pickings

“A prophetic vision for mobile, time-shifted, tele-commuted, on-demand education.

In 1962, Buckminster Fuller delivered a prophetic lecture at Southern Illinois University on the future of education”

Here is what stood out to me:

Though I had entered Harvard with honor grades I obtained only “good” to “passing” marks in my college work, which I adolescently looked upon as a chore done only to earn the right to live in the Harvard community. But above all, I was confronted with social problems of clubs and so forth.

I hadn’t anticipated these social developments. I suddenly saw a class system existing in Harvard of which I had never dreamed. I was not aware up to that moment that there was a social class system and that there were different grades of citizens.

Each time I returned to Harvard I entered a world of gnawing apprehensions, not an educational institution, and that was the problem.

The word poet in this professorship of poetry is a very general term for a person who puts things together in an era of great specialization wherein most people are differentiating or “taking” things apart. Demonstrated capability in the integration of ideas is the general qualification for this professorship.

(60 years later, we live in a time that rewards the Integrators. Someone who connects computers and phones (Apple), or the internet and social interaction (Facebook) reaps billions of dollars.)

There is nothing even mildly extraordinary about me except that I think I am durable and inquisitive in a comprehensive pattern. I have learned much; but I don’t know very much; but what I have learned, I have learned by trial and error. And I have great confidence in the meager store of wisdom that I have secured.

I am convinced that humanity is characterized by extraordinary love for its [children] and yet has been misinforming its [children] to such an extent that the [children are] continually at a greater disadvantage than [they] would be if abandoned in the wilderness by the parents.

The frontiers of science are such that almost every morning many of our hypotheses of yesterday are found inadequate or in error. So great is the frontier acceleration that now in a year of such events much of yesterday’s conceptioning becomes obsolete.

I am quite confident that humanity is born with its total intellectual capability already on inventory and that human beings do not add anything to any other human being in the way of faculties and capacities. What usually happens in the educational process is that the faculties are dulled, overloaded, stuffed and paralyzed, so that by the time that most people are mature they have lost use of many of their innate capabilities. My long-time hope is that we may soon begin to realize what we are doing and may alter the “education” process in such a way as only to help the new life to demonstrate some of its very powerful innate capabilities.

Nothing is going to be quite so surprising or abrupt in the forward history of man as the forward evolution in the educational processes.

 Today we are extraordinarily mobile… Comprehensively, the world is going from a Newtonian static norm to an Einsteinian all-motion norm. That is the biggest thing that is happening at this moment in history. [Educational planners] will have to be serving the children of the mobile people who really, in a sense, don’t have a base…

The new life [new generations] needs to be inspired with the realization that it has all kinds of new advantages that have been gained through great dedications of unknown, unsung heroes of intellectual exploration and great intuitively faithful integrities of men groping in the dark. Unless the new life is highly appreciative of those who have gone before, it won’t be able to take effective advantage of its heritage. It will not be as regenerated and inspired as it might be if it appreciated the comprehensive love invested in that heritage.

I have taken photographs of my grandchildren looking at television. Without consideration of the “value,” the actual concentration of a child on the message which is coming to him is fabulous. They really “latch on.” Given the chance to get accurate, logical, and lucid information at the time when they want and need to get it, they will go after it and inhibit it in a most effective manner.

I am quite certain that some day… What is net [boiled down] will become communicated so well that any child can turn on a documentary device, a TV, and get the Einstein lucidity of thinking and get it quickly and firmly. I am quite sure that we are going to get research and development laboratories of education where the faculty will become producers of extraordinary moving-picture documentaries. That is going to be the big, new educational trend.

Einstein, when he wanted to study, didn’t sit in the middle of a school room. That is probably the poorest place he could have gone to study. When an individual is really thinking, he is tremendously isolated.

Education will then be concerned primarily with exploring to discover not only more about the universe and its history but about what the universe is trying to do, about why man is part of it, and about how can, and may man best function in universal evolution.

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3 comments

  1. Fascinating piece! I’m particularly taken by this.. > > The new life [new generations] needs to be inspired with the realization that it has all kinds of new advantages that have been gained through great dedications of unknown, unsung heroes of intellectual exploration and great intuitively faithful integrities of men groping in the dark. Unless the new life is highly appreciative of those who have gone before, it won’t be able to take effective advantage of its heritage. It will not be as regenerated and inspired as it might be if it appreciated the comprehensive love invested in that heritage. >

    Now how can we teachers promote this in a collective way? Sent from my iPad

    >

    1. Hear, hear, Steve! Great question: what are ways we can help young students appreciate the love and exploration of those who made the discoveries we take for granted?

  2. Excellent, thought-provoking post. Some things that stood out to me: Making motion pictures to teach (you are well suited for this type of media, Mr. Huhn!); and the observation that much learning is done in solitude. Yes, it is. Thank you.

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