Do it like Harry Potter and join Gaia’s Army
“If school, formation programs and university don’t offer what you need, it is time to explore other ways of learning what is really necessary.” Recently, a young high school student booked a coaching session with me. Usually young people come to me to find out what career path they want to pursue. This client was different. She knew quite clearly what she wanted to deliver to the world. Her problem was that there are no matching courses at university to learn what she needs to learn – at least not in the ordinary educational context. And the prospect of wasting her precious time with learning stuff she is not interested in, only to be able to attend to the few interesting courses, produced an incredible amount of frustration for my client. Understandably! Of course, you might say: “OK. That’s the way it is. Learning years are no earning years! You have to bite the bullet to achieve your goal. “
And at the same time the problem lies on the other side, in the fact that our traditional education system simply is no longer up to date. The world is changing at the speed of light – and our education and formation system is lagging far behind. It moves too slowly. And all this time it does not supply the new generation with the skills that are urgently needed to cope with actual and future challenges.
School and university are still focused on a dying cultural context
Our education and formation system comes from a time when we still believed that growth and profitability would provide us with everlasting prosperity and that the planet’s resources are still lasting for a long long time. According to this paradigm, the institutionalized learning at school and university over many decades prepared people to live in this cultural context, which was defined by competition, rivalry, hierarchy and capitalism. Knowledge and capital were synonymous with power. So it was very important to accumulate as much knowledge as possible. The higher the education, the greater the chance of a profitable career. With the start of school, people divided into two categories: winners and losers. By getting grades and being judged, we were drilled on competition and performance. School trained us for a world, where it was important to be good or even very good in order to have success. Learning became a struggle and high performance the “guarantee” for security and prosperity.
High standardization lead to standardized education, regardless of individual talents or interests. Everyone had to learn almost the same content. Young people have been prepared systematically for the also highly standardized labor market. Like this the capitalistic interaction of profit-driven labour-offering companies and dependent security- or career-oriented employees could be filled with a steady stream of staff and managers, operating like identical machines ready to be replaced at any time. The industry needed many workers to do standardized work within standardized processes. Creativity, independent thinking and working as well as self-responsibility were no skills that were desired or necessary – at least not for the mass of employees. Therefore, young people learned in school and university as well, to submit to the rules and the judgment of authorities and adapt in order to be considered as successful and acknowledged by the system. School worked like this so far. And despite an obvious will to reform, nothing has changed so far. New Education is still far away.
“And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.”
Little Boxes – Song from Malvina Reynolds from the year 1961
Evolution is unstoppable and the world is changing rapidly
Driven by the rapid changes of the circumstances other skills are now needed to meet the challenges of the present and especially of the future. These skills are not taught at school and university; on the contrary, we usually unlearn them at school.
What are these necessary skills, for example?
- Dealing with rapid changes, agility
- Dealing with complexity
- True innovation
- Creativity, “Out of the box” thinking
- Creative collaboration at eye level
- Authentic communication
- Rapid learning through feedback and coaching and by making mistakes
- Development of the own authority
- Dealing with feelings such as fear, anger, sadness and joy
- Ability to challenge paradigms & rules, making boundaries, saying NO
- Ecological understanding
- Holistic thinking
- Doing independent research & experimentation
Economy, business and the labor market are just about to change and to adapt to new circumstances. New Work is on everyone’s lips, and new forms of organization based on self-organization and collaboration at eye level rather than on hierarchical command and control, begin to gain a foothold. But can self-organization really work on a large scale, if people in organizations don’t have these skills? In my opinion that will be difficult if not impossible!
We cannot afford to wait until the system changes
In times like these, we need courageous people who go first and do experiments. People who step out of the mainstream and break new ground for themselves and others. We could certainly hope and wait. However, it could be too late very quickly, because most likely the survival of the species depends on our ability to change our way of learning rapidly as well as to change the focus of our learning away from the pure delivering of existing knowledge to delivering important soft skills like agility and innovativeness.
Which advice did I give to the young high school graduate? “If school, formation programs and university don’t offer what you need, it is time to explore other ways of learning what is really necessary.”
Do you know the story of Harry Potter, the young magician? In the 5th volume of the series, when it became clear that Voldemort, the Dark Lord, had returned, the ministry denied this fact for a long time and denounced anyone who said the contrary. The school subject “Defence against the Dark Arts” was limited to pure theory, since it was not necessary according to the ministry to be able to defend oneself in practice. And what have Harry and his friends done? They have taken their education into their own hands. If the school does not teach us the skills we need to survive, then we’ll have to find a different way to learn what is needed. They founded “Dumbledore’s Army” and simply chose the student who had the most experience in the “Defence against the Dark Arts” as their “teacher”. They secretly taught each other, what they needed to learn.
We have exactly the same situation now. The “ministry” still believes that the good old way of learning and the good old content are working. A large revolutionary reform of the school is not in sight, as the “ministry” itself has no idea how to do it and has no courage to do experiments. Instead, discussions are going on. My question to you is this: Do you want to wait and waste your time until the “ministry” is up to date or are you willing to take a different path? Are you ready to take responsibility for your own education to go and get what you need for your future and the future of this planet? Because whether you believe it or not, alternatives already exist – but they are not recognized in terms of the “ministry”. Gaia’s Army (*) has been established and the number of members is growing daily.
Here you will find a list of alternative education opportunities, which provide the knowledge and skills, which are urgently needed in the future:
Thank you, Laura Kästele, for this wonderful list!
(*) Similar to Dumbledore ‘s Army from the book “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ” Gaia ‘s army is a synonym for all the people who are inspired to put their talents at the service of Planet Earth and a sustainable future. People who are so inspired, that they have the courage to step out of mainstream education system, in order to learn the skills that are really needed in the future.