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Modern schools leading us back to the “metacrisis”

December 6th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Abby Karos

In a recent open letter to the public, Jennifer Bardell sounded the alarm on the underfunded state of the province’s schools prior to the recent strike action (“Stand united in valuing education,” Valley Voices, Nov. 1 edition). No argument here: teachers – and schools in general – are doing some seriously heavy lifting as the rate of technological and societal change dramatically increases. They need and deserve everything they’re demanding and more.

In my recent time working at Hadley [junior high school], I witnessed many teachers not just imparting passion for their subject matter, but also loving the young people in their care, who are thirsting for sane, empathetic adults in their lives. These students – some of whom live at a level of poverty that may surprise readers – drink in every bit of uncomplicated kindness they can get. 

Modern schools reinforce some of the very same aspects of our culture that are leading us to the brink of what is being called “the metacrisis” by thought leaders. We learn to condition our bodies to sit for long hours at a time at a desk, punctuated by rushing to another classroom at the ringing of a bell, at which time we must switch our thinking to whatever “subject” we are in, regardless of the present organic interests and motivations of our bodies and minds. It trains us to believe that learning is hard, that it needs to be delivered to us by someone else, that one answer is “right,” and that we must compete with others to be the best in a system that is rigged to prioritize some subjects over others. And what’s the cost? Millions of young people leave school believing that they’re less intelligent, and entering young adulthood completely out of sync with their natural gifts in an increasingly polarized world. We are not in a time when we can afford to squander our innovative potential at its peak between the ages of 15-25 or the gifts of our young.

Our current system is in stark contrast to a view of learning that is based in global Indigenous teachings known as restorative justice. In this view of learning, we learn to embrace paradox and divergent thinking, which is not just tolerated but necessary to arrive at the best possible course of action to a given problem. Restorative justice also holds that we are holistic beings and that all gifts are needed. Imagine how we could transform schools based on these principles. 

We first need to acknowledge that schools, as currently conceived and implemented, are not bringing us closer to the world that will lead to our collective flourishing. Then we need to journey to a different place together using the wide, solid bridge of restorative justice teachings as we rely on the divergent thinking of each one of us.  

Abby Karos is an education entrepreneur and longtime Chelsea resident. She founded and directed Compass Centre for Self-Directed Learning and is the founder of Education Liberation.

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