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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The dangers of the Comfort Zones

Boxes.  We all have them.  They are also called comfort zones.  They are ways of looking at the world that are comfortable to us.  Perhaps one box deals with relationships.  In that we put our ideas of friendship, marriage, parent/child.  Another box deals with work - ideas of productive activities, financial security, working towards retirement.  Many of these ideas come from others.  We get ideas from parents, school, friends, mentors, media.  They become ours either because we have considered them and agree or because we have had no reason to question them because they work.  However we arrive at these ideas, they give us comfort.

The fascinating paradox about boxes is that some will stay in them even when they don't work.  When they see that the box not what they wanted.  When they complain about the results.  They still don't step out of the box.  They somehow think they are better complaining about a broken box than risking the unknown involved with building a new box.

People will stay in an unsatisfactory job rather than launch into a new venture which might be financially, status-wise, egotistically risky.   They will conform to standards with which they don't agree.  They will keep their children in the same school system even when the children hate it and are failing.  Just how uncomfortable does a box have to get before people will go out of the box?

If something is not working, change it.  Don't complain, don't accept, don't blog.  Change it.  Out of the box is much less frightening than most people think and infinitely more rewarding.  Try it!

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So far I have been speaking generally but I do have a specific box in mind.  The Education Box.  This box is highly structured.  All children enter at a specific age (4,5,or 6 or whatever the local school board determines).  All children are classed together by age.  They attend school for specific hours Monday to Friday between September and June.  There they will be taught lessons by a qualified teacher in a systematic way, separated by grade and subject.  Their learning will be assessed by an objective standard.  They will remain in school until they are able to take their places as adults in the outside world.  This has been the public school system for a long time.  And it sounds great.  We teach them how to be adults in the real world.  Except that it doesn't work.  And it hasn't worked for a long time.

If we take these pieces of structure one at a time we can see that it is doomed to failure.  Real life does not categorize people according to age.  In jobs people are sorted by ability.  In social groups people sort by interest.  Learning takes place continuously, not just 8 am to 3 pm on weekdays.  If these hours are intended to teach children that misery has these hours and play is only after misery, then I guess we have prepared them for miserable careers.  Is that what we want?  Why can't we play all the time - both kids and adults?  People who love their jobs do it.  Play does not equal irresponsibility.  Play is not a waste of time.  Perhaps it is the boring job that is the waste - of both time and potential.  The objective standard has fish being graded on how well they climb trees (in that popular FB post).  And lastly, life is not separated into subjects.  We all need the creativity of the arts, the precision of mathematics, the communication skills of language, the perspective of history.  And we need it all together for each situation.

It is time to rethink our education system from top to bottom.  What is the goal of education and how best to get there.  Stay tuned because I have a few ideas!

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