Thursday, July 30, 2009


Maslow defines his fourth level of needs as 'Esteem' needs. Manfred Max-Neef's labels his 'fourth' level as 'Understanding' needs. Different, but I see them as related in that understanding often leads to esteem. But there are different meanings of understanding--besides understanding each other, there are ways of understanding the world. In this segment, I am going to look at education as a need and a way of understanding the world.

In some senses, in order to survive in the world, we need at least some type of education. Our parents, other adults, and even older children often teach us things we need to know. Hopefully we keep learning as an adult. I thought I mentioned spending time alone in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in an earlier post (but I can't find it). This was when I realized that I would never really be alone because everything I did out there, I learned from someone else. This is what education is really about. The idea of lifelong learning is really true--we can and should be learning as long as we are alive.

There are many ways of learning, both for children and adults. I am not going to take sides in the home schooling vs public school debate--there are things to be said for both. The big issue is what and how is each child learning. In a sense, even a child who goes off to school, is also (hopefully) home schooled--in the sense that they won't stop learning when they are not in school.

At some point I want to write a whole segment on education--how to change public consciousness and behavior in order to achieve real social change. (I began this blog with a post that talked about the slogan 'Agitate, educate, organize'. I've critiqued the left's overemphasis on agitating, and talked quite a bit on organizing--in fact, this whole section on needs can be seen as what we need in order to do some effective reorganizing--but I haven't gotten it together to do a massive exploration of education. I think it's going to be quite a while yet before I take that on.)

I've tried to include some useful material on education in the resource section, but a book I won't include (unfortunately) is Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I love the ideas in it and hate how it's written. The book is too academic to recommend to a general audience. But Freire's concepts are great: the view of much schooling as a 'banking' view of education (putting in a deposit of facts that can be withdrawn later) and the need for teaching critical thinking. He pointed out that true radical education doesn't mean replacing the slogans of the right with the slogans of the left--it means teaching people to think for themselves.

Education is a real need--for our children (and their children) as well as for each of us. If this society, as we know it, collapses, we will still need education. Of course, what we will be learning may be quite different, but it will be education nevertheless. It makes sense for each of us to learn what we can and pass it on.

Education for Liberation Network--A 'coalition of teachers, community activists, youth, researchers and parents' interested in education for social justice
Free Skool--Information on the anarchist based 'Free Skool' movement
Jan and Jason Hunt, The Unschooling Unmanual--A book of stories and essays on 'unschooling', a curriculum-free method of home schooling, that is 'child directed'; the book is available through The Natural Child Project
The International Association for Learning Alternatives--An organization dedicated to promoting choices and alternatives in education
The National Home Education Research Institute--An organization devoted to studying homeschooling and making research information available
SkillShare Austin and Boston Skillshare--Local attempts to have people educate each other; a great way to learn new things; I went to the last Boston Skillshare, had a blast, and learned a lot; I highly recommend it

Quote of the Day: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

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