Post Enlightenment

To cultivate a society of people who are self-aware, socially-aware, and environmentally-aware, it's most important that we acknowledge the presence of the games we play that keep us motivated. Within these closed systems, our goals are our own, and we are empowered by our own will to succeed rather than by external reward and punishment. However, if we don't recognize that we are engaging with a designed system, we are likely to feel out of control or even manipulated. In these cases, we become susceptible to fall into system traps that make us want to "beat" the system, rather than "thrive". However, if we can see the systems for what they are, benefits and shortcomings alike, we can evaluate how we want to engage with it. This sense of voluntary participation is necessary to make the participant feel empowered and open to learn. This does however mean that the systems need to establish new mechanisms for motivation, because as of right now, many systems keep participation up largely by force.

This is the second enlightenment, meta-cognition of the systems that we willfully engage with, in order to transcend them. By visualizing the systems through maps and models, we can see them objectively and simultaneously see our role within them. At once, we can know that our part is important, but that it is only one part of only one system, and it is not everything. People are not defined by the roles they play in specific systems, rather it is the ecosystem of systems that we choose to engage with that dictates our sense of identity. We mustn't confuse our purpose with our roles. Only in this paradigm are we free to explore our true selves distinct from our social obligations.

In order to get to that point, we must consider what our school system presents to kids as "reality". From our perspective school is a system. It has a purpose. But the goals of a school are different from the goals of the students attending, which are different from the goals of the teachers, and the parents, and policymakers, and so on. This means that there are embedded systems within the school system. The issue here is that we all need different systems, rather than one big super-complicated system that accomplishes all these disparate, and often conflicting, goals. 

What I'm suggesting is the theoretical separation of the administration of school, from student learning, from the experience of testing, from standardized grading. This way, each stakeholder can reframe their perspective on each independently, and not demand an overhaul of the system in order to achieve their end. The language here can still a bit tricky because these smaller systems that make up the bigger system go by many names including projects, initiatives, agendas, experiments, simulations, games, exercises, activities, and more subject to the specific cultural context. These are the answer to students alienation from their education. 

We need short term assignments with clear goals, strong feedback loops, and an over-arching acknowledgement of the closed artificial system. In these instances, the learning of a precedent, theory, fact, or framework has a context for practice, whether learned from the teacher or from a fellow student. Paying attention and hard work are still the keys to success, better yet if it's achieved without coercion. 

Schools now are torn between being a place for technical training for the workforce and being a place for fostering invention and imagination. We must ask, are we training our future employees or our future bosses? Too many competing goals in the same game. We need to motivate to each end in different ways. And I wonder about the effectiveness of motivating students through grades. Certainly, the grading shouldn't be "why" the students learn. How catastrophic, because one day the grading will stop. Will the will to learn stop then too? Grading is our best feedback loop, to evaluate our system, but ours is not the system the student need to engage with on a daily basis. They see smaller systems, the ones we present to them. Then when they grow older and they can see bigger and farther in time and space, they will see that systems embed systems and that it is all connected.