“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
There has been a lot of discussion these days on education. And when I say on education, I mean to say formal education. The role of schools, college, nurseries. The role of teachers and lecturers, support staff and helpers. Their purpose it seems these days is not just to educate and to care, but to make every child, every individual a well-balanced, responsible and fair person. A citizen for every part of every country, a citizen of the world.
It seems these days it is not enough for teachers to teach. Teachers must now become moulders of young people. To iron out each of their imperfections, their angles and quibbles.
And whilst I believe that people who work within formal education perform miracles most days. It seems to me that education is not awareness and in these days of ours, awareness is something perhaps more of what we need.
We want our young people to ask questions, to see the limits of information and news, to confront inequality in every sphere. We want them to succeed – be happy, get a good job, have a great life and be more than we were.
But it seems a lot to ask.
The awareness of every day life is perhaps the education that matters most of all these days.
The conversation young people overhear.
The vocabulary used in casual meetings and in the street.
The behaviour demonstrated between people – family, friends and in sport and to strangers of all parts of society.
The interpretation taken in newspapers, TV, film and magazines.
For how to we learn to be more than we are – by becoming more aware of that which we see every day.
True awareness can only happen when we are exposed to a balanced array of opinion and interpretation. When we are given the tools to consider, to discuss and to offer an opinion, these fragments of awareness become the shining fire to light a more balanced, more considered view in life. When we allowed to evaluate with a full array of information.
It is too simplistic to offer the easy solution – to hand responsibility for the greater awareness of our young people by pushing it all on formal education and their educators.
We all play a role. We must all be more considered. We must think of the words that we use, the information that we trust without thought, the discussions that we allow to happen.
We must read. We must listen. We must discuss. We must expose ourselves to the most different parts of society. We must learn from history, from people, from impacts and effects, from landscape and nature, from art and from sport. We must challenge ourselves with every part of every accepted piece of fact we confront.
Only then, only then will be give our young people, our children the chance to be more aware and to live in a world where greater awareness gives us leniency, kindness, respect and freedom. Only then.
But for now, don’t place every responsibility for the betterment of the world on the young people who are yet to be, don’t place the burden on the ones who educate in numbers and words, in pictures and actions. Play your part. Play a role. Be more aware so then others can be too. Ask the question. Ask another. And think before you speak. Think before you act. Consider your motivation. Consider then what this tells young people about individuals, about people, about society.
Awareness gives us a light to shine on the world. But the light must come from a thousand people who want to ask a question, demonstrate behaviour, open a discussion with facts based on truth, actions built from emotion and consideration based on the respect held between people.
So consider – awareness not education.