The Next Frontier in Education
Only by following intelligent, adaptive, creative, learning adults – something our present
education system discourages – will our children develop the capacity to lead humanity into
a sustainable future.
By Michael Mendizza
O ur educational system was modeled after the Prussian
Army, an organization skilled in transforming ordinary
citizens into soldiers who followed orders without hesitation.
Traditional parenting and educational models assume that
children must be trained in certain skills, embody certain infor-
mation in order to become productive citizens, which is a nice
Factory forms of education were needed to feed the emerging way of saying, “to get a good job.” This translates into curricu-
industrial society and children were the raw materials of these lum, standards, tests and grades, measurements to insure that the
factories. Social engineers, anticipating the needs of the emerg- assembly line is producing properly.
ing factory society, took their cues from the military and fash- Standardized curriculum and “teaching to the tests” create
ioned our present system using simple Pavlovian conditioning, industrialized human beings, which are increasingly out of date
behavior modification, external rewards and punishments. Like in today’s fast changing world. Reformers tinker with the con-
bottles on an assembly line, parenting styles followed the model veyor belt, starting children earlier each year. Recess, physical
set by these institutions. Soon, the social engineering goal im- education, art and music have been eliminated, making room for
plicit in the original design became transparent. You can see it more tests and drills. Despite these efforts, the assembly line
today: Each morning millions of parents obediently place their falls further behind. Large scale social institutions cannot meet
children on the conveyor belts of these institutions with the best the demand. They can’t adapt fast enough.
of intentions. Visionaries have long proclaimed that the system can’t be
The social engineering goals of North American education fixed. Educational reform, like recycling, is a bad idea that looks
may have served a specific need at a specific time and in this good. Recycling is a bad idea because it promotes the manufac-
light may have been well-intended. The industrial society is ture, use and disposal of wasteful toxic products. A deeper re-
gone, however, and so is the need for the kind of human being sponse would be to create products that are not toxic or
this system was designed to produce. But the intent imbedded in wasteful. Reform is not the answer. The time has come for a
the original design remains and, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, deeper response to parenting and to education.
keeps grinding out the same kind of human being year after Responding deeply calls into question basic assumptions.
year. Educating children, for example, is not the next frontier. Chil-
Referring to a Carnegie study, author Joseph Chilton Pearce dren aren’t the problem, never have been. Children are natural
points out that only five percent of everything we learn in our learners. The last decade of brain research confirms that human
lives we learn in school. The remaining 95 percent is the result development is experience-dependent. The outer environment
of direct experience. And of this five percent we learn in school, and the inner world of brain development are two sides of a sin-
most remember only three to five percent for any length of time. gle complex system. Experience with the environment alters the
Bottom line productivity of three to five percent of five percent brain’s structure, chemistry and genetic expression, often pro-
may have been adequate to meet the social engineering needs of foundly throughout life. So children aren’t the problem, the sys-
our emerging industrial society. But not today, not in our brave tem is – and the system is beyond fixing.
new future-shocked world. The environment sculpts the developing brain. This points
Gordon Moore, an i