by Nick Andrea
Self-direction, or getting quiet to find guidance within, is a critical life skill that we need to teach in our schools, from Kindergarten through Ph.D. It is missing from the majority of our educational institutions and this hit home in a dream I had last night. In the dream I’m working at a school where all the students are doing a senior project. There are varying levels of success among them, yet, more of them than not are hardly doing anything at all, paralyzed by the process of having to make their own decisions.
Upon awakening from it I was reminded of my own childhood in the Talented And Gifted program, or T.A.G., where there was quite a lot of creative freedom. I, however, did not excel because my inner account of originality was all but bankrupt. As so many others like me, I went on to graduate not only from high school but also college with the highest honors – in conformity – and that became clear the day I stepped into the “real” world. Thrust disconcertingly into the sea of uncertainty and the need to make my own decisions, I went, “oh, crap.” I was never taught how to do THAT in school.
Our education system, lower and higher, is almost exclusively focused on the communication of outer knowledge. As a result, we continue to produce droves of half-hearted worker bees, many of whom go to their graves never experiencing the Genius that lives inside of them. It’s No Worker Bee Left Behind.
Yet, self-direction is the process of tapping into that Genius, the same goldmine of scientific insight from which Einstein plucked, the limitless reservoir of compassion from which Mother Teresa drew, and the volcano of inspiration that fueled Beethoven’s 5th symphony. These mortals were not “geniuses” themselves, no, but open channels of That which is behind every quantum leap of civilization. This is something we all have access to, the channel to which is opened by learning to listen quietly within, for that is where Its still, small voice is heard.
This practice should be a required part of every curriculum in every school, no matter how old or young the student body, for the evolution of our society at this critical juncture depends on it. In an age where the “system” is no longer working we cannot afford overwhelming conformity to it. We need novelty, creativity, and originality, and those can only come from the unconditioned, the untaught. When the Genius begins expressing through all the beacons – students – that occupy every corner of our society, then we might turn this shop around.
So, let’s reinvigorate our grade schools and colleges with a path of contemplative self-reflection, non-denominational and non-religious.
(For inspiration on The Genius checkout Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA)
Martin Luther King, Jr. took society by storm because he knew the truth of life in his bones and he was not afraid to die for it. The same is true of other leaders like Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Dalai Lama, to name a few.
Leadership training is big in our schools. We all strive to “train the leaders of tomorrow.” That is great and I think it should continue, but how can anybody lead others if they can’t even lead themselves? To be a leader has nothing to do with others and everything to do with self-knowledge. So, perhaps, we should turn the lights of our students’ minds in a different direction. Perhaps we should turn them around and start transforming our society from the inside out.