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Michael Laitman, PhD

III. Achieving Equilibrium. Chapter 13: Teach Your Children Well

“This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation.”

--Albert Einstein


In Webster’s dictionary, education means “the action or process of educating or of being educated [schooled/informed].” But in a world where fifty percent of what we learn in the first year of college is outdated and irrelevant by the end of the third year, what good is our schooling?

Even more important, with the escalating global crisis, can we guarantee our children’s education, even through high school? Because the current crisis is global and multi-faceted, the education system must adapt itself and prepare our youth to cope with the current state of the world.

Therefore, our challenge today is not so much to acquire knowledge as it is to acquire the social skills to help ourselves and our children overcome the abundant alienation, suspicion, and mistrust we encounter today. To prepare our children for life in the 21st century, we must first teach them what makes our reality what it is, and what they can do to change it.

This does not mean that disseminating knowledge should stop, but that these lessons should be part of a larger story that teaches students how to cope in the world they are about to enter. They should be able to leave the classroom and use this knowledge to grasp the full picture of reality and the forces that design it, and to understand how they can use it to their benefit.

In nearly every country in the world, education systems are designed to prod students to aim for personal achievements. The higher the student’s grades, the higher his or her social status. In America, as in many countries in the West, this system not only measures how students perform, but how they perform in relation to others. This makes students not only want to excel, but inevitably makes them want their fellow students to fail.

In a globalized world where every person is dependent on the success and well-being of every other person, this system must be reformed from its roots. Instead of trying to achieve personal distinction, the objective should be to excel in promoting the success of the collective. This is the achievement that should ideally be most recognized and revered.

Therefore, the first thing to change in every school must be its atmosphere. There need not be a punishment system for the more self-centered students, since society has such an overwhelming influence over youth that they will follow the social code almost instinctively. Instead, an atmosphere of camaraderie and sharing should prevail. This can be promoted by encouraging peer tutoring, where students work to help and promote each other, and receive social recognition in return.

Additionally, there are many exercises that require teamwork to succeed. Those can be applied very easily to the existing curricula, with grades given to groups rather than to individuals. In this way, one student’s grades will depend on the performance of all the others in the group.

In fact, looking at the adult world, we see that seldom is a product manufactured by a single person. And even in such cases, great teamwork is required for them to succeed. Indeed, nature and our own lives teach us how important it is to collaborate, so why not begin at school?

If children today grow violent and disobedient despite our efforts to raise them to be humane and caring, we can change this pattern by creating schools where children depend on each other to succeed. This can create a new sense of caring for each other and eliminate previously self-centered patterns.

For children, interdependency is as natural as breathing. Starting from birth, a child depends on its parents for everything it needs to survive. By the time children enter school, their social needs develop and they become completely reliant on others’ approval to maintain a positive self-image.

As a result, they feel the power of society over them so strongly that, given an atmosphere of caring, it will require very little effort for us to rear caring youths. All we will need to do is show them the right direction, one that will lead to success for them and for humanity, and they will lead the way.

The first thing we must do is teach them how nature works—that there are two forces that interact in their lives, and that for everyone to be happy, these forces must be in balance. We need change nothing about the topics we teach; we only need to add that B element to the curriculum: Balance.

Thus, biology will still be biology, flavored with an explanation of how the interplay between the forces of giving and receiving led to the development of multi-cellular creatures from single-celled creatures. The same applies to physics and to all the hard sciences. With humanities, it will be truly refreshing to examine human history and various societies with the interplay of desires in the forefront.

Though it is beyond the scope of this book to do so, one can easily see how we progress as our desires change and intensify. Without such changing and growing desires, we would have no revolutions because we would not want to change our lives. We would also have no technology because we would settle for what we have. We would have no politics (actually, this may not be a bad idea), and no rules. In all likelihood, if we didn’t change our desires, we would still be living in caves.

There are two stages to building a school that promotes the element of balance:

1. Providing information: Schools should teach the students about the desire to give and the desire to receive, and how these forces work together in nature. This should be done in both specifically designated classes and as a part of every topic in the school curriculum.

2. Establishing new social norms: After children have acquired a basic understanding of the concepts, we should gradually establish social norms that promote collaboration, friendship, and support.

For this stage to succeed, it is very important that children understand that they are not following these precepts because adults are forcing them upon them. Instead, they must constantly be made aware that they will fare best in life with an approach that is in sync with nature. Hence, it is in their best personal interests to follow this approach.

To survive in today’s world, we must know how to interact with each other as collaborators, not as combatants. Otherwise, everything we do will fail. By teaching the art of collaboration and sharing, we will do our children the best service possible because we will be equipping them with the most important tool they need for life’s challenges.

No one else will equip them with this tool if we shirk our responsibility to give it to them. By creating schools that aim to teach students how to live in the global age, to share, to care, and to take both life forces into consideration in their every action, we are creating the only kind of school worth attending.

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