Let’s have real learning for real life

2011-01-12 00:00

THE morning run started in drizzle and then got wet. But Duncan's fascinating chatter made the kilometres fly. He's still got the breath for it. We were discussing how it's actually easier to set up new stuff yourself, than ask a service provider. This assumes though that one can read and more importantly one has access to information.

I mentioned Terry Pratchett's Nome series (The Bromeliads Trilogy), a must-read if you are interested in the potential future of the human race. Basically it explains how a superior race decays into functional illiteracy and ends up in a world of superstition and myopic delusion. Sounds scary? It's one of the funniest series I've read, but I'm not sure that (as Bob Dylan would say) "the tears on [my] cheeks are from laughter".

A while ago I postulated, (actually I had a dream that I wrote down) that two races of humans would evolve, one functioning in science and technology and information and the other scratching in the dirt for survival, with gods of mystery and mayhem. It doesn't end well for either so I'm not advocating anything here.

This morning's Witness reinforced my thinking. I glanced through the items: millionaire kills himself (money can't by happiness), is the world flat (publicity piece by Flat Earthers), does God exist (standard rant from both sides). Then I read the piece on education. A 30% pass rate is all that's needed for matriculation. This basically means that the person who passes can possibly barely read or write, yet alone acquire, process or use knowledge. They are functionally illiterate for the real world, whatever that is, or are they?

My children are educated in the background to technology, myths, H. P. Lovecraft, classic literature, engineering concepts, weapons maintenance, problem solving and team management from the computer games which they live on in the holidays. They can also hack, burn, rip, compress and zip with the best of them, all at a cerebral level, having not been outside for a while.

The problem is that there is no linking structure, so it's difficult for them to see how the concepts that they are learning can be applied to everyday life and can be managed to lead into a career, or, should I say, a happy, purposeful future.

So I hypothesise that they could find all they need to know about the school syllabus and work through it at twice the speed with a good Internet connection.

What I would like to see is the entire school syllabus put somewhere online, in an easy to read and connected manner. I don't want outcomes or critical cross-field outcomes, I want a starting point for Eng- lish, science, maths and life skills with logical connections, both interesting and useful.

I doubt that it will happen soon because educational establishments need to protect themselves behind intellectual shields, but the whole system is starting to look like a religious monastery in the dark ages, fiercely holding on to its mysteries.

What will happen to the masses without resources or the interest to pursue knowledge?

They shall inherit the Earth, but it needn't stop the rest of us from trying to evolve.

• George Forder is an event co-ordinator and writer from Pietermaritzburg. His blog www.zan clus.blogspot.com contains some strange stuff.

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