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Personalized Education: On Enhancing Human Potential and Creating Equality

18 Dec

Personalized Education: On Enhancing Human Potential and Creating Equality

Posted By: 
Kimberly White

Ask yourself these questions and ponder what they mean to you:

What is school for? 

What does it mean to know oneself? <

How can we each end comparison and instead offer equality to each other?

These are questions that educators have been pondering for years. Their answers are what drive the institutions, philosophies, commitments, biases, and methods for educating.

Though the questions haven’t changed much, answers have definitely broadened over the years. These question and answer conversations are what shape our education systems and transform not only individuals but also societies.

Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, and his wife Priscilla Chan recently had a baby girl and wrote her a letter about their dreams for her future, which fueled a conversation that many are now engaging in anew. In the part love letter, part promise, part pep talk to the world, Zuckerberg and Chan address the investments, approaches and risks that when taken can “advance human potential and promote equality.” Zuckerberg and Chan write how bettering personalized education is a direct path to bettering the world.

<“Our generation grew up in classrooms where we all learned the same things at the same pace regardless of our interests and needs,” they write. Now with personalized learning and technology, the next generations will be able to advance quickly in subjects that interest them the most, set real life goals, and get the answers and help that they need to attain those personalized goals. The letter goes on to say, “Of course it will take more than technology to give everyone a fair start in life, but personalized learning can be one scalable way to give all children a better education and more equal opportunity.”

Imagine a world where every student had access to tools and resources that empower them to be the best version of themselves. In that type of world comparison would no longer be a measuring tool for success. Instead each student would strive to reach their own potential, thus creating a more equal world.

When we teach every child the same thing, at the same pace, using the same methods, some will appear to succeed (based off of the tools we use to measure success), while others will be disadvantaged and fail. This is not a new revelation, as many have been advocating for more personalized education models for years. Jiddu Krishnamurti, a speaker and author who advocated for reform of many social issues, wrote on how to use education as a means to enhance ones genius without succumbing to the pressures of societal expectations.

In Letters to a Young Friend, Krishnamurti writes:

“Comparison is degrading, it perverts one's outlook. And on comparison one is brought up. All our education is based on it and so is our culture. So there is everlasting struggle to be something other than what one is. The understanding of what one is uncovers creativeness, but comparison breeds competitiveness, ruthlessness, ambition, which we think brings about progress. Progress has only led so far to more ruthless wars and misery than the world has ever known. To bring up children without comparison is true education.”

When comparison is omitted and replaced by personal growth, true genius, progress and equality can be attained.

“Thus education, in the true sense, is the understanding of oneself, for it is within each one of us that the whole of existence is gathered,” Krishnamurti writes.

What is school for? Is it designed to teach young people to comply and play the same part that everyone else is? Or is it a means for coming to understand oneself and the unique contribution that one can offer to the world?

Seth Godin asks the same questions like this, Are we asking kids to collect dots or connect dots?”

Knowing oneself is hard. Becoming the best version of oneself takes a lifetime of work. Progressing into a world of equal opportunity will take time and bravery. Yet if we honestly answer these questions for ourselves and act upon our individual perceptions, perhaps the next generations of children truly will put an end to comparison, become the best versions of themselves, and bring about equality.

So ask yourself again:

What is school for? 

What does it mean to know oneself? 

How can we each end comparison and instead offer equality to each other?