Education is broken. Society is broken. Both have been for some time.
From kids without laptops to areas without sufficient wifi to families unable to adequately feed themselves in the absence of a free school meal, this is all the evidence required to prove society in its modern form is not working for everyone all of the time.
Covid has laid bare just how decayed education and society are. Like slowly peeling back the plaster that covers a wound, this disease has revealed the punctured epidermis of modern society.
In the UK alone it is estimated that 9% of families do not have a laptop, desktop or tablet computer. The negative impact on learning, self-esteem and human development will be greater than we’ll ever know.
To further understand the significance of this inequity on a global scale, we must acknowledge that the UK is a first world country and among one of the wealthiest nations on earth. It doesn’t bear thinking how many families in less developed nations, say for instance India, the Philippines or on the African continent are without devices or quality wifi!
One of the most significant issues brought to the fore during the covid pandemic is social isolation. This is particularly pertinent in an educational context as learning, especially for young people, is very much a social practice. For millennia humans have learned in social groups. In fact, this is a trait not limited to homo sapiens, but common within the entire animal kingdom.
An unfortunate symptom of modern living is that of being alone. Our society lauds and encourages the path of the rugged individual.
Parents who suddenly found their children having to stay at home during social lockdowns felt as if they were carrying the burden of homeschooling all alone. And they very much were. There were no more bells to govern the movement from one lesson to another. The definite and steady rhythm, like the hum of a motor engine, that characterises school life was gone.
With no warning, the home suddenly became the epicenter for learning. But the sad irony is that it bore very little resemblance to a genuine learning community where ideas are discussed organically and an exchange of knowledge occurs with a multiplicity of individuals.
And this is where the fabric all begins to unravel. During something as drastic and severe as a national lockdown, community can be a people’s saving grace. Just think of the scenes of resilient Italians singing to each other on their balconies, defying the emotional burden of COVID with their songs of overcoming.
With various societies now having experienced several lockdowns, now is the time to fashion our communities with hands joined in solidarity, hearts connected in love and minds bent towards that which is good.
We must begin the process of building back, but building back better.
How can we build back better?
I recently came across some beautiful examples of communities who have achieved sustainable living. The Deccan Development Society and Lammas are to name a few. These organisations, who live practicing reciprocity, giving and sharing are real life examples of how groups can thrive without causing inequalities and social not-haves.
I believe we can see a similar process in an educational sense. Imagine groups of parents coming together to form an educational cooperative where skills, passions and talents are shared amongst clusters of young people. The local doctor could give classes on biology. The high street baker, lessons on bread making and the properties of yeast. The physics enthusiast, workshops on how different waves move through space.
This would be an example of a real community coming together for the good of the whole instead of operating on a degenerate neo-liberal paradigm where each person feels they need to be pitted against one another in a competition for resources where winner takes all.
Call me an idealist or a hopeless optimist, but the world needs this. The world needs the hopeful, who can see the world not only as it is, but as it could be.
Education is broken. Society is broken. Both have been for some time. But now is the moment for us to pick up tools and begin the mending process. Nail by nail. Brick by brick. Where our cement is love, kindness and light.