Today we are forced to ask how our educational systems can be transformed into one that is truly appropriate for our time. Since lifelong learning is now essential to survival, how can people of all ages learn how to learn, unlearn, and relearn? How can they develop skills to deal with complexity and challenges that have never before existed? How can schools that were created for another time meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population of students? Can schools alone meet these needs? In considering these questions, let us look at new possibilities for individuals, learning communities, and an emerging learning society. It is important to see that our DIFFERENCES CONNECT.
Viewed from a different perspective, individual and national differences may be seen as complementary strengths. In The Unschooled Mind, Howard Gardner notes that “we are as much creatures of our culture as we are creatures of our brain.” Cultures where most people are actively involved in the arts, cultures where academic achievement is most highly valued, and cultures where survival skills are essential to life produce populations with different skills and abilities that have been learned in different ways. Of course, such diversity exists within cultures as well.
When these differences are understood and valued they can bring people together in ways that may form the basis of learning communities. The ancient Greeks had a word for such organizations. In their “Paedeia” everyone was a learner and everyone was a teacher, and the whole community was responsible for the learning of its people. The formation of such models is essential today as we see increasing needs for greater interpersonal and international understanding. Few would question that individuals, communities, and countries must find better ways to collaborate on learning about and helping to solve critical ecological, environmental, economic, educational, technological, and health challenges. Learning of a whole community is a vision for our future.