What School Teaches Vs. What It Should Teach

School teaches you what to think when it should teach you how to be.

We learn what to think when we should learn how to think.

But what school should aim for is how to be.

I believe a shift to being is the solution to our self-made suffering. Since most of our suffering comes from incessant thinking and worry, learning how to just be is the only thing that makes sense. But how do we get there when our default mode is to think?

The shift starts with an awareness of thought.

An awareness of thinking stops the rampage in its tracks. It allows us to observe thought non-judgementally, objectively, and with full acceptance. These verb states mean we can be with our thoughts without becoming them. It also means accepting the moment by ceasing to change it.

In a world that primes us for reactivity, this is a superpower.

People often confine superpowers to the big screen. But this superpower is within our reach – it’s just not taught in the West.

If suffering comes from incessant, faulty thinking then the remedy is to correct our perception. But correcting our perception in real time is circular. We can’t correct faulty thinking with more thinking. Now is when we employ the superpower of being with our thoughts instead of becoming them. Observing without reacting. Awareness coupled with a calm response.

This superpower is unfortunately untrained in the public school system.

We Are Taught What To Think and It’s Not Working

In the teaching world, students place full trust in teachers as arbiters of facts.

We are not taught to discover for ourselves.

Universities have filled this void, but in recent years even the most prestigious institutions have lost this capacity.

In my recent years of tutoring and teaching science, I feel students learn best when they discover the answers for themselves. I discovered very little on my own in high school. Back then I would go scavenging through the textbook for the answers to receive a complete status on my homework. I now realize this is not true education. I don’t remember anything from those textbooks, but I do remember personal truths that I’ve uncovered and experimented with in the real world.

Getting students to do this is challenging because they are too young to go out in the real world by themselves. They are filled with wonder but have no outlet other than the classroom to exercise that curiosity. It is our responsibility as educators to satisfy that wonder. We shouldn’t regurgitate facts from textbooks but challenge the students to arrive at their conclusions.

The beauty of being an adult is that you can still have the childlike wonder and go out into the unknown world as a curious explorer. Too many have lost this in jobs they hate because they have sucked the wonder out of them. Our school system makes monotony the default because most jobs out there are monotonous.

Instead, why not teach children how to think? With this knowledge, they can discover the truth by testing it out in the world. Letting them arrive at their conclusions makes for learning that lasts. And when learning lasts, our perceptions change. Unfortunately, we tend to accept our perceptions without question.

We can simply change our fate by thinking about our thinking. This is how to think. Contrary to this post, we can’t be taught how to think, there is no one right way to think. We can only teach ourselves to think about our thinking.

This is learning to be critical of our perception.

Having this attitude is how we learn to think better.

Thinking about Thinking

I mentioned that thought alone cannot correct our faulty perception.

However, thinking critically about our thought processes can shape our reality in a way that leads to less suffering. Emotion trumps rationality and logic. But as heard from Harvard psychiatrist, known as Dr. K or Healthy Gamer,

Humans are the only species capable of overriding our nature.

All long-standing religious traditions serve as guidelines for how to do this. In other words, they teach us how to critique biological impulses. Not only from thought alone but in the fact that we can choose how to act instead of merely reacting.

Knowledge of our default human nature is essential to choose how to think and act appropriately. After all, we have to know the enemy before defeating him. Enemy is a strong word and this isn’t about defeat through self-suppression. It is about discipline.

“Just remember that self-discipline is not self-suppression. Suppression is when you resist and fight against your desires, keeping them as buried and unexpressed as possible. Self-discipline is when your highest desires rule your lesser desires, not through resistance, but through loving action grounded in understanding and compassion.”

The Way of the Superior Man, David Deida

We act despite our human nature to choose immediate gratification. One way to do this is to have the awareness of when we feel inclined to choose the expedient. Then we can zoom out of that feeling to think about the bigger picture. We can ask ourselves:

  • Is binging Netflix the best use of my time right now?
  • How about how I will feel after that burger and fries?
  • Do I need another purse?

I have one telltale sign showing that I favoured the expedient and that emotion is guilt. It’s a powerful negative emotion because it serves as a reminder of what not to do next time. It becomes destructive when you linger in it.

Human nature is too complex to summarize by one man alone. As unique individuals with a multiplicity of perspectives, there are more facets to human nature than there are people on this planet. How can you even boil down what human nature is when no two people have traversed the same road?

That said, one point about human nature is inarguable and well-documented: our default is our animalistic, carnal self. We are born into sin. However, when we add “being” to “human being” it leads to spiritual redemption. It doesn’t happen in an instant. With time and education, we can train ourselves to favour our divinity over all that is beneath it.

Being (in a few words – as it should be)

Being is when there is nowhere else to be but right here, right now.

It is the absence of thought.

Being is acceptance of everything.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6: 25 – 27

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