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How should new members be found?

The community should encourage new membership broadly through its website, through associations at universities and word of mouth. Affiliations to existing institutions and the creation of educational material software should help spread the word to encourage new members. Public debates and interaction should not be seen as a recruitment drive any interaction with the public should if asked only respond; “The community is always happy to welcome new members” we should be clear we don’t have ulterior motives to any of our acts that help the community and the world, our motive is what we are, what we do and we want the world to improve for the present and subsequent generations.

In fact certain responses should be crafted that give a unified response to all questions that are regularly demanded so the community can speak with one coherent response.

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What methods of teaching will be employed?

There are various themes in pedagogy that cater to different types of learner so classes should do their best to reflect these types in the classroom.

There should be a division between lectures and seminars/lab work, or theory and practice/debate. This means information is distributed en mass initally and the discussed in smaller groups for clarification.

As stated earlier (e8) students who are proficient in a topic, mitosis for example, should be able to help assist teaching those of a lower level covering that subject. By explaining a topic one comes to understand it better.

Each high level student will have a mentor he can refer or defer to in times of need and have dialogues with. A mentor must be at least a number of grades above the student.

E-learning will be progressively worked on as will videos created to explain all topics in the subject, complete with questions to assess comprehension and open questions that students might consider writing experiments for, contemplate on or engage in dialogue about.

New methodologies of teaching should constantly be assessed and debated. Also all new members should have some exposure to teaching seminars and lectures [not just participating].

[Note: In the years since I’ve written this the rise of MOOC’s and available resources for learning everything from code to languages has exploded across the internet, in this case these give the community nearly all the material required to created an extremely nuanced hierarchy of grades without lifting a finger. However, all free open projects should be given as much support as possible via the community to continually help and improve their services. I know these initial thoughts were written on buses and trains around town, each one of them could be the basis of whole books in themselves, however the good news is there is a huge wellspring of available resources now to help any community member learn an incredible amount even if they are the first in the community to express an interest in the field.]

 

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What interactions will happen between the community and the society at large?

There should be a healthy level of interaction between the community and locals especially in a business, social, care, aid and education sense. Open classes available to all would be an appropriate venture, helping local homeless shelters with time and excess food, promoting educative systems and programs, organizing public debates between contentious groups or on serious issues like immigration, vaccination, global warming etc. Hopefully showing to people how real science works in opposition to hyperbole and media misrepresentation.

Public conferences, science fairs, supporting local teachers and students should all be considered reliable services which the community provides.

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What standards will be applied to differentiate a novice from an expert? The present undergraduate, graduate, master, Professor / Doctor system is ultimately misleading. When someone claims “I am a Dr” you must then ask “of what?”, biology, philosophy, humanities etc. being a professor doesn’t suddenly give you a status to talk on every subject. Consider the martial arts and their more gradual system of grading; starting at the basic level and progressing to 1st Dan (the black belt) which, contrary to popular belief, is the where the basic level of training ends and you start to master your skills in earnest.

The difference in professional Go players is also worth noting, it is measured in a similar system from  the lowest Kyu grade to the highest Dan grade, however, an even more interesting in this system is the concept that each grade difference between players is considered an extra stone handicap to the weaker player so that they can play a master on an equal footing.

All these systems correctly understand that there is a continuum of ability at knowledge at work here. You start at nothing and then progress over a lifetime to mastery, where systems differ is in how to measure how far along the continuum you have progressed so others can gauge your skill/knowledge/ability/suitability. As things stand standardized tests like GCSE’s, BAC SATs or A-Levels are created to give us a grade of our ability in each subject.

However, many people question how accurate this methodology is and whether it misrepresents or marginalizes students, it certainly only measures academic ability and knowledge, not practical application or personal experience. A much larger range of levels must be devised  for the community that reflects the levels of knowledge, experience and usage of a subject, so the level will be a blend of a number of factors. This will be extensively investigated in a future entry.

Mindfulness and Education

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So I saw this article on neural studies of Monks doing meditation and it’s effects on the brain:

https://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Stanford-studies-monks-meditation-compassion-3689748.php

I’m presently reading a book on some of this, it’s really quite amazing. There is a sizeable amount of scientific literature which shows that meditative skills and methods have a huge number of positive benefit to the way we think. With that in mind, I wonder how long it will take to get meditation programs into schools. We are all about training the mind but really we’re mostly just teaching facts and not creative ways to think or solve problems.

In present education systems, at least the ones in the west that I am familiar, there is a focus on how much you ‘know’ as opposed to teaching students how to learn it, use it and retain it. I honestly remember very little of my schooling before University, just like most people we retain relevant pieces here and there but the bulk of it has very little use, outside of a pub quiz. Of course it’s good to have a wide spread of subjects at school to help us find what we excel in or enjoy, but what we need is to teach our children some methods ‘of learning’ rather than making them simply ‘memorize facts’

To clarify, there are a number of teachable skills and methods that we can raise attention levels, memory retention and enhance cognition among people. Even a regular 30 minute exercise and 20 minutes of meditation before schooling, every day, could have dramatic results. Mnemonic techniques have also existed for centuries and while they are a way of ‘memorizing facts’ they are a method which would help in every subject, not just one. Conceptual framing, lucid dreaming and many, many more techniques exist, they work, we already have them, they just aren’t taught in schools.

We need to teach the next generation how to think, not in George Orwellian kind of factual dictatorship kind of way, but in a vibrant, dynamic, constructive way. From memory palaces in primary school to meditation and dialogues at college. Let’s try and create better people and better learners and work from there. Let’s try  make a better student rather than a more comprehensive exam, in all honesty none of us have a clue what the world will be like in 20 years anyway, so what the exam is testing for is really to give you grades to get you into the next level. It’s measuring your capability at the time it was taken. Something which will never reflect your ability in the future, nor prepare you for it.

For those worried about religious aspects or indoctrination into a particular faith, like Buddhism for example. Don’t. While religions were the initial creators of these methods they are now firmly being understood and in the realm of science. Just like we don’t teach kids Islamic algebraChristian science or even Hindu Yoga the religious underpinnings have been clipped from these subjects and we focus on the problem solving methodology  or physical benefits they offer. In the future meditation will also be stripped of its religious elements and join the world alongside other subjects.  Meditation is to the mind what the gym or an exercise regime is to the body.

So now that I’ve got that off my chest, any ideas how do we go about getting these methods and meditations into schools?