Nelson Mandela said that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The most important pillars of education are, in my opinion, the ones that are overlooked the most: compassion, creativity and motivation. Why are they overlooked? Fear to change and improve our educational systems is the main reason. Courage is at the heart of the solutions that we can create.
The first pillar of education is compassion. What is the use of training efficient professionals if they lack compassion? Since a very early age kids should be encouraged to get involved in simple, meaningful acts of kindness such as taking care of plants and pets and reaching out to other human beings who are in disadvantaged situations. We can accomplish this by having the courage to go beyond the boundaries of the classroom.
Getting out of the classroom on a regular basis can broaden the students’ perspectives. It is, I believe, essential. The reality of the world should not be distant and elusive. It should be close to them to awaken their sensitivity to the problems that beset our societies.
Visiting public libraries as well as shelters, spending time in museums, interacting with seniors who reside in nursing homes are just a few of the ways through which we can expand students’ perspectives. Education is not just about knowledge. It should also be about experiencing reality. There are people who believe that kids should be protected from reality in a closed setting, but knowledge and experience are intimately related. If students are encouraged to be in touch with the social world in meaningful ways, they will be more likely to become inspired to make a positive impact on the world with a more realistic mindset.
In order to develop new strategies to solve problems, education has to foster the development of creative minds. Creativity goes hand in hand with uncertainty, and uncertainty is attached to fear. Creativity is an element of education that is often disregarded at the expense of memorizing and acquiring knowledge. What is the use of “learning” something that will be forgotten in a few days? The absorption of new facts should be a compelling excuse to stimulate both students and teachers to apply their body of knowledge to creative endeavors. This being said, the arts should never be underrated. They provide a unique opportunity to exercise the muscles of the imagination, and there is no evidence to believe that they are less important than other subjects. Albert Einstein asserted it clearly: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It is necessary to trespass the barriers of fear to have the courage to embrace the fascinating field of creativity.
Last but not least, we can tie creativity and compassion to motivation. Each student’s main interests should be considered relevant and should help to shape individual goals. They can enhance the educational experience. For example, a student’s passion for literature should not be treated with distrust and fear. It can be put to good use instead. Among other things, the zeal for literature can be an excuse to learn history and geography. Stories are like windows through which we can witness the intricacies of history and geography. Their analysis can lead to understand our present. Far from regarding these subjects as separate, meaningless compartments, the student will care to appreciate them as realities that are intertwined and integrated in practical ways. Stories can also help us to understand humanity, and so they can make us more compassionate toward people from other countries.
Motivation, creativity and compassion are the three elements that will pave the way to create a society that is more conscientious and adept at handling the complex challenges and dilemmas that we face in the world. Education is, after all, a lifelong experience. It comes to an end the day we die. Our legacy will continue to speak for us once we are dead.