What follows is a list of proposed actions to be taken for a free progress education clarified by comparison with the ordinary education paradigm.
|The teacher/professor tells what should be learned. Motivation is fostered, if at all, by extrinsic means.||The facilitator helps the student to discover what his inner being wants him to learn. Intrinsic motivation has precedence over the extrinsic one.|
|The choice and quality of the content to be taught has paramount importance.||The quality of the facilitator is much more important.|
|The aim is to become fit in being competitive in the modern world and chose a career.||The aim is to discover what your purpose in this life is, give it a meaning, and the means to pursue it.|
|The school sets fixed learning times||Everyone has his own time of growth!|
|Analytic-rational exercise||Contemplative approach|
|Learn by imitating what has been done. The institution sets the goal.||Learn by doing what your inner call suggests to do. The student selects the goal.|
|Everything is focused on forming knowledge and production.||Focus on understanding and doing following your own call.|
|Works on the weaknesses.
A lot of emphasis is set on acquiring so called ‘basic concepts’.
|Works on the strengths.
Who decides what is ‘basic’? There is something in us that knows much better than anyone else what is ‘basic’ for us.
|Fostering skills, speed and efficiency in reproducing specific tasks.||Fostering interest, talent and inclinations.|
Time has come to say clearly and without fear of the future to take the risk of change, tell what is no longer tolerable, detach from the present system and power yoke, but on the other side propose what is necessary to do instead. Before outlining the bureaucratic and structural foundations of a FPU we have to keep in mind some core ideas which may serve as indicators for a free and progressive new pedagogy.
The traditional idea of the teacher or professor is that of an authority that has competence in a specific subject and whose main responsibility is that to transfer this knowledge from his/her own brain into other brains (with more or less authoritarian methods and threatening means like exams and grades). In the new educational paradigm only the student alone is responsible for his or her self-education. The choice of the subject to study, the learning methods are completely free. What has to be learned must be determined from a desire to learn, a curiosity to know, from an inner authority. There is no longer someone who ‘teaches’, but only a facilitator who suggests (and only when asked for a suggestion), helps if asked for help, eventually lectures but only to rise curiosity, spirit of inquiry, but nobody should pretend a blind repetition of his syllabus. The main purpose is to guide the student to self-discovery. The professionalism and preparation of a facilitator will be judged from the pedagogical skills and the understanding of the essence and motives which stand behind a progressive ideal, not for the intellectual knowledge of a subject which should become secondary.
But what about the reasons for pursuing a study? We are accustomed to think of education as a learning practice that should prepare us for the professional life and for making a living. But the main aim of a free progress education is the liberation of the inner spirit, the finding of our own direction, the freedom to be intellectually and spiritually what we really are. Career and financial perspectives must be subordinate necessities, not the decisive factor. The dictatorship of time and deadlines must fall. Who teaches me how to take my time to let flourish my intuition, insight and wisdom? Where is the time for contemplation? Those who are marathoners that learn slowly but might become able to dive more deeply in the subject should not be pressured as if they are sprinters. Whereas, sprinters should let be free to finish earlier their studies than the official academic rules foresee for their academic path.
The standard learning paradigm is focused on an analytic understanding. While the rational approach should continue to maintain its place as a tool of knowledge in every human activity, it should at the same time not be detrimental to other forms of gnosis. Great intellectual achievements have frequently as their basis inspirations coming from a contemplative dimension. The dreamer, the seer, the real independent thinker is not, or not necessarily, always guided by a strictly logical theory made of inferences and deductions. A FPU should open itself to contemplative and intuitional methods which foster inspirations and revelations (e.g. by self-mastering the mind and body with meditation techniques, or reconsidering complementary approaches like Goethian science).
In our present culture “learning” is associated with a measurable acquisition of notions and facts, possibly without failures, which the student must be able to reproduce. The direct experience as such with all its mental, emotional and physical content is not considered learning, as long as it doesn’t produce tangible results in form of new intellectual insights that answer precise questions. At best it is felt as an enriching playful activity, just a game, but not as a possible learning experience. Only the result of a successful experiment or investigation which produces knowledge that can be translated into a set of analytic concepts, possibly with potential outcomes useful for a future career, is considered real learning. This is a deeply rooted idea in our culture and mentality. And yet both history as cognitive sciences tell us that most of the skills are acquired at stages of activity where failure, doubts and unanswered questions are still predominant. The doing in itself, as such, eventually without results or even with failure, is a learning process too. This means that, contrary to past didactical approaches, in a FPU learning does not occur by imitation (typically, by repeating the lecture or solving preordered exercise), but exercising one’s own skills in practice. There should be no preconceived program and timetable which dictates the content and pace of the learning process. The student alone must know, feel, and perceive it inwardly, and therefore left totally free to act in this regard (practicing theory vs. experiment, focusing on one or another approach or procedure, choosing different textbooks than suggested by the facilitator, taking the short or long path, etc.).
However, having placed the emphasis on the practical learning, it should be clear that any form of learning or academic research should not be judged or evaluated according to its practical potential. Present academia inoculates some skills which are supposed to be useful for your future job which the state or community will (hopefully) offer you. In a FPU, the philosopher who asks about the essence of the world should not have less chances to express an inner thirst for pure knowledge than the pragmatist who is interested in developing a new hardware for the industry and the market. Studying, learning, and doing research should no longer be so tightly bended neither to its potential to produce material wealth, nor to the actuality of the current research trend or paradigm. Again, it’s the student or researchers choice in which direction to move, no committee of sages or higher hierarchies should have any saying. Education should prepare us first of all to discover and develop our inherent skills, independently from its potential practical applications.
Several pedagogues have questioned if it is more sensible to focus on the weaknesses or strengths of a children or college student? The former approach rests on the standard assumption that everyone has to learn the same basic concepts and all must acquire a set of fundamental notions. The latter assumes instead that the idea of a general knowledge for all is surpasses and that each of us has some strengths, not just because of a coincidence, but because every soul has an existential program which serves the development of the individual, as that of the community. This existential program encodes already the strengths which should be used to manifest our life mission. The weaknesses instead are not a capricious joke of nature, but less developed skills which are less necessary for our enfoldment, and it would be therefore a waste of time and energy to insist of the weaknesses instead of anybodies strengths. In a FPU the emphasis is set on cultivating the strengths, and a facilitator should primarily encourage the further development of it. However, sometimes weaknesses are also the sign of undeveloped or wrongly developed skills due to past wrong choices or bad experiences. There is no dilemma. The solution is, as usual, in freedom. It should be left to the free choice of the student eventually to focus the attention on the weak aspects of the character. But this choice should come from within, not from a forced superimposed ordered from someone who does not know the real inner causes and motives of these weaknesses.
Today schools, and even more universities, measure the skills of their students with essentially few parameters: the amount of information encapsulated by the brain, the time needed to reproduce a task based on that information (typically there is a strict time limit to solve an exercise, while an oral examination needs an immediate feedback), and the amount of correct answers which finally determine the grade. But this means to measure what we know, not what we can. The insight, intuitive understanding and the result of a passionate study which needs more time and an inner perception of the work to be done, are considered inessential. In a FPU, where exams and grades are abolished, these superficial evaluations play a secondary role. Of course students have to take their responsibilities. The (self-) assigned task has to be completed in reasonable times, the quality of the work done must be reviewed by a commission (which includes students and judges without grades), codes of behavior must be respected, and so forth. But the rules imposed must have a twofold complementary function: guarantee not only the collective quality of the institution but also the total freedom of expression of the individual.