Part X: The structural foundations for a FPU

In the following we would like to name those aspects that should be abolished entirely from the modern educational machinery. It is summarized by the following set of proposals which elucidate what new forms of teaching and learning could be introduced in a FPU.

Abolition of



Effectuation of a system that fosters/guides free knowledge and self-directed learning. Free choice of performance in front of the community.


Non quantitative judgment but qualitative advices by facilitators and students on how to proceed.


Certification of attendance and productivity, eventually only with qualitative not quantitative assessment if necessary.

Admission requirements

Everyone is allowed to participate.

Huge tuition fees for being allowed to submit oneself to a ‘via crucis’ with the prospect of a degree.

No, or as low as possible, admission costs. The FPU student does not pay for a degree but, if at all, for a chance of self-development.


A tutor who needs second hand judgment and isn’t able to recognize the skills of a student should quit the job.

Traditional student-teachers-professor pyramidal hierarchies

No ‘pyramids’ of ‘teachers’ or ‘professors’ exist. Only ‘facilitators’ and students that interchange their roles by exchanging knowledge.

Organized team work

Spontaneous and flexible cooperation among individuals.


Facilitator’s freedom to structure any kind of syllabus they desire.

Student’s freedom to refuse it and re-structure it accordingly to one’s own skills.

Race, gender, age or physical criteria

If selection rules must be applied, then, as far as possible, without age, gender, or handicap disclosure.

Physical separation of department buildings and offices

All students and instructors of all disciplines should share the same campus structures (classrooms, office buildings, refectory, etc.)

First of all, the elimination of exams from a new college and university educational system is of paramount importance. Exams have always been a mean of submission, fear and even political power, not a tool which fosters real learning. Because real learning is not made of a repetition of concepts regurgitated in an academic course. Real learning can only happen through self-acquirement of notions, the deeper understanding through direct experience, the enfoldment of the spirit in learning, instead of the repression of creativity by reiterating a litany to an instructor who looks at the student from above and menaces retaliation with a bad grade. The compulsion with grading has its roots in the obsession for an enumerative knowledge where everything must be quantified. Because of this obsession for the quantitative assessment of things we have lost our innate ability not only to appreciate the qualitative aspects of the individual, but also became unable to see the strengths of people (and this has led to the US ‘No Child Left Behind’ law, which is now under severe criticism for this reason, among others). In some sense we might say that in schools and universities there has never been real learning.

Moreover, grading inhibits the trial and error method which is extremely important in a process of discovery, since it enhances the fear of failure, while failure itself should be honored as the master in learning. As Churchill used to say “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”. Grades are mere etiquettes which represent the most extreme form of reductionism since they are supposed to describe what we know and what we can in few numbers or letters. While the best knowledge and best skills are not imposed but are self-acquired through a passionate fearless learning by doing things while following one’s own inner need for knowledge and curiosity. It is about learning and doing research as long the student or researcher discovers where the strengths are, and once found, go for it. Grading is a form of, not so subtle, degradation. The reasons why things like passion, creativity, initiative, or curiosity are not considered is that there is no way to quantify them and, as a reflection, they are considered of less importance.

In present educational systems students pay for a degree, not for an education. They are so focused on acquiring the degree, possibly with high grades, that there is virtually no time left to follow someone’s own innate interests. In a FPU there won’t be exams, grades and certificates, but a regulated system which certifies that a student has attended the school for a specific time, did produce and present some research or intellectual work, and submitted it to a commission (e.g. peer-reviewed papers, a thesis, a dissertation, presentations, talks, a book, realizing experiments in a laboratory, and so forth), with a ‘passed’ or ‘put on hold’ evaluation. What we need are not reformations of the actual primitive examinations, grading and degrees systems, but an upgrade of the system itself.

Another aspects that vitiates present academia are admission requirements. We always tend to elaborate an analytic formula or imagine a concept which (usually in a quantitative manner) tries to assess who is ‘admissible’, and who is not. Again, tests and grades are distributed and which are supposed to determine who is the ‘right one’ for attending the courses, and who is not. But truth is that there is no such selection rule that is capable to measure skills which result from an inner fire for perfection and aspiration for knowledge and action. All these selection criteria have too often shown to obtain just the opposite of what they were designed for: the de-selection of those who later turned out to be the most gifted ones, but were not recognized by a society which itself did not live up to the call of its time.

A FPU should be tuition free for all, or at least be as cheap as possible. In the standard financial college and university paradigms students have to pay huge fees in order to be allowed to attend, being drilled, submit themselves to an authoritarian and stressful academic path, with the aim to obtain finally that piece of paper, a certification. In a FPU fees must be kept as low as possible, ideally it should be completely free, and the aim is not a certification but the self-development on a self-directed learning base.

Also references in form of letters of presentation should be banned altogether. The point is that these are a mean of perpetuation of the system. Not the best students, but the most servile and adapted ones are facilitated in obtaining references form their tutor. Those who have developed a more critical sense, and might not be docile workers who please the hierarchy or less skilled with political games, will find themselves more isolated having more difficulties in finding one, two, or even three professors willing to write something in their favor. This is again another absurd custom that is only useful for molding obedient soldiers, not independent thinkers. Therefore, in a FPU there should be nothing such an admission requirement or need for references and letters of presentation. In case the number of students must be limited exclusively because of logistic or financial reasons, then the ‘first come, first served’ rule should be applied. It is simple as that.

Then we have to entirely reconsider the relationship between the teacher or professor to the student. The idea of an adult that is at the top of a pyramidal hierarchy that knows better what is good or bad for a young learner must finally be surpassed. Nothing can be taught really. One can only guide or help someone else to find out the truth and knowledge by and in him/her-self. Learning must no longer be a systemized machinery of notions and stuff imparted by someone who is supposed to know, but an activity which arises by a free choice of the student who will teach him/her-self. Teachers and professors must learn to forget this character and become facilitators who follow students in their learning path, only if requested, and should take advantage of the possibility to learn themselves. Facilitators should learn too by their activity and accept also that the rules might be exchanged: the student can equally well teach the facilitator. Everyone should be allowed to become a facilitator, for example by proposing a course, even first year students, if they feel to have a sufficient preparation and skills. The basic idea should be that once new knowledge and skills are learned, they should be transmitted as soon as possible, without the necessity to wait until promotions and academic titles. The strict division based on an authority who knows and has power over a class of students that have to absorb, has to be abolished once and for all.

In a FPU teamwork will remain an essential ingredient of interaction between every individual. Of course being an effective group member is a necessary skill that young people have to develop to confront with the challenges and working environments of the new world. But the question is no longer if, but how these skills have to be developed and set into place? For example, despite what we like to believe, in most of present research centers there is no real and true teamwork at all. In a certain sense it is a modern myth. What is called ‘teamwork’ today is the distribution of tasks inside a larger project area. It is the result, not of a real team, but of a collection of individuals who are ordered to work together on a common goal. First of all, this serially lining up of working labor is usually forced upon people who could neither chose their working or study collaborators, which frequently leads to a lack of inner psychological accord, nor could they express a preference for the activity they have to focus on. Most times the goal needs an execution of an enormous set of complex tasks which necessarily assigns to each individual a different one. This leads to a fictitious teamwork, because while a whole group of people work to achieve a common goal, rarely they truly work together on the same task. What is even worse, is that the execution of these tasks is set under pressure of deadlines and strict controls. The result is that finally everyone works without freedom to express a real inner potential, not rarely conflicts brake out among the members because of the clash of characters, and de facto everyone has to do a job alone (the managerial mindset sometimes deludes itself in believing that this state of affairs can be remedied by calling for permanent and endless group meetings, but it doesn’t work). Conceiving teamwork as a sort of military activity, which aims only at the interests of the collective without taking into account also those of the individual is an extremely limited form of cooperation. A true teamwork, as it should be in a FPU, is an allowance of an educational self-organization, it must rise from a spontaneous congregation of people, each with their own talents and abilities, which is not dictated from a director or an authority. Students should be left free with whom to work and study with. There should be no a priori fixed task appointed by someone else, but a free choice of the student to pursue the common goal which emerges by choosing their own task, as far as possible in friendship with someone else. Only in this context we can begin to speak about real collaboration and spontaneous teamwork.

About curricula the following might be said. There are essentially two schools of thought about the subject. The first one, i.e. the traditional point of view, is that there is a basic set of knowledge that everyone should and must learn, willingly or not, because, this is the belief, the inexpert mind of a novel student can’t know what really should have priority. For example, in physics, every student with no exception, is supposed to learn about the principles of mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and so forth. The opposite point of view affirms that this is nowadays an anachronistic model of teaching since, due to the explosion of disciplines and discoveries of the last centuries, the so called ‘general knowledge’ is no longer possible and, at any rate, if someone wants to acquire an intellectual expertise in some subject the internet is such a powerful knowledge tool that nobody really needs to follow a preordered academic curriculum. In a FPU this apparent dilemma is reconciled again taking the freedom of the soul as the guiding principle. In a FPU there should be the freedom of the facilitator to express some line of thought and content organizing it in a more or less articulate syllabus and course structure, but on the other side there should be also the freedom of the student to accept it, or eventually reject it partially or entirely, focusing the attention towards other directions if the class isn’t considered satisfying or interesting. This saves both perspectives, a school can offer a full fledged academic path, yet everyone is free to chose according to the choice of the inner being.

In a FPU there should be no admission rules for students altogether. However, due to technical or financial reasons a selection and admission of some sort might nevertheless be necessary (e.g. facilitators, and the technical stuff which is responsible for the didactical and technical maintenance of the institution, might be required to show their ability and preparation). Modern schools and societies advanced in the recognition of human rights, have realized the importance of preventing sex, race, physical and age discrimination. However, fact is that it is considered completely natural to ask for gender, ethnic origin, age or disability in an application for an admission as undergraduate or a position at college. This opens the doors not only to a willed and controlled discrimination during a selection process but, even if these information are supposed to be used for proper purposes, it still can influence a commission that has to judge one’s skills. Of course, during an interview the physical aspects can hardly be concealed, but a FPU should do its utmost to disclose them as late as possible during the selection process (for example to accept only CV without photographs and physical data of the candidate).

Also the architectonic disposition of modern colleges speaks volumes about the lack of an interdisciplinary mindset. Every department has its building. The architectonic compartmentalization is a reflection of the cultural compartmentalization. This division may have practical advantages, but there is an unnoticed drawback in this. Philosophers of science rarely share their time with scientist outside seminars for the simple reason that they are physically separated. The same can be said of physicians and biologists, or artists and scientists, etc. But a real culturally dynamic environment should not have these artificial segmentations. We should recall how the great philosophers and natural scientists of ancient Greece considered it a perfectly natural fact that artists, philosophers, scientists, etc. had to talk, interact and exchange their knowledge and experience among each others. In a FPU the office of a physicist should be just near that of an artist, or philosopher, or a biologist. The interaction between very different people and academic backgrounds can ignite such a diversity of ideas and new forms of collaboration that are actually rendered less probable by this physical separation.


Part IX: The pedagogical foundations for a FPU

What follows is a list of proposed actions to be taken for a free progress education clarified by comparison with the ordinary education paradigm.

Ordinary education

Progressive education

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.

Part VIII: What a Free Progress University might be good for

createBut the question at this point is what can be done now as a first step towards this vision? After the author’s personal disappointing experiences in several study and working environments, a vision came into being: something which conceives of a learning center at higher education levels and which gives people the possibility to self express themselves, practice self-learning and grow by means of an intellectual and intuitive learning process that the standard educational paradigm does not consider, and even openly discourage. A place where they can free-style their path to knowledge, study what their inner being suggests in complete autonomy, and not what the faculty imposes. A place where all can pursue their own research lines and even exercise intuitive approaches which in nowadays institutions are strictly forbidden.

But is a FPU good only for seers and artists, but not for engineers working in an industry or managers? According to Tony Wagner, an Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, there are seven survival skills as defined by business leaders in their own words: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurship, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, curiosity and imagination. Each of these can be addressed easily in a free progress perspective considering that present institution (indirectly or even directly influenced by the business world), while advocating it, do however not allow these skills to develop individually and grow freely. because, if problems are imposed without the allowance for individual question solving, it is then quite obvious that students lack of critical thinking. And how can you learn to lead by influence and not by authority if the environment you were grown up is essentially an authoritarian system? Moroever, it is useless to call for adaptability to change when the schools, we have been drilled in, obey themselves a century old order without questioning it. Why should someone who has never, or scarcely been allowed to take initiative at his/her own risk and responsibility, suddenly become a self-directed and creative individual? Where from should passionate communication skills come from when any passion was killed long ago by the very same who now ask for it? How can information processing become effective when you have been raised in a place where it has always been pre-processed for you? No wonder that a research by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, [1] which used survey responses and standardized assessment measures, reveals that 45% of students attending US higher education institutions don’t learn anything in their first two years and demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills as critical thinking and complex reasoning. No wonder that a research and book by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, [27] which used survey responses and standardized assessment measures, reveals that 45% of students attending US higher education institutions don’t learn anything in their first two years and demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills as critical thinking and complex reasoning. And it is now wonder either, that Arum and Roksa, were criticized for their understanding of what at all ‘learning’ means. This was to expect in a society that slowly but steadily begins to understand that the ‘reduction ad numerum’ of human’s cognitive activity is untenable. Finally, as to the seventh point, that on curiosity and imagination, it comments itself.

Therefore, there are good reasons to believe that a FPU is not just for eccentric humanist who crave for more freedoms, but it might well prepare future business leaders even much better than any traditional institution which tries to imbue skills by a mechanical compulsion into young brains.


[1] R. A. a. J. Roksa, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Part IV: Humanizing education

Examinations and organized fearThere are two facets, two approaches in dealing with learning, research and culture, and which have some advantages of their own, but unfortunately are perceived as standing in the way to each others. The first approach is that to insist on the idea that we need even more skilled leaders, fundraisers, and managers who are able to direct large research programs and groups of scientists. An idea where everything is directed towards a huge well organized managerial and industrialized system that pressures people to produce practical results as early as possible, deemphasizing any attempt to look further for discoveries that aim at knowing for the sole pleasure of knowing. The second possibility, on the contrary, might be that we should rediscover the ancient human ‘impetus’ to understand nature, the drive to independent and creative thinking, the spirit of the natural philosopher, who pursues the freedom to develop one’s own research program, and liberates everyone’s intellectual independence and potentials, independently from its possible applications.

True, in this market driven world, the latter alternative sounds too romantic. But didn’t modern society bet too much on the former one? After all, where from came the great minds that transformed the world materially? From schools and universities where they learned only the real world practice preparing them for their future jobs, or from institutions that foster also theoretical approaches of pure thought, like philosophy and a humanistic practice like music and arts? It is an established fact that most inventors, geniuses and not rarely corporate leaders too, did not attend schools which focus exclusively on a technical apprenticeship aimed solely at attaining a professional certificate.

What is really needed in the field of college and university education at this historical stage of the scientific, technological and human development, is the freedom to ask again for one’s own question, and having the time to do that, without the danger of not being able to make it for a living. Nowadays we begin from imparting the already established knowledge into the child’s brain, but do not exercise people in posing questions that should lead to that knowledge. Instead, it should be the other way around: learning that starts from questions that lead to knowledge. Our concept of education is still too much focused on the choices to be made today in order to get a degree that will guarantee a job tomorrow. The inner drive towards ones own realizations, aspirations, spontaneous questioning and creativity are still too much subordinated to the impossible guess of what a decade away job might look like, and that children and students are forced to learn in order to make it for a living in a future global competitive market. We still didn’t learn the lesson that these prediction rarely turn out to be correct anyway. Moreover, jobs are usually about the production of material things. Therefore, from childhood onward we are told by our society and learning system to focus on the external world, on the empiric data, on the strictly material knowledge and experience. But no time is allowed to listen to ourselves, to investigate our own inner depth, to search for the inspiration and passion which comes from within. The exclusive concentration on few intellectual directions to the exclusion of others, retracting the support to individuals working on their own approaches, has led us to an academic environment incapable of going beyond the status quo. Given this state of affairs, which is more or less consciously felt by students and potential bright minds, has led many to renounce entirely to their career and nowadays are no longer working in the field their heart was longing for. Or, on the other end of the line, for example, most of those who got to the top of the scientific academic hierarchy have become not scientists who manage research, but managers, politicians, bureaucrats with the only difference that they have a degree in science.

New selection criteria must be found, where the person, the scholar, the scientist is chosen, not for their sterile scholastic preparation, but for their ideas, ideals, aspirations and passions. And even the actuality of the line of research they propose shouldn’t be considered essential. Funding must not be granted to someone only because the line of research is actually considered the most trendy, but, at least a part of it, should be devoted to alternative, risky and unconventional paths.

University courses should become more flexible, that is, it should be conceived first of all not just as a place where to acquire knowledge and solve problems. Amassing knowledge shouldn’t be its main preoccupation. Nowadays, with the advent of the information age and the internet, everyone who can read and write is perfectly able to download every kind of information needed also without the help of a teacher or professor. They are no longer a key figure for information retrieval, whereas their function should be that of showing students the way of how they can become able of finding that knowledge by their own. Education institutions should be a place where people learn to learn, and learn to ask questions, and learn what has to be learned by themselves, with the help of someone who is not an instructor, a trainer or a drill sergeant, but an adviser, a counselor, a guide, a coach, a tutor, a mentor, an attendant who facilitates our own and personal search for knowledge and self-enfoldment. Let us call this figure a ‘facilitator’. A good problem solver is someone who has learned to ask good questions first. Students should no longer be treated as empty containers to be filled with intellectual notions. Ph.Ds, post-doc and researchers should not be considered like mere employees who have to obey orders passively and blindly.

Too much emphasis has been set on intellectual rigor, on mathematical perfection, on mechanical skills which are too exclusively focused in reproducing quickly specific tasks and by fast problem solving with zero tolerance for failure. But a creative process rests on the freedom to fail in a system that abhors uniformity. How idiotic would sports be if it would apply the same selection rules for marathoners and sprinters? It would be so idiotic as our present educational system. And, as Sir Ken Robinson explained [1], an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, “we have developed a culture where mistakes are stigmatizes”. Whereas, every scientist who has some direct experience in participating to a research project, be it in a purely theoretical subject or by performing experiments in a laboratory, knows very well that most attempts to find out for a new scientific truth have to go first through a huge amount of failures. An education that institutionalizes fear of failure is de facto an authoritarian system, per definition. It gave us lots of efficient executors indeed, but it killed also the spirit of the creative thinker. In this kind of environment, the ‘seer’, the intuitive thinker, the creative artist, the genuine talent and the genius are naturally de-selected from the outset. Human beings are too diverse to be enclosed in a single academic educational approach. There are a lot of diverse talents, approaches and styles. And yet, most of the current universities impose only one possible path. These institutions should open themselves to all the human characters: to the analytical, the intuitive, the artistic, the unconventional, the ‘rebel’ minds, etc.

We hear frequently people talking about the autonomy and freedom of science. But, in this regard, most research centers of today are the problem not the solution. They look exclusively at the speed and precision of intellectual reproduction and potential for manufacture, possibly added with good communication skills of the individual, but motivation (intrinsic or extrinsic) is officially seen as secondary. A free progress environment is necessary because there are several young students or potential students who feel the inner drive to question on the deeper meaning of things, who have an opening towards alternative approaches, who have great inspirations and aspirations, and could serve the collective development of a nation. But, when they enroll in a college, they have to discover that there is no such thing like the opportunity to express themselves. The individual development is hampered. They are forced to repress their own inner potentialities, and are compelled to follow lines that are not their owns. If they want to make a career, they have no other way out than sacrificing all to a study/work and professional path which has nothing to do with what their inner soul calls for and with what their real destiny should be. Not only, many of these are led to believe that there is something wrong in them and fall in depression and stress and finally abandon entirely the studies they have pursued for several years. Nowadays, those who perceive an urge to go beyond a mere analytical and superficial understandings of the physical world, those who want to focus on specific subjects because there is an inner drive to do so, must set aside these yearnings. They would like to progress and change and evolve but are forced to inhibit even suppress their own evolution.

Nowadays everyone is talking about ‘excellence’. But what is excellence? Setting up highly selective institutions who bring together the so called ‘best brains’ and order them to do what is required from the top like chickens in a hen house? Every manager would deny this, all unanimously tell us that they look for creative and original thinkers. But facts are quite different. “Work under pressure and in multitasking” is the motto and main pedagogical ideal of several top academic managers. A pedagogy that tells what, when and how to do the job. Every attempt to put forward ones own ideas, projects or alternative approaches is felt as an irritating attempt to overthrow their authority. Obviously they are always a bit disappointed that, despite having under their power grip several people who eventually published lots of scientific papers, not much groundbreaking stuff has been discovered. There is a pressure which generates fear, anger, sadness, frustration and ultimately hampers the emergence of a further consciousness in most individuals working in industries and research centers. And if things continue to go wrong the pressure is enhanced. But it should become clear instead that the solution is not to insist in doing more wrong things. An entirely new approach is needed. Real excellence can come only from within. And this fact remains alien to most teachers and academic figures today as in the past.


[1] L. A. Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Penguin Books, 2009.