Counting the cost

When we talk about the future of learning, we talk about the future of society. Most will agree that good education contributes significantly toward the wellbeing and prosperity of society. Without a trained, educated work force, nation states are not in a position to compete within the global economy. You only have to look at any emerging nation of the world where there is poor or partial compulsory education provision to see exactly how its economy is faring. Moreover, the higher the number of people unemployed, the more drain there will be on the economic and social resources of the state. This is the main reason why successive governments load their deck so heavily in favour of improved educational provision. It is politically expedient and it is also socially and economically desirable to seek to improve the state funded education provision. And it is why most changes imposed by governments don't actually work. This is because the governments of the world often remain blinded by economic considerations, and fail to see the true value of good education. Our leaders know the price of education, but have no idea about its true value.

Education is not just about preparing children for a world of work, and it is more than an organised attempt to secure the economic future of the nation. Education is far more valuable than that. How can we ignore the simple joy of learning? How can we measure the cultural value of learning about art, music, science, faith - the world around us? What price can we place on leading young people to maturity of thought, where they become discerning and critically aware individuals, able to decide for themselves what is right or wrong in the world? How do we place a price tag on enabling children to channel their fertile imaginations into precious, creative, transformative outcomes?

The answer is, we can't ... and we shouldn't. When the world falls apart around us, what we will be left with - is what we have learnt. And while the good people of Christchurch, New Zealand, are struggling to come to terms with their tragic losses, resulting from yesterday's devastating earthquake, what will they be doing? They will be surviving, escaping, organising, caring, sharing, coping, communicating, collaborating, rebuilding, reflecting and reappraising, and drawing on many other valuable skills they have learnt. Skills that go way beyond the mere acquisition of facts and knowledge. They will be drawing upon their emotional and intellectual resources which do not result solely from immersion in a 'curriculum', but rather through their exposure to the values and mores of their community.

As the news of the Christchurch earthquake broke yesterday, many people drew on their social media communication skills to connect with each other, providing vital information and sharing news, in a virtual community that spanned the globe. They achieved this without the help of the broadcast media, who were once again hours behind in reporting from the scene. We received reports from citizen journalists, people caught up in the drama of the moment, using their mobile phones to send out their pleas for help, and their remarkable but disturbing pictures and videos of the scenes they were witnessing before them. Such actions cannot be taught. There is no curriculum that can be developed to give us an appreciation of what we should do in a disaster or a crisis, no way to teach how we can communicate human tragedy as it unfolds. We learn by doing and we learn by being exposed to these experiences. And as we learn, others learn with us and from us. As a community, we somehow survive and ultimately, thrive. Lifelong learning is what education is made of. It was never about knowing what, always about knowing how. Let us never confuse schooling with education. If we do, what will be our future?

Dedicated to the memory of those lost in the Christchurch earthquake of 22 February, 2011.

Donate to the Red Cross NZ Earthquake victims fund

Image source
by Martin Luff

Creative Commons Licence
Counting the cost by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Comments

Mark Northover said…
Thanks for the acknowledgment of what Christchurch, and in fact the whole of New Zealand is going through at the moment by association. We all know people and probably have family in and around the Christchurch region and they have been suffering through the constant uncertainty of this event since September last year.

You are right - when push comes to shove we all fall back on our innate ability to survive and help our fellows, and it's life learning not book learning that comes to the fore. A tragic death toll already, but they will rebuild.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for the comment Mark. I'm especially sad because as you know, I spent time there in Christchurch last October during the Ulearn Conference. It's not easy to watch the footage and see the horror and the people suffering so badly in a town I remember only as a wonderful, peaceful place.
Kate said…
It is a horrible, horrible time... and we are grateful to everyone, worldwide, who sends their good wishes. I, like many others, have had a sleepless night worrying about friends and family in Christchurch, even after hearing that they were ok.

However, I disagree with your view of the value of social vs broadcast media. By mid-afternoon I switched off the twitter stream, except for occasional glimpses, and turned on the tv coverage. I found the twitter stream repetitive, often misleading or inaccurate, and clogged with well-meaning but not-useful messages. TV3 had fantastic on-the-spot coverage, professional presentation par excellence (Hilary Barrie was superb), provided good advice and notifications, and was certainly not hours behind events.

Then I spent all night glued to Radio National (still am), which also kept up a good stream of information through the night.

I'm not dissing social media, but I think mainstream media did a fantastic job. It's just great to have choices!

Also worthy of note has been the value of cellphone txts. A considerable number of trapped people were able to alert family and therefore rescuers to their location, which has been fantastic. Certainly, for me and my contacts, txt messaging was by far the best and quickest way to confirm safety, and kept people from overloading the landlines. Of course these messages aren't visible to social media adherents.

So let's not get rid of 'old' media just yet. I reckon there are many thousands of people who not only depend on it, but still find it valuable.

Cheers, and thanks for your kind thoughts, Steve. I'm glad you enjoyed your time here, and hope you will do so again.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comments Kate. Not saying 'get rid of traditional media' - just making the observation that whenever there is a major incident happening somewhre around the world, citizen journalists are there first, and we hear about it more quickly through social media such as Twitter. Traditional media has its place as a means of informing the world what is happening in a more measured and accurate way. However, in the case of somewhere such as Libya where there is a complete media blackout, we can only rely on the citizen journalists to learn anything at all about what is happening.
zev_nz said…
As the Secretary of a Federation that comprises a small group of aquarist/aquarium societies in New Zealand, we found that when the 'traditional' methods of communication break down, other methods of communication became invaluable for our members to contact each other and offer help and assistance to those in Christchurch.

We run a forum for our members which yesterday became polarised with concern for the safety and well being of our members, their families and pets (aquatic, of course). Offers of accommodation for both human and pets were abundant.

At one point during the late afternoon the family of one of our Christchurch members contacted a member in Tauranga seeking any information on her father. I was able to co-ordinate from 740 kilometers away via the forum and text contact with this member, whose daughter was eternally grateful as she had heard that his house had been totally wrecked and all his fish and reptiles were dead. This was not quite the case, but his house suffered significant damage and the majority of his pets have been rehomed temporarily by a member of our Federation who went out of her way to check if he was alright and offer the use of her mobile phone to contact his daughter.

Another member owns a cafe just out of the main city, after narrowly avoiding being crushed by a falling commercial oven and speared by falling broken crockery, he ensured that the the firemen outside were well fed, along with the backpackers around the corner before giving away the remainder of his food and milk stocks before they perished. He severely doubts if his business will survive this last quake, but this was the last thing on his mind when he gave away his hard earned stock - not something they teach you in business school.

Some members managed to post on Facebook to confirm to their family and friends that they were ok, saving them the angst of not knowing how they were faring, or if they were indeed still alive. This also served to save duplication of messages and not tax telephone resources. I do, however fear that many a Facebook account will no longer be updated by the owner, and will instead become a place of obituary instead.
Steve Wheeler said…
Zev_NZ - thanks for posting an your very moving account which just goes to prove that the human spirit cannot be crushed. I have nothing but admiration for the work being done to recover post-quake. The way you have used social media and mobile communication tools to co-ordinate and organise recovery is inspiring. You are awesome.

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