Competency Based Education
Why Teaching Math, Science, and Reading Is Not Enough
‘Love what you do. Get good at it. Competence is a rare commodity in this day and age.’ ~Jon Stewart
In 2008, while studying to become a teacher, I fell down a rabbit hole of systems theory: Food systems, tax systems, multinational corporate systems… The myriad of layers which shape our 21st century existence…
Let’s take a step back…
Why did I choose to become a teacher?
To the best of my ability, after my first year of college, I reassessed my course. I had began with the intention of becoming a counselor_ I wanted to help people out of pain and into health. But, I came to believe that counseling, “therapy”, specifically, was a corrupt and reactive field which extorts huge fees from people in need while providing band aids to injuries that might have been proactively prevented if there were some systemic cultural changes…
I surmised that I might enter education and equip young people, not only to proactively avoid and mitigate their own emotional traumas, but, these tools could help them become lay-counselors to everyone they care about (meaning that the healing I had wanted to do as a counselor might be multiplied and personal, systemic and self-promoting.
“Heal a person today and they are well until their next injury. Teach a person to heal and they will heal the world”.
So, I shifted into education.
But, as I followed the systems logic and watched the global economy collapse and baseless wars rage… I had to ask myself:
“Teaching people to be abundant and resilient is all well and good… but, to what end?”
Would I teach people to be healthy, compassionate, and successful only to send them off to “succeed” in a world which has corrupted every sector. A world where “success” and “injustice” were inseparable?
In a infinitely connected economic system, operation within in the system would always be inescapably unethical.
You could buy “fair trade” at your local crunchy mart but, there is no way to ensure your dollar won’t be rerouted to WalMart in short order — it’s basically guaranteed.
Not to mention: Where do those “Ethical”, “Organic”, “Sustainable” products originate? If they originated within the United States at all, typically they come from the few regions where those production principles are ubiquitous… So, even the most ethical alternative products end up eliminating their benefit because of their embodied energy, their transportation cost, their carbon footprint (so, the dollars not going to WalMart get pocketed by Big Oil).
We cannot consume our way out of a consumer crisis.
We must produce our way out of consumption.
What does this have to do with education?
Well, after extensive struggle for alternatives, I was forced to conclude that if I was to teach young people to become sustainable, just, happy, and healthy… I had to find a way to teach them, to empower them to exit this economic system altogether.
Any participation in the global economy was a complicit contribution to ecocide, exploitation, and corrupt government.
Those entities are implicit in every transaction. If one wanted to separate from the injustice and destruction wrought by those three forces, one could not exist within the system.
Not even as a teacher.
Not even as nonprofit director.
Even the most well intentioned and ethical person, within this system, inherently relies on the subsidized support of unethical enterprise.
A teacher is financed, in part, by the sale of fuel and sweat shop goods.
A nonprofit director, inevitably, is fueled by funds donated by people and entities which have profited wholly or partially through corrosive industry.
This is the Foundation of Indispensable Education
If the dollar was worthless tomorrow would your job still be important? If a hurricane came through your region and destroyed roads and utilities, would your professional skills be helpful?
SOL Education and Whole Human Development are educational modalities born from the understanding that education should not simply serve as a training combine to create reading, writing, calculating automatons which serve the interests of businesses and governments. Education should equip and empower the individual to support and enrich themselves, their community, and their environment.
Education, to this end, is significantly different than our common core curriculum as we know it today.
Math, reading, and writing are very helpful skills, but life does not end or begin as a data processing exercise.
Life is a social environmental endeavor, the act of procuring and cultivating food, water, shelter, and mutually beneficial connection.
Everything else is superfluous.
To prioritize clerical skills over life-support is an obvious delusion, incentivized by an entire system built upon imaginary monies and legal fictions. Not a system built upon life, health, or logic.
As Seth Godin posits in his book Linchpin:
Are you becoming a cog or linchpin?
- Are you doing busy work?
- Or are you making life possible and improving the world?
Do you spend your days providing unnecessary goods and services so that you might earn some green paper in order to purchase some more unnecessary goods and services?
Do you spend your days functioning as whole, indispensable human providing nutrition, shelter, and well-being to yourself and those around you?
You might say: “Money allows me to be a linchpin. To be provider.”
But, does the work that earns you that money build you up? Does it improve your community? Does it nurture your environment?
This is Competence
In nature, a creature is a “child” as long as it depends on its parent(s) to provide it with food, water, and shelter.
A creature is an “adult” as soon as it makes the transition out of dependency. When something is able to secure its own food, water, and shelter — it is “Mature”. It is competent.
Domestic animals are largely defined by their need of human caretakers. The domestication process is intertwined by a degradation of self-sufficiency. Domestic animals stay near the very people who intend to kill them because of a dependency upon their methodical predators.
The caretaker-consumer relationship is an important analogy, because it demonstrates that the best way to harvest the energy and lives of other creatures is to become their caretaker. To foster dependency is to own and subject another.
So, the remedy to subjugation is COMPETENCE. MATURITY. “ADULTHOOD”. SELF-SUFFICIENCY.
These skills should not be reserved to the realm of middle-aged survivalists. These skills, this indispensable education… it begins shortly after birth. To be effective, these skills are shared and practiced as soon the person becomes mobile.
Like the fox. They do not wait until they reach physical maturity before practicing the skills of the adult. They wrestle and play with litter mates, developing muscle, reflexes, and communication. The self organized learning — the learning instincts — These skills are engaged as soon as possible. Always pushed, always challenged, developing, and improving until the individual accomplishes their personal level of mastery. Which is a content, yet always improving competency.