Making It Clear: Ego-based Education Should Be Out, Heart-Based In!

I had no intention of spending another day on education at this point; however, this morning, I helped proctor an ACT test. While strict records of times and conditions are required, it’s really not taxing — not for me.

I haven’t proctored for awhile. I do help students prepare for these tests, and I always do it by de-emphasizing the significance of them. You can say what you want, but when people decide they want something and focus and drive, they will get it. Tests don’t matter. A mediocre GPA doesn’t matter. I have heard educators many times say at least it makes reaching goals easier if you really strive to do well in school and score high on tests to get into a college of choice. Yeah, no, not if young adults have no idea of who they are or what they want to do.

You know what else really helps? Having a family fortune backing you up, but the same principles apply: if one does not know who they are or what they want, they are miserable rich people who mess things up instead of miserable poor people.

Point: This lame excuse for extrinsic motivation of doing the best for some unknown, undetermined future sucks. Blowing the importance of the test out of all proportions does do one thing well: it creates massive stress for most students.

By the way, often educators will jump on relatively meaningless shit like this because they really need something to do, something to focus on, something to lend validity to their work. That’s sad. An ACT or SAT college admissions test, if necessary (not), should just be taken as run of the mill at a certain point with no extra preparation and no pressure. Just see how things are, and while I don’t need this, it would be better. But this is impossible now.

As with many issues, when we experience personal encounters with someone living in a situation, opinions can be reinforced or changed. This morning, I saw a student break down in tears — not during the test but at the end when the impact of it hit. Paying a hefty fee for professional tutoring (not from me!) didn’t make a difference when time was forgotten and blank spaces were left on the ACT, which is one of the first things students are told not to do because, unlike the SAT, there is no penalty for wrong answers — always a 25% chance of getting it right. I should mention this student already scored significantly above state and national scores. I should also mention the test is destructive — oh, not the score but the fact the test is norm-referenced.

The other sort of test is criterion-referenced, like end-of-course exams, common core tests, and others. And this brings me to my main point tonight, a simple point I have stated but I want to make this as stark and bold as I can, especially after witnessing a bright, sweet-natured student reduced to tears over something as meaningless as an academic test.

The current mainstream education system is Ego-based. This is not a positive thing for education, individuals living it, or the society into which students will emerge. They have been taught to respond to Ego stimuli and chase Ego goals. They will produce an Ego-driven government either through being politicians themselves or through participation in the voting process. Ego-driven individuals, cultures, and societies will produce Ego consequences, the worst being destruction resulting from unfulfilled drives to know who we are, recognizing Heart, self-identity, and to live as creative beings, designing and implementing the creation of our own Purpose.

Evidence of Ego permeates education today. The emphasis on testing — I don’t care if they are formative like everyday tests in the classroom or if they are summative criterion-based tests or if they are normed tests like the college admissions and IQ tests. Tests do exactly what Ego does: rank and segregate and isolate and shove us into some role in some bell-shaped curve, in an egoic society in which everyone must have some role in comparison to all else and within the standard deviations. Or, if criterion-referenced, be measuring up to others’ standards — oftentimes invalid, stupid ones. (I’ve seen them and debated them and refuted them as I have been on a number of curriculum committees and served on establishing criteria on a state select committee.)

Most mission statements of schools say something about life-long learners; they develop life-long followers, working to please someone else, to gain acceptance and give a false sense of significance defined by someone else. Emptiness. Frustration. Kids crying over tests because they failed someone else. And you know the insidious part? They believe they are the someone else.

I could examine almost any instance of standard practices in most schools, public, charter public, or private, and give ample evidence of an Ego-based value system. Do we really want that for our young people and our society? You do understand, don’t you, that if Ego is the basis, communism, democracy, poverty, wealth, relationships, or anything in life is determined by who ends up with the most power, who is strongest, and we just take what we want from those who are weaker? That’s what is happening now.

I am proposing Heart-based education, where discovering Self and creating purpose makes up the philosophical foundation. The end. But that end is the beginning of a significant, far more significant, education. Carl Rogers in his powerful, insightful work, Freedom to Learn, harmonizes with this approach to education, which I classify as a redefinition. He calls his approach “person-centered.” It’s what I call Heart. He observes many of the things I write about describing current philosophy.

He also elaborates how his “person-centered,” my Heart-based education, appears, because he saw it implemented in a number of schools. I saw the same evidence when I practiced it with my students. I also know the work of Big Picture Schools, operating as I write this, yields validity.

It boils down, in many ways, to this statement by Rogers: “The tentative conclusion is that even though modern humans no longer trust religion or science or philosophy or any system of beliefs to give them their values, they can find an organismic valuing base deep within themselves…” (291). I call that “organismic valuing base” Heart. The corollaries, extrapolations, and reasoning based on this create Heart-based education.

This is what we need now. Unless people, informed people who can make their voices heard, campaign for such schools, the democratic experience Americans hoped for or blindly believed they have is doomed. Too dramatic? I hope you don’t have to see that.

Philosophy and practice must be changed from an Ego-based education system, including all its continual and ineffective reforms, to a Heart-based education, no system involved.


(Rogers, Carl R., and H. Jerome. Freiberg. Freedom to learn. Third ed. New York: Merrill, 1995. Print.)



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