I have never been a conformist and have beat my head against many bureaucratic brick walls. I’m pretty sure there were plenty of teachers, administrators, professors, and supervisors who were happy to see the door hit me on the way out. But I have always believed that institutions should be grafting in divergent thinkers, not weeding them out with biased protocols. How else can you disrupt the status quo? But that is the problem with the status quo, they are the ones in power.
When you are a child, adults are the status quo. They decide what is important to learn, what is acceptable behavior, and what constitutes success. In my experience, conformity causes suffering. If you don’t believe me, just watch a differently-abled learner try to succeed in a traditional classroom.
Why can’t children determine how, what, and why they learn? We are not privy to their world as adults. We don’t know what skills they will need to be successful in a world not yet formed. Why do adults feel we have the right to dictate what is important to learn?
Maslow has long been recognized for his hierarchy of needs theory, a five stage model of human growth that is divided into basic needs: physiological, safety, love, and esteem; followed by growth needs, whereby people are motivated to reach the highest level of self-actualization. In The Farther Reaches of Nature, Maslow (1971) discusses a society where people have a high synergic relationship to one another and help each other reach the highest and most inclusive levels of human consciousness. In this book, Maslow describes the ideal college to help people self actualize. Just imagine if we substituted the word “college” for “school” and taught our children utilizing Maslow’s recommended educational model!
“In the ideal college [school], there would be no credits, no degrees, and no required courses. A person would learn what he wanted to learn…In the ideal college [school], intrinsic education would be available to anyone who wanted it—since anyone can improve and learn…The ideal college [school] would be a kind of educational retreat in which you could try to find yourself; find out what you like and want; what you are, and are not, good at. People would take various subjects, attend various seminars, not quite sure of where they were going, but moving toward the discovery of vocation, and once they found it, they could then make good use of technological education. The chief goals of the ideal college [school], in other words, would be the discovery of identity, and with it, the discovery of vocation” (Maslow, 1971, pp. 182-183).