What's Wrong With Education (And How Can We Fix It?)

Broken education produces broken people. How can integral perspectives and practices help our education systems generate more happy, healthy, and wholesome kids?

It’s hard to think of anyone better to talk to about this issue than Mark Fischler, who has deep familiarity with the educational system (both as a professor and as a father), with the justice system, and with integral theory itself.

Mark and I take a close look at the many dysfunctions, injustices, and failures we see in our education system — both within the system (how and what kids are being taught) as well as surrounding the system (access to education, funding, etc.).

What should our educational systems be teaching? When we take an integral view, we can see how many different kinds of intelligence our kids are engaged with, all of which we want to help support in our children, both at home and at school:

  • Cognitive intelligence (math, science, literature, etc.)
  • Creative and aesthetic intelligence (art, music, etc.)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (kindness, empathy, tolerance, etc.)
  • Intrapoersonal intelligence (self-care, self-knowledge, etc.)
  • Emotional intelligence (social emotional learning, etc.)
  • Psychosexual intelligence (sex education)
  • Kinesthetic intelligence (physical education)
  • Moral/ethical intelligence (worldcentric standards of right/wrong)
  • Self-identity intelligence ("Who am I?")
  • Spiritual intelligence ("What is my ultimate concern?")

We can also see the importance of the multiple stages of development that all of these different kinds of intelligence grow through over the course of our children’s educational tract, and how these things always need to be taught in a developmentally-appropriate way. We can see the many dysfunctions that can come with launching our kids into Orange self-authoring stages of development within a deconstructed Green environment, without first providing solid Amber foundations for each of these different kinds of intelligence.

Mark and Corey also discuss some of our current cultural controversies, such as the role of “parents’ rights” when it comes to determining what should or shouldn’t be taught to our kids. We then explore some possible solutions for our most wicked educational problems — including a reconstituted role for integral guidance counsellors, who would essentially become as a central integral axle running through the many spokes of our education system — essentially academic “life coaches” that can track kids’ progress in these multiple intelligences over multiple years, who can ensure that they are being supported and challenged in whatever developmental lines they excel in, and can provide suggestions, resources, and interventions for kids who get “stuck” in any of these lines.

It was a tremendously rich and warm-hearted conversation, and we hope you let us know what you think in the comments below.

Note: This episode was recorded in the weeks before the tragic events of Uvalde, Texas, which thoroughly shattered all our hearts, and which we are each and all mourning in our own way. While it remains virtually impossible to wrap our hearts and heads fully around such magnitudes of suffering, it nonetheless makes integral discussions such as these feel that much more urgent, and deepens the commitment Mark and I share to both pursue and enact integral justice however and wherever we can.

“The tragedy in Uvalde requires a multiperspectival deep dive to bring clarity and right action. Recognizing we don’t have easy answers is part of it. That shouldn’t freeze us, but create a fierce urgency to get it right. Where do we go? Start with creating an ethics of care.” —Mark Fischler

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I suppose each of these forms of intelligence can be mapped within AQAL somehow. I have heard some people would like to think of all forms of intelligence within the UL and LL and then in some cases in relation to other quadrants. Scientific intelligence, for example, can be seen as a UL line in relation to the UR. Also I’m interested in exploring how the lines of development can be categorized as System 1 (intuitive) vs. System 2 (deliberative).

I’m wondering if this might be related to a comment I made in another thread about the difference between vertical “structure” development (such as the stages of cognitive intelligence) and horizontal “content” development (which is kind of how I visualize “scientific intelligence”). As I mentioned in that thread, we expect all structures to start at square one, but not necessarily the content — we wouldn’t expect a scientist to have to learn alchemy before chemistry, for example.

So “scientific intelligence” would be the various insights, methodologies, and artifacts produced by cognitive intelligence as applied to the natural world, as enacted by each stage of development (amber science, orange science, green science, etc.)

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I have been trying to figure out the cognitive science correlates for the UL and LL state and stage structures. I think this is underdeveloped in Integral. Wilber has the Eye of Flesh, Mind, Contemplation. I haven’t been able to figure out how Kahneman’s System 1 fits into that so I ended up assuming we’d have to subdivide the Eye of Mind and do that for UL and LL. I created this table https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1fVkR9lLiC1eADGJfcz0quI29409mywwx/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=117491835000953037563&rtpof=true&sd=true Note that this correlates with a lot of the work of Vervaeke, Henriques, and others. Much of Integral Theory is not included in this table, including the entire right quadrants, although the UTOK column is supposed to offer that correlation. Also there are probably aspects of the inner world left out, including higher-mind phenomena that are beyond any System 1/2 functions. I just wanted to offer this as a starting point for how to correlate between Integral and cognitive science. I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Comments are welcome from anyone.

Most everything you wrote here is above my head, so forgive me if this is irrelevant. This may be more of a UL UR inquiry, but I too am very interested in the state/stage relationship to learning and development. My daughter has a “learning disorder” and it always seems very complicated and no “experts” can give me any clear answers.

What’s interesting to me is in the battery of testing I have done what I have learned that no one knows how to address, is her waking mind rest is Theta and not Alpha. From integral we know that Theta corresponds to the dream/subtle state and this seems very consistent to her behavior. In online research, this is also consistent with many diagnosed with ADHD, one of her many diagnoses.

Her gifts are also consistent with, what I view, as theta. I think if we could look more at the relationship of state/stage structures it might be very helpful. I wonder about difficulty “shifting states” as an issue for many. That is her issue and it’s why ADHD medication helps. It’s so counter intuitive to think giving a child stimulants will help with ADHA, but what it does is “wake the brain up” like your morning coffee, it’s speeds the transition. My daughter did not respond well to ADHD meds, they caused anxiety, because theta is also the state of mediation, calming. She really likes hanging out in theta.

I also can see friends who have kids with issues where they may be stuck in beta too much. If we have people stage developing mostly in the theta state, that will look different that someone who develops mostly in beta/alpha state. I wonder about cultures too that have strong theta practices vs beta.

I just think it’s interesting and the issue really needs integral voices/study to more fully understand.

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@Michelle I don’t really have anything to add, just wanted to say how much I appreciated your summary of your daughter’s talents and challenges. I am also the father of a little girl with special needs (physical and mental — she received a liver transplant when she was a baby, and is working with mild Tourettes/tic disorder) which, for me, makes these sorts of integral perspectives and conversations even more rewarding, because they help me enact her kosmic address more fully, which allows me to find more appropriate ways to engage her in her learning. And while we hear a lot about how things like stages, lines of development, and quadrants are fundamental to the educational experience, we don’t talk a whole lot about states, which your comment surfaces in a big way.

I am not sure how old your daughter is (mine is 9 presently), but I am wondering if a couple things might help (admitting I am coming from a very non-informed point of view, because I don’t know your daughter at all!)

  • Have you guys done any cognitive behavioral therapy that can help her better orient herself to the various emotional and mental states she may be experiencing? This has been huge for my daughter, but it’s certainly not a universal panacea (but if we were looking for a panacea, I think CBT would be on top of the list, just in terms of the number of ailments it can help with.)

  • Has your daughter done any state-training at all — mindfulness, meditation, even things like binaural beats — that can help her consciously regulate her states, and even change them if desired? (My daughter is still developing the attention span to be able to do this in a prolonged way, but I love that both her CBT and her school uses mindfulness techniques to help these kids learn.)

Thanks for sharing Michelle, this is a fascinating (and important) discussion to have.

integral perspectives and conversations even more rewarding, because they help me enact her kosmic address more fully

For sure! I love her theta mind, I think it’s a gift.

Good to know about CBT, I think that’s what we are looking into this summer. Everything is so specialized right now I can never figure out exactly what’s what, but mostly in a good way. Many people here are integrally combining several approaches. I will ask more directed questions about it now.

We have tried some state training to not much success but I have been thinking about binaural beats. Music is her thing so I think she will respond better to it than mindfulness practices.

She is 14 now. I think she is ready for more intensive work. She has very early childhood trauma folded in there too, so the balancing act between focus and anxiety is dicey. But I am so grateful for the integral approach that allowed me to quickly see the gifts of her brain function.

Me too :slight_smile:

As I sometimes like to say, Integral helps us see more of each other — and when we can see more, we can love more. Here’s to your integral love :heart:

Music is her thing so I think she will respond better to it than mindfulness practices.

Oh, then I think binaruals will be PERFECT for her. There are some exceptionally beautiful ones out there, aesthetically speaking. Be sure to check out the selection from our friends over at iAwake. If you have any questions, I am sure @john_dupuy would be happy to answer them for you :slight_smile:

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I was wondering about any trauma in her history, Michelle, as those theta states are pretty common to psychological dissociation which is common to some forms of trauma.

From my orientation, I would have a tendency to think in terms of encouraging both physical and subtle energy body grounding, while also providing outlets and means for intentional use of the theta state.

You’re probably well-attuned to much of this anyway, but I would just mention things like a grounding diet (lots of root vegetables and animal protein if tolerated and within your ethics) and plenty of outdoor activity that is deeply connective to the earth. Dancing too. Old native thing: cornmeal rubs on the full body after bathing. (Asian version: warm sesame oil full-body self-massages, including soles of feet and scalp, then bathing).

Also, somatic-imagery exercises that work directly to send one’s subtle energy deeply into the earth (e.g. imagine you’re a tree, sense your roots growing way down deep into the earth; things of this ilk.)

Drawing, art, and intentional use of imagery while in theta state also, and the binaural beats Corey mentioned.

And an old shamanic technique–saying one’s own name a lot! Particularly repeating it right before going to sleep–then paying attention to dreams!

Bless you and your daughter.

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Her dreams are interesting. She lucid dreams all the time. She rarely realizes she has power to control the dream in that state. I’m fascinated about how our natural sleep patterns work with healing.

Thanks for the suggestions. I like the saying your name. That feels like an easy thing to do when she gets anxious.