Traditional and Alternative Education in America
Education is considered to be necessary in bringing up an individual, a personality. Alongside with commonly accepted traditional education, there exists nontraditional one. Surely, their conceptions and methods are different. Both are trying to make its system as effective, as possible, but there can be no perfect educational system.
One of drawbacks of traditional educational system is predetermination and one and the same approach to every personality. Of course, schedules and plans have become an essential part of any educational system, but the problem is in identical experience pupils and students get.
There are some common features, which can be helpful for any educational system. They are like essential parts and common guides, which help to find one’s own way. First of all, here belong books. Books are commonly recognized as a treasury of people’s thought and history, manuals of behavior and best friends in finding answers.
The second necessary part of getting experience is traveling. It helps to learn the world firsthand and acquire unique and useful experience. Moreover, the main purpose of education is to know oneself through knowing other people and events. We should never be ashamed asking questions. On the contrary, interviewing other people will help to explain what is going on in the world and where our place in it is.
All these common elements will help to create one’s own unique picture of the world and will result in broadmindedness and tolerance, which are desirable traits of every postmodern personality.
A book is a unique source of inspiration. It can satisfy “vague yearning for adventure” (Potts 4). By means of a book we can visit an unknown earth and get to know about everything in the world.
But what can be better than visiting terra incognita by oneself? Potts claims: “Tourists leave home to escape the world, while travelers leave home to experience the world” (Potts 8). So, finding out much new about the world can become a way of life and a source of emotions and knowledge. No wonder, that everybody, who likes traveling, is also fond of reading.
“Travel is his [Herodotus] vital exertion, his self-justification in the delving into, the struggle to learn—about life, the world, perhaps ultimately oneself” (Kapuscinski 58). Admiring the multiplicity of world, Ryszard Kapuscinski traveled all his life and did his job of a journalist.
His desire to cross the border of native Poland and see other countries is understandable, because it is in human nature to explore other worlds and admire their uniqueness, as “these other worlds, these other cultures, are mirrors in which we can see ourselves better – for we cannot define our own identity until having confronted that of others, as comparison” (Kapuscinski 118).
The author of Travels with Herodotus admired this ancient traveler. Herodotus was the first to claim that each culture must be accepted as it is and understood. Herodotus’s works accompanied the author everywhere and guided him in the world, full of events and adventures.
The author tells about his studies at Warsaw University and his further work experience of a journalist. He admires Herodotus’s great curiosity and thriving for information obtained.
Surely, reading books, fiction and scientific, is useful for education. Actually, the author learned English from Hemingway. Of course, the book is influenced much by the author’s experience as a journalist; nevertheless, it contains some points, useful for everybody.
In The Global Soul we read: “The unhappiest people I know these days are often the ones in motion, encouraged to search for a utopia outside themselves” (Iyer 244). Here the author underlines alienation from homes, which has overtook modern people, full-time citizens of nowhere.
The problem of restless and rootless vagrancy of people originates from upbringing and education. They have become transnational and cosmopolitan. Modern human gets so much information and impressions that his mind may explode.
The point is that technology and travel are two great engines and they rule the world. And the author sees the menace in these engines. It lies in homelessness.
People move so much and so quickly, they lose their identity. They cannot say where their motherland or home is. And the author makes a conclusion, based on his own life experience. Simple life is not bad as it may seem. And home is where we decide it will be. It is a place where we feel comfortable.
Another author expresses his own thirst for knowledge. The notion that there exist so much unknown and interesting things makes excited and full of energy.
The author felt “immensely proud to realize that not only had I written so much at one time, but I’d written words that I never knew were in the world” He tells about his homemade learning, and we see that this system of self-education can be very productive. “With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events from history… Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia” (X Malcolm).
But the books give only intellectual challenge. How to use this material depends only on us: “I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me” (X Malcolm). Thus, personal motivation and thorough meditating make foundation for this type of learning. No matter where a student is, in prison or in college. On the contrary, in prison one is not distracted like he is in college.
The message of this essay is that that reading can change forever the course of life. Books show not only diversity of the world, but also injustice in it. Racial oppression goes hand in hand with economic, social and political issues. And in order to reveal and eradicate this injustice, it is necessary to understand its nature. Here the best helpers are books.
We would like to highlight that traditional method of teaching lack fresh breath in postmodern society, which is so diverse. On one hand, its exploration becomes an exciting experience, on the other – this very exploration is under threat to turn into restless vagrancy.
Here we need some new approach and combination of methods: books, traveling and communicating with people. We should also add tireless, fearless, skeptical and scrupulous thirst for knowledge. These fundamentals are sure to help to succeed in education.
Traveling means experiencing the world firsthand, hearing and seeing events and people by oneself. It is considered to be the only authentic source of information obtained. Traveling means not only crossing the border of the country. It is also crossing the border of one’s mind. Knowing other cultures gives food for thought and senses, makes us learning every day non-stop. Thus, we consider traveling one of the most essential features of modern education.
Another fundamental part is book in broad sense. Books changes course of life, satisfies thirst for new and unknown; educates the best traits in a person, makes world richer and more understandable. Realizing the importance of reading, we may only agree with the opinion that book is the best teacher.
It is a treasure, a friend, an instructor. That is why one of the purposes of modern education is to teach the reader to read. It means to learn how to choose books, how to read them, how to find new and useful in books, and how to understand the message of the book.
In order to understand the world, its laws, and rules life better, people should communicate with other people. “We see our own lives in the stories of others” (Liu 7). This communication can take place everywhere: at workplaces, houses of worship, classrooms, kitchens, cafes.
Asking only two questions “Who influenced you?” and “How do you pass it on?” people can get unique experience and look deep into their souls. The problem of modern education is that “communication skills – speaking and listening – are often overshadowed by the emphasis on reading and writing” (Isay 3).
Listening helps to understand a small world of a separately taken person and by means of it try to understand our big world and own place in it – to achieve the ultimate aim of education. “Talking…is channeled into interview”, which “can lead to purposeful, authentic assignments and unique classroom collaborations” (Isay 3).
Rapturous enthusiasm and curiosity of a child will help in knowing about the world, other people and cultures. Knowledge needs also some kind of scrupulousness and preservation. One should write things down so they didn’t disappear.
Interviewing about education, we found out that only good memories survive. Answering the question what they learnt from experiences during the journey, people told about so many things that have impressed them and influenced their further life.
And people are convinced that great books, they have read, and experience, they have got while traveling and talking to other people, were very useful for their education. So, these are common features for every educational system, because they teach true life and are inexhaustible in their potential.
Isay, David. A techer’s guide to Listening is an Act of Love: a Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project. NY: Penguin Press, 2008.
Iyer, Pico. The Global Soul – Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home. New York: Vintage Books USA, 2001.
Kapuscinski, Ryszard. Travels with Herodotus. London: Allen Lane, 2007.
Liu, Eric. Guiding Lights: How to Mentor-and Find Life’s Purpose. NY: Ballantine Books, 2006.
Potts, Rolf. Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer. Calif.: Travelers’ Tales, 2008.
X Malcolm. A Homemade Education.
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