Introduction to Free Progress Education
You cannot teach a man anything,
you can only help him find it within himself.
Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)
Galilei, who was quite ahead of his time, had this insight already centuries ago. And yet, nowadays, our schools and universities are still based on a century-old pedagogical and didactical model that ignores this wisdom. The main duty of this system was that to create obedient citizens for industrial production and military efficiency.
Today, we see dictatorships fall, new freedoms blossom, and the Internet allows for more individual self-expression. But the education in schools, colleges, and universities continues to be ruled by an unchanged authoritarian and hierarchical mindset, where the creative potential of the individual is, in the best case, a by-product and, in most cases, is even feared. Educational institutions are based more than ever primarily on a dry and mechanistic learning process, which ignores humans’ creative and spiritual dimensions.
It is time to change this! We need urgently age-mixed learning environments capable of cultivating individual freedoms, talents, and the ‘inner call’ of everybody, while also fostering the development of personality. A system with democratic structures, which encourages free self-initiative. A place where new forms of teaching and learning are practices, for lifelong learning by doing, for learning by teaching, and where everyone can learn to learn. A learning environment where not compulsion and a pre-ordered age-limited academic path dominates, which is imposed to pupils or students with forced curricula of an institution or by generation-old bureaucratic rules, but one that is characterized by the freedom to study what one feels inwardly must be learned.
Educational science focuses almost exclusively on primary and secondary schools. There is no logical justification for that. It is a century-old conviction that pedagogy should be only for children. It has its roots in the idea that ‘true learning’ for adults can happen only in that form that is currently used and in a mentality, that does not consider the necessities of the individual, but is, first and foremost, interested in a standardized organization of the state and the masses.
We will try to outline the foundations of a Free Progress Education (FPE) based on the assumption that the best way of learning, acquiring knowledge, and doing research is a process of self-unfoldment that must be guided from within, in contrast, to present school, college, and university systems that are focused on imposing a pre-ordered quantity of knowledge through exams and grades, in the process killing creativity and individual skills by uniformity. A free-progress learning center would be expected to foster intuition, passion, self-directed learning in diversity, and, especially, wholesome respect for the practice of complete and responsible freedom of individual expression and progress guided by an inner understanding.
We would like to build learning environments that can be viable alternatives to present high schools and colleges, where new forms of pedagogical and didactical settings are tried out. The main emphasis will be placed on self-structured and self-directed forms of learning processes. Professors will be replaced by ‘mentors’ who do not have formal authority and who will have much more the function of ‘helpers’ and ‘companions’. Students will be allowed to put together their own curriculum and choose their learning materials by themselves, without forced guidelines of a bureaucratic and hierarchical system, if they feel the proposed ones don’t fit their needs. New pedagogical as didactic forms, as, for instance, flipped teaching methods, inquiry-based learning, learning by teaching, project-based learning, or a Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE), could be part of a self-directed-learning process. Exams, grades, and certificates are replaced by portfolios that allow for creativity, intuition, and the comeback of true forms of self-determined learning. The certificate-centered resume could be replaced by a competence portfolio which would tell much more about a job applicant.
We no longer believe in reform from the inside of the current school and university paradigm, which is, at its core, an authoritarian system. “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them”, as Einstein recognized. Modern neuroscience showed that it is difficult to leave the old data highways in our brain to allow for new ways of thinking and to question and break old established thought and action patterns. It is the same inertia that affects the established education system. Only a peaceful but radical revolution, which grows and develops from the bottom up and from new pedagogical ideals, has a chance to change the paradigm.
We stand, as a society, in front of many diverse and global challenges. For a peaceful future, it will be essential to recognize education as a priority on a broader scale and, for society, as one of the most important resources that we must strengthen and pursue together. For a free education, which allows people to search collectively for solutions and find new answers. People, who learned during their self-directed education to create from diverse sources other than purely rational analysis and the reproduction of old and well-known stuff.
This is a call to action. It invites all those interested and ready to contribute with their skills and know-how to the development of this dream and to participate in the creation of a full-fledged Free Progress University (FPU) based on an FPE paradigm.