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Education in a Time Between Worlds

Zak Stein

…the years between 2000 and 2050 represent a critical turning point in the history of humanity and the planet…I argue that fundamental transformations of our social structures (economies and institutions), ecosystems (biosphere and agriculture), and consciousness (culture and identity) are upon us. These require a fundamentally new approach to education that entails the end of what we have known as schooling.
— Zak Stein

Zak Stein is a philosopher moving in the meta-modernism space. The amount of information he synthesizes is incredible. One of those humans who seems like he’s metabolized the entirety of human knowledge.

Through that work, his focus comes out on education. He believes new visions of education are, at their heart, visions for the creation of a new kind of human.

“Groups can change society by establishing alternate modes of education; new modes of education shape the future of all political and economic life because they involve the creation of a new kind of human.” 

Stein follows John Dewey in viewing the problems of philosophy as fundamentally questions of education:

“All the problems of philosophy are encapsulated in the problem of education.”

Like many of the meta-moderns, thinking of Daniel Schmachtenerger, Jordan Hall, the host of guests on Daniel Thorson’s Emerge podcast, Stein believes the early 21st Century is a space of radical change:

“…the years between 2000 and 2050 represent a critical turning point in the history of humanity and the planet…I argue that fundamental transformations of our social structures (economies and institutions), ecosystems (biosphere and agriculture), and consciousness (culture and identity) are upon us. These require a fundamentally new approach to education that entails the end of what we have known as schooling.”

Unlike many philosophers working in this space of complexity, Stein offers concrete proposals. He even has a chapter titled 13 Social Miracles where he imagines 13 sociopolitical moves - all tangible - that might help guide us in a direction of healthy evolution.

He imagines a literal renovation of schools today. The buildings that all-too-closely resemble industrial factories can be retrofitted into community centers that serve as nodes along a decentralized network of education hubs, each staffed by what Stein calls “citizen-teacher-scientists”, generously funded through a collective valuation of education as the foundational investment for a better world, and enabled by cutting-edge technology:

“Our great school systems need to be repurposed and redesigned, transformed into unprecedented institutions that are a combination of public libraries, museums, co-working centers, computer labs, and daycares. Funded to the hilt, staffed by citizen-teacher-scientists, these public and privately supported educational hubs would be the local centers of regionally decentralized pop-up classrooms, special interest groups, apprenticeship networks, and college and work preparation counseling…In these places technologies will enable the formation of peer-to-peer networks of students and teachers, of all ages, from all across the local region (or the world through video), and without coercion or compromise. What enables these safe, efficient, hubs of self-organizing educational configurations are fundamentally new kinds of educational technologies, which put almost unlimited knowledge in the palm of every person’s hand.”

The book is unbelievably rich (and fittingly dense). It’s a reboot of Ken Wilber, both paying homage and moving beyond Integral Theory. Cannot recommend the book enough to anyone interested in positive visions of the future that lie already embedded in the present.