Education as Intergenerational Transmission

“Education is a process of intergenerational transmission.”

Zak Stein

Much of our learning happens at school – and if we agree with Zak Stein [a co-founder of The Consilience Project], it doesn’t end there: our education is a continuous, ongoing process.

Teaching is a crucial part of that transmission. When teaching beginners to play drums, I was very much ‘telling them what to do’ – “hold the sticks like this” – “your feet go here” – “count 1-and-2-and-ah-3-and-4” … but as the student develops over time, that relationship changes. When I went back for lessons in my late 30s, at times I was still ‘being taught’ – but there was also two-way transmission between me and my teacher. It became a process of collaborative understanding and evolution.

The “intergenerational” aspect is important, too. I’m not sure I ‘learn’ much from my 7-year-old niece – but she undoubtedly reminds me of things I might have forgotten, and helps me see the world in a different way. At the other end of the scale, am I sometimes too quick to dismiss or ignore the wisdom being shared by the elders in my life?

As usual, there’s not a simple, obvious answer to any of this – each of us will have a different response. But perhaps we can begin by considering some questions:

What are we transmitting? What knowledge, ideas and values are worth sharing? With whom?

And what are we open to? Who do we listen to, and why? What are we receiving?


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