What does it mean to be human? In many ways we’re all living, breathing responses to that question as we find our own paths through life. But the question of how we learn to do so may be simpler to answer.
Clearly there’s education itself, which I’ve spoken of a few times already (see Notes One); then, alongside that, the influences of family, community, society, culture and so on. All these encounters surely shape our ideas, our sense of what matters and how we should act, our picture of what life’s about and how it all works.
What I find interesting is how conscious and coherent those messages are. Are we pulling ourselves in different directions, entertaining contradictory standards and expectations; or are these voices all more or less on the same page?
As touched upon in the posts mentioned above, there’s this sense that education serves society and particularly the economy: imparting essential skills and knowledge for young people to take their place in the workforce, as well as general attitudes that will hopefully sustain a stable way of life. Which has its place and makes sense in terms of government provision, but is it enough?
With life, issues of authenticity or self-actualisation must also deserve consideration: how are we best able to be ourselves, draw on our talents, and overcome our challenges? That hesitation over whether we are simply cogs in a machine, or if there’s more to life and what we’re able to offer it by our presence.
While our personal journeys are shaped by living within society (Notes Two), surely our participation in it also matters as our attitudes and contributions to community and society in turn shape the realities we share. Our feeling of fairness, ethics and the value of life undoubtedly impacts all that we do; becoming the face we turn to others and the actions we choose to engage in.
So where do we draw the line as to what matters most at the end of the day? Of course economic realities matter, both individually and collectively, but so does the bigger picture of what we’re doing and why (Notes Three); the forming of which must come from education itself or from those other influences that surround and contextualise it.
Beyond economics and education for basic social cohesion, what values are we upholding and imparting in how we live? Could formal learning dovetail better with other areas so families, communities and social realities work more harmoniously together? Could our cultural reference points serve us better with the standards, narratives and meanings they offer society to live by?
And how can all those threads even be drawn together? Maybe that’s why this post has drifted into the territory of question marks: the answers are down to us. Being human and learning to do it well seems to rest within the social communities we create and how we organise them; which I suppose means we must collectively chart that path, or individually find our way.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Education’s place within Society
Note 1: Economics and the task of education
Note 2: Mirrors we offer one another
Note 2: Community – what it was, what we lost
Note 3: The motivation of money
Note 3: Values and the economic
Need to stand alone & think for ourselves also considered that last question of individual or collective convictions, in a slightly different light.