Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Justice in the Hole – A New Way to Educate

The early church had a fondness for calling the Jesus’ Gospel the Way. The Way indicated a new way of living based on God’s love. Within the light of God’s love, we would find freedom, creativity and eternal live for God is the God of the living. Jesus, the new movement claimed, completely revised how we saw and experienced the world. Where other saw pain and suffering, the Christians saw the cross and the possibility of resurrections. Jesus reordered live and we could see possibility when there was none before. The Way was and is a new way of living.

I think about the Way as being a new way of seeing the world. Jesus would empower people that usually did not have power in their normal day to day life. The woman at the well was a woman despised by her community and then one encounter with Jesus changes her standing. Where she was alone at the start of the story, she leads the town back to Jesus at the end of the story. Jesus gave her life back to her.

I think about this Way as I contemplate the work of Dr. Sugata Mitra and his Hole in the Wall Education project (HIWEL). For those unfamiliar with the HIWEL, in 1999, Dr Mitra started an experiment outside his office in the Indian slum of Kalkaji, New Delhi. He put a computer in a wall with no instructions on how to use it. Soon, the neighborhood kids learn to use the computer and started to teach other younger kids of the slum to use it. Dr. Mitra stumbled onto a new method of teaching by harnessing a child’s curiosity and their natural wanting to lead younger children. He then move on his initial success and repeated it throughout the rural India. Same results. He tried his new methods with other subjects, molecular biology with preteens and after some adjustments, same results. Suddenly, children who had no future, now had new possibilities.

What I admire about Dr. Mitra work is that it is inspiring. It also challenges our notions of what is possible. Also, his work is now being taken back to the developed world and it is also having success. We have to start transforming our educational philosophy form the older industrial model where children are though of as products on an assembly line. HIWEL starts us on a new way of looking at education, one more interactive and one that incorporates the human need to help with how the older children helping the younger learn.

When the subject of justice for the poor comes up, the usual responses are platitudes. Yet, the reality, we are to meet the Millennium Development Goals, we need less platitudes and more practical methods. Goal number 2 is primary education. Dr. Mitra’s work makes the reality of this goal imaginable. There is a Way, and the Way is a way of love.

Here is Dr Mitra's last Ted Talk

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