As I near the end of the first month of the Praxis program, I thought practice one of the core tenets of the program and do some self-reflection. I want to highlight what I think is one of the best aspects of the program and why it is so effective. This aspect is non-coincidentally exactly what separates it from traditional education programs and schools.
Put simply, this differentiating factor is the relationship between the Praxis staff and advisors and the participants. The student-teacher relationship if you will. Throughout all of our tedious and mundane years of school and college we have almost universally been confronted with an authoritarian student-teacher relationship. Teachers and professors have all the power to determine what we learn, how we learn it, and how our knowledge of the subject is evaluated. They hold all the wisdom and knowledge of the world and we are to sit quietly so it can be imparted onto us.
And to add insult to injury, for grades K-12 we are required by law to sit in that classroom and have “knowledge” spat at us and the authoritarianism becomes complete.
Needless to say this is not the experience you get when taking part in the Praxis program. In Praxis the participants and advisors and staff are more or less equal parties on the same journey. The only difference is that the staff is a bit farther ahead on that journey and so is able to offer very helpful advice, know-how, and guidance.
It is clear from the first day of the program that this learning and experiential pursuit is each participant’s own, personal project of becoming a better, more valuable human being. The staff is not there to dictate the terms of your project, but to help along the way with any creative or motivational problems the participants may have. They lay out a strategy of action but the learning and personal development ultimately rests with the participants and their engagement and discussions with staff and other participants, dedication in teaching themselves new skills, and personal experience with their business partner. The point is that is a wholly voluntary, non-authoritarian relationship and that is how learning works best.
And it follows that as the voluntary nature of Praxis is what makes the program so successful, the authoritarian nature of traditional education is what makes it so unsuccessful. Teacher-student relationships need to be voluntary on both sides for real learning to occur. When others, no matter how old and wise, dictate to you what you learn the overwhelming reaction is to become bored, uninterested, and rebellious. Learning is the very basis of what make us human and yet modern schools have managed to make most students dread it or fall asleep during it.
Modern education has it wrong on the most fundamental of bases. Instead of being a joint quest for knowledge and personal development by both the student and teacher (who ought to just be a student who is a bit further along), it is largely just a lecturing and then regurgitation of facts mitigated by busy work, handouts, and five paragraph essays.
This is the antithesis of the Praxis mentality, which is aptly described as “ass-kicking 101”. Mutual learning through experience and praxis. This was the way of the past and will need to be the way of the future once again.