Education Vision

Our Education Vision

What we miss in existing universities, what students get, and short example lectures by two main lecturers – Prof Frijters and Prof Andringa – showing how Nova Academia academics teach differently can be seen in these videos.

Below we then detail how mental development is accelerated via exploration and making connections between areas of knowledge.

The left-part of this picture depicts the view of education as you will find mandated and categorised by the European Union. It is a highly specialised view of education in which someone with ‘higher education’ has a greater knowledge of a very specific area, in this example psychology. The European Union and the national governments underneath it think of education as becoming a specialist. After primary school, no more attention is given to the huge number of other domains of knowledge, including spirituality, knowledge of how the media works, geopolitics, companies, and personal habits.

This atomistic worldview makes for standard exams and is easy to administrate, but is detrimental to critical thinking and overall cognitive development, which is about seeing connections between domains. An interconnected worldview requires constant exposure and integration of many areas of knowledge. Insights from different domains cross-fertilise and deepen understanding in all domains. One would still have ‘a specialty’ but a truly developed thinker does not think in terms of silos and boxes, but sees all knowledge as interconnected and reflective of the full complexity of reality.

This thus informs our pedagogical philosophy, which is to stimulate curiosity, broad development, and the building up of an individual worldview by the student. That starts with questions like “what do you truly already believe” and “what would convince you to change or augment what you believe”? The accumulation of more knowledge then becomes a matter of combining conceptual and domain-specific knowledge with frequent cross-cutting questions, experimentation, and honest conversations with oneself as to what is now believed.

On this basis, we can also say what the situation is with the existing system and what our alternative is:

This graph shows levels of mental maturation, from mindless rule-following to self-actualisation. Our own observation, which the reader can judge from their own experience, is that regular universities are infested with level 3 thinkers, both among academic staff and its bureaucrats. They are oriented towards procedure, constantly anxious about job-security, simplistically thinking in terms of in-groups who are right and out-groups who are wrong, and incapable of getting value out of true diversity of thought. Social mimicry, boredom, and conformity are hallmarks of this level.

What we are looking for is students who are already at levels 4 or 5 with the aim of helping them reach a higher level. We want and expect students to have supported opinions rather than blind group-affirming opinions, and to have some domain-specific and general knowledge. Yet, they would have the curiosity and ambition to develop their thinking and to enjoy expanding their minds and helping others.

Instead of hitting students with a lot of “just-so” information and protocols, the whole purpose is for students to remain enthusiastic about learning and exploring, becoming activated thinkers who can thrive both personally and as a group. We think that requires more than intellectual knowledge and curiosity: it also requires healthy habits, some spirituality, and a deeper awareness of geopolitics, the world of money, etc. It requires broad awareness and engagement with the world, without fear of saying the wrong thing or being solely obsessed with group-appreciation.

Our Deeper View of Mainstream Education

Nova Academia focuses on the traditional role of higher education: preparing adolescents for responsible adulthood. In mainstream education that role has been abandoned, with employers increasingly recognising this decline, and thus reducing their demands for job candidates to have ‘obtained’ a degree in favour of more skill-based hiring. 

The educational system used to serve the students. Now, students serve the system. Universities mass-produce diplomas by organizing and optimizing a complex system of learning outcomes: a long and detailed sequence of demands students must satisfy to deserve a diploma. Students learn to obey the arbitrary demands of an opaque system. They truly serve the system.

Obeying arbitrary demands is the opposite of learning to take control of your own life. Being in control of one’s life is the mark of adulthood while doing what you are told to do is a mark of childhood. Adolescence is supposed to be the transition period. 

Recently, universities stopped facilitating this transition. Now, the natural outcome of modern education is a child’s mind in an adult body: subadults that have been trained to “willingly” serve and comply rather than to fully self-direct their lives. 

But subadults are mentally unfit to negotiate a complex multi-viewpoint society and instead do what they are trained to do: turn to authorities that tell them what to believe and how to behave. And they actively exclude whatever feels too complex to handle.

This is a major reason why:

These are all manifestations of adults acting immaturely: subadults unable to take responsibilities that were taken for granted just a few generations ago. It makes no economic sense either as it impoverishes. 

In a world where responsible adult behaviour is increasingly rare, we need to create environments where adolescents can self-develop toward healthy adulthood. Places where the hallmarks of mental adulthood – respect for the knowledge and skills of others, self-direction, continuous self-development, evidence, and argumentation trumping source reputation, the search for ever-better explanations, and entrepreneurial activities – are normal among the staff and are actively promoted among the students. 

Nova Academia aims to become this learning environment. A place where students can question their knowledge and replace weak formulations with stronger ones. A place where they are expected to take progressively more responsibility for their self-development and where they can fail and learn. It is also a place where they can acquire and improve their knowledge and skill foundation as a basis for responsible adulthood.

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