"You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness”. Khalil Gibrán
Education is a recurring theme in this blog. The reason is very simple: human capital is the most important form of wealth. And strengthening it, exalting the talents and capacities of each individual, is the only road to develop our country from the bottom up. This is a feasible goal and we should fulfill it.
But the current situation is disastrous. The typical Mexican reads an average of 2.9 books a year, while four out of every 10 above the age of 12 have never visited a library. Our country occupies the second to last place in reading comprehension, mathematics, and the sciences, of a sample of 32 OECD countries. We could continue listing the statistics illustrating our failure in education, but the results are obvious.
The problem is that our education model was designed for a world that no longer exists. In Mexican schools, we place too much emphasis on memorizing useless data and pay little attention to creativity and the development of intelligence. It’s time to propose solutions.
With this in mind, more than 10 years ago in Grupo Salinas we decided to stop complaining and launch the Plantel Azteca educational program to serve excellent students at the base of the pyramid. The results have been exceptional.
A new concept
Today, thinking of our children, my wife María Laura and I have launched a new educational concept that we call HUMANITREE. The name evokes the tree as the symbol that humanity has used to represent the development of human capacities, such as knowledge and intelligence.
The tree also speaks to us of the connections and relationships among people and between people and their environment.
The tree is comprised of humanity, and aspires to develop individual potential, based on the concept that, with the correct tools, our capacity has no limits.
Individual children are the center of our focus. We aim to develop children while they play and discover the passion to learn so they become life-long learners instead of limiting their learning period to the years of a school calendar.
I have always said that we cannot predict the future, but we can better prepare ourselves to adapt to it.
This is what our project is about: preparing children for a successful future, in a world in constant and dizzying change.
We will offer the best resources that we can find in the world, so that they can become not only capable adults, but also responsible and committed to their environment.
To achieve this, three areas are key: students, teachers, and parents. More specifically:
(1) The children of today are born digitally oriented and they require an education that has to do with the real (and virtual) world in which they live. The traditional approach to education does not prepare them for the knowledge and mass information society in which we live.
However, the new digital technologies represent a magnificent tool to find information and to elucidate its meaning, but above all, to create.
To optimize this creative potential, children should be organized and taught according to their capacities and talents, not necessarily by ages.
At HUMANITREE, we will promote the development of each child starting from where he or she is already at, from what they already know, and of what comes naturally to them.
Attention is very personalized through small groups. This is the only way that teachers can detect and understand each child’s needs, providing him or her with the required follow-up attention.
But to free up their potential, children need appropriate guidance.
(2) Under this model, teachers need a completely different educational approach. Teachers should stop giving the traditional “taking notes” approach and they should become advisors and guides that channel the children’s natural curiosities.
Under this new pedagogical approach, teachers ask good questions so that students can find the answers and discover that knowing, investigating, and studying can be fun-filled activities.
These guides also offer the student the context of what is occurring in the world, while they assure the necessary precision and thoroughness so that the answers are correct.
The current system leads children to reject learning because it is considered boring, since teachers talk instead of listening; they impose but don’t stimulate; they transmit instead of teaching their pupils to think and to discern; unfortunately, they do not allow the children to discover for themselves.
The teachers of HUMANITREE will not evaluate a child through a rigid methodology in which few can emerge outstanding, but instead they will take into account each student's evolution based on the assumption that he or she is in the process of developing.
(3) Our role as parents is that of the mythical archer in Gibran’s poem.
Only today children are not arrows. They’re closer to rockets, which go very far with movement that cannot be totally controlled, but rather can be pointed in the right direction and configured from the beginning.
This is what the education in which we should participate actively as parents is about.
The corrections in direction have to be made by the young people themselves, and like a rocket they are difficult to repair once they have already begun their journey, and therefore we should make them as self-sufficient as possible.
Our mission at HUMANITREE will be to place the best resources of the 21st century within reach of children and their families to unleash enormous potential and to forge students as individuals with key values such as honesty, intelligence, application, team work, and collaboration with their community.
It is time to rethink human skills and capacities. Research has revealed that our creativity gradually fades away with every year that transpires in a traditional school, designed under the concept of an assembly line.
Today’s world requires autonomous individuals, who can seek creative solutions to problems, and find more than one answer to a single question, people who generate ideas in all directions, not only linearly. With this in mind, music, the arts and sports will also play a central role in this education concept.
The goal is to channel children to ensure that they find their calling in life to become well-rounded adults.
For all these reasons, María Laura and I have created HUMANITREE, because we want to make sure that we have done our best to become the archer that launches these arrows toward a better destination.
The following is the complete poem of Khalil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.