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What do you want to do?

May 8, 2011

The notion of Redesigning Education is without a doubt all over the place. So much so, it’s at risk of becoming a rhetoric. Two of its renowned champions, Sir Ken Robinson and the late Russell Ackoff, are —according to me— in no way at fault. I’m afraid it’s us, the so-called followers. We are the ones who either forget what the concept is all about or we just don’t get it.


What's Redesigning Education actually about?

What’s Redesigning Education actually about?

There are good reasons for our relapse I guess. For one, the ‘new design education’ consultants are popping up like mushrooms. Some good, some bad and some simply messing with our minds and hearts. Then there are the educational policies —based on cut-backs, but sugarcoated as redesigning concepts. It’s no wonder educators get lost in all this confusion.

The World peace game

And suddenly amongst all this mayhem, someone stands up and reminds you what it’s all about. Someone like John Hunter. With one simple question, he clears the cobwebs and takes you back to where it all began: “What is it that you want to do?

Your answer to this question sets the template for how you will ‘redesign education’.

Hunter redesigned education in the late 70s with the introduction of his World Peace Game. He succinctly explains, “The World Peace Game is about learning to live and work comfortably in the unknown.”

The players —mind you, the average age is 9(!)— learn among others to overlook short-sighted reactions and impulsive thinking. They learn to solve problems through long-term thinking and in a consequential way. In addition, they learn spontaneous compassion and being human(e).

And the teacher? The teacher learns that he doesn’t have to be in control. He can let go and trust the collective wisdom of his class.

Note: The game by the way is the subject of a new film World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements. I have to say that this is one of the most beautiful TED Talks I’ve seen. In an age of me-me-me and egotistical meritocracy, it’s refreshing —and moving— to see someone acknowledge those who impacted him and made him the acclaimed educator he is today.

What we should take away

What Hunter teaches us is that redesigning education doesn’t start with fancy methods or government policies. It starts with the engaging teacher. One who’s willing and able to share his passion for learning. And one who dares be vulnerable and admit he doesn’t have all the answers.

In his Ideas for modern living: passion, Sir Ken Robinson writes:

“We all have different aptitudes and we have unique passions. The challenge is to find them because it’s in the fusion of both that we live our best lives.”

If this doesn’t nail the concept of Redesigning Education, then I don’t know what will.
The main objective of an educator is to guide the student to his specific aptitudes and his unique passion. That’s all. That’s what John Hunter does. That’s what we should do.

What do you think?

What’s your take on the Redesigning Education concept? How do you think we should go about it? What according to you are the possible ‘snags’ we need to be conscious of? Talk to me. Please share your comments in the section below.

(Source image used: Joop Dorresteijn)

Related post(s) to read:

Economics, Procedures & Wisdom

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Joymalya Chakraborty permalink
    June 28, 2011 07:39

    I am struggling to understand your all struggle that’s the point of break even of responsibilities you are looking for Evita.

    There’s lot to do in education, with the contagious growing number of institutions and students too but with the higher educations the look into may be more evaluative as those are the creams had to sacrifice may be entire childhood and much to get ready for building the next pillars of the society.


    • June 28, 2011 11:28

      Dear Joymalya, I’m not looking for a ‘break even of responsibilities’ as you put it; though I think that’s an interesting concept to play with. Like I said, it is probably a character flaw. Don’t worry about it.
      Greetings, Evita


  2. Jack Edelaar permalink
    June 27, 2011 19:04

    You are totally right (again 🙂 ) about the discussion.

    And you are right by stating that the teacher is a learning student as well. I’m a 100% with you.
    And that’s exactly my point (again 🙂 ): it is the responsibility of the teacher to create a learning environment, but (s)he can never be the (partly) owner of the learning process of the student. To me the learning process is defined as the changes within the student.
    However creative, passionate, intelligent, knowledgeable, humorous, empathic a teacher can be, if the student is not willing (or able) to learn the lesson which is offered, there is NO learning process.
    So I explicitly divide learning from teaching as two different properties and ownerships.
    The moment of course the teacher becomes a student himself, he gets ownership over his own learning process.
    And I agree with you that this would be the best mind set and attitude for any teacher: be curious to what you can learn from your students. Expect nothing, be ready for everyhting!



    • June 27, 2011 22:04

      Dear Jack, I think I now understand where we ‘miscommunicated’. What you call Ownership and Property, I call Responsibility. And that is where our discussion became a bit ‘academic’. For this is a question I continually struggle with myself and still do not know how to answer properly: Where does the teachers’ responsibility end and the student’s begin?

      As an educator, I tend to always feel responsible for the student. Whether (s)he is eager to learn or not. Character flaw, I guess. 🙂
      Greetings, Evita


    • Jack Edelaar permalink
      June 28, 2011 11:44

      Yes, I think we now understand our (mis)communication.

      For me, the teachers’ responsibility to create a ideal teaching environment ends where the learning process of the student begins.
      “You can show them the way, even guide them along the way, but you can never force them to take the route you think is the best one to take.”
      To further stay in this analogy, the teacher needs to be the experienced guide who knows the dangers along the journey. And knows about the routes ahead. Coming to a fork in the road, the guide knows that the road to the right looks pleasant at first but a few miles ahead the road becomes dusty, rocky and hard to travel. The road to the left might be looking difficult in the beginning. Going steeply uphill into the mountains. But once past those mountains green pastures and easy travel lies ahead.
      And at the same time, travelling through unknown uncharted land, the guide only suspects what the best route might be. Based on his experience and based on knowledge and skills in reading the terrain. Nevertheless he doesn’t know 100% for sure and he would be wise to keep all options open by following the road which unfolds with every turn. Go with the flow 🙂

      So, for me the responsibility goes as far as leading the students through known territories as well as venture with them into uncharted land. Whether they want to travel with me and accept my guidance is up to them.
      The moment they don’t I feel totally responsible and I reflect on and inspect my intentions, my interventions and my competence as a teacher. Some times it means I make changes. And some times I just accept it. There is no guideline for that other than my integrity.
      Including my character flaws 🙂



    • June 28, 2011 13:44

      Dear Jack, What a lovely metaphor! There’s nothing more I can add to this; other than to say: I agree. 🙂


  3. Joymalya Chakraborty permalink
    June 27, 2011 12:32

    I usually try alternatives, once I begun my classes quoting “Prove me that I am a Bad teacher” by writing that on the Black Board.


    • June 27, 2011 14:02

      Dear Joymalya, a provocative stance like this can be an attention-grabber, though it is not a method I would personally choose. But hey, to each his own. Yet what I do like to know is, has it worked for you? And how exactly has it improved the interaction with your students?
      Greetings, Evita


  4. June 27, 2011 02:23

    @Jack: I see it more in the sense of while teaching his class, Hunter learnt how to improvise, ‘just go with the flow’ and trust the students. For he also tells of times he feels inadequate and that he has failed as a teacher.

    Take for instance the case of the 9-year old strategist. Though the situation bothered Hunter and made him uneasy, he did not reel her in. Instead he choose to go with it. And in the end her actions turned out to be a great class-session on Philosophical (War) Ethics. A learning session, he himself could never have designed beforehand. The operative words here are: (again) Interaction and Trust. To me this is a mutual ownership of learning.

    And that’s what I think we’re missing in the debate on Redesigning Education. We need to take a deep breath; let go and then just let it flow.

    Greetings, Evita


    • Jack Edelaar permalink
      June 27, 2011 18:29

      I feel I’m using insufficient words to convey my meaning. It seems to me I read back from you exactly what I meant to say, but somehow you tend to see it a little differently. Funny :-). Both of us Dutch native speaking and trying to express our thoughts and ideas in English. That’s perhaps why there seems to be a (slight) misunderstanding. Or perhaps we do see it a little different.
      Learning: the act of learning is done by the student. If a student has learned something there is new knowledge and/or new behaviour. Something has changed and it is WITHIN the learner, the student that this change occurred!
      Teaching: the act of teaching is done by the teacher. (S)He creates an environment and situation in which learning can take place. Like Hunter created the WORLD PEACE game. First one dimensional, later on 3-D. He set the rules of the game. He gave the children a set of problems. AND THAT is all a teacher CAN and SHOULD do. To facilitate the learning process by just setting the boundaries of a safe but interesting environment. Not to rule; not to control; not to decide how things must be going; not by any prescribed method. In this I’m certain we agree: let go and just let it flow 😉

      Love your ideas,



    • June 27, 2011 18:46

      Dear Jack, no worries. I know that for the greater part we agree. The only thing I disagree with you about is the ‘ownership of learning’. For I strongly believe the teacher is also a student in his/her own classroom; even if (s)he is the one responsible for setting the boundaries.

      And believe me, we would have had this same discussion in Dutch. I am sure of it. 😉

      Thanks. I like your ideas too.
      Greetings, Evita


  5. Joymalya Chakraborty permalink
    June 26, 2011 14:39

    I am still thinking on it, I will let you know once I crack it. Is that OK for now. Holistic view it’s the opinion matters. You know how much your audience perceive you that matters in educations. It’s hard to teach kids so as it’s hard to teach seniors. Both are different but it’s hard and interesting. I think so ……………. !


  6. Joymalya Chakraborty permalink
    June 26, 2011 14:10

    lol ! What about Professors after all it has to do with redesigning education


    • June 26, 2011 14:30

      Dear Joymalya,
      Can you please be a bit more specific? What about Professors?

      Greetings, Evita


  7. June 26, 2011 01:09

    So very true, Evita. Plain human interactions ARE the best way to teach.
    The best way to learn depends on the student. Is the student touched by the passion of the teacher? In almost all cases this will be so. And on few occasions this will not be the case. When the student does not feel the same about the subject or does not relate well to the teacher.
    However, for these rare occasions no teacher should change his or her passionate attitude. Just accept the fact that learning is always a property of the learner, not the teacher!
    And when this is accepted, striving to use a preferred teaching method over another method becomes academic. If learning is a property of the student, there is only one place to start and one method to follow!

    John Hunter understood that fact. This TED talk is so inspiring. It really touches the basic essence of teaching. Both in his acknowledgement to his teachers in life as to the words and actions of his 4th graders. I wish I had more of those teachers in my days.


    • June 26, 2011 14:24

      If I’m not mistaken, it was Russell Ackoff who once said, that the one who learns the most in a classroom is the teacher. It’s something I myself experienced while teaching way-back-when. Therefore I’m not so sure whether learning is really ‘the property of the student’ as you put it. Unless of course, you also count in the teacher as a student. But no matter how you look at it, the way we interact will always be determinant for the way we learn (and teach).

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing!

      Greetings, Evita


    • June 27, 2011 00:36

      That is exactly what I meant. The one who is doing the learning is the student and never the teacher. Like John Hunter says in the video “who do you think is in control of that classroom? Who is in control of what they learn?”
      The ownership of learning is in the hands of the students.
      To my belief it is exactly this what we tend to forget in the debate on redesigning education.


  8. Joymalya Chakraborty permalink
    May 15, 2011 08:36

    It’s like the Right Time to Educate vs the Time required to be Educated !

    Educated at Right Time are Fast Trackers “Market Leaders”, the Educational pioneers and Time required to be Educated not at Right Time are “Market followers and the laggards” or educational followers!

    If Conventional Education – Traditional Education is = Transformation then the “Essence” factor comes into play. Essence of Education!

    Every Quantum value addition with education is one of the best service to the society but variability is high due to variable acceptability and adaptability with the modus operandi!

    Best education is always the best but if the above concepts justifies

    When I see the building my perceptual mapping first triggers, building doesn’t matters there too we can teach if we concentrate but later I understood Ah! well it’s about redesigning!

    With the ongoing pace of transformations to update the fast trackers is essential the laggards will follow but after a time post they understand the essence.

    From the significance point view I would like to share too my discussed on Innovative Teachers models topic in this same group, few analysis

    Outcome of teachers performance anyway is thru Students Performance, and it has no other substitution

    Class Room Teaching to a student quality mix and uplifting all from their existing bases is the challenge within a stipulated period of time

    I feel, to customize the class room sessions with more practicality after every theoretical deliveries

    Inspirational sessions , little brain storming are “Out of Box” measures only when implemented in customized way from student to student , standard to standard , demographic related psychographic variations

    Kids now a days desire to be treated as more matured , give them that space and manipulate their reason to come to learn is alike going to office for future earnings

    Creating Interest on Subject Understanding not memorizing are all real time manipulations

    “Out of Curriculum pattern measures” Linking to build their subject understanding bases

    There are thousand more… all depending upon How smart you become to build the next generation smarties smartness

    Innovations in doing things in a new way, when you start doing a new thing then every steps ahead will be something new which the innovator has to build

    Whats the harm if few students compete with teachers and proofs better in real time after all we all know we have crossed those hurdles and that’s the reason we are in this position… Teaching is not How much a Teacher Knows it’s How much his / her students grasped from him / her!



    • May 15, 2011 13:35

      Dear Joymalya,
      This post is about bringing back and keeping the passion in education. When a teacher has passion for his/her work; (s)he will always find the ‘right method’ to teach with. Whether it’s giving students space or guiding them when they need it. In the end, it all boils down to plain human interaction. That’s how we learn best.
      Greetings, Evita


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