Thoughts on the Importance of Change

Today I want to share an extract from my new book project with the working title Uncultivated. I am in process, so sharing this is mainly to test it here in my online laboratory: in other words, comments, critique, thoughts, and suggestions are more than welcome!

This extract is written when we were still in Spain, and I have just dug it out in order to continue the thought process. I find it more and more important to embrace change in all shapes. Not least in education. In my book Anti-trend I also explore change and openness in relation to the sustainable design-object.

The book is built up around a negation of the 10 commandments of cultivation:

  1. We have to adapt and behave
  2. We are superior to animals
  3. We are separated from nature
  4. We must be ambitious
  5. We have to work hard
  6. What cannot be explained is not true
  7. Death is dangerous
  8. Decay must be defeated
  9. Time is linear
  10. God is dead

This short extract is a comment and antithesis to Commandment no 4: We must be ambitious:

“The other day I asked my oldest son to put words on how he feels about being at the school he is attending at the moment, which is based on the British National Curriculum, and is very traditional in its approach to learning (more or less only classroom style learning, frequent tests etc.), and which he really doesn’t like. I wanted to get insight into what exactly it is that he doesn’t like, because I know that he doesn’t mind working hard, that the tests don’t frighten him, and that he enjoys learning. I asked him to sit quietly for a bit and think about his discontent and then just start writing freely, exactly what first came into his mind. He wrote: When I am at school, I feel like nothing ever happens: the teachers do the same every week, nothing ever changes, we do everything at the same time, every day, every week. I feel like the other students in my class will never change either. When I do something different than usual, it is normally against my teachers’ will. I never feel like I fit in there, because I change over time, but I feel like I am not allowed to, and that nothing at the school will ever change.

Change is natural. Change is one of the only thing we can be certain of: we change constantly; our moods, feelings, and bodies change – change is a part of life and of our everyday existence. Like my son put it: I change over time. And I can only say that yes, he does! And that fighting that change would be like fighting the natural flow of a river and the waves in the sea. I see the change, at the moment I actually notice the changes he is going through nearly every day, because he is a young teenager and is growing like a weed; slowly becoming a man. And I feel his change too—it materialises in questions like: when did you move away from home, mum? And comments like: When I see the teenagers in this little town (the town we are at this writing moment living in), I just know that they will live here for the rest of their lives; it’s like, I see this young couple with one or two small children, and I can see that it is the teenagers that I just walked by in about 10 years. But for me it’s different; I have no idea where I will live, and I like it that way. And also, in his sudden, very cultivated ability, to make conversation—he will say: mum, how is your friend Susanne doing, have you spoken to her recently? Or, how was your day; did you get anything written?

Not only we, but our surroundings are also in constant flux: you cannot step into the same river twice, as the ancient pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus put it: the water stream is constantly flowing changing the structure and composition of the river. But in the traditional school system there isn’t much space for change—for thinking out of the box, or for turning things upside down or tearing them apart in order to seek an untraditional solution. Cultivation involves normalisation, and normalisation is largely a business-as-usual-approach. The same things are done over and over again, the same ways of teaching and learning are repeated throughout generations, the same tests are used, the same curriculum is used continuously and nationwide, the same discussions are conducted, and the same goals are lined out. These goals are principally aiming towards one day getting a good exam result, so that one can continue at a good graduate school, and hereafter get a well-paid job.

But as the world is ever changing, how can we teach and expect children to learn in the same way as their parents and even their grandparents? How can we assume that the same skills are still needed? (…)”

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