The title for this blog-post comes from a sign I saw hanging at a school on a poster advertising the international day of books. It said: “I Know the World. Do You?” It made me look at the point of connecting learning to real life that I discussed in the previous blog-post and how we as adults tend to make a lot of assumptions about what children are capable of understanding or what they are ‘ready to hear’ incidentally creating the consequence that the doors of expanding the child’s comprehension of the world are shut. As I discussed in the previous post educators far too often present students with a superficial, imitative and distilled version of reality only meant for the classroom often having no connection to real life. This causes students to become disengaged and disinterested, approaching their learning process with the same detached indifference that they experience in being taught. Students are taught that the purpose of going to school is learning for the sake of learning whereas learning to understand the world is seen more as a byproduct of the didactic process.
I will therefore in this post discuss and show why and how a reversal of priorities is relevant to consider where learning for the sake of learning (i.e. the practicing of writing and reading for example) is interwoven naturally into the learning process and where learning to understand the world is placed in the forefront of the didactic process.
Let me start with a practical example:
I have a group of students in the middle grades (10-14 year olds) that I have found it difficult to engage, meaning that they simply don’t find the lessons interesting and often come up with excuses to not do the work. I have tried various methods of engaging them and eventually through observing them and speaking with them I have found that they see and experience school in general as being boring and disengaging. They most certainly experience school as having the purpose of learning for the sake of learning and as I explained in the previous blog-post, they seldom speak about things that they have learned with passion or interest. When they speak about subjects with passion or interest it is things they are interested in outside of school such as computer games, video editing or societal issues in general.
I remember when I was in their age and how I experienced this inexplicable separation and disconnection from whom I was and how I experienced myself to how it was to go to school. Some teachers, but very few were able to instill genuine interest and they did so through sharing their own passion, through opening up and showing who they were, through being genuine and vulnerable and real people. Otherwise the teachers would be disengaged and distant. Their focus would be on ‘getting through the lesson’, silencing the class and making sure that we integrated the technical aspects of what we were learning about. It felt rushed and I remember sitting in class staring out the window not even being fully present in my own body, because of this experience that the entire classroom scenario was fabricated, constructed and simulated – and thus not real. I remember how I also contextualized this experience to an experience of the world itself being ‘hollow’ and ‘flat’ in its dimensions, as though we were living in a two-dimensional card box version of the world with no substance or depth. Obviously I was unable to verbalize and elucidate this experience at that age and so I inverted it and eventually came to think and believe that I was what was wrong with the world, that the disconnection I experienced meant that there was something wrong with me.
Children see and experience how fake we as adults are. They hear us utter the words that we’ve got everything under control, while they see the desperation in our eyes and hear the shakiness of emotions in our voice. They are presented with a perpetual lie of being told that everything is fine, that the world is in order, that the adults understand the world and that they as children are to subject themselves to the ‘wisdom’ and guardianship of adults – while they see and hear and feel how none of this is true in fact. But when something is being repeatedly underscored, especially by the people that one’s life depends on it is almost impossible to stand firm on what one sees in self-honesty. And most that do are rapidly diagnosed with mental illnesses or seen as defiant and so subdued in other ways leaving the lie intact that as adults we know and understand the world and have everything under control, while nothing could be further from the truth.
So what I saw with my students is that the long to be a part of reality – real reality that is, not the imitated and distilled version they are served in school. In a recent lesson we got to talking about the amount of people being killed in Mexico versus in Sweden. From there we discussed the complicated situation on the Mexican and American border and the drug cartels. This was a topic that the students brought up as they associated what they were learning about to other things they had seen or heard. As we were discussing and I also shared my perspectives, having just seen a documentary about the situation in the Mexican border town Juarez, I realized how engaged the students were. This was actually a topic that caught their attention and so I see how I can utilize their interests to structure lessons or even projects where they as they learn about real life subjects simultaneously learn how to read and write, how to research information, where to research as well as techniques for text analysis as an example.
The thing I found is that students and children in general want to learn about reality. They are not at all disinterested or disengaged when it come to understanding the world that they live in. So this experience comes up when they are presented with something that is in essence fake and fabricated, where the material and teachers pretends to be teaching students about how the world works, but where that’s merely a means to the end of teaching them to read and write for example.
Another example from the classroom is a discussion I had the other day with a 4. Grade student based on the image of Armstrong landing on the moon. The discussion quickly became about doctored photos, aliens and conspiracy theories. We discussed the illuminati, 9/11, fake world maps and how we can’t trust what we see on the news. From there the discussion went into talking about Big Bang and whether it is possible to create something based on an explosion. Eventually we discussed how important it is to read and educate oneself so that one can verify information for oneself.
Initially the project was about photography where the student was to analyze and discuss the photo of Armstrong in context to the proverb of “a picture speaks a thousand words.” Instead he created an educational process on a meta-level where he, instead of speaking about the photo from an educational perspective actually started discussing whether the photo was doctored or not. From there we went onto YouTube and started discussing the point and the whole conversation unfolded that I could have in no way prepared or constructed in advance. So what I did was to merely allow the discussion to open up instead of shutting it down and telling the student to focus on the task at hand. I then facilitated the discussion through asking questions and could through that bring in perspectives that were relevant to the lessons topic. While this was happening the student were practicing his Danish speaking and pronunciation skills (the subject I am teaching) but this happened naturally and without effort. This surely proves that we shouldn’t underestimate children and their capacity to grasp the world around them. I had no idea that this student was so self-educated into such a topic as conspiracy theories. I for example only heard about the fake world maps a year ago. He has access to – and is able to locate and reflect upon this information at the age of 10. This shows how important it is that we as teachers and adults in general engage in a real and genuine way with children and students, to also learn about and understand their way of seeing the world and how they gather or process information for example. Because through that we can place ourselves in a position of being able to effectively assist and support them to expand in their process of understanding the world and themselves in relation to it. One of the things I for example discussed with this student at the end of our conversation is how Youtube is cool for learning about stuff to some extent, but that there’s also a lot of BS out there and so it is important to also read and not only watch videos as much factual information is shared in writing as well. From here we discussed how to verify information one has to understand it for oneself that means that one has to be educated. As such I in essence talked to the student about the importance of getting an education, but I did so from a practical and real-life contextual perspective without a hidden agenda of morality.
In the younger grades (the 6-9 year olds) we’re working on a project about animals. The students are asked to pick an animal; it can be a pet they want or a pet they have at home or any animal that they want to learn more about and then they write a book about this animal. The technical side of their education, the reading and writing is integrated naturally into the process of discovery and exploration but the main focus is on that exact process and not the other way around.
When we as adults claim to know the world while presenting children with a distilled and superficial version of it without allowing them to delve into the depths of reality, this ought to serve as a mirror for us to have a look at our own relationship with reality, prompting us to ask the question: am I really here? Am I engaged? Am I genuine in my interaction with others? Is there something I fear about reality that is causing me to merely skim the surface and not delve into the depths of what is going on in this world?
So when kids are bored and unengaged it is actually a cool support for us as adults to have a look at our own participation and interaction with them, because it is most often not coincidental and from there we can work with correcting ourselves and cross-reference this with how they respond.
Because if we don’t, these children are going to grow up to accept the detachment and disengagement as what life is and they will live accordingly being immersed into virtual and simulated realities with the same distance to reality as we have.
This causes massive problems and consequences on a very real and all-encompassing level, because it means that the human beings that are supposed to be guardians of the earth, instead are existing in individual bubbles of detachment and delusion, existing in a state of carelessness and apathy towards what’s going on. This is the exact same I am seeing with my students when they are disengaged and uninterested; they simply don’t care and they have no respect for take any form of responsibility for their education. This is because they’re not really a part of their education; they’re like shells or card-box figures playing a role, serving a function – but they’re not really here and no one expects them to be, because no one else is here either. Existing in a real world without really being Here is obviously going to cause consequences and so teaching children about reality and what is really going on is imperative for the process of changing this world, but even more so – we must educate ourselves on what is going on in the world, even to the point of becoming interested in and start caring about the world, the animals, the earth and the societal developments that are taking place. Here we can let the children assist us as they already are interested in what is going on in the world, they often have an innate passion for animals and understanding how stuff works. There are so much we as adults can learn from children about ourselves and ironically about the world, if only we allow ourselves to open up and within that be genuine and flexible and humble in admitting that we certainly don’t already know everything there is to know about this world. Through this starting-point learning can be a co-educational and co-creational process where we embark on a journey of exploration and discovery together with the children and through this also engage ourselves more into the depths of reality and thus ourselves.
For those ready to get involved and get moving I suggest investigating the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.
Educate yourself here:
The Ultimate History Lesson:
PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
The Century of the Self
The Power Principle
Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
The Story of Your Enslavement
Inequality for all documentary:
The Four Horsemen:
On Advertisement and the end of the world:
Third World America – Chris Hedges