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No longer them and us (Liveblog)

November 3rd, 2009

This liveblog is being written during Keith Johnston’s talk – No longer them and us – it’s all about us.

Hopefully we’ll be able to load his slides up on the blog in the near future – he says he’s going to talk fast so I don’t like my chances of being able to accurately capture all the ideas in this posting….

OK so he’s put up 5 different goals for education. The five choices are:

  1. Winning
  2. Knowledge
  3. Adaptability
  4. Inclusion
  5. Balance

He asks us to show by a vote of hands:

1 – which one represents our current experience of the schooling system?

2 – which one best reflects your aspiration for education?

It seems that the most hands for the first question go up for “knowledge” and the most for the second question go for “adaptability”.

Keith says he’ll return to these ideas again later.

Now he’s talking about research that has looked at safe limits for human development, measured across seven dimensions (including: Climate change, Nitrogen cycle, Change in land use, Biodiversity loss, etc).

@shiftingthinkng the Nitrogen cycle people!! Keep this in the forefront of your minds, you’ll see why TOMORROW (all will be revealed)

Now he is showing a graph of population growth over the last few million years. between this and the prebious slides, it isn’t a pretty picture….

But what does all this mean for us????

Keith says we’ve had ten thousand years of stability – the Holocene period (that’s the geological name for this time period, folks!). But we have developed the capability to alter this stability – some suggest we need to call this era the “Anthropocene” – meaning human-affected.

It’s claimed that human activity could push the Earth system outside the stable environmental state of the Holocene….

OK now he’s moved onto a new theme: “Them ‘n’ Us”

He tells an interesting family anecdote from the American South that raises into high relief “Us and Them” thinking. Not to mention: The Capulets and Montagues, The Sharks and the Jets, the Bloodz and the Cripz… etc. He says, we think about ourselves in terms of our tribalism…

I think we need to move to a different sense of “us”. We have to find something of a new horizon

He says our conference theme – of moving to 21st century thinking – isn’t enough. It’s too modest. It won’t help us to grapple with these big challenges we face. He says we have three big needs (he explains them in more detail – we’ll add his powerpoints later if we can!):

  • Get serious about sustainability
  • Make the communications revolution a social revolution
  • Continue to press for emancipation

Keith says that making these 3 big needs can make Us bigger (he has a slide that explains why)

He says we need:

  • whole-of-globe thinking
  • multi-generational thinking
  • capacity to deal with high levels of uncertainty
  • capacity to “be here now”

Keith introduces a new goal for education:

WISDOM [he has a slide to explain what he means here]

How do we accelerate the development of wisdom? (a great question for us to all think about!)

He asks three or four other equally big and open questions, wraps up, and opens up the floor for discussion.

Someone asks: How do you prevent kids from becoming overwhelmed by these huge challenges?

Keith answers with an anecdote about what it’s like to wait for the bus in a third world country (ha, you need to be here to¬† appreciate this story I think).

Someone else asks: How do we have wisdom at all the levels of decision-making?

Keith talks about his experiences working at DOC, supporting change management (in a very line-management organisation) etc, and his other experiences with other institutions that are much more non-linear, chaotic etc. He thinks structure is important, but we need to think more about how to support learning and leadership within organisations. He thinks the answer is continual reflection – always thinking about what we’re learning in the moment, in order to become wiser.

Someone else asks: How could we break down the walls between schools and other organisations etc – without looking like social engineering?

Keith says – it probably will look like social engineering, and why shouldn’t it? We can own up to this – a critical, careful, considered, open, curious approach to social engineering.

[Hearty applause]

Conference: November 2009 , , , ,