If you take away my wedding day, the birth of my two children and that time in 1998 when my football team beat local rivals to win 4-0 in the cup final replay, yesterday was one of the best days of my life.
Why? It marked a turning point, really. Up until my 30th year, I’ve seen myself as an ‘ideas person’, as somebody who sparks things off. The trouble is, most of the rest of the people in the world see themselves in that vein. So things never get started or are left unfinished. It’s time to be the change I want to see in the world – from start to finish.
Yesterday I helped organise the Purpos/ed Summit for Instigators. It’s the first time I’ve organised an event and, from the feedback both at the event and online, it went very well.
Over 50 people gave up a sunny Saturday afternoon to come and debate the purpose(s) of education as well as planning how to open out the conversation. They were absolutely awesome and I’m looking forward to what they go away and do as a result. It’s the first of many events!
One thing you can never really know is how people perceive you. This is especially true at a distance with people you’ve never met face-to-face. Whether face-to-face or at a distance, however, each situation depends heavily upon the ‘history’ you share with others. There are only a few people, for example, that I’ve known online since 2004 (when I started teaching) that I haven’t met face-to-face. Context changes things.
As I explained in On the glorious weirdness of connecting with people online (2009) I’m careful about the impression I give to people when meeting them for the first time. This first impression is often the one that lasts, or at least colours all future interactions. It’s been interesting, for example, to see how people I’ve known for years have reacted to my co-kickstarting the Purpos/ed debate (overwhelmingly positive) compared to the reactions of a small minority who have assumed that it’s some sort of Ponzi scheme.
The differing reactions, of course, demonstrate that at least some people think I’ve got form in collaborative and co-operative ventures:
2007 – Inspired by EdTechTalk, started EdTechRoundUp to enable UK-focused weekly discussion and debate of issues relating to educational technology.
2008 – Created elearnr.org to host guides relating to social media and educational technology.
2009 – Started a Twitter hashtag called #movemeon to provide advice for newly-qualified teachers (now collated into a book!). Shared strategy and plans relating to Director of E-Learning position, spurring others to do likewise.
2011 – Co-kickstarted Purpos/ed with Andy Stewart to provide a non-partisan, location-independent platform for discussion and debate about the purpose(s) of education.
I’m not being disingenuous when I say that over-and-above an income that provides for my family I’m not particularly interested in money. It’s a means to an end. What I am interested in is connecting and collaborating with people, attempting to inspire them, and working to make the world a little better than I found it.
There’s a lot of cynicism, jockeying and false promising in western societies. My aim for Purpos/ed (and any future projects I help establish) is to provide something of an antidote to this world-weariness I see around me. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally realised: you don’t have to ask permission to be the change you want to see in the world.
If you feel likewise, and have an interest in education, why not come along to the Purpos/ed Summit for Instigators on 30th April in Sheffield? We’re trying to make the world a better place by debate and discussion leading to action. Why not join us?
One of the wonderful things about getting involved in a new venture like Purpos/ed is the connections that you make to people and organizations you’ve never heard of before. One such person is Dougald Hine, who’s been involved in a myriad of projects. This post centres around The Dark Mountain Project, something Dougald co-founded.
What struck me upon reading the manifesto was, as I was discussing recently, the assumption behind most of what we do that business will continue as normal and that ‘reality’ is a stable, coherent, objective concept. In fact, what we term ‘reality’ is merely a “bloomin’ buzzin’ confusion” (William James) of competing narratives and stories. It’s the reason we often talk past one another: what some may dismiss as ‘semantics’ hide very real phenomenological difference in the way individuals are using terms to descibe things and ideas.
I urge you to read the whole of The Dark Mountain manifesto, but certainly the part quoted below (and definitely the last bit which I’ve emphasised in unmissable bold):
If we are indeed teetering on the edge of a massive change in how we live, in how human society itself is constructed, and in how we relate to the rest of the world, then we were led to this point by the stories we have told ourselves —above all, by the story of civilisation.
What makes this story so dangerous is that, for the most part, we have forgotten that it is a story. It has been told so many times by those who see themselves as rationalists, even scientists; heirs to the Enlightenment’s legacy —a legacy which includes the denial of the role of stories in making the world.
Yet as the myth of civilisation deepened its grip on our thinking, borrowing the guise of science and reason, we began to deny the role of stories, to dismiss their power as something primitive, childish, outgrown. The old tales by which generations had made sense of life’s subtleties and strangenesses were bowdlerised and packed off to the nursery… It is hard, today, to imagine that the word of a poet was once feared by a king.
Yet for all this, our world is still shaped by stories. Through television, ?lm, novels and video games, we may be more thoroughly bombarded narrative material than any people that ever lived. What is peculiar, however, is the carelessness with which these stories are channelled at us — as entertainment, a distraction from daily life, something to hold our attention to the other side of the ad break. There is little sense that these things make up the equipment by which we navigate reality. On the other hand, there are the serious stories told by economists, politicians, geneticists and corporate leaders. These are not presented as stories at all, but as direct accounts of how the world is. Choose between competing versions, then ?ght with those who chose differently. The ensuing con?icts play out on early morning radio, in afternoon debates and late night television pundit wars. And yet, for all the noise, what is striking is how much the opposing sides agree on: all their stories are only variants of the larger storyof human centrality, of our ever-expanding control over ‘nature’, our right to perpetual economic growth, our ability to transcend all limits.
As you’d expect from reading the above, Andy and I have separate reasons for starting Purpos/ed. One of mine certainly centres around creating space(s) to encourage and enable people to air their own stories and powerful ideas. Collaboration and transparency are key. As the maxim goes, light is the best disinfectant and, as Paul Mason explains in the if-you-haven’t-read-it-yet-you-really-should Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere, now (more than ever) ideas can acquire memetic status within hours rather than years and decades. We live in exciting, confusing but ultimately liberating times.
Wow! Whilst Andy Stewart and I, kickstarters of Purpos/ed, knew that there was a growing demand to increase the public space available for debating the purpose(s) of education, we didn’t really know just how much! Even doubling the 500 words challenge didn’t satisfy demand (there’s a reserve list here) and Andrés Espinoza Cara (@espinoza_cara) voluntarily started translating the Purpos/ed site into Spanish!
But this is just the beginning. We’re in it for the long-haul. Andy and I are currently busy setting up Purpos/ed as a co-operative, a form of organization that we feel suits its mission better than setting up as other forms of social enterprise (or, for that matter, a charity). We’ll be looking for founding members, therefore at some point in the future who will be able to help plan our first events. For now, we’ve got an exciting mix of well-known and enthusiastic bloggers who will be sharing their thoughts about what they believe to be the purpose of education. After yesterday’s inspiring call-to-action by Prof. Keri Facer today we’ve got Stephen Downes, who needs no introduction!
Finally, this isn’t about individuals, or even small groups. It’s about creating spheres of public debate about the purpose(s) of education. It’s not party-political but it is about power to the people.