What if... "playful learners," not "workful knowers"?

What if school formed, by design, playful learners rather than workful knowers?

*Inspired by one of Leadership + Design's norms--"Be a learner, not a knower"--and the animated video above featuring British philosopher Alan Watts. A transcription of Watt's comments appears below.


"Existence--the physical universe--is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn't 'going anywhere'. That is to say, it doesn't have some desination that it ought to arrive at. 

"It is best understood by analogy with music, because music, as an art form, is essentially playful. We say you 'play the piano.' You don't 'work the piano.' Why?

"Music differs from, say, travel. When you travel you are trying to get somewhere.

"One doesn't make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who play the fastest. And they would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to concerts to hear one crashing chord, because that's the end!

"Same with dancing. You don't 'aim' at a particular point in the room. That's where you should arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.

"But we don't see that as something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. We've got a system of schooling that gives a completely different impression.

"It's all graded. And what we do is we put the child into the corridor of this grade system, with a kind of 'Come on, kitty, kitty, kitty!' So now you go to Kindergarten, and that's a great thing because when you finish that you get into First Grade. And then, come on, First Grade meets the Second Grade, and so on. Then you get out of grade school and you have high school, and it's revving up--'The thing is coming!' And then you're going to go to college, and by Jove you get into graduate school, and when you get out of graduate school you go out to join the world. And then you join some racket where you're selling insurance, and you've got that quota to make. And you're going to make that! And all the time, 'That thing is coming! It's coming!' That great thing, the success you're working for.

"And when you wake up one day, when you're about 40 years old, you say..." [watch the video to see how it concludes].


Each Wednesday we share a "what if" scenario. These are not suggestions as much as provocations.

If you have a "what if" scenario you would like to share, just send an email (and indicate whether you would like it attributed it to you).


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