Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Eight Principles of Deep Ecology - a discussion

Revised January 21, 2000
as written by Arne Naess and George Sessions
With comments by
Robert L. Fielding
Two people discuss each principle: one is the writer, Robert Leslie Fielding (RLF), and the other is A.N. Other (ANO)
1. The well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth have value in themselves. These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.

RLF: I think we must go back to basics when we assert this principle – that other life forms were NOT put on this Earth to support mankind.

ANO: Yes, I think you are right. We must assert that, but many will accept that only with a great deal of reluctance. We are taught, are we not, that the beasts of the world were put here to feed and clothe us, the flowers to adorn us?

RLF: That is true, we were taught that, and perhaps that is our greatest error, though few would have the temerity to say it, so implanted as it is in our psyche that mankind is somehow placed at the top of an imaginary pyramid, with so called, lesser forms of life taking what we think is their rightful place below us.

ANO: It is backed up by what is called the food chain, is it not; giving the pyramid some quasi-scientific validity. We have the power to ‘enforce’ our end of that chain, or so we imagine.

RLF: We place ourselves at the top of it, as you say, imagining that we are invincible, when in fact, it is the planet that is invincible – even as we seem to be doing our utmost to control and use it for our own ends.

ANO: I am reminded by something someone, I forget who, said, ‘If all insect life came to an end, within fifty years, all life on Earth would perish. If all human life came to an end, within fifty years, all life would flourish.’

RLF: I think that proves a point. But we surely don’t have to face extinction, do we, in order to save what keeps us and nourishes us?

ANO: We most certainly do not, but my point is that we most surely will if we do not put a halt to our destruction of the environment – our own and every living thing’s environment. We must first realize that we are not invincible, even as it pleases us to think we are.

RLF: Especially as it pleases us to think we are.

2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

RLF: No one who has experienced life, its richness and its beauty can ignore the validity of that statement. The value that all life is sacrosanct – all life is sacred is borne out, not just by self-serving opinion, but by scientific fact. Giant redwoods only grow to the enormous size they do because of insect life carrying, feeding and secreting among its branches and within its bark.

ANO: Indeed, but you do not have to look that far; the human form, we are told, is 70% water, and is kept alive and well by the billions upon billions of bacteria in our organs, helping us to break-down the food we eat into digestible and usable forms that supply us with nutrition to maintain our health and our energy levels.

RLF: And it is in our language that were go wrong; calling some plants weeds, when it pleases us to do so; to call soil – that originator of all life – dirt – matter out of place, to abuse land when we think it has no value, on down to the less privileged of the world, whom we regard as having no worth, and that merely on the basis of their worldly wealth – their ability to acquire – to attain, and ultimately to squander.

ANO: Humankind lives by symbols, to which we assign value.

RLF: And this value outstrips any real, lasting value – the value of every living thing.

ANO: It is this symbolic value that is at fault.

RLF: But when did it originate?

ANO: Surely from the rise of industrialism – even in its minutest form. The making of a surplus demanded that value be placed upon artifacts where none naturally existed, and so it went on until we have reached the point where all we have is the symbol – the origins of which have long since been buried in the sands of time. It is here where we go wrong – perpetuating the myth that the making of material wealth is of the highest value.

3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.

RLF: We do not have the right, but nevertheless we go right ahead and give ourselves the right, or rather, we totally reject the notion that we have no right to reduce richness and diversity.

ANO: And we not only give ourselves these so called rights, we laud those who do the most – those who get rich by doing it, encouraging others into the same folly.

RLF: This is tantamount to burying our heads in the sand – ignoring the reality of life on Earth – for what?

ANO: For nothing – nothing more than glorifying in our material wealth.

RLF: One must tread carefully here. The guardians of all we abhor are quick to label critics with discredit – accusations that deny us the right to criticize in any way.

ANO: We have needs though, let us not deny that.

RLF: We do, and they are many, but as many as they are, many are little more than man-made needs – not those that are at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – our need for food, warmth, security and such.

ANO: And I would add only so much of what he calls ‘self-actualization’ as the world can stand – only that portion of those needs that are based, not upon man’s perception of them, but on real values centred around truth – the high ideals by which some live.

RLF: Let us then live lives that do not deny others the right to live.

ANO: Whatever those others, as you call them, happen to be. For, as we have said earlier, it is in denying life to some that we deny life to ourselves – it is as simple as that.

RLF: Yes, and it is only now, when we can see our own demise in sight, that we have come to think this way – that we do not have the right to deny life to those diverse forms the Earth is blessed with.

4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease.

RLF: We have already said, have we not, that it is because of our insistence – our arrogance – that we award ourselves accolades that have no basis in Nature, that mankind threatens the existence of all other forms of life.

ANO: And we persist in that, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

RLF: What is required to change our mindsets?

ANO: Only this – an ability to think creatively, to do that and to be strong enough to stand up for what we believe is right.

RLF: But how can we stand against vested interest – with all its might – with all its sycophantic advocates. We speak of human rights, first and foremost, and omit to even mention the rights of all other forms of life.

ANO: Did we ere in our thoughts, even from our ancestors – ancient Greeks, from whom Western thought grew?

RLF: I am sure that we did, years. But, and I am not acting as an apologist here – those modes of thought we hold with such reverence were conceived in a time so far removed from the present, both in chronological time, and in terms of cultural development, that they deserve to be subjected to a radical re-thinking if we are to survive, and by ‘we’ I mean all forms of life.

ANO: But let us not forget that there are people walking the Earth who either do not hold with the principles upon which much of Western thought is based, or else have not benefited from some of their admittedly benevolent tenets. What of them? What of people who live under a rule that denies them even those basic values that we so unceasingly squander? What of them? Shall we go back a thousand years to a time before our present modes of thought were created?

RLF: Your point is a good one, and it is analogous to the Western nations admonishing poorer nations for endangering their own environment, even as they watch us squander and abuse ours.

ANO: New modes of thought must encompass all if they are to have any benefit to all. We cannot ask for sacrifices to be made by some and remain stolid in our defence of our own liberty to use and abuse the world’s resources.

5. Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

RLF: This has been so since man learnt to produce a surplus and use it to trade in commodities he could well have done without.

ANO: It is as we have said; man lives by the meaning of symbols – to his own detriment.

RLF: But our detractors would chastise us for our seemingly apparent wish to return to the Stone Age – living in the freezing dark night of eternity. Where should it all have stopped? Can you understand my question; at what point in our history – our pre-history, almost, did we begin to sew the seeds of our own demise? Was it in moving away from the fields that gave us wheat, gave us bread to eat and live by?

ANO: I can see your point. Was our beginning inevitable?

RLF: That is my point exactly. Do we have to return to that age and try to start over again, because if you say we do, I tell you we are doomed to failure.

ANO: Let me be clear here; no one is suggesting that we return to those ages of man distinguished by a life, nasty brutish and short. Rather, we need to limit our needs to those that can be sustained for all time, for that is what we must do if we are not to emulate the success of the dinosaurs.

6. Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies will affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be very different from the present.

RLF: What is required is nothing less than a radical change in our attitude to life, but more importantly, in our attitude to ourselves; this fallacy that this Earth is there for us and us alone, is at the very heart of our folly, and it will be at the heart of our undoing too.

ANO: But how can we begin to unravel the knot we find ourselves it. Will we have to cut through it, as Alexander the Great is said to have cut the ropes in the Gordian Knot?

RLF: That is a good example of what we need to accomplish – no less that a severing of this Gordian knot of our own making.

ANO: But this knot has been tied by the hands of the multitude – how can it now be untied?

RLF: Not without a great deal of suffering, that is clear. For as you have contributed to the tying of that knot, so shall you have to deny yourself those things that define you.

ANO: I can see no alternative than starting with the young – who, as we all know, have amazing capabilities for change. And for a very good reason.

RLF: Which is?

ANO: Which is that being young, children know no tethers on their critical faculties, nor on their imagination that so tie us adults. Our hope is in our children – after all, they will see a future that we will not live to see. They have a much greater need than we do, and having the greater need, have the greater right to be heard.

7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating quality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

RLF: What is at the heart of this ideological change is nothing less than an answer to the question: What constitutes living?

ANO: And by that, you mean, I suppose, the difference between a sort of life of sensitivity, a life of reflection, versus the headlong pursuit of the variety of pleasure that is short lived and without any lasting meaning – that sort of life. Am I right?

RLF: You are exactly right. While we live a life in which reflection plays little or no part, we are prone, by this self-deceit, to continue our rampaging way through our surroundings in pursuit of something as utterly ephemeral and transparently vacuous as this Great Pleasure Principle.

ANO: That might be so, but you cannot deny the hold it has over the vast majority of people alive today.

RLF: Can I re-define that; the vast majority of people, of which you speak – being adult. Children are yet, by definition, sufficiently immature not to be totally taken in by this.

ANO: So we return to the same point; that our salvation is in the hands of the young.

RLF: Exactly so. The new born child knows nothing of so called sophisticated tastes – she only knows those needs which all are born with; she has no layers of false consciousness to weigh her down.

8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

RLF: In a sense, a very real sense, we each of us have or perhaps I should say ought to have a keen interest in implementing the changes necessary to save us.

ANO: But there will inevitably be those who utterly deny that such changes can or should be implemented.

RLF: And, unfortunately for mankind, those with the most ability to thwart any such changes, are those in positions of power within our various societies. Those with real power of financial and political might, goading people with much less into believing that their interests correspond.

ANO: Shall we not then adopt a sort of Fabian approach – attacking gradually, until walls are broken down?

RLF: We may. These walls of which you speak are of a metaphorical nature, are they not?

ANO: They are; the walls of prejudice, of folly, of insensitivity and unawareness and ignorance – those are the walls refer to.
Robert L. Fielding

Sunday, April 19, 2009

RSA Projects
Charter -
Talks -
Sir Ken Robinson – The Element -

The Charter
1. It is the primary purpose of education to awaken a love of learning in young people, and give them the ability and desire to carry on learning throughout life.

Robert Leslie Fielding: I think we should rephrase that sentence to read, “It should be the primary purpose of education to awaken a love of learning in young people, and give them the ability and desire to carry on learning throughout life.” - it should be, but alas, it isn’t.

Beryl Fielding: Why do you say it should? I take it you don’t think education fulfills that role.

RLF: No, I don’t.
BF: Why do you think that way?

RLF: Well, you could start by looking around you. How many young people leave school with an awakened love of learning, with the ability and desire to go on learning throughout life?

BF: I don’t know – how could I – how can you know how many leave school feeling that way about education. I’m sure some do.

RLF: You’re probably right – some – even many do, but I feel pretty sure that the majority don’t feel that way.

BF: Why do you think that?

RLF: I think there are many reasons why that is true – probably as many reasons as there are people who have left school.

BF: How can we deal with a statement like that? What does it mean?

RLF: Let me explain. Education was designed – initially – to serve the newly industrialized world – back in the 19th Century. Consequently, more importance – most importance was given to subjects that were needed by industry – that children leaving school to look for work were both literate and numerate.

BF: They could read and write, and do arithmetic?

RLF: Exactly so.

BF: I see nothing wrong with that; people who can’t do those things are severely disadvantaged throughout their lives if they can’t.

RLF: You are absolutely right. My point is that other things that children need to know are either marginalized or else ignored altogether.

BF: You’ll have to give me an example.

RLF: Today, many young men choose to live on their own – and many young women do too.

BF: That’s true. What’s your point?

RLF: That things like cookery, home economics and doing simple household repairs – mending fuses, wallpapering and a hundred other useful things are rarely taught at school.

When I went to school, only girls did what was then called ‘Domestic Science’ – cooking!

BF: But back then, not many people opted to live a single life alone.

RLF: Again, that’s true, but how many married men knew how to cook a meal properly, or how to change a baby’s nappy? I know my father never mastered those two things every father should know.

BF: That’s true. Your father couldn’t do those things; I did them.

RLF: But there were times when you were ill, or away, surely. What happened then?

BF: Don’t you remember; you got the same food every night for a week.

RLF: We did, and I think that proves my point, doesn’t it?

BF: Well, yes, I suppose it does go some way to explaining what you mean, but that’s not so important, is it?

RLF: I haven’t finished what I wanted to say yet. Let’s move away from that obvious example, and take something like music, dance, drama, practically anything remotely artistic or creative – all were ignored – largely, weren’t they?

BF: Every school had art classes.

RLF: That’s true – but art meant painting – nothing else, didn’t it?

BF: Yes, I suppose it did. What else could have been taught?

RLF: Surely a good arts graduate could teach children a host of subjects – techniques – including dance, drama, or music, couldn’t they?

BF: But you are forgetting the cost of all these. All these cost money – materials, rooms and trained staff – teachers to teach children how to act, play musical instruments, how to dance as well as how to paint.

RLF: Actually, I think most of these subjects have found their way into the classroom – though probably as sort of after-school activities or club-like activities for interested children to come back for in the early evening after dinner.

BF: Well then, that’s better than nothing’ isn’t it?

RLF: It certainly is. Now let me just mention the other party in all this – the parents; how many parents encourage their young ones to adopt a course of study that they know will cost them extra money – think of buying a guitar or a trumpet, for instance. How many parents encourage their children to excel at anything?

BF: That’s not fair, and nor is it correct, either. Many parents – I would say, most parents, encourage their kids to take up an interest other than the main subjects at school. Many children have hobbies, you know!

RLF: Yes, and the most popular ones are playing video games and watching TV.

BF: And what is wrong with them?

RLF: None of them is absolutely bad, it’s just that I believe long hours sitting playing video games – sitting in front of a computer screen, is one great way of avoiding other vital activities.

BF: Which other activities??

RLF: Playing outside – getting fresh air and exercise – such as doing things with other children – interacting with their peers – friends, and it leaves the family somewhere out in the cold too, don’t you think?

BF: I have to say that I agree with you there. But my point is that children will find what interests them without parents pushing them.

RLF: Who said anything about pushing them. In any case, that’s a sort of ‘working class way of looking at things.
Read ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell to realize the main differences between how people from different walks of life, shall we say, bring up their children.

BF: In all this talk about children and what education should or shouldn‘t do for them, we’ve neglected to mention the role parents take, or rather often don’t take in the education of their children, haven’t we?

RLF: Well, yes, I suppose we haven’t said much about what parents can do. Actually, I think education begins at birth – whether we are fully aware of it or not, and whether we know anything about it – how to improve it – how to do anything, really.

BF: Bringing up children is something that everybody thinks they can do – without ever having to learn – to read books or ask others. It’s like chess.

RLF: Chess?

BF: Yes, chess – most people know the basic moves of pieces on a chess board, but to be good at it, you have to read about it, read and then put in to practice what you’ve read, and it’s the same bringing up children too, although most people remain blissfully unaware of that fact and end up blundering on until a young person’s life, or should I say, a young person’s full potential, is rarely if ever achieved.
Robert L. Fielding

2. We need to recognise that education has many aims

RLF: What, broadly speaking, are the aims of education, do you think?

BF: Without sounding redundant, I would say that the aims of education were to produce an educated population.

RLF: OK, that’s a start. My next question would be, What does that mean – an educated population – educated in what?

BF: Educated in the sense that they are able to do several things; live in a civilized, peaceful way, contribute to the life of the nation, find happiness and fulfillment, and be able to bring up children, and cultivate the values that they inherit from education and from their parents and those living around them.

RLF: Let’s take them one by one, then. First of all, you say that educated people should be able to live in a civilized way. What do you mean by that?

BF: To live in a way that does not go against anyone else; to respect other’s rights to live their lives any way they wish, with the added proviso that their way does not encroach on anyone else’s.

RLF: Do you think that is enough?

BF: That must be the basis of any civilized society – acceptance of and respect for the values and wishes of others living in the same society.

RLF: And having that, what would you say was the next thing that education brings to a civilized people?

BF: The ability to agree to differ on certain issues without resorting to any form of malice or animosity, prejudice or bias.

RLF: But isn’t that similar to your first point?

BF: Similar, but not the same. Let me say that prejudice, which I define as the production of ready-made opinions based on incomplete evidence, often no evidence at all, is one of the biggest threats to mankind living at peace; prejudice and its close kin, bias, which is little more than a sort of directional prejudice, stem from what I may call the antithesis of education – ignorance. When I say that word, I know you are going to say that an animal is ignorant – and it is true, animals are ignorant, but they are blessed with something called instinct, aren’t they?

RLF: And it is instinct that stops them from savagery, except for killing what they will eat. Savagery in human kind does not stem from any need to feed, but rather from ignorance, and a willful desire to ignore the rights and needs of others.

BF: That is exactly right. Ignorance, man’s variety, is the very enemy of civilization.

RLF: Can you explain?

BF: Suppose a man, or a group of men – we usually speak of such a group as male, you notice – and for a very good reason; it is men rather than women that have been responsible for the greatest crimes in the world’s long history. Suppose a group of men, all like-minded, all intent on disregarding anyone else’s rights, needs, even existence, acts in ways that endanger the lives of the rest of the people, and suppose that group have the absolute means to destroy, then they are endangering all by their scant regard for people, their values, and their lives.

RLF: I see. So you are saying that the only thing that will prevent such a group from acting this way is...
BF: Education, yes.

RLF: But once such a group was formed, surely only power could prevent them?

BF: Quite so, and so we have wars, destruction and the death of millions.

RLF: Alright, having established that the first aim of education is to enable people to live a civilized, peaceful life, what of your second aim of education; to contribute to the life of a nation? What does that entail?

BF: Well, the life of a nation should be taken to mean the wellbeing of the nation and its people.

RLF: But the word ‘wellbeing’ could mean a million things, couldn’t it?

BF: Yes, it could, and it is well that it could, for that means that we have roles for millions of people. Wellbeing equates with health, for instance, and so we have education to produce the doctors and other carers to keep people in good health; wellbeing means prosperity, and so education provides us with those people that will contribute to the wealth of a nation: mechanics, electricians, musicians, builders, bankers, in fact the whole realm of people who contribute to and create the wealth of a nation.

RLF: You talked next of happiness and fulfillment, what of those qualities? How can education instill happiness and fulfillment? Surely those are products of the individual, and cannot be ‘produced’ by others.

BF: How wrong you are. Does not your happiness and sense of fulfillment depend upon significant others as well as upon yourself?

RLF: It does. But how can education benefit what is already there, in existence?

BF: Why are you happy, if you are happy?

RLF: Why? Because I am contented – in my home life and in my life outside my home – in my work.

BF: I see, and you derive fulfillment as well as happiness from your home life and your work, do you?

RLF: Yes, of course.

BF: And do those things happen by themselves – do they just come about?

RLF: Of course not.

BF: Would you say that they take a certain amount of endeavor, of commitment to others as well as to yourself?

RLF: Of course they do.

BF: And where does that endeavor and that commitment come from, would you say?

RLF: From who I am. Yes, now I see what you mean; I am who I am because of what education has given me.

BF: Indeed you are. You might ask the question: What would you be without education?

RLF: I would be little more than a savage, at the mercy of other ill-educated savages, and driven by nothing more than my animal-like desires.

BF: So it is education that has made you what you are, and your wife what she is, and together, your children what they are. It is education that has provided you with the means to feed and clothe your family, and it is education that has given you interests in common with those around you. Education has given you all that, hasn’t it?

RLF: You are right, it has. Now what of your last aim of education: to bring up children, and cultivate the values that they inherited from education and from their parents and those living around them. What of that?

BF: Hasn’t everything we have just said addressed that last point?

RLF: Yes, I believe it has, for how else could we pass on to our children all these facets of our life without education.

BF: And so you must agree that education begins in the home, doesn’t it?

RLF: It most certainly does, and this talk has made me see all the more clearly that it does.

BF: I hope it has made you realize what the aims of education are, and although we have dealt in generalities, used broad brush strokes, if you will, we have covered every facet, every aspect of life – the good life, if not in exactly those names by which we term all the necessary ingredients of life – respect, law, happiness, interest, and truth. What is there left but these?

RLF: I would only mention two more: creativity and inspiration.

BF: And those we get from education, from education, and from religion too, let us not forget that part of our education; our faith.
Robert L. Fielding

3. Education must nurture creativity and capacity for independent and critical thought.

RLF: You would think something like that would almost go without saying; that it would be obvious, wouldn’t you?

BF: Yes, you would, but it isn’t, and there have been times when education hasn’t nurtured creativity and a capacity for independent and critical thought.

RLF: Can you give an example?

BF: Well, right way, I can think of a place and a time when education was most definitely not used to nurture anything but obedience and fear.

RLF: That must have been a terrible place.

BF: Yes, it must have been awful, but it didn’t exist, except in one man’s imagination, and on the pages of a book he wrote that became one of the world’s most famous novels – “1984’ by George Orwell.

RLF: Oh, yes, I’ve read it. He wrote about a terrible world, didn’t he?

BF: Yes, he did, but thankfully there has probably never been a place like that in reality.

RLF: Then we can say, after all, that education must nurture creativity and independent and critical thought.

BF: Hopefully, yes. Let’s take the first of those and discuss why education should nurture creativity.

RLF: Alright, but I think before we discuss why education should nurture creativity, we should define what we mean by the word, ‘creativity’.

BF: Well the dictionary defines it as the ability to use your imagination to produce new ideas, make things.

RLF: Where does that get us?

BF: To thinking.

RLF: Thinking about what?

BF: About thinking. How often do we use our imagination, would you say?

RLF: Every day, every hour…

BF: All the time, right. We think of something – anything, and we have to use our imagination.

RLF: But we use our memory, let’s not forget that.

BF: But what is our memory – only stored images in our heads – we still have to access them and use them.

RLF: Yes, we do, but what has that to do with imagination. That means imagining something that isn’t there, or has never been in existence, doesn’t it?

BF: Not at all. You use your imagination to recall, in your mind’s eye what your childhood home looked like, or what a long absent friend’s face looks like. You imagine those things, don’t you?

RLF: Well, I suppose if you put it like that, then I suppose you are right, you do imagine them, yes.

BF: But still you have reservations about calling that imagination, don’t you?

RLF: Yes, I do.

BF: Why?

RLF: Because I have always thought of my imagination as something I use to ‘see’ what I can’t see.

BF: Do you mean things like your childhood home or the face of a long absent friend?

RLF: Yes, I see what you mean. But how can we use our imagination in other ways, besides using it to imagine things that are no longer present in our lives?

BF: By bringing to mind all or any images from all or any aspects of our life – by imagining, we are, in fact, making connections where none were thought to exist.

RLF: Thought not to exist by whom?

BF: By you, yourself. Doesn’t your imagination surprise you sometimes?

RLF: Yes it does.

BF: And when does it do that?

RLF: When something strikes me – that’s what we say, isn’t it, that something strikes you?

BF: It is. We often ask people questions like this: ‘Say, doesn’t it strike you as odd that …..?

RLF: I think we are trying to involve someone else in the product of our imagination – our thoughts. Wouldn’t you say so?

BF: I think that’s exactly what we are doing, and if we don’t say anything to anybody, we say we are daydreaming.

RLF: And daydreaming is probably nothing more than undiluted imagining – using our imagination.

BF: Which is traditionally frowned upon in the classroom, is it not?

RLF: Absolutely, if we are daydreaming, the teacher tells us to pay attention – to focus on what she is saying.

BF: And what she means to say is to remain under her control – perhaps that is putting it too strongly, but you get my meaning, don’t you?

RLF: I know there’s a time and a place for everything, and you might forgive me for saying that the classroom is not the place to daydream.

BF: Maybe so, but surely a classroom should be a place – the place, where you can let your imagination roam over related facts or ideas until they connect – that is using your imagination productively.

RLF: I think you are right, and I can see now how one of the goals of education should be to encourage children to use their imagination. And that would be the same as nurturing their creativity, wouldn’t it?

BF: Indeed it would, and precisely because out of the imagination come new ideas, new connections – creativity.

RLF: So if we use Sir Ken Robinson’s definition of creativity: coming up with new ideas that are of value, I think it was, then our imagination is an integral, vital part of our ability to think creatively.

BF: It is the brain’s ability to connect, whereas what we refer to as an academic discipline refutes that ability, almost. Faculties cannot countenance notions from other disciplines, lest they blow their own discipline sky high.

RLF: Whereas what academics should be doing is furthering knowledge all the more rapidly and diversely, by accepting that the world and everything in it IS connected.

BF: What of education nurturing our capacity for independent and critical thought?

RLF: Well, let’s start with that old chestnut that went something like this; if I had somewhere to stand, and a long enough lever, I could move the world. Who said that?

BF: I’m not sure, but why do you say it here and now?

RLF: Because it seems relevant to our discussion at this point.

BF: I’m not sure I understand you, please add something.

RLF: I mean to say that the ability to think independently is tantamount to being able to stand so far apart from the world that two things happen: you notice you are out in space, and other people notice you are, too.

BF: And how does that affect you?

RLF: If you are resolute and sure of yourself, you will ignore those who think you are crazy, or not of this planet – put more plainly and less picturesquely, if people disagree with you so profoundly that they begin to doubt your sanity, and continue with your train of thoughts until they are accepted.

BF: That is not as crazy as it sounds. Let me tell you that scientific knowledge progresses in that manner – not necessarily by startling discoveries and inventions, but more usually, by disproving the old ones. And it takes creativity and an independent mind to move conventional scientific ways of seeing the world on to a new place, let me tell you. One of the common attributes of all the best scientific minds is that they are independent – do not rely on orthodoxy of any kind, save to couch their ideas in ways that are intelligible to more conventional minds. RLF: What about education developing our facility for thinking critically?

BF: Critical thinking – our ability, and indeed, our propensity to formulate questions whilst we are reading, or listening to someone, is one of the most valuable things that education can help us develop. It is critical thinking that makes the world improve. If we had not had people with the facility to question and, may I say, cast doubt, on what has been written and said down the years, the world would not look the way it does today.

RLF: I think I agree with you. This applies in all fields of human endeavor; from the academic disciplines, into social commentary, and politics and philosophy.

BF: That is right. It has been our refusal to take at face value what we are told and what we see and read about that is our greatest gift.

RLF: And I think this is also linked to creativity; to having a fertile mind.

BF: That is again correct. It is surely in the bringing together the various ways of looking at anything that informs us of alternatives, and it is the formation of an alternative that we bring to light other possibilities.

RLF: That sounds just a little tautological, but I take your point.
Thinking there is an alternative – could be on, at any rate, means people are prepared to look.

BF: Look where?

RLF: Look into their own minds first, to see if anything has escaped them – if everything is clear, and has no error.

BF: But surely not only error. Critical thinking, as we have hinted, means thinking of things laterally – looking at something from another side – another dimension. It is that ability to look at something from that other side, that other dimension – taking more in to account that had been done previously, that is both akin to creativity, and is the essence of critical thinking.

RLF: Realizing that all the questions haven’t been asked – haven’t even been formed – that is what education gives us. Most people think education should just provide us with the answers, but, in my opinion, its real value to us is that it helps us to form and ask more questions – to hone the theory until it is sharp – until what we call ‘the cutting edge’ is so sharp that it will admit not further honing – at least not until additional knowledge comes to light.
Robert L. Fielding

4. Young people should leave formal education equipped with the confidence, aptitude and skills they need for life and for work.


Robert L. Fielding

5. Education should help young people to understand how to be happy and to develop and maintain their own emotional, physical and mental well-being.
Robert L. Fielding

6. Every young person has the right to develop to their full potential
Robert L. Fielding

7. Ability comes in many forms and learners need to be supported to enjoy success no matter where their talents lie.
Robert L. Fielding

8. The educational success of learners should not depend on their background. Schools, communities and families must work together to close gaps in attainment.
Robert L. Fielding

9. The curriculum in schools and colleges should balance abstract and practical knowledge so that every learner can access high quality academic and vocational opportunities.
Robert L. Fielding

10. Education should engage the learner with exciting, relevant content and opportunities for learning through experience and by doing.
Robert L. Fielding

11. Education must be a partnership
Robert L. Fielding

12. Learners have a valuable role to play in contributing to the design of their own learning, and in shaping the way their learning environment operates.
Robert L. Fielding

13. The education of young people should be a partnership of schools, parents and the wider community in a local area.
Robert L. Fielding

14. Schools should be inclusive, creative communities which build tolerance, respect and empathy in young people.
Robert L. Fielding

15. We must trust our schools and education professionals
Robert L. Fielding

16. Every teacher should be a creative professional involved in the design of curricula and learning environments, and should be supported and developed to fulfil that role.
Robert L. Fielding

17. Every school should be different, every school innovative and we must find ways of holding them to account for their performance that reward rather than stifle this creativity.
Robert L. Fielding

Some answers

Some answers

Q: What are the practical steps required to really change cultures and attitudes around learning for the better?

First of all, forget changing cultures – change attitudes and integrate those changed attitudes into existing cultures. (Changing cultures would take eons of time and have unexpected, unpredictable consequences.
Attitudes are slow to change but with clear demonstration, they will change. My wife and I teach in the United Arab Emirates, and we both see change happening – but it’s a slow process.

At schools in this country, much of what is thought to be ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ is little more than rote memorizing. Some improvement and change has been seen, and many believe it can and will happen – those of us in Higher Education are working hard to present learners with new interfaces, and it is working – young people are not as frightened of change as older people can be – they have lived through a period of intense change since birth. Conservatism is an attribute of older people – change will come from youth.

Q: Who are the most important stakeholders in the effort to change culture and attitudes around learning? Is it parents, young people, teachers, government or all?

It surely is everybody. We all have a vested interest in improving education to meet the challenges that must come if we are to survive as a species. Younger people will live through more than the rest of us – they need to make it happen. I am 59 years old – if it happens, fine, if it doesn’t, what can I do/what do I care? Those last two thoughts are not mine, but they could be associated with the majority of people over 50 – even a lot younger.

Invest in youth – show those who think they have been left out of the loop that they have not. Anybody can teach someone who wants to learn, let’s see you teach a kid who has no apparent interest in learning what he is being taught. I say apparent for everybody has an interest in education – their own –even when they say things to the contrary and behave as if education sucks. Sir Ken said so at TED and it’s true.

Q: Are you seeing any best practice campaigns/efforts (taking place around the world) that are effectively working to evolve perceptions of vocational learning/practical education?

While education systems serve vested interests – government and commerce/corporations etc, you get what you pay for. Who imagines that any system that only seeks to get you ready to work in some mindless job and then at the last moment denies you even that crumb, can work for the masses of our children without gainful, meaningful employment, is on some other planet.

Walk around the streets of any city in the US/UK/Europe and watch despair surface in the form of self-abuse (substances=alcohol, drugs, mind-numbing video-games – all that stuff that kids do that adults with pension plans and cars in the driveway don’t understand – don‘t or can’t or both.

I don’t mean to be so negative. Actually, I do believe that there are people out there who care. We just need to make sure there are enough of them to make a difference.
I have been and still am doing some writing on the things that Sir Ken Robinson said in his TED talk.

Convergent and divergent thinking

Every teacher here has noticed, at one time or another, that our students seem good at some things and not quite so good at others. If we ask them to think of ideas or opinions on fairly familiar topics, they usually, but not always, react poorly and either come up with very few ideas, or take inordinate amounts of time to arrive at any.

However, much of the testing in examinations seems to test expertise in convergent thinking; the production of the one, and only, right answer.

Writing Projects, however, are designed to encourage divergent ways of looking at problems, or at least include exercises that draw upon a student’s ability to think divergently.

The fact that many of our students do not achieve what they might be expected to achieve, given their high school grades, might mean that they require some training in more divergent ways of thinking.  
• Divergent thinking is the ability to find as many possible answers to a particular problem.
• Convergent thinking is the ability to find the best single answer to a problem

Left Brain, Right Brain
I'm creative and he's analytical
Have you ever thought why some people can paint beautifully, but have difficulty adding two and two? Or why some people can understand the intricacies of calculus effortlessly, but struggle to write a one-page essay? It's all about which side of your brain dominates - the left or the right.
The human brain is bifurcated down the middle into two parts, popularly known as the left brain and right brain respectively. We know that different parts of the brain control different bodily and mental functions. Over the years, a theory that has gained in popularity is that the right brain and the left brain are responsible for different modes of thought and that the way in which a person thinks will depend on which side of his brain predominates.

Left brain vs. right brain
People who rely more heavily on the right half of their brain tend to be more imaginative and intuitive. They see things as a whole and are interested in patterns, shapes and sizes. The right brain is associated with artistic ability like singing, painting, writing poetry, etc. Left-brain dominated people may find their thought processes vague and difficult to follow, for they are quite opposite in the way they think. Left-brain dominated people tend to be more logical and analytical in their thinking and usually excel at mathematics and word skills. But this does not mean that a person who is left or right brain dominated does not use the other part of his brain. For most people, the two parts of the brain work in tandem to enable them to function as well-rounded personalities.
The right brain absorbs new information in chunks, but it is the job of the left brain to sift and sort it in an organized fashion. However, there is no clear-cut definition of the functions of the two parts of the brain. Each can do the other's work, just not as efficiently. Most people have a tendency to lean towards using the left or right brain while thinking or learning. For instance, right brain dominated people are often poor spellers as they tend to rely more on their intuition rather than actually studying the order in which the letters in a word occur.

Academics and thinking
At the time of their birth, babies are not predisposed to be either left brain or right brain thinkers. Unfortunately, our education system with its emphasis on rote learning and exam syllabi is more tuned to encouraging left brain activity, often to the detriment of right brain creativity. School examinations are designed to test left brain activity and encourage conformity in thought. There is a possibility that if right brain skills are not exercised, they may not develop sufficiently.
When it comes to academics, left brain dominated children do well at school, as they are more likely to respond to formal learning. They exhibit greater responsibility, are quite content to study by themselves and have greater concentration. Right brain dominated children, on the other hand, are less likely to perform well academically. They prefer to study with company, cannot sit still for very long and are more responsive in informal settings.

Convergent and divergent thinking
Right brain and left brain dominated people can also be categorized as divergent and convergent thinkers respectively. A convergent thinker has a systematic approach and plays by the rules. He analyzes everything and reaches a logical conclusion. Thus, scientific and mathematical activities are more up his street. Such people do very well on straightforward question and answer type tests.
Divergent thinkers, on the other hand, are creative and tend to throw the rules out of the window. They are artistic and always looking for ways to express themselves. They do much better in exams that require essay-type answers.
There is no such thing that it is better to be left brain dominated or right brain dominated. You need both kinds of thinking to function well. While a person may have a dominant style of thinking, it would be interesting to see how the other half works and even learn to develop the skills that you lack.

Divergent Thinking
According to Guilford College[1], divergent or synthetic thinking is the ability to draw on ideas from across disciplines and fields of inquiry to reach a deeper understanding of the world and one's place in it.
There is a movement in education that maintains divergent thinking might create more resourceful students. Rather than presenting a series of problems for rote memorization or resolution, divergent thinking presents open-ended problems and encourages students to develop their own solutions to problems.
Divergent production is the creative generation of multiple answers to a set problem. For example, find uses for 1 meter lengths of black cotton.
[edit] Convergent thinking
Convergent thinking is oriented towards deriving the single best (or correct) answer to a clearly defined question. It emphasizes speed, accuracy, logic, and the like, and focuses on accumulating information, recognizing the familiar, reapplying set techniques, and preserving the already known. It is based on familiarity with what is already known (i.e., knowledge), and is most effective in situations where a ready-made answer exists and needs simply to be recalled from stored information, or worked out from what is already known by applying conventional and logical search, recognition and decision-making strategies. (OWAIS)

Understand convergent thinking. This is perhaps the more predominant style of thinking in contemporary technological society. In convergent thought, we locate a problem at the "center" of our focus and then gather peripheral resources to bear down on the problem. So then our resources "converge" on the problem. Often times with convergent thinking, there is a single best solution that is sought. An example of convergent thinking might involve taking a multiple choice test in which there is a single "correct" answer. The test-taker brings knowledge from outside of the problem (perhaps learned in a course) and converges it all onto the problem in order to choose the correct answer.
Understand divergent thinking. Divergent thinking involves some stimulus, which can take the form of a problem, and we can locate this at the center, as we did with convergent thinking above. However, the procedure is different. Rather than gathering information and converging it on the central problem, we branch off (diverge) and shoot for novel ideas, new perspectives and creativity. Instead of a single correct answer, there may be a whole host of possibilities. An example of using divergent thinking might involve taking an open-ended test that asks how many uses one can imagine for various (often mundane) objects. What can you do with a pencil? A string? A rock?
Combine convergent thinking with divergent thinking. Perhaps the most clear-cut way in which convergent thinking may be optimally combined with divergent thinking is to engage in divergent thinking in order to generate many novel ideas, and then to evaluate these ideas by using convergent thinking. The fecund imagination of divergent thinking is tempered by the selective critique of convergent thinking.
Practice everyday application and relationships. It is probably wise to diversify your thought patterns to include both divergent and convergent thinking. Most of us are better at one than the other, but at least a little of each complements the other. This isn't just a matter of intellectual pursuits, but it can also come to bear on personal relationships. The old adage "opposites attract" might be especially applicable here too, as a predominantly divergent thinker may admire the "logical" convergent thinker, who may in turn become infatuated with the "wild" divergent thinker.

Convergent and Divergent
Thinking Styles
Hudson (1967) studied English schoolboys, and found that conventional measures of intelligence did not always do justice to their abilities. The tests gave credit for problem-solving which produced the "right" answer, but under-estimated creativity and unconventional approaches to problems.
He concluded that there were two different forms of thinking or ability in play here:

 One he called "convergent" thinking, in which the person is good at bringing material from a variety of sources to bear on a problem, in such a way as to produce the "correct" answer. This kind of thinking is particularly appropriate in science, maths and technology.
 Because of the need for consistency and reliability, this is really the only form of thinking which standardised intelligence tests, (and even national exams) can test

 The other he termed "divergent" thinking. Here the student's skill is in broadly creative elaboration of ideas prompted by a stimulus, and is more suited to artistic pursuits and study in the humanities.
 In order to get at this kind of thinking, he devised open-ended tests, such as the "Uses of Objects" test

Uses of Objects Test
Below are five everyday objects. Think of as many different uses as you can for each:
 A barrel
 A paper clip
 A tin of boot polish
 A brick
 A blanket
(No time limit: usually completed in 15 minutes)
Hudson's argument has important implications. Not only does it suggest that conventional approaches to assessment may be seriously under-estimating the talent of part of the school population; but also that the very assumptions behind current curriculum and pedagogic strategies are restrictive. With divergent thinkers, for example, it is not always realistic to specify the intended outcomes of a lesson in advance. This of course leads into the traditional minefield of assessing and accrediting creativity. Fortunately, convergence and divergence are ideal types, and not mutually exclusive.
Robert L. Fielding

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Element Book Review for JJL - Presentation Transcript
Added discussions
R. L. Fielding
The Element By Ken Robinson, Ph.D. This book is not just about passion & creativity, but also about diversity & discovery. Joyful Jubilant Learning A Love Affair With Books Book review by Angela Maiers

The Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion.


1. Everyone is born with tremendous capacities for creativity.
This discussion takes place between Robert Leslie Fielding and Beryl Fielding. It is purely hypothetical. Nevertheless, it is an attempt to make sense of the statement above – that everyone is born with tremendous capacities for creativity.

Robert Leslie Fielding: We know that the human brain is not constructed as a set of compartments, each one separate from the other, but rather that all are interconnected. From birth, the baby surely uses every part of its brain to make some sense of the new world it finds itself in.

Beryl Fielding: You could say that a person’s education starts the instant he or she leaves the womb. The baby knows no language, knows nothing of our civilization and its various conventions. The newly born child is forced to use the various means at its disposal to learn.

RLF: Yes, one might say that the newly born child represents a human being at its most creative stage in life. As the child learns to speak, by a process of imitation and language acquisition, something in that child is made redundant, or at least relatively redundant. Being able to find out information by asking a question and receiving a reply, rather than deducing by other means, whatever those means are, will mean that those faculties that are used less now that the child has language, will grow idle – will not be used, and as such will, through lack of use, lose something of their abilities to aid the child in its quest for information.

BF: That is surely right, but since we are not able to ask a baby anything without language, how are we to determine that what we have both said is true? Thinking of that order comes much, much later in the child’s life.

RLF: All we can do is try to deduce what happens in a child’s life at those early stages.

BF: That is not quite true. There are experts in fields that deal with how a child finds its way to understanding the things it sees, touches, hears, feels, smells and tastes. That bundle of senses must convey something to the child, and obviously that child must use the input from its senses to make some sort of sense of the world around it.

RLF: Yes, I think that must be so. Now, would you say that Nature provides the means by which that happens?

BF: Of course. The child learns, and in doing so must use what means it has to learn. One cannot imagine that a child has to wait until it learns the word ‘mother’ – meaning provider of food and warmth, and love, to know that the person giving it sustenance, and providing warmth and giving it love and attention is the one to whom the child looks for all those, even though it cannot know what a mother is.

RLF: I see what you mean. The child displays pleasure when it sees its mother – she smiles and the baby smiles – that smile is an act of creativity since a smile needs a stimulus – it may be that smiling is an act of imitation, but something in the baby’s mind triggers the smile – and in that sense smiling is an original act.

BF: And since any original act represents creativity, then the child is being creative when it first smiles.

RLF: Yes, that seems reasonable. So, in fact, any response the child makes is creative, since there must be a first time for every type of response.

BF: Even when a child cries when in some discomfort? Is that an act of creativity?

RLF: It is an act that occurs, we must think, almost without thinking. Babies cry for all sorts of reasons, don’t they?

BF: They most certainly do.

RLF: And there must be a first time for everything, don’t you think?

BF: Of course.

RLF: Then I wonder if a baby cries, not just because she is hungry, for example, but when some need is felt that is not satisfied.

BF: I am sure you are right.

RLF: Then if a child cries for a variety of reasons, might it not be true that the child is using that means to convey to her mother that she is in need of something – that she is in some kind of distress.

BF: Yes, I think so.

RLF: Then is the baby not being creative in her use of crying to get something – since, as we have agreed, there must have been a first time – a first time the baby was hungry, thirsty, too hot or too cold, or in some other need which made the baby cry to attract her mother’s attention.

BF: Yes, I see where you are going with this – since the child’s needs may come from a variety of sources, from the senses, primarily, then when the child cries, she is doing so because her brain is telling her something is not right.

RLF: Yes, and since each sense is controlled by a different part of the brain, it follows that when she cries, she is using that part of the brain automatically to induce tears.

BF: That means that she is using all of her brain, at least the different parts that control the senses to make her tears fall.

RLF: And if she does that, she is clearly demonstrating her ability to use different parts of her brain to bring about that same behavior – crying.

BF: Well done. That is a beginning – a start in trying to help us to understand where creativity comes from and what it is.

Robert L. Fielding

2. When they are very young, kids aren't particularly worried about being wrong.

RLF: Children learn much faster than we think – much faster and much more – and they learn things we never really intend them to learn. They learn how to stay out of trouble – a useful skill to know – though it would be far better if we were clearer about the parameters we should set – should but often do not.

BF: I think you are right. When you were growing up, Robert, me and your father tried to let you know what we didn’t approve of and why we didn't.

RLF: I know that, but you’ll have to remind me – I was just a kid then – remember.

BF: We did it by surrounding you with our attention and our love.

RLF: But that sounds like smothering a kid.

BF: It does, but it wasn’t done like that. We both took an interest in what you and your sister were doing – and we never gave up on you. Sometimes you tried our patience, but we never let our attention or our love for you slip.

RLF: Yes, I remember – or rather I don’t ever remember any time when you weren’t interested in us. It came over as never being able to get away with anything bad – and sometimes we didn’t like it – which kid does – kids want their own way, but I think giving in to them is spoiling them – in ways that are not often realized.

BF: What do you mean?

RLF: Well, when we were little, we saw that our friends were allowed to do things that we weren’t. Some of our pals could stay out until late, when we had to be in the house before 7.30pm – that hurt and annoyed me, I remember, but now, years later, I think about kids roaming the wet, cold, windy streets late in the evening and I think of kids having supper, talking about their day to their parents and their siblings, and going to a warm bed, and sleeping the second their heads hit the pillow. That’s the kind of things I have always been thankful for, though perhaps I didn’t know it or was fully aware of the reasoning behind it.

BF: Being a parent is a huge responsibility, and children often know instinctively when their parents are passing the buck.

RLF: Good, now let’s get back to the topic. When they are very young, kids aren't particularly worried about being wrong. Why do you think that is true, if you agree with it?

BF: For the simple reason that if children are brought up in the ways we have just described, knowing the difference between right and wrong, living within those parameters we talked about, then being wrong in other ways – is part of growing up. We expect our children to be wrong – most of the time – we allow it, forgive it, probably hopefully encourage it.

RLF: Encourage it! Why?

BF: Because that’s what we did when we were that age. We didn’t know everything, though at times we thought we did, just as kids do now. We said things that were wrong – wrong, not in a moral sense of the word, but wrong in a sort of logical sense.

You were always trying to tell us jokes when you were little, and some were funny – the ones you got right, and some weren’t so funny – the ones you tried to make up yourself. Do you remember?

RLF: Not really.

BF: Well, you’d hear something funny and then you’d try to say something equally funny, except you were too young then to know why a joke was funny, so some of your jokes came out wrong – and that was funny too.

RLF: And I still tried telling jokes even though I couldn’t easily get the hang of it?

BF: That’s right, and that’s what I mean; children shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes – they should be encouraged not to be afraid, or at least not punished for making mistakes – not those kinds of mistakes. The way I see it, many parents don’t want their kids to take their attention away from TV or gossip or something. Children need attention, and they need space and room to make mistakes and learn from them – which they will do. Don’t smother children or wrap them up in cotton wool – kids need roots but they also need wings too.

RLF: That is certainly right. I think we’ve moved that debate on a little.

BF: Yes, I think so too. I also think that the purpose of these discussions is to get readers to come up with their own opinions and thoughts. Maybe they’ll get things wrong – but getting things wrong – and then learning from them is much better than not getting them at all.
Robert Leslie Fielding

3. We are all born with tremendous natural capacities and we lose touch with many of them as we this world.

RLF: As Ken Robinson and others have said, we are educated out of our creativity, and for a very good reason.

BF: What is that?

RLF: General education was constructed, first in the 1800s in England, not just out of a desire to lift people out of the gutter, although that was probably a large part of the rationale, particularly by liberal minded leaders, but also to train people to become part of a workforce.

BF: A workforce for who – where?

RLF: As the industrial revolution took hold in England, the nature of work began to change – not just the methods, but the organization of work and working people’s lives.

BF: To what purpose?

RLF: To accommodate the dictates of mercantilism in general and the factory system in particular. As factories sprang up, the first ones belonging to men like Richard Arkwright and others, it was seen that workers would have to be both literate and numerate – machines demanded it, and the factories also required people to need to work.

BF: Oh, I see. Gone were the days of just working long enough to fill one’s bowl, and then laying down one’s tools to play.

RLF: Exactly. What use would factory owners have for workers who only appeared as and when they felt the need. Those workers were required – needed to man those machines that ran day and night, week in week out right round the year.

BF: I suppose that people like Arkwright, having invested heavily in his mills, would need to see immediate and steady returns on his investment.

RLF: Yes, and that would mean having men, women and children controlled, not by an army carrying weapons, which would have been far too costly and counter-productive in any case, but controlled rather more effectively by their being the authors of their own control.

BF: So even then, people were encouraged to want things to be better than they had been.

RLF: Yes, and we call that progress – to want and want – it’s the engine of economic growth.

BF: Which is killing the Earth.

RLF: Yes, but possibly more of that later. Once you educate a people, their tastes change – some become what we term more sophisticated, and so we get the rise of the arts, literature and music, while those that do not want those things want only food and drink and creature comforts to keep them satisfied.

BF: But of course, that doesn’t work either, and so people turn to drink – the curse of the working classes, as it came to be known.

RLF: So let’s move on to the type of things that were required to be taught to schoolchildren, dictated by those people paying for this universal education – the mill owners and the like.

BF: What would that be?

RLF: Have we not said earlier: numeracy and literacy first and foremost.
BF: But what of a child’s love for things other than numbers and letters, what of them?

RLF: They would be left out – and people – parents - could easily be made to see that it was in their children’s interests to only learn those skills that would ensure they got paid employment when they left school.

BF: So the mill got its workforce.

RLF: Workers – machine hands – labourers to pull and push, scribes to write out bills of sale and invoices, mathematicians to count and tally what had been made and the time taken to make it.

BF: But the children whose talents were artistic in nature, what of them?

RLF: Nothing – they would become unemployable at best, at worst, any talent they possessed would be drained from them, even beaten out of them until they conformed to the desires and dictates of the mill owners.

To return to the original topic; we do not lose our talents, we are educated out of them. The educational agenda is a hidden one – not very well hidden, I grant you. The unfortunate thing is that it has never changed – from that day to this.

BF: Oh, come on. People can study almost anything if they want to these days, can’t they?

RLF: They can, but by and large they have really got to want to study art to go further with it. The top tiers of all the educational systems of the world are taken by literacy and numeracy.

BF: But that is surely because they are the most important, isn’t it?

RLF: You see, it is impossible to see the way the world organized in any other way than the one organized to benefit people with money – mill owners – bosses.

BF: But what could we do with millions of artists – musicians – painters – sculptors – dancers?

RLF: That’s not the way the world turns, and most likely that’s not the way most of us would wish it to turn.

BF: What then?

RLF: If people were encouraged – taught – to think in different ways – to see the world and all its problems in a different light – to be creative thinkers – bringing to mind more than just one way of thinking to a problem. If education promoted that way of looking – that world of thinking, you would find the world peopled by a happier, more fulfilled population than is the case today.

BF: And would we still get people to fill those positions that involved hard toil?

RLF: If our needs were fewer, in terms of things like material acquisition, then there would be less need for people to work at jobs in which little or no fulfillment could be found.

BF: That sounds like Utopianism to me.

RLF: Maybe it is, but the challenge is to make it work – to bring it about – to save us and our planet from total destruction, which is the way we are heading at the moment, under your present way of educating people and using them without much thought for tomorrow, or for the young people who will walk the Earth after we have gone.
Robert L. Fielding

4. Being in the Element & especially \"in the zone\" doesn't take energy away from you; it gives it to you!


RLF: You know, whenever I sit down and start to write – when I get involved in what I am writing – which happens every time I write anything except short email messages – when I write longer pieces about a topic I am interested in and know something about, I find myself in a sort of out-of-body-experience – I know how corny that must sound, but it’s true.

BF: What do you mean? What does it feel like?

RLF: It feels like I am being taken over by the words in my head. I feel invigorated and energized, and I feel intense happiness and joy.

BF: How do you feel after you have finished writing?

RLF: That feeling eventually wears off, but it always leaves me feeling better about life than before I sat down to write.

BF: And do you feel like that each time you write something?

RLF: Yes, like I said, except for writing short notes – that kind of thing. Then writing is just something I need to do to get on with my life – like everybody else, but when I sit down to write something from the heart, then I get energized and feel full of life afterwards.

BF: Do you think other people feel that way when they write?

RLF: That’s difficult to say, but I’m sure that some do – perhaps many do, I don’t know. What I would say is that most probably everybody has something that makes them feel that way – whether it’s painting, singing, working through an algebraic equation – something.

BF: Then why don’t we hear more about it?

RLF: Because it’s an intensely personal moment, which most people think is so personal that it won’t mean anything to someone else if they tell them about it.

BF: And why do you think everybody has something that makes them feel that way – feel energized?

RLF: Why wouldn’t they have something like my writing – I’m nobody special – I haven’t got an extraordinary high I.Q – I’m just an ordinary person, so why shouldn’t we all have something that gives us great joy?

BF: I don’t know. Maybe we do have something but just don’t have the time to exercise it.

RLF: Or, more likely we weren’t ever encouraged when we were kids. I was always encouraged to write when I was a child – at school, by my teachers at Friezland Primary School, and at home, by you and Dad.

BF: Yes, you’re right, we did encourage you, but you really didn’t need much encouragement – you were always writing something, weren’t you?

RLF: Yes, I was, and I still am, but my point here is that unless children are encouraged as well as given the opportunity – as long as children are not derided by anyone for wanting to do something maybe a little out of the ordinary, they will find something they are good at and do it and get joy and energy from doing it.

BF: Do you remember that wonderful film, ‘Billy Elliot’? It was the story of a boy who found out, almost by accident, that he liked to dance and so he took up ballet dancing classes in secret. When his family found out – his father and his elder brother fairly skinned him alive and tried to make him stop dancing.

RLF: Yes, I remember – then his father came round to thinking that he should be given the chance to continue.

BF: Then he got a place at a top ballet dancing school in London, and went on to star in world famous productions of things like Swan Lake.

RLF: Billy was clearly affected when he danced – do you remember; when he was asked what it felt like when he danced, he said that he seemed to lose his body, to feel like electricity was coursing through him – that’s when the panel gave him the chance to become a student of dance at their prestigious school – that is when they realized that he had a gift, as we say, a talent for dancing.

BF: Can you identify with Billy?

RLF: Absolutely. I don’t say I feel electricity when I write, but I feel something – the words are piling up in my head, ready to come out onto the page in front of me. Thoughts are being formed, I think, as I write. I write down one idea and the next rushes into my head to be written down.

At times, when I really get going, I almost feel that it isn’t me writing. I feel as though I’m sort of taken over by the words, by the thoughts as they tumble gaily out onto the page.

BF: Have you always felt that way?

RLF: Pretty much, yes. I feel it more now because I write more, and because I use a computer rather than a pen, it seems to come easier.

BF: Why do you think that is?

RLF: Because writing with a pen and paper hurts my fingers these days. I’m getting a bit older and stiffer in my bones, so writing using a pen is something I rarely do.

Using my laptop, on the other hand, is much more comfortable, so I can concentrate on what I am writing rather than the pains in my fingers. I can sit down and type 3,000 words or more at one sitting. All I need is some water to drink and a bit of music to listen to, although the music isn’t absolutely vital.

BF: So, you think that most people have something they can get incredible pleasure from, but that many don’t know what it is, or else have lost it over time?

RLF: Yes, I do. I think that we should encourage our children in whatever they do that is creative, even if we have no particular interest in it.

BF: And probably more importantly, we should encourage them to do things even if we think there is no chance of them ever earning a living by it.

RLF: That is our test as adults – yes! Do you remember me coming home from Saddleworth School one day, full of my teacher’s praise for something I had written in class, only for it to be dismissed by Dad as not meaning anything really.

BF: No, I don’t recall that, and I don’t think your father does either.

RLF: But I still remember it vividly. I was devastated, utterly disappointed – and it has never left me.

BF: I’m sure he didn’t mean it.

RLF: Oh, don’t worry, I’ve forgiven him for it, but I have used that to spur me on to do more from that day to this. I had this sort of intuitive feeling, even then, when I was about 14 years old, that writing was in me – that it was what I wanted to do, and now, 40 years later, I’m still writing –almost every day – and publishing it too – on the internet, in my blogs and on my website.

BF: And you teach people to write too, don’t you? Don’t forget that.

RLF: I won’t. My life is writing, it has become my life and everybody should at least be made to know this; that there is something in you that is essentially you – who you are and what you are, and you should go for it no matter what – don’t worry about not making a living at it – if you keep at it, you will, but, more importantly when you find the thing that you have a talent for, it will transform your life and enrich your experience of life too
Robert L. Fielding.

5. . Too many people never connect with their true talents

RLF: Do you think that is true; that too many people never connect with their true talents?

BF: I would say most people never connect with their true talents, or at least if they ever connected with something they were amazingly good at, they were quickly shuffled away, unless that talent happened to be something we might call ‘regular’.

RLF: By ‘regular’, do you mean something like mathematics or English?

BF: Yes, something that looked like it might come in useful when their turn came to find paid employment.

RLF: So, for instance, my pal, who could play the violin before he was eight, never got the chance to develop his talent.

BF: Why was that?

RLF: Because, he told me, his father forbade him to play the thing – stopped him there and then.

BF: But why – why would anyone stop their son from playing the violin?

RLF: Well, first of all, you have to remember that this happened in the 1950s – the boy came from a working class family in Manchester – the boy’s father was a working man – a not well educated one, therefore, but a decent person, nevertheless.

BF: But why did he forbid his son from playing the violin?

RLF: For two reasons, my friend said: first, he didn’t think playing the violin was anything a normal boy should be doing – it wasn’t a thing that boys did back then – it wasn’t regarded as normal – normal for a male, I think; and the second reason was that my pal’s Dad didn’t think playing the violin would help him get a job. He most probably thought it would actually hinder him, rather than help him. And so he told him to stop playing the instrument.

BF: And did he stop playing?

RLF: He has never played it since. As time went by, he said he sort of grew out of wanting to play anything – understandably.

BF: Understandably, but somewhat tragically, don’t you think?

RLF: Absolutely. And I think many children who display talents that are slightly unusual, or don’t fit with the norms and conventions of the culture within which the child is being brought up, not only do not get any encouragement, but, like my friend, actually get actively discouraged from developing that talent.

BF: That is just such a shame, isn’t it?

RLF: It certainly is, but it probably still goes on today, at certain levels and with certain classes of people, if I may use that somewhat old-fashioned term.

BF: Then Sir Ken Robinson was right when he said that we actually squander our children’s talents, quite ruthlessly.

RLF: Yes, unfortunately for the world and everyone in it, I think we do.
Robert Leslie Fielding

6. Instead of asking \"How Intelligent Are You?” We should be asking … \"How Are You Intelligent?\"

7. One of the surest paths for finding the Element is to understand the intimate relationship between creativity & intelligence.

8. The Element describes a place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together.

9. The Element is about discovering yourself, and you can't do this if you're trapped in a compulsion to conform.

10. Creativity is a step beyond imagination because it requires actually doing something rather than lie around thinking about it.

11. The Sequence of the Element: •I Get It •I Love It •I Want It •Where Is It?

12. Perhaps the most important attitude for cultivating good fortune is a strong sense of perseverance. perseverance

13. Connecting with people who share the same passions affirms that you're not alone

14. We get multiple opportunities for new growth & development, & multiple opportunities to revitalize latent capacities.

15. Our best hope for the future is to develop a new paradigm of human capacity to meet a new era of human existence.

16. And when you find something you’re passionate about… it no longer becomes work!
Robert L. Fielding

Monday, April 13, 2009

Finding what you are passionate about and then doing it

In his book, 'The Element', Sir Ken Robinson, the educationalist and writer, talks about finding your great passion as a way into finding fulfillment in life.

This is my first entry in this particular blog and I hope to wsrite more soon. Meanwhile, go to TED and listen to Sir Ken's inspiring talk on the subject: 'Does education kill creativity?'
You will find a link to this on my own website
Many thanks
Robert L. Fielding