Hope and Wisdom and the Via Negativa

This a strange post, so forgive me. I think it must be what happens when you’re trying desperately hard not to stray into something that you’re not yet prepared for, but can’t help thinking about, and yet keep recognising that it is evident in everything you do, how you think and certainly, how you view the world and always have. And after that introduction, I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to click away…but if you don’t, just to let you know, this post is about HOPE.

I had the pleasure of hearing Baroness Estelle Morris speak last week at the Institute for Effectiveness in Education Conference 2013 hosted at York University. I do not intend to go into the evidence, research and practice debate here as there’s many others doing just that extremely well right now.*

One thing Ms Morris said really struck a chord with me.  In her response to her introduction, and after she had said, “Please call me Estelle”, she reflected on how she had been introduced. She said that she felt that she needed to define herself as what she was not.** She  acknowledged that in a room full of educational researchers and a very small number of teachers, she was not…

  • a teacher
  • a researcher
  • a politician

But that what she was, or rather, where she was, was in ‘the gaps’ in between these things:

“…it is because I’m not these things, what I hope to bring…is an attempt to fill the gaps between all the things I’m not.”

She went on to say that wisdom is required to ensure that the connection between these things is made strong so that the gaps in between the three are reduced. This is something that definitely informs my thinking about the research, practice and evidence debate.

But back to this post…

Sometimes, I come across an idea, a quotation, an approach, a picture, a piece of text, a film or a sound that sits in the gaps between what we do, what we think and what we hope for. The job for us, then, is to make sense of it and in doing so, bring it closer to our own lives through our values and expertise. This is how our wisdom gets exercised and this is the wisdom of teaching. Because once we make those connections, we get to offer the very same opportunity to our learners.

So here is one such stimulus.

For me, this 3:14 minute trailer could be shared with learners in pretty much every subject area and chime with any theme connected to resilience, grit, learning, determination and aspiration. In doing so, it offers leaners the opportunity to forge their own connections between the subject of the film, their ideas and actions and thereby offer them the chance to reduce those gaps and develop their wisdom. By exploring the many different ways in which they can connect the film to the subject, topic or theme, they are learning about, they get to generate quality questions and begin to create their very own links that in turn will connect to their prior and present learning.

Because it is such a rich resource, if nothing else, at the end of the day, projects like the one outlined in this film give us all a much needed and refreshing dose of one thing that lies at the heart of everything that drives us in education, research and, I would like to think, politics too: hope.

If you want to really immerse yourself in hope and, given the times, why wouldn’t you? Then there’s also this inspirational 18 minute TED Talk all about the origins of the Barefoot College and where the concept of solar electrification first evolved. I’ll be posting it on my TEDUCATION site to sit alongside similarly inspirational and education-applicable TED Talks, with some of my own reflections soon.

*NB If you want to find out more about the evidence, research and education debate, I strongly suggest you sign up for The ResearchED 2013 Conference (@researchED2013) being organised by Tom Bennett and follow the twitter stream and fabulous blog posts that have been stimulated by the debate.

AND...There’s also the fabulous work of The Coalition for Evidence Based Education CEBE. They’re already set up to create one of the proposals that Ben Goldacre calls for…the equivalent of a ‘dating service’ to enable educators and researchers to develop projects together.  I’m saving specific references to it for another time, after some careful reflection (regular blog readers wouldn’t expect anything other than that from me, I am sure).

**I am probably biased here as this is one of my favourite philosophical approaches, the ‘via negativa‘, if you’re interested. It is always a fabulous stimulus for any ontological debates for the existence of…well, anything, really.

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