December 08, 2012

Modern schooling: all retch and no vomit?


British Philosopher Alan Watts sums up an attitude that took me years to understand, and which underlines the attitude to life that all my colleagues sign up to. If you want to do something - defend the charged, taxi people through cities, teach children, grow wine, whatever... - then do it.

I'm working at the moment with a group of teachers, engineers and entrepreneurs in Finland, all of whom are passionate about what they do. They'd do it, I'm sure, were money no object. And because they love it, they practice it, they get good at, and so people pay them to do it so well.

Yet I've met educators on my journey who wouldn't do it, were money no object. They should go and find something else they really want to do, and not perpetuate the model in front of our children. Life is already too short to be doing something you don't want to.

The full transcription of Alan Watts' If Money Were No Object:

What do you desire?
What makes you itch?
What sort of a situation would you like?

Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, we’re getting out of college and we haven’t the faintest idea what we want to do.

So I always ask the question, what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?

Well, it’s so amazing, as a result of our kind of educational system crowds of students say, well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way. Or another person says well, I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses.

I say, you want to teach in a riding school? Let’s go through with it. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that — and forget the money, because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time.

You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.

And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it – you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is.

So don’t worry too much that everybody is – somebody is interested in everything, anything you can be interested in, you will find others will.

But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on spending things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach your children to follow in the same track. See what we are doing is we’re bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lifes we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing, so it’s all retch and no vomit — it never gets there.

And so, therefore, it’s so important to consider this question: what do I desire?

Comments

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It was Henry Thoreau who once remarked that "many men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Interestingly, in Scotland The Places Project is happening. This has a zero budget yet educators, local authorities and partner organisations who are interested in, and passionate about learning outside are all voluntarily participating. It is the brainchild of Julie Wilson, Outdoor Learning Development Officer with Education Scotland.

Another lovely quote comes from Robert Frost and the final verse of his poem, "Two tramps in mud time" which nicely sums up the brilliance of being in your element and doing the job you most want and need and love to do...

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.

It is fantastic how you managed to totally expose the theme which you have picked out for this peculiar blog entry. BTW did you turn to some alike blog posts as a source of ideas to fulfill the whole situation which you have revealed in your article?

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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