Thursday, October 29, 2015

one is never too old to learn

The other day I went to a lecture, given by a Dutch professor; Arjen Wals, about the role of higher education in our world today. I'd never been to any such thing or to a university for that matter, so had no idea what to expect. I went to the Högskola Dalarna. the university in Falun and took my seat on the benches of the library, feeling quite a bit out of place between all the students and, what I assume, staff members. Since it was an open lecture there might have been others from outside as well....

Titel: "There are no jobs on a dead Planet" – Rethinking the role of higher education in light of Systemic Global Dysfunction
Arjen E.J. Wals, professor in Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at the  Wageningen university in the Netherlands and spokesperson for Social Learning for Sustainability within UNESCO.

More information about Arjen and his lecture "There are no jobs on a dead Planet" – Rethinking the role of higher education in light of Systemic Global Dysfunction

In times when teachers around the globe are held to account by the performance of their students in international comparisons such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which focus on literacy, numeracy, and science, it is a challenge for them to engage in something as ill defined as "sustainability." In times when many of us, including our students, spend many waking hours gazing at an electronic screen, it is a challenge to connect meaningfully with the complex issues of sustainability affecting our world. In times when schools are increasingly seen as the manufacturers of the "human capital" needed to serve the economy and as places where the seeds of consumerism can be planted at an early age, it is a challenge to reorient teaching and learning to counter this status quo.
These challenges become even more imposing when vested interest groups act to maintain hegemonic unsustainable practices for their own benefit at the expense of the Earth as a whole. How should higher education - supposedly the place where some of the smartest people on the Planet gather - respond?
In my talk I will focus on a number of critical factors that can enable of higher education to re-orient itself, towards human development with people and Planet in mind.

I had the chance to talk to him personally a little afterwards and he gave me some links for additional information. He also has his own blog, called Transformative learning if anyone is interested in his ideas and what he does. I recommend it if you have an interest in the educational systems.
Here's a dropbox-link from my dropbox with the files he shared.

What did I take away from this? 
Well, most of what he said, I already knew. Roughly 90%. What I did not know, was strictly related to the field of education. There was also the aspect of time. Arjen feels that it is time to totally overhaul our current educational systems and I wholeheartedly agree. I only fear that we do not have the time for that anymore. There is no more time to redo such an institution as modern education.
For me personally it was a confirmation that I am not alone in this. That I do not see things to dark or to negatively. There really is something fundamentally wrong with our systems today and hearing someone like Arjen speak about it, makes it clear that there are many people everywhere and on every level worrying about and working on it. That means there is a vast potential at work here, despite politicians and corporations trying to manipulate and control us to think and do otherwise.
He also mentioned something I hadn't heard before; the ecological handprint.
He travels a lot and thus has a huge ecological footprint, but as he sees it, he hopes that he can balance that by reaching out to people, spreading his word and making a difference that way. His ecological handprint. I really liked that one!

Why is this so important? 
Why was this lecture so important to me? 
Simple, my kids are becoming teens. It is they who will be subjected to those higher educational systems soon; college, university... It is they who walk away from there and who will in their turn change the world and hopefully for the better. better then we did and certainly better than the generations before us!

And on that note I can proudly announce that the learning doesn't stop there for us! Both the mrs. and I found jobs. She as a substitute teacher at the local kindergarten and elementary school and I as a substitute mentor/guide for refugee teenagers that are alone.
This means for the both of us working in completely new fields. It will certainly broaden our horizons.

What has this all got to do with woodsmanship??
Nothing!! But it hopefully will make us better and wiser people.
As far as the woodsman-thing is concerned..... I have book a trip to Finland and I am going to meet the weekend woodsman and Finnman.


  1. Wonderful! I will check out Transformative Learning. I, too, believe that there is an undercurrent rising to the surface. People everywhere are starting to wake up. Is it too late? Do we have time to change direction? Who knows? But we have to try. My daughter is in college now. She is taking a year off between community college and the big university. I will send this to her. I want her to know that my generation is not blind to her generation's plight of inheriting the mess we made (not just us but previous generations too) and we're trying to do something.

  2. How can an english speaker get a transcript of Wals' talk?

    1. I contacted him asking if that is possible and will add that, when he responds.

    2. he pointed out that there are a handful of youtube videos about similar lectures he did. Here's the link to the one in Estonia with Estonian subtitles, but he speaks in English.

  3. I think sustainability has a lot to do with woodsmanship Ron. If we aren't clever enough to understand the risks of palm oil, then a massive part of our woods disappears. This is true of much of our landscape. If we are destroying the woods, then part of woodsmanship is to be aware and to act,

  4. Very cool, Ron, congratulations to you and the lady on the jobs!!! Sounds like a great new learning experience. Loved your archery pictures too.