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EditorialsUp Front 07/17

Up Front 07/17

In one of his TED talks, author and speaker on education, Sir Ken Robinson, quotes philosopher Jeremy Bentham saying, ‘There are two types of people in this world: those who divide the world into two types and those who do not.’ Robinson was using the quote to amuse his audience before suggesting that another two groups in the world are those that enjoy what they do in life, and those that don’t. He believes that failings in the education system mean that many people never use their natural talents: often they are pushed into their work through a lack of opportunity to explore their real potential. He makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning. Instead of pushing square pegs into round holes we should be creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish. It’s a common-sense philosophy that is hard to fault. I mentioned the Bentham quote to someone recently who had his own version. ‘There are two types of people in this world’ he said. ‘Those with high levels of empathy and those with none.’ He went on to explain that we could be forgiven for feeling that recent political upheaval appears to show towering opposites pitted against each other, with little middle ground: Remain v Leave; Democrat v Republican; Labour v Tory. It seems polar opposites have become ever more pronounced—to the point where useful discourse can become impossible. His feeling was that in each of these huge divides there were those that had high levels of empathy and those that believed selfish aims would be more fruitful. Like Sir Ken Robinson he suggested that a change in the focus of some aspects of education may help. If it were possible to teach people to look at the world through other people’s eyes, he suggested, we could transform personal relationships, which eventually could have a knock-on effect on communities and therefore even affect global changes. Echoing Robinson’s call for a revolution in education, he explained that trying to educate people to be more empathetic was a very long-term plan that must be put in place at an early age, but that it could produce results if we started now. There is one stumbling block—there are many who believe that empathy cannot be taught, that it can only be inherent in our DNA. They might be right, but in the interests of progress, perhaps just this once they could try to see it from another perspective.

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