xskool thoughts so far
Xskool is an idea by John Thackara that I believe is a good idea.
In March I went to London for a get-together with a mix of designers, artists, social entrepreneurs, educators, academics and more, arranged by John at the Hub Islington where we sat around the table, eating, drinking and chatting for two hours to answer the question ‘is there really a need for such a thing, i.e. an xskool?’ John had sent through an invite a few weeks earlier with the question and his initial thoughts. The round-table gave everyone the opportunity to meet and contribute. While the time was short the feeling was the conversation should continue; there was a need for an ‘xskool’, whatever that would mean. This initial discussion of the xskool idea is outlined here by John. I mentioned the concept briefly in a previous post on skills.
In May I went to West Lexham for a weekend, arranged by John at Edmund Colville’s farm. It is a hub of social enterprises ran with co-director Lucy White and others. John’s aim was to answer two questions: If xskool was to exist 1) what is needed, and for who, that is not already on offer? 2) what should we do next, and who will do it? At West Lexham a predominantly new mix of people (from the first evening) again sat around the table eating, drinking and chatting, this time for 2 days, as well combining it with other stuff like building a pathway (led by Ed), facilitated discussions (led by John and others), playing games (led by Liane Fredericks who also took lots of photos which can be found here), cooking (under Tony the chef’s guidance) and cleaning. It was really enjoyable. I particularly liked working together on the pathway using local flints and cobble stones and reclaimed mosaic tiles. It was great to see so many people getting involved and doing different stuff, with a result at the end, albeit an unfinished path!
The location was amazing as were the team at West Lexham. Tony’s a great cook who is happy to share his knowledge, get you involved and best of all he brews amazing beer! Carmen the administrator is a real character. To be honest everyone was friendly, chilled, helpful, interesting and interested. While 2 days felt too short in reality it was a good step forward in the evolvement of xskool and in developing my own thoughts, understanding and knowledge. John’s blog on the weekend can be found here. He doesn’t mention the lovely pub at the train station in Downham Market.
The reasons I am interested in xskool are many. I think current modes of established education, particularly formalized, not only need to be challenged but they also need to be provided with feasible, effective alternatives. I think xskool can play a role here. I am convinced that a lot of people want to learn and unlearn but don’t necessarily, and justifiably so, value many of the education opportunities being presented today. Xskool can help in returning learning to the learner through an informal, mixed, flexible, open, unfixed, collaborative environment. Xskool should continue to recognize that people are on ever-changing journeys, where learning comes through a variety of experiences with people and places, through thinking, doing and being. The need to unlearn stuff and re-connect to people and to the planet is key. Xskool values interdependence, trust, empathy and giving it go, mistakes and all. Skills, insight, ideas, humor, knowledge, thoughts, stories, whatever deemed appropriate is shared. Seemingly Picasso did not recognize a ‘finished canvas’, rather instead ‘different states of a single painting’. I find that interesting. I also like this quote ‘our responsibility is no longer to acquire, but to be’ by Rabindranath Tagore which I came across recently.
I would say xskool is not about being different. Xskool doesn’t have to be different. Xskool is about thinking, doing and being, connecting with people and planet to restore, grow and develop in an inclusive, open and ever-changing learning environment. Xskool is about our environmental and social responsibility. There is nothing new or different in all of this, except perhaps the uncertainty on how things will combine, or how the experiment will unfold or perhaps the openness and non-protective nature of the idea.
Xskool should not be overly prescribed whether in content, form, shape or location but should be viewed as one continual experiment. Thus xskool can be anywhere or anytime with many ingredients, such as those referred to by John in his blog post, continually being added to as it moves along. I don’t think xskool should get bogged down with discussions on scale and ‘what is success?’ but should continually challenge societal norms and current education models.
Yes, I think xskool is a good idea that needs to happen. I’m looking forward to the next ‘chapter’. I like the way John put it “I’d be inclined to continue collecting and testing ingredients. Then, a bit later, we can see how they all fit together.” That sounds good to me. I am interested and greatly influenced by Illich’s thoughts in Deschooling Society. Some great insights on purpose and resources needed for real learning and good education. I am fascinated in the idea of ‘being in the now’ and what that means to ecodesign, which I discuss in an earlier post. I am reminded by the talk at Intersections Conference by Tom Henderson, CEO of the amazing international disaster relief charity Shelterbox. “keep it simple, do it now.” That sounds like good advice for xskool.
As for West Lexham just go there! Lucy, Ed, Carmen and Tony and the extended team will be delighted to see you. While it’s excellent value for money it’s far more in terms of experience. You won’t regret it.
I drafted a more detailed map of my thoughts, learning and experiences, which I’ll add here at a later stage … Any comments feel free to contact me.