Tag philosophy

{ On “Doing” Philosophy with Children } Philosophy cultivates a generation of inquisitive minds that will grow up challenging the assumptions that hold us back

{ On "Doing" Philosophy with Children } Philosophy cultivates a generation of inquisitive minds that will grow up challenging the assumptions that hold us back | rethinked.org

“By encouraging children to examine the world from perspectives other than their own, philosophy cultivates a generation of inquisitive minds that will grow up challenging the assumptions that hold us back.” – Giacomo Esposito

I was thrilled to discover the work of The Philosophy Foundation through Giacomo Esposito’s deeply relevant article, Why I Teach Philosophy in Primary Schools. The Philosophy Foundation is a UK based, award winning educational charity raising aspirations and attainment through doing philosophical enquiry in the classroom.

Our aim is to make ‘Reasoning’ the 4th ‘R’ in education – by giving children the tools to help them think critically, creatively, cohesively and autonomously we aim to fill the gaps in education and consequently benefit society as a whole. 

Philosophy can help to shape the way we think and live in the world. Learning to think clearly and creatively helps in many ways – the most obvious being the effect it has upon one’s actions.

At the core of The Philosophy Foundation ‘s work is the belief that thinking is a capacity–a habit of mind–and that thinking well requires learning and practice.

It is the job of our specialist philosophy teachers to identify and draw out from the children philosophical material, and to encourage them to adopt a philosophical attitude. Our aim is to cultivate the habit of thinking and we do not believe that this will come about simply by giving them the opportunity to think. Like anything else it needs to be learnt. So the facilitation should include teaching and guidance. Philosophy is not something that can be learnt by being told a list of propositional facts about what it is, it is best learnt by modelling. In other words, the children will learn how to do philosophy best by seeing it done well on a regular basis by a skilled philosophy teacher.

Head over to The Philosophy Foundation website to learn more about the fantastic work they are doing and check out their many excellent resources to start doing philosophy with the children in your own life.

Below are some highlights from Esposito’s article, first published on The Guardian, which I highly recommend reading in its entirety.

THINK, LEARN, DO . . . * 


The sessions I run usually begin with a story or short “stimulus” which draws on a traditional philosophical problem, but reframes it to make it more engaging for a younger audience. The story then ends with a question, and a discussion ensues. Throughout the class, I try to take a backseat; I’m there to help draw out the children’s thoughts, but it’s really for them to decide where the discussion goes and, crucially, what they think. In fact, rather than teaching philosophy, a more accurate description of my job is “doing” philosophy with children.

Children can be fantastic at doing philosophy. Their natural disposition to wonder at the world is given free rein during lessons. Recently I was running a session about time travel. In response to the claim that “time is a feeling”, a 10-year-old boy thought hard for about a minute and then said: “Time is different for us than it is for the universe, because 100 years passes in a flash for the universe, but seems a long time to us … so time is a bit like a feeling.”

[ … ]

At its core, philosophy is about thinking and reasoning well. It’s about learning how to be logical, present arguments, and spot bad ones. Yes, this is often done through strange, improbable examples, which can feel removed from – and therefore irrelevant to – the real world (like the tree in the forest). But these exercises in mental gymnastics train the mind to think more clearly and creatively, which benefits all aspects of life.

As well as learning how to naturally construct arguments, the children are also invited to question them – both their classmates and their own. When it seems like there’s a firm, unwavering consensus across the class, I only have to ask them to put themselves in the shoes of an “imaginary disagreer”, before a flurry of hands appears.

. . . *

Source: Why I Teach Philosophy in Primary Schools by Giacomo Esposito via The Guardian, published July 13, 2015

8-Bit Philosophy — A Brilliant Blending of Video Games & Philosophy …*

8-Bit Philosophy is a new(ish) online video series that is sure to delight gamers, philosophers, knowmads and lovers of chance encounters! 8-Bit Philosophy is the brainchild of Greg Edwards, aka. Sparky Sweets, PhD. You may have come across Sparky’s other online show: Thug Notes, marketed as a mix of classical literature and original gangster.

8-Bit Philosophy–“where gaming makes you smart”– examines various complex philosophical works–from Kant, Kierkegaard, Hegel to Sartre— by setting and exploring them in a video game environment. The result is deeply engaging, funny and manages to make often highly abstract ideas tangible and easy to understand.

watch, learn & rethink …

Reflect on What You Can Put Your Agency Behind, On What You Can Be For, & Through Hard Choices, Become That Person

Far from being sources of agony and dread, hard choices are precious opportunities for us to celebrate what is special about the human condition.That the reasons that govern our choices as correct or incorrect sometimes run out and it is here, in the space of hard choices, that we have the power to create reasons for ourselves to become the distinctive people that we are. And that’s why hard choices are not a curse, but a godsend.” – Ruth Chang

In this splendid TED talk, philosopher Ruth Chang examines the misconceptions and unexamined assumptions that govern our understanding and handling of hard choices. She invites us to rethink how we frame the act of choosing between unequal alternatives, where each option is better in some ways than the other but neither is better overall. Rather than agonizing over trying to uncover the “right” option in such a situation, we should celebrate and enact our agency in creating the right reasons for ourselves. This is a modern take on Giovanni Pico della Mirandola‘s Oration on the Dignity of Man. Way back in 1486, Pico della Mirandola unhinged mankind from the Great Chain of Being, highlighting the agency we each possess in choosing and fashioning our own nature. It is this very agency, this power we have to choose who we shall be[come], that is the defining characteristic of the human condition, he argued. And it is through the hard choices we make, claims Chang, that we enact this great human power we all have to shape our being and embrace the fullness of our humanity.

{ t r u t h s

I think the puzzle arises because of an unreflective assumption we make about value. We unwittingly assume that values like justice, beauty, kindness, are akin to scientific quantities, like length, mass and weight. Take any comparative question not involving value, such as which of two suitcases is heavier? There are only three possibilities. The weight of one is greater, lesser or equal to the weight of the other. Properties like weight can be represented by real numbers — one, two, three and so on — and there are only three possible comparisons between any two real numbers. One number is greater, lesser, or equal to the other. Not so with values. As post-Enlightenment creatures, we tend to assume that scientific thinking holds the key to everything of importance in our world, but the world of value is different from the world of science. The stuff of the one world can be quantified by real numbers. The stuff of the other world can’t. We shouldn’t assume that the world of is, of lengths and weights, has the same structure as the world of ought, of what we should do. So if what matters to us — a child’s delight, the love you have for your partner — can’t be represented by real numbers, then there’s no reason to believe that in choice, there are only three possibilities — that one alternative is better, worse or equal to the other. We need to introduce a new, fourth relation beyond being better, worse or equal, that describes what’s going on in hard choices. I like to say that the alternatives are “on a par.” When alternatives are on a par, it may matter very much which you choose, but one alternative isn’t better than the other. Rather, the alternatives are in the same neighborhood of value, in the same league of value, while at the same time being very different in kind of value. That’s why the choice is hard.

Understanding hard choices in this way uncovers something about ourselves we didn’t know. Each of us has the power to create reasons. Imagine a world in which every choice you face is an easy choice, that is, there’s always a best alternative. If there’s a best alternative, then that’s the one you should choose, because part of being rational is doing the better thing rather than the worse thing, choosing what you have most reason to choose. In such a world, we’d have most reason to wear black socks instead of pink socks, to eat cereal instead of donuts, to live in the city rather than the country, to marry Betty instead of Lolita. A world full of only easy choices would enslave us to reasons. When you think about it, it’s nuts to believe that the reasons given to you dictated that you had most reason to pursue the exact hobbies you do, to live in the exact house you do, to work at the exact job you do. Instead, you faced alternatives that were on a par, hard choices, and you made reasons for yourself to choose that hobby, that house and that job. When alternatives are on a par, the reasons given to us, the ones that determine whether we’re making a mistake, are silent as to what to do. It’s here, in the space of hard choices, that we get to exercise our normative power, the power to create reasons for yourself, to make yourself into the kind of person for whom country living is preferable to the urban life.

When we choose between options that are on a par, we can do something really rather remarkable. We can put our very selves behind an option. Here’s where I stand. Here’s who I am. I am for banking. I am for chocolate donuts. This response in hard choices is a rational response, but it’s not dictated by reasons given to us. Rather, it’s supported by reasons created by us. When we create reasons for ourselves to become this kind of person rather than that, we wholeheartedly become the people that we are. You might say that we become the authors of our own lives.

*

So when we face hard choices, we shouldn’t beat our head against a wall trying to figure out which alternative is better. There is no best alternative. Instead of looking for reasons out there, we should be looking for reasons in here: Who am I to be? You might decide to be a pink sock-wearing, cereal-loving, country-living banker, and I might decide to be a black sock-wearing, urban, donut-loving artist. What we do in hard choices is very much up to each of us.

Delve – A New Platform To Inspire Your Curiosity & Learn Something Unexpected …*

Delve - A New Platform To Inspire Your Curiosity & Learn Something New & Unexpected ...*  | rethinked.org

Screen Shot of Delve’s Instagram Page

 

Knowmads rejoice, here is a cool new new platform to inspire your curiosity–Delve–which was started by Adam Westbrook in January 2014.

Delve is a project with a simple aim: to inspire your curiosity by making complex ideas fascinating through our video essays. Each month we publish a long-form video essay exploring history, philosophy and other humanities in an unexpected way. We also publish more regular videos on Instagram.

I love how they are leveraging Instagram to inspire curiosity with bits and pieces of fascinating stories and ideas. From time travel to the origins of the word OK, passing by the ‘greatest escape of WWII,’ Delve’s Instagram feed is sure to be an instant hit with the curious and lovers of learning.

Here are the first two of Delve’s video essays, which focus on debunking the myth of the creative genius who succeeds thanks to innate talent. Both videos highlight the patience, grit and growth mindset that precede all great achievements.

The Long Game Part 1: Why Leonardo DaVinci was no genius from Delve on Vimeo.

The Long Game Part 2: the missing chapter from Delve on Vimeo.

Hat Tip: Instagram History Lessons Are More Engaging Than Traditional Textbooks via PSFK, published March 4, 2014.

Friday Link Fest…*

READ

How Drucker Thought About Complexity ~ The pace of change is accelerating and the degree of uncertainty increasing. Perhaps a new rationale will be required to drive institutional success in the future. Perhaps we need to move from a rationale of scalable efficiency to one of scalable learning — designing institutions and architectures of relationships across institutions that help all participants to learn faster as more participants join. via Harvard Business Review, published June 25, 2013.

Innovation: The History of a Buzzword ~ The word innovation might be mantra of business leaders but the irony behind the king of buzzwords is that, originally, “innovation” wasn’t a compliment. It was an accusation. via The Atlantic, published June 20, 2013.

Reframe How You Think About Failure by Changing Its Definition ~ You’re fallible and you don’t have all the answers. Knowing how to accept and process failures, screw-ups, and unknowns will help you use them to your advantage. Recognizing them as normal and often necessary to success is key. via LifeHacker, published June 27, 2013.

Five Hypotheses About Learning That Suggest Self-Directed Learning ~ In contrast to pedagogy, which focuses on the efficient delivery of instruction and content, heutagogy focuses instead on the process of learning itself–how to learn rather than what to learn. via Teach Thought, published June 24, 2013.

What Is Design If Not Human-Centered? ~ The explosive growth of interest in human-centered design raises bigger questions about traditional design education, training, and practice. via Stanford Social Innovation Review, published June 25, 2013.

LOOK

Insightful Portraits Of Fourth-Graders Around The World ~ Photographer Judy Gelles traveled around the United States, China and India, taking portraits of children and asking them three questions: Who do you live with? What do you wish for? What do you worry about? via Design Taxi, published June 28, 2013.

Disrupt NSA Surveillance With This Typeface ~ The ZXX typeface, created by Sang Mun, is embedded with disruptive designs that are meant to combat optical character recognition processes. ” ZXX is a call to action, both practically and symbolically, to raise questions about privacy, But it represents a broader urgency: How can design be used politically and socially for the codification and de-codification of people’s thoughts? What is a graphic design that is inherently secretive? How can graphic design reinforce privacy? And, really, how can the process of design engender a proactive attitude towards the future — and our present for that matter?” via Hyperallergic, published June 27, 2013.

WATCH

Poetry Bombing by Augustina Woodgate ~ Augustina Woodgate targets lonely thrift stores and gives the well-worn clothing new life by sewing poems into them. via Lost At E Minor, published June 27, 2013.

Crowdsourced Open Air Street Art Galleries Reclaim Public Space ~ Wallpeople is an urban art collective based in Barcelona that brings people together to make street art on empty walls. The movement aims to create a unique work that is made by all, in order to return art to the streets and reclaim public spaces. via PSFK, published June 27, 2013.

What Do Most Philosophers Believe? A Wide-Ranging Survey Project Gives Us Some Idea ~ Two contemporary philosophers, David Chalmers and David Bourget, decided to find out where their colleagues stood on 30 different philosophical issues by constructing a rigorous survey that ended up accounting for the views of over 3,000 professors, graduate students, and independent thinkers. via Open Culture, published June 26, 2013.

Friday Link Fest…*

READ

Naoto Fukasawa & Jane Fulton Suri on Smartphones as Social Cues, Soup as a Metaphor for Design, the Downside of 3D Printing and More ~ As keen observers of the world at large and the man-made objects and obstacles we encounter on a regular basis, designer Naoto Fukasawa and IDEO’s Jane Fulton Suri, who served on the jury for last year’s Braunprize selections, had plenty of interesting things to say about the current state of design and just what it means to be ‘normal’. via Core77, published June 17, 2013.

Ask Great Questions: Leadership Skills of Socrates ~ Socrates holds the key to an essential leadership skill: asking great questions. The challenge is that too few leaders, managers and employees ask great questions. This is a big problem. Cultures that embrace a culture of questioning thrive and those that fear it either fail or are doomed to mediocrity. Here are 7 basics ingredients to nurture this Socratic culture. via Forbes, published June 18, 2013.

The Bossless Office Trend ~ A nonhierarchical workplace may just be a more creative and happier one. “Management is a term to me that feels very twentieth century,” says Simon Anderson, the CEO of the web-hosting company DreamHost, “That 100-year chunk of time when the world was very industrialized, and a company would make something that could be stamped out 10 million times and figured out a way to ship it easily, you needed the hierarchy for that. I think this century is more about building intelligent teams.” via New York Magazine, published June 16, 2013.

The Worry That You’re Doing The Wrong Thing Right Now ~ You begin one task from an email, but then quickly have the urge to see if there’s something else more important you should be doing. And this problem repeats itself—every time you sit down with one thing, the dozens of others on your mind (and the many potential urgent items that might be coming in as you sit there) are grasping for your attention. Is there ever any certainty that you’re doing the right thing right now? via Design Taxi, published June 17, 2013.

50 Problems in 50 Days:  A Cross-Continent Design Adventure ~ Peter Smart recently travelled 2,517 miles to try and solve 50 Problems in 50 Days using design. This journey took him from the bustling streets of London to the cobbled lanes of Turin to test design’s ability to solve social problems—big and small. via GOOD, published June 18, 2013.

England’s ‘Play Streets’ Initiative Shuts Down Streets so Kids are Free to Play in their Neighborhood ~ via Inhabitots, published June 17, 2013.

The Best Thing We Could Do About Inequality Is Universal Preschool ~ The latest research, from a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by James Heckman and Lakshmi Raut, concludes that a policy of free preschool for all poor children would have a raft of cost-effective benefits for society and the economy: It would increase social mobility, reduce income inequality, raise college graduation rates, improve criminal behavior (saving some of the societal expenses associated with it), and yield higher tax revenue thanks to an increase in lifetime wages. via The Atlantic, published June 17, 2013.

When Catastrophe Strikes, Emulate the Octopus ~ Nature teaches us that adaptation to environmental risk carries no goal of perfection. In human society, it’s politically expedient to propose top- down security initiatives that promise total risk elimination, such as “winning the global war on terror.” But trying to eliminate a threat like terrorism is like trying to eliminate predation, and trying to minimize it with a single, centralized plan is the direct opposite of adaptability. Well-adapted organisms do not try to eliminate risk—they learn to live with it. via Wired, published March 21, 2012.

LOOK

12 Amazing Miniature Replicas Of Famous Artists’ Studios ~ Joe Fig visits famous artists in their studios, asking questions, shooting photographs, and taking meticulous measurements. Then he creates these incredibly accurate dioramas. via FastCoDesign, published June 12, 2013.

Students Transform a Parking Spot In Front of Their School Into a Cool Parklet ~ As a technology teacher at Jericho Middle School in Long Island, New York, Matthew Silva is constantly looking for ways to infuse design thinking and process into his curriculum. With this goal in mind, he recently challenged his students to solve a problem for their school. Their challenge was to design a parklet for a parking space in front of the school where students wait every day for their parents to pick them up. via Inhabitat, published June 17, 2013.

This Is What Our Grocery Shelves Would Look Like Without Bees ~ A Whole Foods store in Rhode Island made it crystal clear to customers how their favorite fruits and vegetables depend on bees. via FastCoDesign, published June 20, 2013.

Play Perch / Syracuse University ~ architecture, play, exploration & early childhood development. via ArchDaily, published June 18, 2013.

Beautiful Pics Of Trash, Inspired By Botanical Drawings ~ Barry Rosenthal‘s series of jewel-toned garbage collections, ‘Found in Nature‘, sheds new light on litter. via FastCoDesign, published June 12, 2013.

WATCH

Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation ~ Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation is a five-week course that will introduce you to the concepts of human-centered design and help you use the design process to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change. No prior design experience necessary. Brought to you by Acumen & IDEO.org. Register now!

Browser that allows people around the world to surf the internet together in one window ~ What if you and your friends (or complete strangers) shared a browser? What sites would you visit and how would you communicate with one another? Swedish artist Jonas Lund explores those questions in his most recent project We See in Every Direction. As part of Rhizome’s online exhibition series The Download, Lund built a browser that allows people around the world to surf the internet together in one window. Users appear as cursors and can click around to different URLs, type messages in search bars or just sit back and observe what’s happening on the web. via Wired, published June 14, 2013.

Introducing Wireless Philosophy: An Open Access Philosophy Project Created by Yale and MIT ~ “Wireless Philosophy,” or Wiphi, is an online project of “open access philosophy” co-created by Yale and MIT that aims to make fundamental philosophical concepts accessible by “making videos that are freely available in a form that is entertaining” to people “with no background in the subject.” via Open Culture, published June 18, 2013.

EYE AM: Teaching Kids in Developing Countries to Tell Their Stories Through Photography ~ Todays media often creates an unfair picture of the lives of kids in developing countries – how they live and who they are. Poverty. No individuality. No creativity. But that’s a picture that isn’t created by those who really know what it looks like. The kids themselves. Together with you, we’ll create a more realistic view of the world. via Petapixel, published June 15, 2013.

School kids convince Crayola to start recycling their pens ~ Last year, members of the Sun Valley Elementary School’  “Green Team”, made up of 1st thru 5th-graders, decided to try to reduce the environmental impact of their creative process — by looking for a way to give those dried-up markers another life outside the landfill. Led by teacher Mr. Land Wilson, the forward-thinking youngsters made an appeal to the manufacturer of their favorite felt-tipped pens, Crayola, to convince the company to start recycling their empties. via Inhabitat, published June 17, 2013.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org

 

READ

TED’s Chris Anderson on How to Give a Killer Presentation ~ via Harvard Business Review, published June 2013.

Why Empathy Is The Force That Moves Business Forward ~ via Forbes, published May 30, 2013.

Class of 2013: Start Designing Your Life ~ Ideo’s Tim Brown’s commencement speech at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Information in 2010. It’s been adapted a bit for length, but his advice to you is the same: start designing your life. via Design Thinking | Thoughts By Tim Brown, published May 21, 2103.

Big Innovations Question the Status Quo. How Do You Ask the Right Questions? ~ via FastCo.Design, published March 17, 2011.

Tina Seelig on The Science of Creativity ~ ‘It’s time to make creative thinking, just like the scientific method, a core part of our education.’ via Fast Company, published April 17, 2013.

35 Scientific Concepts That Will Help You Understand The World ~ via Business Insider, published May 27, 2013.

Transient Advantage ~ via Harvard Business Review, published June 2013.

Seven Paths to a Meaningful Life ~ Adapted from a commencement address Philip G. Zimbardo delivered at the University of Puget Sound earlier this month. via Greater Good Science Center, published May 28, 2013.

Forget Work-Life Balance. The Question is Rest Versus Effort ~ Dan Ariely on why we should rethink…* the calendar. via Big Think, published May 30, 2013.

LOOK

There Are As Many Reasons As The Population Of New York To Use The Dictionary of Numbers ~ The Google Chrome extension Dictionary of Numbers allows users to translate large numbers into human terms. via FastCoCreate, published May 24, 2013.

The Discoveries That Promote Metacognition & Self-Directed Learning ~ via Teach Thought, published May 29, 2013.

Crowdfunded Telescope Lets The Public Explore Space ~ ARKYD is an orbiting space telescope that can be controlled by the public – its primary aim is to make space exploration accessible to anyone who is interested. via PSFK, published May 30, 2013.

‘Warning’ Signs That Encourage You To Do The Opposite ~ The ‘Nature’s Playground’ campaign: To reinvent its reputation, and encourage visitors to enjoy its country houses across east England—national conservation charity National Trust approached UK-based consultancy The Click Design to create physical tongue-in-cheek signage. via Design Taxi, published May 29, 2013.

Lewis and Clark, Meet Foursquare ~ MyReadingMapped makes historic journeys come alive. via Atlantic Cities, published May 29, 2013.

WATCH

Design Thinking & Education: Annette Diefenthaler, IDEO ~ Annette Diefenthaler, a Senior Design Research Specialist & Project Lead at IDEO, discusses creating and launching IDEO’s Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit. via Vialogues, published May 23, 2013.

The Purpose of Philosophy is to Ask the Right Questions ~ Slavoj Žižek on how Philosophy is not here to provide all of the answers. What it can do however, which is more powerful, is ask the right questions. via BigThink, published May 28, 2013.

Take A Secret Look Inside The Cocoon As A Caterpillar Transforms To A Butterfly ~ Using three dimensional X-ray imaging, we can now see the magical process of metamorphosis up close. via FastCoExist, published May 24, 2013.

New playlist: Design giants ~ From graphics to products, check out these 13 TED talks by some of the world’s greatest designers. via TED Blog, published May 28, 2013.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org

 

READ

The Importance of Quick & Dirty ~ Jason Fried, co-founder and president of 37signals, on why ‘The ability to run with scissors is a blessing, not a curse.’ via Inc.com, published April 30, 2013.

5 Ways To Innovate By Cross-Pollinating Ideas ~ via FastCo.Design, published May 10, 2013.

Many Parents Push Academics Over Play Which May Harm Kids’ Health  ~ On the critical importance of play…* in life and learning. via Inhabitots, published January 1, 2012.

Want Kids to Become Scientists? Don’t Arrest Them For Experimenting ~ #ScienceIsNotACrime . via GOOD, published May 3, 2013.

Profiling Serial Creators ~  Scott Barry Kaufman on why it’s essential that we continually question and attempt to improve the methods by which we identify, mentor, and cultivate those who are ready and capable of becoming our next generation of innovators. Tragically, we are failing these students, often unknowingly letting them fall between the cracks in an education system that rewards characteristics that dampen creativity, such as conformity, standardization, and efficiency. via The Creativity Post, published May 8, 2013.

Well Designed Schools Improve Learning by 25 Percent Says New Study ~ via Dezeen, published January 2, 2013.

John Dewey’s Vision of Learning as Freedom ~ “The inclination to learn from life itself and to make the conditions of life such that all will learn in the process of living is the finest product of schooling.” via the New York Times, published September 5, 2012

5 Innovation Lessons You Can Learn On The Dance Floor ~ “Through movement we can inspire creativity, deep listening, & cross-generational learning” via Fast Company, published May 3, 2013.

LOOK

Things Come (Very, Very) Apart ~ Toronto-based commercial photographer Todd McLellan disassembled 50 design classics for his book: Things Come Apart: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living. McLellan’s photographs seek to challenge our disposable culture by making transparent all the things that we regularly throw away. “I hope people think a little bit more about the things they use. Not that people should have feelings for objects, but instead think about ‘reuse and recycle,’ not just ‘use and discard.’ ” via NPR, published May 1, 2013.

10 Playgrounds That Would Put Your Childhood Hangout to Shame ~ From a colorful crocheted alligator, to a surreal, warping jungle gym, to a playground made out of recycled iron drums, here are 10 truly innovative and unusual playgrounds. via Atlantic Cities, published May 7, 2013.

Explaining Complicated Philosophies With Gorgeously Simple Postcards ~ Philographics by Genís Carreras:  Making it easier for us to talk philosophy by removing words & replacing them with pictures ~ via WIRED Design, published May 6, 2013.

Tour Google Moon and Google Mars with Bill Nye the Science Guy ~ via Lost At E Minor, published May 9, 2013.

 

WATCH

The History of Typography Told in Five Animated Minutes ~ via Open Culture, published May 6, 2013.

The Best of Humanity Caught on Russian Dash Cams ~ via Colossal, published May 3, 2013.

Can A New Symbol Make You Better At Math? ~ Math popularizer Rob Eastaway’s ‘Zequals’ sign is a reaction against the learned helplessness that most of us have accepted in our relationship with numbers. via FastCo.Design, published May 6, 2013.

Graffiti Artist Uses Rotten Fruit and Vegetables As Paint ~ Tropical Hungry by Narcelio Grud. Grud scavenged for produce in the streets and created sustainable, organic murals with it. ~ via PSFK, published May 8, 2013.

High schoolers design robotic locker for disabled classmate ~ via GOOD, published May 9, 2013.

Character vs. Virtue: On the Circular Journey of the Developing Self

                                    And the end of all our exploring
                                    Will be to arrive where we started
                                    And know the place for the first time.

– T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets


How can we argue that “Making a living, economically speaking, will be at one with making a life that is worth living”[1]? And if we say a life worth living is one that is economically valuable as well, how can that life worth living be a life of art and ethics too, of tapping into “social creative forces” and continuing the unstoppable project of human invention?

The question of a life that is worth living seems to be one about both morality and imagination. I will save that topic for another discussion and focus on a point made by Paul Tough in his book How Children Succeed. Tough writes:

“In most societies, Seligman and Peterson wrote, character strengths were considered to have a moral valence, and in many cases they overlapped with religious laws and strictures. But moral laws were limiting when it came to character because they reduced virtuous conduct to a simple matter of obedience to a higher authority. ‘Virtues,’ they wrote, ‘are much more interesting than laws.’ According to Seligman and Peterson, the value of these twenty-four character strengths did not come from their relationship to any particular system of ethics but from their practical benefit—what you could actually gain by possessing and expressing them. Cultivating these strengths represented a reliable path to ‘the good life,’ a life that was not just happy but meaningful and fulfilling.”

The cultivation of virtue, and virtues as much more interesting than laws, is a long attended-to philosophical topic. I would say that in lieu of “interesting,” it is extremely important, because virtues are “metamarkers” that guide our journey. Laws are the habits and characteristics we create to help us stay on track, regulations that we break and remake as we move towards–but never fully realize–virtues.

I will draw on French philosopher Jacques Derrida to elucidate my point. Derrida, known for his impenetrability and complex discussion of language and society, is particularly clear, I think, on this point of the difference between “higher aims” and “habits/ rules/ institutions.” In his essay, “Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority,” Derrida writes about Justice and its relation to laws. Derrida’s conception of law in relation to Justice offers a way of understanding how something finite, such as a policy or law, can be thought of as operating under the umbrella of a greater purpose. Derrida writes about Justice as an overarching value that guides the making, interpretation, and application of laws.

Laws, as Derrida lays out, in an ideal sense ought to be made in the name of Justice, but then what is Justice? Whereas value may suggest something definable and finite, Justice is the opposite; it is indefinable and beyond the scope of comprehension, according to Derrida. Justice is a point of uncertainty that cannot be pinned down, though it is also a source of guidance because in resisting certainty it requires that we constantly question and reaffirm a purpose. Justice is not a means to an end, it is not in service of anything, but rather it is the guiding light by which we question all our actions and laws. Derrida writes, “one cannot speak directly about justice, thematize or objectivize justice” (Derrida, 1990, p. 936), and in this way he views Justice as something infinite and eternal that we must return to again and again in order to ensure we have not strayed off the path into injustice.

Justice is nondeconstructible, that is, something that is infinite, something that we cannot pull apart into composite parts in order to construct an all-encompassing definition. The deconstructible element, law, can help us to have experiences of Justice, but it does not in itself constitute and can never supplant Justice. In moving towards a true understanding of the nondeconstructible element, we must constantly return to the deconstructible elements, rethink them, reinvent them. Each time we come to a law or a policy, we must “assume it, approve it, confirm its value, by reinstituting act of interpretation as if ultimately nothing previously existed of the law, as if the judge himself invented the law in every case” (Derrida, 1990, p. 961). To do so, we must be attuned to the details of language, and we must reinstate meaning in the things under consideration in order to begin to understand them in the present situation. That is, in the localized context of a community, culture, socio-economic group, we must look again at a law or policy, pull it apart and ask whether it is in the service of a political or economic agenda, for example, and fundamentally whether it is in the name of truth or justice.

In this way, we are saying that laws and policy should not be in the service of a limited (and limiting) political agenda, but rather should aim toward a greater purpose of truth or justice. In the same way that we ought to recognize laws as something we must constantly rethink and reshape in the context of justice, so too we must rethink policies and curricula in the context of a greater purpose aiming to serve truth or justice. Laws and education policies are often made in the context of a particular and limiting political, social, economic, cultural climate, but our greater obligation to humanity, whether it be for Justice or education, calls us to deconstruct and examine those laws beyond the immediate interests driving political, social, economic, cultural agenda.

Attentiveness, or in Derrida’s terms understanding of difference, is essential for an ability to reconceive. Attentiveness can be understood as a rigorous process of noticing that can guide policy makers in their approach to the context of a proposed educational reform and can guide students in their approach to learning because it enables them to build an experience through deeper and more thoughtful engagement with the situations they encounter. The process of noticing can be thought of in terms of Stanley Fish’s “fresh judgment”(Derrida, 1990, p.950). The idea of fresh judgment connects to the idea of always approaching something as new. Approaching something as new inherently suggests that we cannot assume that any statement or meaning or definition (or law or policy or verdict) which we had concluded before was true is still true. If we approach something as though we did not understand it, then we return to a concept each time with fresh judgment.

This encounter allows us to see and understand something anew, discovering some nuance or variation, or perhaps something entirely the opposite of what we had seen before. Such recognition teaches us, since we come to realize that our previous understanding was limited or even wrong, that we have a responsibility, if we wish to truly understand, to return again and again to our experience and be attentive. Attentiveness means setting aside preconceptions and judgments. It is a supremely important process of thought and way of being, especially where localized and individual differences can vary greatly and where it is essential for policymakers and teachers to take into account such differences and to do so fairly rather than in the exercise of power for certain interests or social groups over others. Derrida states that laws should not be in “the service of a social force of power,” which he defines as “economic, political, ideological powers.”

This philosophical exploration  helps us to understand more deeply some of the problems Tough grappled with as he thought about, watched, and spoke with children trained to be grandmaster chess players. While the children Tough followed were trained to have character traits recognized as on the path to virtue, such as patience, attentiveness, self-assurance, and also work ethic, “grit,” and ability to overcome failure, they were not necessarily taught to look to see those traits as useful for developing knowledge, beauty, truth (or more simply to be just and empathetic with those around them). It is not that they could not find this on their own, but as the stories showed, the grandmaster chess players in middle school became somewhat handicapped when they could not apply their arguably superior character traits to a higher, unattainable purpose like thirst for knowledge and curiosity which would have the added benefit of helping them get into college. With life, the message here is, there are things we will never obtain in an absolute sense like a title of grandmaster—happiness, justice, virtue—and these are undeniably some of the more important things in life. Rather, we must learn to cognizantly apply our character traits to a variety of tasks at hand emerging to us throughout life.

So to move back out our discussion of virtue and character, we can say we can never precisely define in words The Good is or Imagination or Truth. What we can do is identify the character traits, or habits, that we can cultivate that would make us close to the Good (empathy) or Imagination (creativity) or Truth (reflection). The articulation of  the traits and  habits indicating character helps schools as they work to gain the more undefinable goal of Knowledge and Happiness (for Wittgenstein being happy is having values “in spite of the misery of the world”) engaged persons and citizens. Tough continues on to write:

“For many of us, character refers to something innate and unchanging: a core set of attributes that define one’s very essence. Seligman and Peterson defined character in a different way: a set of abilities or strengths that are very much changeable—entirely malleable, in fact. They are skills you can learn; they are skills you can practice and they are skills you can teach.” (59, Tough)

While Tough may be correct when he says “for many of us,” as I have not surveyed what people think when they hear the word character and I am sure he has, I can say that in the traditions of philosophy, psychology and many religions it is accepted that virtue and character are things worked at and developed and not something genetic or  innate. In these fields malleable character is interpreted in a variety of different ways. For some it is through activity (Aristotle), for others through reflection and love (Moore), and for Kant it is though universalizing concepts. The paths to the good are varied, but the notion across the board remains the same: the labor of virtue is not a linear progression to a finite moment of perfect and complete understanding. Rather, it is an orbiting around an ideal, a casting out and a reeling back in, that is perpetual and endless.

The ideal is to a be one who is developing character traits towards a higher end and being, as educational philosopher John Dewey says, “intelligently experimental”[2] in the process. Stay tuned for more on imagination, creativity and the process of being intelligently experimental.


[1] Dewey’s Reconstruction in Philosophy. It is a book based on series of lectures that Dewey gave at Tokyo’s Imperial University of Japan not long after World War I. “When the liberation of capacity no longer seems a menace to organization and established institutions, something that cannot be avoided practically and yet something that is a threat to conservation of the most previous values of the past, when the liberating human capacity operates as a socially creative force, art will not be a luxury, a stranger to the daily occupations of making a living. Making a living economically speaking, will be at one with making a life that is worth living. And when the emotional force, the mystic force on might say, of communication, of the miracle of shared life and shared experience is spontaneously felt, the hardness and crudeness of contemporary life will be bathed in the light that never was on land or sea.”
[2] “The conjunction of problematic and determinate characters in nature renders everyexistence, as well as every idea and human act, an experiment in fact, even though not in design.To be intelligently experimental is but to be conscious of this intersection of natural conditionsso as to profit by it instead of being at its mercy.”(Dewey, Experience and Nature, 63)

Friday Link Fest {November 2-9, 2012}

ARTICLES

What Does It Mean to Be Simple? ~ All designers say simplicity is important, but what does it really mean to make something simple? Most of the time we think it means less, that by removing stuff we achieve simplicity. We think by keeping content above the fold we’re helping people focus, or by using bullets instead of paragraphs more people will read it, or by cutting text in half it becomes more clear. But simple doesn’t mean “less”. A better definition would be “just enough”. via 52 Weeks UX, published December 22, 2011.

How to recognize Design Thinkers ~ Since Roger Martin and others hijacked the term ‘designthinking’, there is an ongoing dispute. Two thought worlds exist and possibly these can be united by laying bare the essential characteristics of a ‘design thinker’. via Team Cognition, published October 30, 2012.

Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves ~ via MIT Tech Review, published October 29, 2012.

Pinterest’s Founding Designer Shares His Dead-Simple Design Philosophy ~ Sahil Lavingia on why design shouldn’t be designated a specific function or industry. The discipline is just as fundamental as technology and profit are to a business that it doesn’t need to be isolated to a single role. It should be considered part of every role. via FastCo.Design, published March 7, 2012.

Design Firms Go Beyond Gadgets As Portfolios Expand~ On the rise and ubiquity of design thinking: Bay Area design firms behind iconic technology products like the mouse and the Macintosh computer are broadening their portfolios. Health-care companies, nonprofits and industrial giants are among those tapping these and other designers to conceive not just gadgets but new software, business strategies and even school systems. The expansion has happened gradually but is accelerating as firms seek to connect with design-savvy customers. via The Wall Street Journal, published October 31, 2012.

The High Line Effect: Top 10 Urban Transformation Projects ~ When it comes to urban transformation, size does not matter, per se. The subtleties of thoughtful urban projects shine through at every level, and sometime outperform their more ostentatious contemporaries. The Architizer Plus: Urban Transformation Award will reward the best architectural project that spurs new occupation and lively places. via Good, published October 31, 2012.

Design Thinking Starts At The Top ~ Even though design thinking requires participation from many different sectors of a business, there is no question that this is an initiative that has to be led and implemented from the very top by a management committed to the process. Unless there is a strong figure there to properly determine what shape design thinking will ultimate take, there will be no firm direction and there will be no significant follow-through. via Fast Company, published November 2, 2012.

Learning to Bounce Back ~ via The New York Times, published November 2, 2012.

Van Bo Le-Mentzel: Rethinking Everything ~ “It was like my reset button had been pressed,” Le-Mentzel said of his childhood. “Other kids had parents who were doctors, teachers, grocers or lawyers to follow, and I was starting at zero. No one told me what to be – and that turned out to be an advantage. via Smart Planet, published November 1, 2012.

 

TALKS & VIDEOS

Watch A Great Short Film On The Future Of Technology And Education ~ We’re still teaching our kids using a 20th-century paradigm, but many visionaries–like the ones in this video–have plans to take our advances in computing and technology and use them to explode the idea of what education can be. via FastCo.Exist, published October 22, 2012.

 

Open Source Architecture Manifesto Movie ~ Istanbul Design Biennial 2012: this movie shows how a custom printer continually updates a copy of the Open Source Architecture Manifesto Wikipedia entry, written on a wall in the entrance to the Adhocracy exhibition at the Istanbul Design Biennial. via Dezeen, published November 7, 2012.

 

A 3-D Printed House That Grows Like Human Bone ~ London design studio Softkill paints a far-out picture of what 3-D printed architecture could eventually look like. At last week’s 3D Printshow, the team of Architectural Association grads presented a concept called ProtoHouse, which imagines a radical new mode of construction based on the strengths of 3-D printing. Their design is in stark contrast to other 3-D printed home schemes, which are either markedly utilitarian or oddly traditional. via FastCo.Design, published November 2, 2012.

(Softkill Algorithm from Sophia Tang on Vimeo.)

 

Design the New Business ~ Design and business can no longer be thought of as distinct activities with individual goals. Design the New Business is a film dedicated to investigating how designers and businesspeople are working together in new ways to solve the wicked problems facing business today. The short documentary examines how they are joining forces by bringing together an international collection of design service providers, education experts and businesses that have incorporated design as a part of their core approach. Design the New Business features inspiring case studies and insightful discussions, helping to illustrate the state of the relationship and how it needs to continue evolving to meet tomorrow’s challenges.via  dthenewb on Vimeo, published November 2011.

(Design the New Business – English subtitles from dthenewb on Vimeo.)

 

Rethinked’s…* Dominic Randolph on Design Thinking for Educators: Short Documentary on His Collaboration with Ideo ~ Dominic Randolphrethinker…* extraordinaire and Head of Riverdale Country School, won a grant in 2012 from the E. Ford Foundation to teach Design Thinking to Educators and to spread its adaption and implementation across the country. This seven-minute film documents Dominic’s collaboration with legendary design firm, Ideo. via Rethinked, published November 8, 2012. (Video Design Thinking for Educators – Dominic Randolph from paul dewey onVimeo, published November 6, 2012.)

 

Urbanus: Argitecture / Archiculture – Future Cities, Beijing ~ Wang Hui of Urbanus presents his recent works which are dealing with the development of the urban landscape in China. Understanding that eliminating farmland in favor of high rise structures is not a sustainable model, Hui presents a new system which brings together the two worlds instead of isolating them. By taking the words ‘architecture’ and ‘agriculture’ and hybridizing them to spell the terms ‘agritecture’ and ‘archiculture’ new meanings are created and from that dynamic proposals can be established.via Design Boom, published November 7, 2012.

 

IMAGES

Invisible Street Art by Cayetano Ferrer ~ Los Angeles-based video, photography and sculptural/installation artist Cayetano Ferrer has re-interpreted the discipline of graffiti through his artistic interrogation of urban objects. Through his projects ‘City of Chicago‘ and ‘Western Imports‘ he camouflages street signs and ordinary cardboard boxes to mimic the surrounding scenery – rendering them ‘invisible street art’. Ferrer creates the work by pasting high-quality photographs reflecting the relevant environment printed onto stickers and fixing them to various urban debris around the city. By photographing these pieces in situ, the resulting images articulate an illusion of transparency, prompting the viewer to look twice. via Design Boom, published November 2, 2012.

Flying Houses, Spotted In Paris ~ Paris-based art director-turn-photographer Laurent Chéhère has created a series of whimsical photographs featuring buildings that appear to be flying. via Design Taxi, published October 30, 2012.

Brilliant 3D pencil drawings by Nagai Hideyuki ~ Who knew that pencil art could be so multi-dimensional and layered? These incredible illustrations by young Japanese artist Nagai Hideyuki are created using the projection technique, Anamorphosis, which gives the images a three-dimensional appearance when viewed from certain angles. via Lost At E Minor, published July 19, 2012.

How Children Learn: Portraits of Classrooms Around the World ~ A revealing lens on a system-phenomenon both global in reach and strikingly local in degree of diversity. via Brainpickings, published August 20, 2012.

Disruptive wonder from French artist Rero ~The artist simply known as “Rero” works exceedingly simply – but all the better to get his point across. Recently, he has been making challenging through contradiction, posting fliers with phrases like “I hate graffiti” and “I don’t really like people who stick bills on walls,” as well as questioning our perception of public art. via Beautiful Decay, published August 10, 2010.

Rain-Activated Street Art ~ Poland-born, US-based mixed media artist Adam Niklewicz has created a stunning water mural on a red brick wall of a historical building in Hartford, Connecticut. Only appearing when rain falls on it or if water is sprayed on it, this public art project features an image of Charles DeWolf Brownell’s “The Charter Oak”, a reference to American freedom and independence.via Design Taxi, published November 5, 2012.

Our Differences Unite Us ~Just last week, 10-year-old Sophia Bailey-Klugh wrote and illustrated an endearing letter to U. S. President Barack Obama and, as the daughter of a gay couple, thanked him for supporting same-sex marriage. She then asked for advice on how to respond to those who saw such a thing as “gross and weird.” Her letter, and the reply she soon received, can be seen here. via Letters of Note, published November 6, 2012.

RESOURCES

Top 7 Websites for Creating the Future City ~ seven websites that harness the power, wisdom and knowledge of the crowds to cultivate smarter future cities. via Goodnet, published September 26, 2012.

The History of Western Architecture in 39 Free Video Lectures ~  The History of Architecture, a free course that recently debuted on iTunes. Taught by Jacqueline Gargus at Ohio State, the course features 39 video lectures that collectively offer a classic survey of Western architecture. via Open Culture, published November 8, 2012.

Ways to help affected communities after Hurricane Sandy ~ via Architizer, published November 2, 2012.

16 Free Lectures by “The Great Courses” (in a Sea of Free Courses) ~ You have got to hand it to The Great Courses (previously called The Teaching Company). Based in Chantilly, VA, the company has traveled across America, recording professors lecturing on great topics. They have roughly 390 courses in their catalog, market them aggressively with millions of print materials and emails, and generate $110 million in annual sales (as of 2010).And it just so happens that we’ve dug up 16 free lectures sponsored by the company. (Most are individual lectures taken from longer courses available for purchase online.) via Open Culture, published November 2, 2012.

Take First-Class Philosophy Lectures Anywhere with Free Oxford Podcasts ~ Conveniently podcast lecture courses from the University of Oxford. via open Culture, published November 6, 2012.

%d bloggers like this: