Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The problem with linear systems

It seems linear systems have a big problem – they're unsustainable!  They promote conformity (usually at the expense of diversity), they encourage built-in obsolescence (typically at the expense of re-use), and they generate a tremendous amount of waste.

The 'Story of Stuff' video explains why our 20th century model of consumerism is fundamentally flawed. It's a linear system, and it's clear we need to look for alternative, more sustainable models of production. 

It's an incredible coincidence, and somewhat ironic, that the creative horsepower needed to innovative and devise new solutions to these problems is being continually undermined by a another linear system – our global education system. 

In his classic TED talk from 2006 'Do Schools Kill Creativity?', Sir Ken Robinson makes the point that "if you're not prepared to be wrong you'll never come up with anything original".  He also makes the observation that we've designed our schools and colleges to process our children on an industrial scale, so that they can take their places in the world as educated adults, and that tragically this process is systematically 'educating the creativity out of our children' by teaching them that mistakes are bad and must be avoided at all cost. 

It strikes me that our education system is fundamentally flawed – wasteful and unsustainable. In our race to produce more educated adults, we are ruthlessly squandering the creative raw material that we will need if we are to find solutions to the big problems of our time.

We need to start educating our kids in a way that encourages sharing of ideas and risk-taking and most importantly in my opinion, we need to create future learning environments where our children are encouraged to be imaginative, and share their ideas without fear of being stigmatised when they don't conform. 

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