What makes a fair society?
My response to this question is in three parts, each part inspiring a distinct, yet inter-connected response to a different conceptual part of the question. For the past nearly two years, I have been co-creating a project, Enlivened Learning, that has to do with visiting, learning from and documenting alternative places of higher education around the world that have been emerging from social/ecological movements and indigenous communities. I walked out of a career in academia to be on this journey of Enlivened Learning.
What do we mean by fair?
In July – August 2013, I spent a month with around 25 khojis (Hindi word for ‘seeker’ that is used rather than ‘students’) and two co-founders of Swaraj University in Udaipur, India. At Swaraj University, khojis design their own learning process that enables them to identify their hearts’ vision and develop the skills and relationships to manifest those visions. During this time, I was greatly inspired by the khojis – how the learning process at Swaraj transformed their sense of selves, healing them from the trauma of the education system and discovering a deep confidence in themselves. I also learned about the meaning of ‘Swaraj’. This six-letter word that Ghandi helped to popularize, has a profound teaching. The word literally means ‘Self-Rule/Mastery’, to be able to determine who you are (your hearts’ vision) and to develop the insight and discipline to follow this through in all parts of your life – with the primary aim of avoiding exploitation – toward all other living beings, including yourself. But Swaraj is not just about the self. For ‘Self-Rule’ must be carried out within and for the betterment of community. Because our self is not separate from other selves.
What is the process – ‘what makes’?
There is a quote by the late Ivan Illich that ought to inspire the core pedagogy of our education system. It is this: “True learning can only be the leisurely practice of free people.” Education can and should foment freedom, our hearts’ vision, bringing out the best of who each of us are and can be – and freeing us from the confines of our individualist and consumerist norms. We learn best through experience – enlivened forms of holistic learning – where we learn with not only our heads, but most importantly with our hearts, our hands and our homes.
What do we mean by society?
In September – October 2012, I spent a month with different members of the Blackfoot community in Southern Alberta. I was visiting Red Crow Community College to learn about their Blackfoot Ways of Knowing program that has been able to regenerate Blackfoot knowledge (which was largely lost through colonial forms of oppression) and integrate it into an educational institution (the college is housed in the former Residential School where some of the current staff were forced to attend the school as children). All that I learned during those days from several different Blackfoot Elders will remain with me for a lifetime. There is one particular piece of Blackfoot wisdom that I wish to mention. It is, that as human beings, we are not at the pinnacle of evolution. Rather, we are the newborns, coming into being on this Earth quite late as compared to most other living beings. And with that in mind, we are currently, for the most part, behaving like infants, trying to adapt nature to our will, rather than the other way around. To become fully human is to be able to adapt ourselves to our ecosystems. And with that comes deep humility and a profound respect and reverence for all life.
Kelly Teamey, Educationalist