In praise of the collective

TEDAs I said in my last post, I attended the TED Opening Night, via film, last week which really got me thinking.

The final speaker was Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sachs who talked about the new thing we all worship- predictably, ourselves.

“Future anthropologists will take a look at the books we read on self-help, at how we talk about politics as a matter of individual rights, and at “our newest religious ritual: the selfie” — and conclude that we worship the self.”

However, Sachs says, we are social beings so all this focus on the individual goes against our very nature.

“To solve the most pressing issues of our time we need to strengthen the future us in three dimensions: the “us of relationship,” the “us of responsibility” and the “us of identity.””

Sachs discussed the very human trait of surrounding ourselves with people who share our views, residing in our own little echo chamber of the same ideas. Of course this is not overly helpful when we are also prone to confirmation bias. Nor is it helpful when we are trying to re-imagine schooling and education… How do we get to a place where we want to follow people we disagree with on Facebook, Twitter etc? Where we feel comfortable debating big issues with people who totally disagree with us? Where we actively seek out people whose views differ from our own? How do we get to the stage where we feel comfortable in such an uncomfortable situation? – This is vital if we are going to shift our own thinking…

“We need to renew those face-to-face encounters with the people not like us in order to realize that we can disagree strongly and still stay friends.”

Sachs went on to discuss nations’ identities and the religions and politics of ‘us.’ He ended with a simple but powerful suggestion:

“Do a search-and-replace operation on the text of your mind. Wherever you encounter the word ‘self,’ substitute the word ‘other.’ Instead of self-help, other-help. Instead of self-esteem, other-esteem. We can face any future without fear so long as we know that we won’t face it alone.”

How do we grow ourselves and our students to become an ‘other’ type of human?


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