|Only those who do understand
A paper on "Teaching Excellence"
Teaching is not the same as education.
When Ivan Illich was staying down at Karaka Bay we talked one morning over breakfast about education. At the conclusion Jenny, who was around ten at the time, reached for the phone and rang her school. "I won't be coming to school today." she explained "I want to devote the day to education rather than teaching."
I do not like the word teaching and I have never aspired to being known for teaching excellence. I am concerned with education. I have not taught Megan, Mark, Heidi, Claire or any of my other students anything. I have rather discovered who they are. I have been fascinated by the discovery.
They, however, have taught me a great deal.
My only pain has been watching other people who think they are "teachers" trying to force my students into their own image and likeness. Fortunately with my best students they have had little success.
Orators move the debate forward.When I was a young academic I flew to England with my precious paper and my bundle of slides feeling so proud that my paper had been accepted for publication.
I found myself in a darkened room with thirty people who had no interest whatsoever in anything I was saying. More importantly I realised they were not going to do anything about the issues which concerned me. They were only there because their papers had been accepted, and their world was introverted beyond belief.
Oral cultures communicate through storytelling,
Whakapapa is normally carried through to the next generation through storytelling. Maori tell stories and they sing waiata.
It is only through knowing our whakapapa that we know who we are. We sustain our whakapapa not by teaching others but rather by living out our stories and fulfilling their destiny.
The institutionalised racism of the University places no value on storytelling.
Irritants can be a source of creative energy.I had organised a bus to take my students on a field trip. Another lecturer asked if some of his students could come along. It made economic sense. We set off but then he directed the driver to go first to what he was interested in. By 5pm we had reached the Orewa car park without having achieved any of my objectives for the day, and my students were bored and frustrated. I was so angry I rang a travel agent and asked if I could get a ticket to Japan in the morning.
Competing for students' minds to sustain a world view is absurd. Insecure teachers who compete with other teachers only create confusion. Teachers who destroy the work of educators may get great personal satisfaction, but they leave nothing behind. There is a better way.
Turning negative energy into positive energy is much more creative than getting involved in confrontation. My anger made me passionate. It produced a surplus of energy for me to direct to other ends.
Learning takes place at the edge.The earthquake in Kobe had just happened but Kansai Airport was still open. From there I was able to get a boat across to what was left of the port of Kobe. Six thousand people had died. The city was a shambles. Yet people, as they were burying their dead, smiled apologetically because they could not offer me a drink of water.
Security leads to mediocrity. Death sharpens the mind.
When we are face to face with death the blood runs more quickly in our veins. We see very clearly what is significant and what is of little importance. We leave behind the muddle of life and focus on the possibility of a heroic gesture. We learn what no lecturer's description can teach us.
Being in a situation such as the Kobe earthquake restores your sense of perspective.
We lie more through habit than malice.The "research" reports from Kobe suggested that the buildings designed to survive earthquakes had in fact survived. Not so. The bridges and motorways had toppled. Many high rise buildings had simply "lost" a floor where there had been a change in the composite structure.
People see what they want to see, even when all the evidence is telling them that it is not true. More than facts are needed to dislodge belief structures. Lectures conceal as much as they reveal.
It takes courage to stand in front of a class and confess that you do not know. It takes even more courage to say that what you are teaching is morally wrong, although it will lead to good jobs and handsome profits.
Academic freedom has little meaning in an institution driven by public relations marketing and economic viability. However when you pay your own way to go to conferences you buy the freedom to speak from your heart.
Talking becomes an excuse for not acting.WSSD, the United Nations World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, was extraordinary. It was here that we convinced the organisers of Habitat II to pedestrianise the whole conference venue and to bring the Forum and the Conference itself together. It was a significant political coup.
Nothing succeeds like success. One bold achievement makes the next dream seem possible.
When you are asked to gather around tables with felt tip pens and a moderator to misinterpret what you are saying you know that nothing is going to happen.
The conference industry is too often a well oiled machine which leaves everyone feeling good because change has been neutralised.
Academic papers too often postpone the revolution by reducing passion to discussion.
Enthusiasm is contagious.I did not drive home from Mangere Airport. Instead I went straight to Bob Harvey to convince him he must come to Istanbul. I called on some of my undergraduate students doing my "Planning and Design" course to share my enthusiasm. This was plotting rather than planning. There was no time to waste.
Deadlines focus the mind, but only if they are real deadlines. The process of filling students lives with endless meaningless deadlines dulls them into a stupor. We haggle over an extension as a technique for avoiding confronting what we are really teaching our students.
No one ever plans to be passionate. It sweeps over you. Planning thus never results in passion and produces only passionless development.
Students learn a great deal from a passionate lecturer, even if they learn nothing about the subject.
You can do anything if you believe.We had lost some time getting the course under way for the year so we needed to recover the lost ground.
I announced that in six weeks time three of the class, none of whom I had ever met before, would be in Nairobi for the Second Preparatory Committee for Habitat II, the United Nations "Cities Summit".
Boredom is the greatest enemy of Western Civilisation, not terrorism. Like the Vietnam veteran in Stark the best minds do not bother getting focused until all the loud-mouthed self-styled "leaders" begin disintegrating.
Most teaching does not really challenge the students. It tediously clambers from one rung of the ladder to the next. No one yells "jump".
Education means giving the power away.In a knife-edge operation the money was raised, with not a cent coming from the University.
It then seemed that there was a nightmare riding in from left field. Who should go? How should we decide? The students sorted it all out among themselves with a dazzling maturity which left me astonished.
The young believe that they are invincible, fortunately.
When you give students a fond farewell hug you are actually wondering if there is anywhere worse than Johannesburg and Nairobi to send them off to.
Education is a risky business.As a safety net I had given the students a list of people to call on if they ended up in trouble. I hope no one ever finds the list because it gives my friends a rating. "Good for a coffee." "Good for a bed." At the top of the list was my friend Wally N'Dow, United Nations Secretary General for the Conference.
Waking up on their first morning in a no-star motel in Nairobi the students realised they were in trouble. On their way in from the airport they had passed the United Nations compound. It was encircled by a high concrete fence topped with razor wire. How were they to get in? They consulted my list, Their aim was a little high when they rang Reuben Mutiso, the Head of the host Kenyan Delegation. Fortunately I had rung Reuben, an old Arc-Peace friend, the night before to ask him to keep an eye out for any lost students.
You never know if the door to knowledge is locked until you try the doorhandle.
The world has never been changed by people driven by fear.
Fencing wire is a cultural position.The Third World is not like the First World. Nothing works, unless you happen to be wealthy, privileged and patient.
The myth that managers deserve high salaries because they are good at telling other people what to do is propagated by managers. In a crisis you quickly discover which people it is good to have around.
The older generation will never catch up.
Vanessa, an Australian I had met in Copenhagen at WSSD, was really helpful. She tossed the students the key to her office as she went home, with a strict instruction that the students were to be gone in the morning, with no sign of them ever having been there.
Different people live in different worlds. Teaching is concerned with moving people from one world into another. Education seeks to realise the potential of all worlds.
Diversity with respect leads to a rich life.
Changing the world is an art, not a science.
The core mission of the United Nations is to achieve peace. Recognising that most of the architectural problems of the next twenty years will be in cities Habitat II by now was being called the Cities Summit.
We do not need to know any more about the environment: we need to do something about what we already know.
Sadly very few environmentalists and planners understand the processes of turning words into action. Talking about how to do it just leads to further inaction. Others were satisfied to see their hobby horses included in the documentation. We wanted to go much further.
You learn about tenacity by being tenacious.
By now the students had become skilled negotiators. They had achieved their core objective. They had set about changing the world. They had also realised that it was their idea, and they were on their own.
Most assignments end up in the rubbish bin, and that is what they are worth. No one seems to come to the obvious conclusion.
The bell curve breeds mediocrity. Either work is good enough or it is not.
Excellence is too important to bin.
Everyone needs to take initiatives.
It was the students who finally convinced Bob Harvey that he ought to go to Nairobi for Habitat II. Even then he did not intend to stay.
Education is a process which brings students to the point where they take the initiative. If this does not happen nothing else will happen.
Lecturers become the bottleneck when everyone waits around for them to do something.
Having teams is not the same as teamwork.
The students arrived in Istanbul ahead of me, and they found the perfect hotel, right next to the venue. They negotiated the perfect price because the place was being renovated, just like the rest of Istanbul.
Students learn really quickly given the chance.
They discover that having too many facts just gets in the way. Good judgement is more important than good data. You learn about good judgement by making right decisions. Experience is no use if someone else has it.
Making changes can be risky.
For many of the students it was the first time that they had seen innocent protesters being beaten up by police. They watched women lying on the ground being kicked. They met victims of torture.
There are many people to whom nothing ever happens. One person I know went to a conference in Morocco and came home with nothing more than a complaint about the hotel. Another friend went to Morocco and a bomb blast in the foyer of her hotel killed the receptionist and a bystander.
You need to develop a sixth sense for where the action is. Good journalists or photographers arrive before something happens. Revolutions catch some academics completely by surprise. Others sniff out a revolution from miles away.
The students discovered that getting involved means just that. The good and the bad come at you together and you need to sort it out as best you can. The rules you learnt do not apply.
In the real world everyone becomes an equal.
The students watch you making the tough moves.
They watch what you actually do, not what you say you are going to do.
Those who do recognise others who do.
The President of Turkey flew us down to Cappadocia at the end of the Conference to celebrate by having lunch with him. It was the most lavish lunch I have ever had.
Attitude is everything. Students need to learn about attitude. It is a question of being outrageously good.
You learn through teaching others.
Back in New Zealand the students decided to share what they had learned. They put forward a proposal to build a house in Aotea Square for the EAROPH (East Asian Regional Organisation for Planning and Housing) Conference.
Big challenges are more fun than little challenges.
Teaching produces followers.