Radically Re-designing Education

So what would a really 'permacultural' education system look like?
Here is an attempt at a quick answer ....

Hackschooling Makes Me Happy

Vídeo de YouTube

See also the Innovative Examples page (for use of internet, most of which are also amazing learning examples)

And the Video Playlist suggested by Grey, below

Visioning Lecture

A classic video.. the only one in youTube of Dana Meadows (so far..) 

See the Visioning page for why this is so important in designing anything

Recorded by Peter Gressinger in October of 1994 
at the International Society of Ecological Economics Conference in Costa Rica. 
~ Courtesy of Griesinger Films

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

direct mini-link to this page >> http://bit.ly/ReDesigningEducation

<< and here is a youngster who is DOING real action-learning .. and has come up with a great name for it :) 

This is what a lot of people are doing now, thanks to internet, only we are mostly not calling it 'education'.

Maybe we should ...

The online-onsite action-learning courses we offer at NodoEspiral ... precisely FOLLOW ON from 
<<  this line of thought.

(which in turn follows on from the various thinkers speaking in the videos below this one)

And we can go move on, some way forward from this place because: 

1) we don't assume we actually need 'schools' at all  (this is something all educators, including 'alternative ones' tend to assume, either from lack of imagination or for self-interest reasons).   

Yet if you take seriously one of the key permaculture directives, that the role of the designer is to be a beneficial authority that aims to restore all self-regulating functions to the system, so it can evolve & thrive (making all further authority unnecessary)  ... you can see how teachers' interest in perpetuating schools comes from quite another set of principles.

2) we don't deal with the kinds of things that are relatively easy to do 'exams' with (as the brilliant Kahn Academy does for eg.) but with unique designs which are  complex problems requiring a systemic approach.
And Real Life is simply the best - if not only - reliable examination board for these.

3) we start from an explicit & conscious model for learning, not from adapting the (assumed & mostly unconscious) existing one.
 So what we are practicing is our best understanding of applying the Action Learning Model to our particular situations.
And it is coherent with this model that how your projects DO in real-life is actually the ultimate test of whether / what / how much you've really learned.
Before the building stage however, we foster & encourage continuous dialogue in order to get to the best possible understanding of the most useful models as well as thinking through how to apply them - part of the important stage of observation:

"Protracted and thoughtful observation 
rather than 
protracted and thoughtless action." 

Bill Mollison

4) our 'teachers' are not teachers by profession but impassioned designers, world-wide changers / social activists. 

This is important & it means:

a) that we provide a quite different (more pragmatic) approach to the students than the 'schooling' one -  starting from the assumption that we're all, in fact, students - of Life - just some of us have more experience, & because we've had time to build up more real-life projects + made more mistakes.

b) it also means we mostly enjoy DOING (& helping others do) real-life permaculture, & we positively hate being bogged down with administration or bureaucracies.

SO we provide real-life experienced people as guides to follow the students' process, AND PROVIDE A PLATFORM WHERE THEY CAN FOLLOW EACH OTHERS' also,

  ... so that "Aristotle" function is split between experienced practitioners, AND Life itself ... including all the systems, institutions, & people you interact with on a daily basis, which become a lot more understandable when the restrictive cage of linear & atomized models is replaced with a different way of questioning the world that surrounds us, including our own minds & bodies. 

If you look at it all from a "bigger We perspective" & if you are given a good set of new models that make a lot more VISIBLE how the complex systems around us actually work, then another level of understanding & response - "live & direct" with  the very complexity of Life - becomes possible.

This is enormously satisfying,  especially when you can share it with others who also understand the same kinds of things, because they have studied the same models (have the 'same type of eye-glasses' on)

We become more & more aware of how we're all living in a fascinating & even a - suspiciously - conscious universe, & from that perspective it's difficult not to notice all the feedback, & so we realize that 'Aristotle function' is all over the place, in reality.

Contrary to what is often supposed, the action-learning model is not about "doing more practicals" but a radically different way of looking at education, which actually suggests we won't even have schools in the future, if we really follow it to it's logical conclusion:

we'll have a very different, rationally designed society instead.  

One where parents won't need to send their sons & daughters off to 'special places for children' every day, in order to 'go to work' (& earn money so they can clothe, house & feed + enjoy their children). 

And this just for starters.


My vision of such a society is one where learning is such a continuous & seamlessly integrated part of life that there won't even need to exist the concept of 'educational system', or 'education', really.  

Instead ... we'll start life learning by playing (what babies do naturally) & ... just keep going that way, but moving on to more challenging real-life 'games' as our curiosity, depth & range of knowledge & practical widsom keeps growing.

As long as there exists human curiosity, & problems to solve, there will be, naturally, an enormous amount of learning happening.

The BIG challenge right now is for us to figure out how do recover the capacities for creativity, innovation & deep intelligence in enough people whose natural learning & thinking abilities have been quite damaged by our current society (& especially by our current 'educational' system) which actively destroys the critical human curiosity part.

We just need to get old oppressive models out of the way.

The fact that we so rarely question our own mental models (& that's increasingly difficult as an oppressive culture tries to 'homogenize' us all into thinking a certain way) is shown beautifully in the incredibly ironic way in which 'gaming' principles are now being explored with the aim of making (traditional) education 'more interesting' , or 'more relevant' to children.

The huge irony of this (if you look at it from an understanding of the action-learning model perspective) is that gaming is so successful precisely because it mimics the kinds of intensely emotional & challenging adventures that a meaningful life would give us, on a daily basis.  

But instead of 'going live & direct' to real life (& applying our intelligence to re-designing our lives, neighborhoods & eventually society so that many more of us can have a richer, more meaningful existence), many wonderful, interesting & quite intelligent people are now earnestly engaged in reverse-engineering computer games in order to make the current artificial & sterile model of 'education' seem more interesting.

This is like destroying ecosystems in order to extract resources to make incredibly expensive movies about passionate heroic lives on wonderful planets where people live deeply connected lives in thriving ecosystems.  So we can go & vicariously experience what we should be living like, for a few hours.

That is, it is all quite coherent with everything else we're doing in the dominant culture, and equally nuts.

Permaculture Designers do reverse-engineering exercises directly on Life itself. 

Simply because it makes a lot more sense to learn from something that has more than 4,000 times more evolutionary experience (AND demonstrably works a lot better than the various civilizations humans have come up with).

Yet the absurdities we get up to when we don't take Life as a teacher, more directly, all then result of 'real life' being such a foreign concept to most of us (so far removed are we from any well-designed living complex systems that we can understand)* that our imagination then keeps tending to stop at the very limited man-made structures & models that we've been so well schooled in.

So schools perpetuate a world that assumes schools are needed, quite naturally, all whilst the other kind of Nature (including our own) is left further & further behind.

Our very first class is all about Learning itself, for all these reasons: we have to seriously question the basis of what we're doing & why, if we're to truly do anything new.  

Most current efforts are just trying to patch up the old system - and whilst that is laudable & necessary up to a point (because of course we always have to deal with the logistics, and they invariably start from where we stand in reality, however lofty our goals), what is not useful is that they end up limiting our imagination - of what is possible AND desirable.

* What is so different - & exciting - about the Integral Permaculture curriculum (which yes, is a curriculum, & it has steps in a progression that do aim to take us to a particular way of seeing the world, as all curricula do - & this is not a contradiction) is that -

A) it goes directly & only toward addressing this basic problem: to help us get closer to & understand the very well-designed living complex systems that surround us,

B) is starts from the assumption that our society needs to be radically re-designed (from basic assumptions), and 

C) that thriving, complex natural systems are the basic model to look to for real solutions.

Permaculture Design has, from its founding, explicitly taken Nature as the teacher.  

What Integral Permaculture does is to also (more actively & explicitly) take the sum of human knowledge as the teacher, in 'subjects' previously not considered part of the permaculture field (the social sciences, arts, information technologies, etc.).

And then combine all this, always questioning our own mental models, also testing them out assiduously, in real life - which is our social activism & permaculture design practice (which is central, not incidental, to our teaching).

So this is what I would conclude the video list with: the old & very brilliant lecture by Dana Meadows (whom we honor as the founding mother of Integral Permaculture) on visioning.


Article by Stella Strega
Coordinator of NodoEspiral
of the Permaculture Academy