What would you do if money were no object?

As teachers we have to reflect on our practices, and I believe it is important to deconstruct one’s own practices from time to time in order to see the big picture. This recording of the late British philosopher Alan Watts is inspirational in these terms. Education plays a big part in forming how we live our lives, and one could question whether there are more or less accepted ways of leading one’s life or not. Watts’s argument is very critical to a static educational system where children are encouraged to do things they do not want. This is all a very comprehensive discussion, but I think it is important to challenge students in pursuing their interests and dreams.


6 thoughts on “What would you do if money were no object?

  1. He says: “It’s stupid to go on doing things you don’t like”. Yes, obviously, but at which level? At a school/education level there will always be things learners are asked to do as part of their primary or secondary education that they “don’t like”, but which are nevertheless important things to learn about, isn’t it?

    • Indeed, students will of course have to complete courses and modules they do not necessarily find intriguing that nevertheless are important for their overall Bildung and education. This is obviously important. I sense Watts is trying to exaggerate in order to make people think more critically on what they are really doing, more broadly. Education is perhaps the most important feature in shaping people’s lives, and it should also be a place for creativity and dreams.

  2. Hi Kim-Daniel,
    thank you very much for this blog-entry. It is always nice to listen to a fellow rebel and especially one so well-spoken. I personally do not believe that he wants to provoke people by exaggerating. And actually his ideas are not that new and he is by far not the only one arguing in that direction. I think the quote: “Find something you enjoy doing and you will never have to work a single day in your life.” puts it quite nicely.

    In Germany we have had the discussion for some years now, led mostly by politicians, whether to grant everybody a “bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen”. I did not find an official translation but I would translate it with “a basic income that is given without condition.” So everybody from a certain age on would get so much money from the state that they would not have to work in order to survive. The ideas behind it are no as simple as I describe it here, but one aspect is that people argue that if you can freely chose what you want to do with your life, then you will find something you are really interested in and than you will be a productive member of society.

    And I think everybody can think of people who – for whatever reason – did not really have to work but actually excelled in what they were doing. In the slightly leftist paper I always read online they had some examples as well.

    One last thing about the school level. After having been a mum of a child at kindergarten age I have come to truly doubt that concept of forcing students to learn “for their own good”. Almost every week our little one comes home and has learned something that amazes us and all that is happening although no-one makes him learn things he does not want to learn.

    And the question is anyway: how sustainable is the knowledge we obtain because we had to cram it into our heads? And how does this work together with the concept of the autonomous learner we have been learning so much about?

    And is not one of the reasons that we learn about digital competence that this way of learning will be more motivating for our students and that this is a competence that they want to obtain?

    You can see that this topic really gets me going and I hope that my comment makes as much sense as I think it does and that I have not been too much under the influence of having had to watch 45 min of “drømmehage” with my very autonomous 4-year old.

    • Thank you for your intelligent remarks, Silke. Well, when he talks about his conversation with one of his students, he tries to help the student to realise his ambitions: Student: “Well, I’d like to lead an outdoors life and ride horses” Watts: “Do you want to teach in a riding school?” – This is an example where Watts is thinking more pragmatically about how one could lead a life. Obviously, this person would have ideally wanted to just ride horses, and not do teaching. But from a pragmatic stance, it is impossible. However, overall this student will lead a life where most of the things will consist of things he/she likes doing. I think that is the core of Watts’s message. And as you point out, it is very much in keeping with Confucius’s message: “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. Nonetheless, these philosophical and profound ideas become easily distorted when talking about how to realise them practically. I believe, as educators, we should, thus, aspire to widen the students’ horizons, and try to encourage and motivate them on how they best can turn their visions into reality.

      • Hi Kim-Daniel,
        “Man wird alt wie eine Kuh und lernt immer noch dazu.” Again, I do not know by whom the quote is, but at least I can casually drop the name of Confucius next time I need to back up my theories on education. Then I can sound even more like a know-it-all then I already do :-).
        Hope you are having a good time at home home.
        Silke, a pretty old cow

  3. Pingback: Comment me, comment you | dasmachteshatdiesommernacht

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