Community - 5Read Now
This is my fifth and final instalment on community for now. (I can almost hear the sighs of relief). I think the message has been pretty clear - we do better and are better together.
Community is about finding people and place that make us feel we are at home. By building community we put some order in the fragmented world around us.
Five Reasons why Community is Important.
Community gives courage:
People who say just the right thing at just the right time give us courage to pursue our dreams, confront our fears and live with less anxiety. A life free from fear is a life that can accomplish anything.
Community gives hope:
In a painful, uncertain world the understanding and supportive nature of good, honest community can provide the hope necessary to press on and take chances – no matter the challenge.
Community gives options:
Life without community is lonely; it’s lacking in social events, intimate conversation and deep relationships. A strong network of people grants options for a night out, friends to call in a crisis and someone to share a funny story with.
Community gives constructive feedback:
No one is perfect. The loving people in our lives know that better than anyone and can be a significant part of our individual growth and change. They can offer constructive feedback about us, our decisions and relationships.
Community gives joy:
community is shared fun.The shared memories, laughter and times spent with our closest circle of friends provide memories that last for a lifetime.
Having a community around us is important for these and many other reasons. It means that we're not in the world alone, we're not fighting our battles by ourselves. Within a community, we have others we can turn to for help and support - perhaps just to seek advice or at times for more literal support. We have others to share our lives with, to care for and help in their time of need.
When we have a stronger sense of community we feel like we’re an important member of a group. That’s why every organisation, team, club, or gang is formed. We’re closest to the that feeling when we’re around people we care about. No sports team or company ever thrived when everyone was in it for themselves. Our lives can be made much easier if we band together with people based on commonality.
Community is a buzzword, but it’s easier said than done. And often it’s more talked about than it is practiced. Developing community can be awkward. Creating community means pushing ourself beyond our comfort zone, our insecurities and our discouragements.
So how do we improve our community connectedness - a huge challenge for so many of us in a time-poor world?
Invite people into our life, and into our home. Let people see our imperfections. Being open with our imperfect homes and meals, helps others to feel more free to be themselves.
Being a part of a community means taking all of that community on board, in all its beauty and ugliness, and approaching it with kindness and understanding. Walking in others’ shoes, seeing the world through others’ eyes, and trying to find a way to move forward together.
How does one keep from "growing old inside"? Surely only in community. The only way to make friends with time is to stay friends with people…. Taking community seriously not only gives us the companionship we need, it also relieves us of the notion that we are indispensable.
-- Robert McAfee Brown
Every two weeks at Western Heights we come together as a full school community for a Full School Assembly we call Whanau Time. This means Family Time, and at the core of community is family.
Family, community, love - words that I probably overuse and thereby reduce their effectiveness. Still I will risk it one last time in closing this article and series. I love our Western Heights School Whanau. I love our Henderson Heights Community and I love west Auckland. This is my community, this is a spiritual as well as physical home for me and I will continue to work hard with all the wise and wonderful people in our community who share these loves and are putting that love into practice to make this community stronger and more precious than ever.
I’ll conclude with a quote from Tom Vilsack, “People working together in a strong community with a shared goal and a common purpose can make the impossible possible.”
Community - 4Read Now
Two quotes to begin with this time.
"We can never get a re-creation of community and heal our society without giving our citizens a sense of belonging."
-- Patch Adams
”Community – meaning for me 'nurturing human connection' — is our survival. We humans wither outside of community. It isn’t a luxury, a nice thing; community is essential to our well being."
- Frances Moore Lappe
Most people need to be part of a community for life’s necessities. Living a solo life as a hermit is not the way most humans choose to live. Most people want to be part of a community because there is something precious, positive and even predictable about being a part of a group of people who share something in common. Whether that is the place where you live, or the interests and passions that you have in common, it is good to have a sense of belonging and connection. A community is a safe place and a place where we feel safe.
Community roots and the need to belong to a community go very deep in our DNA. If we think back to pre history, the time of the early hunters and gatherers, we realise that humans were not particularly impressive as individuals.
We could run - but so many creatures could run much faster than us, both ones that we wanted to eat, and the ones that wanted to eat us. We could climb, but again far less well than many other creatures. We could swim too, but, as you guessed, much less well than a host of mammals and fishes.
Our success as hunter gatherers came because we could communicate very well and we could organise. Other creatures could indicate a lion is nearby and indicate all are in immediate danger. Our complex language abilities allowed us to use language to explain there is a lion lying in wait in the bull rushes at the south end of the big water hole two leagues to the east of here.
Now, many, many generations on, our sense of, and need for, community still lies within us. The focus has changed somewhat though. Instead of telling our clan about the bee’s nest in the big old pine tree, we are on Facebook sharing the specials to be had at the Palomino Shopping Centre (always worth checking out - 😉). Instead of a lion waiting in the Bull Rushes, it’s the road works blocking off Sturges Road.
In these modern, fast-paced and challenging times, we need to be reminded of the importance of community. Community that doesn’t just come from the local area in which we live, but community that comes from our shared humanity.
One of my great joys as an educator is seeing young children taking on board a commitment to their community - school, local and further afield. We have been focusing on protecting our oceans this past term, and clearly the message has been taken on board by many. From Ashton who pulled a plastic bag out of a storm-water grate and came and told me he’d just saved a turtle, to Jessica who insisted her parents take her to the beach to collect rubbish - at 6:30 on a rainy Sunday morning. They went, and Jessica loved them for it, as we love her.
In the Sufi tradition, it is taught that the primary purpose of life is to awaken to the essence of who we are. Once we do so, we are invited to embrace this realisation. The gift of community is that it offers each of us the motivation and support to achieve this. . . even on those rainy Sundays when we feel no fire.
Community is important, because community saves us from being alone. Much more than that, community gives us a sense of shared purpose, allows us to be part of something greater than ourselves. It brings meaning to our life, and takes us beyond the realm of self.
Some of the most selfish people in the world are also the unhappiest. Think of those who only think of themselves and tell me if they are truly happy? I believe not, and I believe it is because in the end serving self is empty and soon becomes boring and pointless.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
As I shared with you last time, we teach our children to Love to Learn to Lead. We expand that to, “I Love to Learn, so I can Learn to Lead, so I can Lead with Love”. This is community in a nutshell. It is also purpose and fulfilment in action.
Community - 3Read Now
Having a community around us is important for many reasons - first and foremost it means that we're not in the world alone, we're not fighting our battles by ourselves. Within a community, we have others we can turn to for help and support - perhaps just to seek advice or at times for more literal support. We have others to share our lives with, to care for and help in their time of need.
Before returning to Auckland we lived in Kaiapoi, in north Canterbury. Kaiapoi was -and is - about community. We won the Most Beautiful Town Award because our community came together to beautify our town and take responsibility for keeping it beautiful. One of the big focal points of the town was the local clubs.
There was the very popular and well performed Kaiapoi Rugby Club. The Waimakariri Football Club had the largest junior membership in the South Island. The netball and hockey clubs were equally sizeable and strong, there was a very strong rowing club, softball and cricket clubs and many more. There was the Brass Band, St Johns, Scouts, Girl Guides, and the Disgraceful Women Club. That club was comprised of older women who dressed up beautifully in red or purple - or both - and went out for luncheons, laughs and liquor (to keep to the Ls). There was Rotary, a strong RSA that was very involved in the life of the town, Kiwanis, a strong Lions Club and many more service organisations. Young farmers, Rural Women’s League, strong local Iwi organisations and so the list goes.
It meant there was a community group for everyone, and a lot of our community spirit was built around the congeniality, conviviality and connectedness that came from belonging to one or more of these community groups.
As a town we came together every ANZAC Day. We had an annual Christmas Parade and Saturday markets. And then it all came crashing down.
We were hit by two earthquakes, the first of which utterly devastated half of our town.
And yet, in the things that mattered, they didn’t shatter us or our town. My school, Kaiapoi Borough, and my wife’s school, Richmond Primary, were two of the nine worst hit schools in Canterbury. Both communities were decimated by the earthquakes. Whole streets that were once home to hundreds of children are now green-swathe. Lying desolate and empty as they wait to be repurposed, it is strange to go back and see nothing but grass and the odd tree.
Both communities have moved on, though Kaiapoi, which had such a strong community to begin with, has recovered better than most. There is a new library, new shopping centre, a rebuilt gym and restored RSA. The swimming pool is having its second rebuild and will be better than before. But most obviously, and most importantly, the community spirit is still there, and in most cases stronger than ever.
Looking at Kaiapoi immediately after the September earthquake and imagining that it could look as it does now seemed utterly impossible. Tom Vilsack says, “People working together in a strong community with a shared goal and a common purpose can make the impossible possible.”
Events such as the terrible earthquakes, teach us the importance of community. They teach us the value of resilience and give us opportunities to develop that quality.
I think it is really important we do all we can to build community right now, and every day, in little ways. Then, heaven forbid, if disaster strikes, networks and relationships are in place to help us all come together and get through the challenges together.
We can begin by doing small things at our local level, like planting community gardens or looking out for our neighbours. That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.
Community can’t just be with people we feel comfortable with, who completely understand us and believe the same things as us. Community has to be intentional. Even if it starts organically, it still has to be maintained. Being alongside people from other walks of life, people who don't see the world through your own eyes, can be challenging - but we have the opportunity to grow and learn from that challenge. We can expand our experience of the world, and learn how to communicate and interact in different ways.
Let’s take this opportunity to set a goal to each do our bit to grow community in our community. I’m going to start by inviting my neighbour over for a cup of coffee. What will you do?
Community - 2Read Now
Recently we installed our Pōhatu Tumu - our Foundation Values Stones. There are five of these stones and they represent the foundation values our school stands upon. They define, inspire and guide us as learners, leaders and teachers.
Our Pōhatu Tumu are:
Whanaungatanga - being a family. Living, learning and playing together as a family.
- summed up as “Family Always.”
Whakamana: - empowering us as learners and leaders to love learning and be the best we
- summed up as “Our Best Always.”
Pono: - being honest with ourselves and others. Integrity. Doing the right thing always.
- summed up as “The Truth Always.”
Manaakitanga: - caring for ourselves, others, and our world. Paying it Forward. Being a Bucket
- summed up as “Caring Always.”
Turangawaewe: - our standing place, where we belong, where we stand tall.
- summed up as "Our home always."
Our school is one of the best - officially - at teaching reading, writing and maths. We are proud of this, but our children will need much more than this is they are to be successful, and if we are to have a world that is safe and sustainable to live in.
We are passionate about educating the whole child. Passionate about teaching them to Love, Learn and Lead.
- Love - ourselves - others - our world
- Learn about - ourselves - others - our world
- Lead - ourselves - others - in our world
We Love to Learn so we can Learn to Lead so we can Lead with Love
These values prepare our children to live in, care for and contribute to a community. With these values, our children, our community, our country, and our world have a much brighter future. I thank you all for your contributions to our community, and for your support going forward to raise a new generation of wonderful, caring, contributing citizens.
Community - 1Read Now
Until I was six, I spent all my life on a farm in Lowcliff in rural mid Canterbury, and from then in Springbank in rural north Canterbury. The school I went to mostly had around a dozen kids in total, though we did reach the heady heights of 19 children at one point.
My nearest neighbour was about six kilometres away and so play-overs at a mate’s place almost never happened. All the farmers seemed to work all hours, so the only community events were if we had a school picnic at the start of the year, or our end of year school concert. With just 12 kids involved, they weren’t the biggest of occasions though.
There were really only two ways you could connect with community, and both were frowned on by my parents. The first was listening in on the ‘party phone line’. In this instance party meant something very different. We all shared one ‘party’ phone line. If you wanted to ring a neighbour you dialled the Morse code for their letter. Our phone number was 50W - so to dial us you wound the ringer to make “short-long-long.” If you heard the Morse code for T, the call was not for you, but if you were very quiet and careful you could lift your earpiece and maybe listen in on their conversation.
Not good, but we didn’t have TV or even radio. We did have that other option I mentioned - an early example of reality TV, just without the TV.
Living in the country it was quiet. In the evenings and at night sound travelled for miles. Often you could go outside in the evening and listen to the neighbour - many kilometres away - completely and utterly losing the plot at his sheep dogs. The language was dreadful, hence my parents frowning upon me going out to listen.
Many years later I was a country school principal north of Napier. The Tareha community was very different from my Springbank one. When I started, there were just four children on the roll and they were looking to close the school down - nice of them not to let me know until I got there.
Anyway we got the roll up to 26 children in no time and our country school quickly became the heart of the community. There was a real variety of people in the community and we would have several school based events a term where people of all ages and backgrounds came along and had great fun.
Achieving that same sense of community in a school of 650 children is much harder. We come from so many different backgrounds, have such diverse tastes in food and sports and leisure and in many cases, work very long hours to be able to afford to live here.
And yet, in spite of those challenges, there is much that connects us as a community.
We are westies, and most of us our proud of it. We love our beaches, our Waitakere Ranges, our local sports clubs and markets, and so much more that makes the west special.
We are also Westies - Western Heights parents and whanau. The challenge is to build a Westie Heights community where we feel connected, feel we are part of something pretty special - our awesome Western Heights school - feel we belong and can contribute and participate, but without it being a burden.
It is easy for our ideas and initiatives to be ‘just one more thing’ that gets added to the huge and demanding list that is our life.
Believing in KidsRead Now
I hope you won’t mind me sharing a story with you from my last school - Kaiapoi Borough.
Believing In Kids - Giving Them Someone They Can Believe In - Living Proof It Works:
At Kaiapoi Borough School we received a lot of visits from ex pupils eager to stay in touch with us, keen to share how successful they have been at High School, and wanting to thank us for the ways we have supported them. Recently I had a visit from an ex pupil who called in to share where he is at in his learning journey, his sporting progress and his personal growth as a young man and a leader.
As I listened to him speak of the impact our school and our people had had on his life, I was almost moved to tears.
Kurt spoke of how he had been a tearaway, a thief, quick to turn an argument into a fist fight and with a “I don’t want to know” attitude.
Our staff persevered with Kurt and worked hard to build a relationship with him. I spoke often with Kurt about our values and our belief in him.
Kurt shared how those things stuck with him - how he came to realise the importance of goals and the huge importance of honest and regular reflection.
Kurt uses reflection in all aspects of his life. If he misses a crucial drop-kick in a league game, he doesn’t beat himself up over it, he reflects on what he did and what he could do differently to be successful next time.
Kurt reflected on the pathway he was taking at High School. He realised it was leading him down a one-way path to a wasted life.
Kurt joined a group called “Tama ki Tane” (Boys to Men) at Kaiapoi High School after the Counsellor there and a senior Maori student both took him aside and asked him to reflect on where he was going, what he was trying to achieve and who he was trying to impress. Now, as a year 12 Kurt can look back on a complete change in his life. He achieved a Merit in English last year. He has passed Level One NCEA. He is trialling for the Melbourne Storm Rugby League club and he is the first Year 12 Chief of the Tama ki Tane ropu at Kaiapoi High School.
I invited Kurt to come and speak to our staff on a Monday morning - a number of them were all but moved to tears also.
Kurt thanked them for putting up with him, for persevering, for caring and for giving him a foundation of skills and practices that set him up for success in the end. Kurt did this as a way of giving something back. He took a lot of satisfaction in being able to do this and he will be coming back in his own time to speak to our year five to eight students.
We don’t always work miracles overnight, but what we do does pay off sooner or later.
Here Is A Response from My Ex Board Chairperson:
Awesome story about Kurt. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes knowing that every word is true and well spoken. I watched Kurt perform in Kapa Haka at recent high school events and I could see the pride and passion he had in doing a good job. You are so right that encouragement and belief that children’s innate goodness will shine through is very important for all adults working with children, especially those who need extra guidance.
Another student who is doing remarkably well is Ammaron. I remember he also needed some special guidance from the KBS Board when I was there. My heart swells with pride when I see what a talented and hardworking young man Ammaron is turning into.
Both these boys/men needed the KBS and wider village to believe in them – well done for championing this positive and supportive approach to our children.
Punishment By RewardsRead Now
I would like to initiate a discussion around behaviour management and rewards and recognition.
Personally, I am opposed to a punitive behaviour management system. Obviously assigning lines, detentions etc is punitive. However, using stickers and certificates can also be considered punitive.
Here's some background reading for your edification on this topic...
Creating praise junkies.
To be sure, not every use of praise is a calculated tactic to control children’s behavior. Sometimes we compliment kids just because we’re genuinely pleased by what they’ve done. Even then, however, it’s worth looking more closely. Rather than bolstering a child’s self-esteem, praise may increasekids’ dependence on us. The more we say, "I like the way you...." or "Good __ing," the more kids come to rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what’s good and bad, rather than learning to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and dole out some more approval.
"Good job!" doesn’t necessarily reassure children; ultimately, it can make them feel less secure. It may even create a vicious circle such that the more we slather on the praise, the more kids seem to need it, so we praise them some more. Sadly, some of these kids will grow into adults who continue to need someone else to pat them on the head and tell them whether what they did was OK. Surely this is not what we want for our children.
To be sure, there are times when our evaluations are appropriate and our guidance is necessary -- especially with toddlers and preschoolers. But a constant stream of value judgments is neither necessary nor useful for children’s development.
I cherish the occasions when my daughter manages to do something for the first time, or does something better than she’s ever done it before. But I try to resist the knee-jerk tendency to say, "Good job!" because I don’t want to dilute her joy. I want her to share her pleasure with me, not look to me for a verdict. I want her to exclaim, "I did it!" (which she often does) instead of asking me uncertainly, "Was that good?"
An impressive body of scientific research has shown that the more we reward people for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. Now the point isn’t to draw, to read, to think, to create – the point is to get the goody, whether it’s an ice cream, a sticker, or a "Good job!”
Does praise motivate kids? Sure. It motivates kids to get praise. Alas, that’s often at the expense of commitment to whatever they were doing that prompted the praise.
As if it weren’t bad enough that "Good job!" can undermine independence, pleasure, and interest, it can also interfere with how good a job children actually do. Researchers keep finding that kids who are praised for doing well at a creative task tend to stumble at the next task – and they don’t do as well as children who weren’t praised to begin with. Why does this happen? Partly because the praise creates pressure to "keep up the good work" that gets in the way of doing so. Partly because their interest in what they’re doing may have declined. Partly because they become less likely to take risks – a prerequisite for creativity – once they start thinking about how to keep those positive comments coming. More generally, "Good job!" is a remnant of an approach to psychology that reduces all of human life to behaviours that can be seen and measured.
Unfortunately, this ignores the thoughts, feelings, and values that lie behind behaviors. For example, a child may share a snack with a friend as a way of attracting praise, or as a way of making sure the other child has enough to eat. Praise for sharing ignores these different motives. Worse, it actually promotes the less desirable motive by making children more likely to fish for praise in the future.
What kids do need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached.
That’s not just different from praise – it’s the opposite of praise. "Good job!" is conditional. It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for jumping through our hoops, for doing things that please us.
The real problem isn’t that children expect to be praised for everything they do these days. It’s that we’re tempted to take shortcuts, to manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values.
So what’s the alternative?
That depends on the situation, but whatever we decide to say instead has to be offered in the context of genuine affection and love for who kids are rather than for what they’ve done. When unconditional support is present, "Good job!" isn’t necessary; when it’s absent, "Good job!" won’t help.
If we’re praising positive actions as a way of discouraging misbehavior, this is unlikely to be effective for long. Even when it works, we can’t really say the child is now "behaving himself"; it would be more accurate to say the praise is behaving him.
The alternative is to work with the child, to figure out the reasons he’s acting that way. We may have to reconsider our own requests rather than just looking for a way to get kids to obey. (Instead of using "Good job!" to get a four-year-old to sit quietly through a long class meeting or family dinner, perhaps we should ask whether it’s reasonable to expect a child to do so.)
We also need to bring kids in on the process of making decisions.
If a child is doing something that disturbs others, then sitting down with her later and asking, "What do you think we can do to solve this problem?" will likely be more effective than bribes or threats. It also helps a child learn how to solve problems and teaches that her ideas and feelings are important. Of course, this process takes time and talent, care and courage.Tossing off a "Good job!" when the child acts in the way we deem appropriate takes none of those things, which helps to explain why "doing to" strategies are a lot more popular than "working with" strategies.
Say what you saw.
A simple, evaluation-free statement ("You put your shoes on by yourself" or even just "You did it") tells your child that you noticed. It also lets her take pride in what she did. In other cases, a more elaborate description may make sense. If your child draws a picture, you might provide feedback – not judgment – about what you noticed: "This mountain is huge!" "Boy, you sure used a lot of purple today!" If a child does something caring or generous, you might gently draw his attention to the effect of his action on the other person: "Look at Abigail’s face! She seems pretty happy now that you gave her some of your snack." This is completely different from praise, where the emphasis is on how you feel about her sharing.
Talk less, ask more.
Even better than descriptions are questions. Why tell him what part of his drawing impressed you when you can ask him what he likes best about it? Asking "What was the hardest part to draw?" or "How did you figure out how to make the feet the right size?" is likely to nourish his interest in drawing. Saying "Good job!", as we’ve seen, may have exactly the opposite effect.
This doesn’t mean that all compliments, all thank-you’s, all expressions of delight are harmful.
We need to consider our motives for what we say (a genuine expression of enthusiasm is better than a desire to manipulate the child’s future behavior) as well as the actual effects of doing so. Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life -- or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head.
It’s not a matter of memorising a new script, but of keeping in mind our long-term goals for our children and watching for the effects of what we say. The bad news is that the use of positive reinforcement really isn’t so positive.
The good news is that you don’t have to evaluate in order to encourage.
Copyright © 2001 by Alfie Kohn.
The further we progress into the 21st century the more strongly I feel the need for us to teach discernment. In fact, if I had to settle on one skill as crucial for our children beyond the basics of literacy and numeracy, I think this might be it. It fits within the Key Competency of Thinking, and it should be assuming ever greater importance.
Nowadays we have Google in our pocket, we have constant access to information, and are pretty much constantly surrounded by “information”. We live in a print-saturated, image-saturated, talkback-saturated, social-connectivity-saturated, sound-saturated, video-saturated, environment. The numbers for Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, YouTube, and iTunes are mind-boggling in the extreme.
On the face of it, Google in our pocket seems to be such a great benefit. But access to information should not be the main purpose – understanding information is the purpose. We need to look at how our children – and ourselves – are using Google. The pattern tends to be that most searchers sample the first link or two, and very few go past the first page or two.
One of the biggest problems is that our children tend to believe whatever they find on the internet – “if it’s on the internet, it must be true.”
American educator Alan November has shared some thought-provoking sessions on verifying what we find when we search on the web. whois.com is a useful tool recommended by Alan. He shares the search results from Google on “Doctor Martin Luther King”. On first look, the fourth entry on Google’s result page appears to be a considered, erudite review of the great man’s life. However, the further into that site you go, the more controversial and disparaging becomes the material, until it eventually leads children to a set of flyers they can print out and distribute in their community. The source of this web site is the Ku Klux Klan. You can guess their motives.
We need to teach our children discernment – the ability to judge what is right. When faced with challenges outside our knowledge, we need the right tools and dispositions.
It’s not “knowing the answer” anymore. It’s not even being able to find the answer. It’s knowing how to behave intelligently when I don’t know the answer.
Previously we sought answers – usually simple and factual, to finite questions. Now our students are beginning to realise there is a difference between information and knowledge. One touches the surface – lands and sinks. One involves understanding – lands and generates ripples.
The problem now is not access to information, nor is it the up-to-date-ness of information. Instead, the issue is truthfulness – reliability – usefulness – source. We need to look for slant – bias – hidden agenda.
This of course could and should lead to discussions on... What is news? What is newsworthy? Who decides? So consider this: if we don’t teach discernment to our children who will? If we don’t teach discernment to our children what might the resultant outcomes be? We need to be asking questions that Google doesn’t know the answer to. Finally, discernment is something we need to teach in partnership with parents.
Schrödinger's CatRead Now
At any given time, we carry around with us thousands of views, opinions, and beliefs, and often regard them as facts. Today I was reminded of the story of Schrödinger's Cat by an Apple Distinguished Educator who wore a T Shirt declaring Schrödinger' Cat is Not Dead.
A cat, along with a flask containing a poison and a radioactive source, is placed in a sealed box shielded against environmentally induced quantum decoherence. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead.
Part of the premise, as I (barely) understand it, is that reality is influenced by us observing it. If we were not observing, what would be happening would be different.
I guess what this says to me, is it is very hard to be very certain about anything. In fact, it's quite likely that the more certain I am, the less likely it is that I am fully informed.
This sounds somewhat esoteric and confused, but the point I am taking from it is that I find it increasingly important to be open-minded.
I used to think I knew so much. I am a passionate person and tend to be strongly opinionated. I still am when it comes to many things such as the importance of equality of opportunity, the importance of valuing the whole child in the learning process, and the aesthetic beauty and operational beauty (simplicity, effectiveness and efficiency of use) of all things Apple, the importance of family, the importance of preserving our beautiful world and so on.
I am becoming increasingly aware that in reality I know so little. Schrödinger''s cat is a very small example of a whole world of understanding that is completely beyond me in terms of physics. And what of politics, religion, science, art, literature, politics? I have so many small and imperfectly formed kernels of information, and yet even with such a small reserve to draw on, I find it all too easy to make sweeping statements, hold untested opinions and claim understanding that simply has no foundation of merit.
I have changed my thinking about parochialism and realised the need to see not just our ANZAC neighbours as whanau but all nations. The selfless acts of the workers at the Fukoshima Nuclear Plant, and the Japanese USAR volunteers who came to Christchurch and showed such reverence for human life, are just two examples of why we should see our world as a whānauhood.
I have changed my mind about thinking, realising that what we refer to as what 'we think' is actually often based on too little thinking and too little information. A truer phrase might well be, "I assume".
I have spent too long assuming too much, and must become more open minded. My action goal needs to be to listen more, and assume less. As a colleague once taught me, "When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me."
Greetings to all the families and friends of Western Heights school.