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Ideas in the Wild: How Dr. Wilfried R. Vanhonacker Aims To Accelerate the Momentum for Change in Education

Today, formal education is not focused on learning. Instead, it is focused on efficient delivery. It has become a machine that increasingly shuns its core responsibilities. Reality is about to hold it to account. In the 21st century, technology is changing at an exponential pace.

The knowledge that students gain during their formal education is becoming outdated more rapidly. Without a passion for learning and without a basis and support for continued learning, they can write off their future. In Rough Diamonds, Dr. Wilfried R. Vanhonacker offers personal observations that challenge every aspect of formal education, all with the aim to inspire thoughts on a new paradigm for education and to amplify the momentum for change.

I caught up with Dr. Vanhonacker to learn what inspired him to write the book, the biggest lesson he learned during his book writing journey, and how he’s applying that lesson.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

Since the book is around thoughts and reflections I made over my career as an educator, the content had been slowly percolating in my mind. A lot of the thoughts were inspired by experiments that I saw people doing as well as novel pedagogical approaches I tried myself but were met with resistance from mindsets wedded to the past. My entrepreneurial (and pirate genes) got restless as I could not believe that people who had the responsibility to instill values of learning in students had neither the will nor the appetite to learn themselves. That just set off alarm bells, especially as I saw the education model veer off course.

The moment of truth came sitting in the student cafeteria at the MIT Sloan School in the Spring of 2017. Just watching the daily spectacle unfold, I felt the urge, need, and responsibility to write down what prickled my mind to amplify the momentum for change. I also knew that writing would help me structure my thoughts. I started scribbling down notes. Being under lockdown at home in the French countryside last year gave me the time and space to put the book together.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned going through the journey you share in the book?

The biggest lesson is the need to change mindsets. As Einstein used to say, “You cannot solve a problem with the mindset that created it.” The new paradigm(s) we need in education will not arise (or be understood) if we keep looking for answers from inside the box we’ve locked ourselves into. We really need to venture outside of our comfort zones and critically reflect on what we are doing, how we are doing it, and why. The knee-jerk reaction of many educational institutions in response to the pandemic reveals quite a bit about where their heads are.

They should not be grasping for strands from their past. What should occupy them is not their past but the future of the students under their care. The pandemic is a pivotal moment for education. We should not straighten the dominoes where they fell but pick them all up and put them in a pattern that addresses the learning needs of future generations. We owe it to them.

How will you apply this lesson in your life moving forward?

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. I won’t give up pushing for change. The book is a catalyst and an inspiration for change in education. As a responsible educator, I feel it is my duty. I do not have all the answers but I have a good idea of what some of the important questions are.

That’s a good start. I am creating an online ecosystem where motivated change agents can help and support each other. Changing mindsets is an educational effort in itself but together we can and will create lifelong learning journeys that will benefit future generations and, indeed, us all.




In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Zach Obront

Zach Obront

Co-Founder of Scribe, Bestselling Author of The Scribe Method

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