Transition Learning 1: Vision

I set out—a couple of weeks ago—to write a long post that applied some of the concepts of Transition Design to learning; it quickly became unwieldy and so I’ve deleted it with the intention of writing a number of much smaller posts on the subject.

This first post concerns itself with what vision(s) (if any) provide a context for learning. Vision is a fundamental component in Transition Design but in what way do we help children to imagine the future and their part in it? When I think back to my own schooling I find it hard to remember anything future-focused beyond the conversations I had around what subjects would get me onto the degree I wanted or the career I was suited for.

Understanding what I was suited for seems now to have been a major feature, as if school became more and more a process of managing expectations; school seems to have a role to play in filtering out the wildly unrealistic (astronaut, president) and preparing children for the harsh realities (accountant, jewellery designer in my case).

As much as this grounding is evident, the other noticeable thing is just how individual this all is. “Visions” for the future (as much as a possible job is a vision) are about personal ambition or lack of it. I don’t recall any opportunities we had to collectively imagine how we might all shape the world of the future, and that is really the crux of what this post is about: how might a better collective vision for the world we want to live in provide a more meaningful framework for what education should be and do?

Obviously, what happens in school nowadays is interesting to me but not particularly relevant for my children who don’t go to one. So rather than spend time on what future focus is missing from formal education I want to think about how to make vision a more explicit part of unschooling.

Expectations

All parents have to strike a balance between encouraging children to follow their dreams and helping them to be realistic about what can be achieved. But parents can all to easily fall into the trap of seeing the world as it is now—perhaps recalling how the lives they live differ from the dreams they had as children—and being overly cautious. But the world is far more malleable than we like to admit. And so a first step in helping children to build a vision for the future might be for parents to reflect on just why they might believe certain things aren’t possible.

As with so many things related to unschooling the problem is generally the parents’ (for example we don’t trust children to learn because we were never trusted) and so the process of helping children to dream becomes a joint effort: we need to remember to dream again too.

Shared Lives

The other important aspect is how we move from the individual to the collective. Rather than thinking about career paths and personal ambitions we need to be helping children to think about how the world could be and how we/they play a part in it. This is much more than thinking about how they can help people (“I want to be a doctor and make people well”) because that framing still perpetuates the heroic individuality. I guess it’s much more about thinking holistically: what things matter for all of us rather than what job should they have.

Narrative

Another reason to think in terms of collective futures rather than individual roles is the fact that it’s increasingly difficult predict what any future jobs might be. But then that’s the pretty much the same as with trying to predict the future of anything. But visioning isn’t about predicting. And this is crucial: the real aim of helping children to imagine possible futures is that it creates a narrative of how things might be. This narrative ultimately shapes the way they think in the present—the things that interest them, the way they spend their days—and it’s this pervasive imagination that makes it possible that the future they imagine becomes reality.

Anyway, this was meant to be a short post and it’s already longer than I hoped it would be (and there’s much more I could write) but I’ve started to think more about how all of this works with my own children and so maybe future sharing on the subject will provide some examples. Or perhaps you have some you can provide in the comments.