In an increasingly self-interested, materialistic, and atomised society people benefit from learning in communities not just as individuals. Acting together we can be engaged in the world, pursue interests, and forge new possibilities. We can be together and converse, tell stories and imagine futures, make and create, discover and learn, tackle problems. ‘Have-lots’, ‘have-littles’ and ‘have-nots’ can come together for mutual support, and to harness and develop the talents of all.
Much education these days is instrumental and pre-determined. Learning is over-examined and over-certified. The joy of discovery is unknown to many learners. The pleasure to be had from learning and teaching has disappeared for many. So, there is a place, indeed a crying need for more opportunities which embody these characteristics.
- Valuing learning as part of living well—now—as well as for creating possibilities for the future.
- Attending to self-respect, self-confidence and self-esteem. People benefit from being confident in their own worth and abilities, and feeling secure and valued.
- Valuing people not labels. We need opportunities to converse, learn and act which do not respond to people primarily as fitting some prior category such as ‘old person’ or ‘young person’, ‘parent’ or ‘child’, ‘villager’ or ‘commuter’, ‘rich’ or ‘poor’, ‘tenant’ or ‘homeowner’, ‘NEET (not in employment, education or training)’ or ‘retired’, ‘pensioner’ or ‘employed’ or on ‘benefits’—even when these are relevant characteristics, perhaps even concerns for the people themselves.
- Respecting similarity and difference. We should encourage people to express their distinctive identities and aspirations, whilst also promoting respect for diversity. We must challenge unfair discrimination—whilst recognising that some differences are not so easily reconciled.
- Tipping power, to help people exercise more control over their lives. People thrive and develop when they are resourceful and resilient, with a sense of ‘agency’ in the world derived from their relationships, attitudes, knowledge and skills. Educational opportunities can try to tip the balance of power in lives a little more in learners’ favour. Furthermore we are all influenced by friends and family, groups and communities, and social institutions—so we need, where we can, to help people to influence that wider context.
- Working with each other in groups. People can learn from each other, recognising each other’s expertise. With the vision and expertise of skilled supporters, and some appropriate ground-rules everyone—not just ‘experts’ and ‘teachers’—has the potential to enthuse, to be supportive and informative, stimulating and challenging.
- Learning together requires skilled action, generous relationships, and good leadership. It does not necessarily require ‘professionals’, but it does need all involved to seek to be purposeful, professional and accountable (to the full variety of stakeholders) in all that they do.
- Being intelligent about risk—balancing it with reward, knowing that learning and change often comes when people are outside their comfort zone, but not so far outside that they panic.