The Higher Education Academy meets the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Posted in: News and Updates

This encounter took place on Monday in a very wild and wet Edinburgh.  Not quite the Festival (there wasn't even a Fringe), just a great deal about the circular economy [CE] — the Foundation has now produced a broad-ranging set of references to literature exploring this.    The session began with a substantial input from Ken Webster and Craig Johnson from the EMF on ideas underpinning the CE way of thinking.  This was followed by an exploration by Heather Luna from the HEA of CE concepts in practice: biomimicry, cradle to cradle, green chemistry, the blue economy and natural capitalism.  Following a brief 'on table' discussion, there was a modest lunch which didn't appear to be particularly circular – and I don't just mean the stark linearity of the baguettes.   After this, we got to talk to each other in (sort of) cognate groups about what we'd seen and its relevance to our work.  There was much discussion and a positive feel throughout – and there will be a rematch in London on June 6th.

Ken Webster has a good line from Heraclitus: Everything flows; nothing abides, which is troubling to those of a conservative mind.  He also likes to quote Lakoff, in particular that: [1] thought is mostly unconscious; [2] the mind is inherently embodied; and [3] abstract concepts are largely metaphoric.  The first of these ought to be troubling to those of us of a liberal and rational disposition because it raises questions about the premise that underpins much of our curriculum thinking (and beyond): if only we can provide (young) people with opportunities to consider, explore and think about the issues ... .   As Ken (nearly) says:

Liberal education provides a poor fit with reality as new ideas bounce off a fixated mind

Ken puts it better than this, but you get the (Lakoffian) point.

The Enlightenment tends to get a bit of a bashing in such meetings as well (a risky tactic in Edinburgh where they seem to think they own its genesis) with our view of nature's linearity, understandability,  predictability, controllability seen as the core problems in our thinking.   However, such problems are, to my mind, no reason to throw out the whole Enlightenment project (as some with their Old Testament future certainties would do), and retreat into a time when we relied on experts to interpret matters and tell us what to think.  I get up every day thinking this – which is why I never listen to the BBC's flagship Today programme, much preferring my own prejudices to start the day.

Posted in: News and Updates


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