Solutions are Possibilities and Preferences

What is true in this moment may not be true in the next moment. So, what is truth?


“The creative challenge simply refuses to accept that the current way is necessarily the best way. The creative challenge assumes that the current way is just one way which happens to be there for a variety of reasons.    -Edward de Bono.

Dear Readers,

As I start this particular chapter, I am wondering if you are still here with me. Many times I have tried to share this approach with others and come up with all sorts of reactions. I will share them with you and perhaps it will help you make the choice to continue.

A teacher who was asked to take on a program I had developed, came to see what it entailed. She was a teacher of mathematics, highly regarded within the school. Following the explanation of the program she remarked that it was fantastic and it would be great if all subjects could be this way, but she declined to take the program on because it was too frightening for her. I respected her honesty and thanked her for her feedback on the program. Other responses come in the form of arguments that it won’t work, accompanied by excuses and scenarios too numerous and limiting to write here. No excuse I have heard stands up to my experiences and is usually an argument from and for the old paradigm. Having tried the whole of the new paradigm in some form and in a wide variety of situations, there are really no barriers as far as the children are concerned. The barriers are with the adults. This is not a judgement, but an observation which challenges our desire to change and step into this realm of the expanded sacred. How would we approach our young if we truly wanted them to know they are powerful, intelligent, magnificent, sacred beings? Can we allow ourselves to accept that within us?

If the teacher is not excited and even a bit nervous, then they are not opening to new expansive learning and teaching. This is not a fail safe formula. It is an alternative approach. Until the ideas and beliefs are embraced and the possibility accepted we remain unsupportive of the idea that there is another, better way. Very few supported Christopher Columbus when he wanted to sail around the world to prove it was round. There is always fear of the unknown and excitement at the same time when a new paradigm is proffered.

When students start accepting responsibility for their learning, which by default includes their behavior, they also tend to demonstrate a maturity that is sadly lacking in many so called adult scenarios. When learning negotiation skills, I make a conscious decision not to show how politicians debate in parliament. I am too embarrassed of their methodology. If the leaders of our country are not demonstrating desired behavior we need to look elsewhere. There are few role models to use to demonstrate the new paradigm. It is an ideal. As such it is unattainable in a completed form. It is something to strive for. Accepting this has been important, it leaves plenty of room for change and more new ideas.

I am sometimes told that I am courageous doing my work the way I do. Maybe I am. I tend to jump in because I want to know if it will work. Tackling something new does take courage. As I have embraced the changes, despite the bumpy ride , the stumbling and the not knowing, I have trusted my desire to find a better way to spur me on. If you too are thinking it takes courage, then I say be courageous, the rewards are well worth it. There has to be a better way. Even as I write this book I know that I will still be changing and looking for ways to improve. I haven’t found “the ” answer, just a possible solution. And that is what this chapter is all about. Everything in the world is changing. Education can’t stand still or even crawl at snails pace when it is dealing with the adults of our future.

Today we are faced with a multitude of local and world problems that need solutions. Problems that have emerged out of our focused striving for knowledge. Being right or wrong hasn’t solved the problems in our world. Accepting a variety of possibilities gives us more of a chance to find solutions. Believing in good and bad is a parallel belief to that of right and wrong. If you can see this connection you may more clearly see the impact. By default, to be right is to be good and to be wrong is to be bad. One cannot exist independently of the other in the school learning context. It is not the base upon which I play with these ideas. It’s like playing on a mine field. More fearful than fun.

We live in a world of paradox, yet this is ignored in much of the school system. It is too convenient to have a set or right answer. Seeing this on a world scale, we have laws that forbid us to kill, yet we have wars and as governments support one side or the other, accepting killing is a natural and unavoidable aspect. In some countries’ heroes are killers and in other killers are the criminals. Which is right and which is wrong? And who decides? Another paradox closer to the situation is the punishment imposed on students who litter and deface property, whilst we condone pollution in the community in the name of industry and progress. I have watched the growth of Street Art as it wound it’s way between the boundaries of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. To label anything as right or wrong is to close our minds to finding new solutions to existing and future problems. Life is not black or white. There are many gradients of grey in between. And guess what? There is also an even bigger range of colours to consider.

When a student does a maths problem and gets an unacceptable answer, it is more helpful to suggest that the solution is unworkable, rather than tell them that they are wrong. Is this just playing a game of semantics? I don’t believe it is. Being wrong has a different impact on our desire to learn than having a solution that won’t work. In one situation, we’re saying there is a correct answer already. So what’s the point of spending time going back and finding it? In the other situation, it feels different to go and find out why my solution won’t work.

I am reminded of the story of Thomas Edison when he was inventing the light bulb. It is recorded that he made many hundreds of light bulbs that didn’t work before he found the one that did. When he was chided for making so many wrong light bulbs, he responded that he had merely found light bulbs that didn’t work. To me there is profound wisdom in being able to see the difference. His choice to respond that way kept the motivation alive to find one that did work. Today we have new improved light bulbs. better than the ones he invented. So, was he right or wrong? It achieves nothing to answer such a question.

I am suggesting here that  the desire to find a range of possible solutions rather than the right answer and to foster this way of thinking in students is encouraged. It has a far greater creative component and encourages group processes for problem solving as the competitive element is diminished.

If I role model the thinking that every problem has a right or correct answer, I am also giving the message not to think creatively. It can foster thinking that the government has to solve things or that science has all the answers and this is not backed up in the world as we perceive it today. The past is not the appropriate direction to look for solutions to problems in the future. Far too often the past is where the problem was created. Deciding on one solution, calling it right and leaving it there without question or review is now outdated as a way to solve personal and global issues.

I have observed in areas of greater public profile the search for better solutions is intense. An example of this is the design of equipment used in the Olympic Games. In the cycling arena new materials used to construct the frames of the bikes, varieties of wheel designs, helmet designs and fabric and outfit designs for the riders keep changing, showing us that there are no specific solutions, only possibilities and those possibilities can be replaced with new possibilities in the future. I feel confident that this is endless and learning in education needs to embrace this in it’s approach. The speed at which computer technology is advancing is another example. This constant searching for new solutions needs to be a built in component of the learning process for the adults of this twenty first century. Wouldn’t it be great if children were constantly encouraged in all their areas of learning to think and solve problems and see their solutions as meaningful possibilities. I believe they would develop healthy attitudes towards change and problem solving which would be an asset to them as adults of the future.

In the context of the learning environment this challenges the autocracy of the teacher and plays on a level playing field.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”













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