Education is the kindling of a flame: How to reinvent the 21st-century university – Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

From Huffington Post

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” This quote from Plutarch is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. Still, the misconception of education as a vessel-filling activity remains. In this column, I outline an idea that could reshape our universities while also prototyping new ways of addressing urgent societal challenges. The kindling of the flame that Plutarch talked about has never been more relevant than now.

Let’s start with 2017

Last week my column focused on 2017:

  • The year 2017 mirrored the epochal year 1917 by putting a new challenge in front of us: the challenge of vertical development.
  • By “vertical development” I mean the capacity to deal with disruptive change, which requires us to let go of the past and to let come the future, to shift our awareness from one state to another. In the language of tech: vertical development is about suspending your habit of installing yet another app and instead upgrading your entire operating system.
  • From that perspective we can interpret the current global surge of terrorism, fundamentalism, xenophobia, Trumpism, and autocracy as expressions of the same underlying phenomenon: the missing capacity as a society to respond to challenges in generative ways, by evolving ourselves “vertically,” by upgrading the way we listen and attend, the way we converse and think, and the way we organize and coordinate in the context of larger systems.

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