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Philosophical Meanderings


I’m convinced more than anything else, choice is the ultimate empowerment. Authentic change will only happen when it’s an individual experience per choice.

I believe that often our assumptions about human nature, what success is, and how viable current practices are, keep us from living.
Assumptions are a choice. We make them daily by our actions, (or non-action), whether we acknowledge it or not.
If we desire what’s best for us, for our kids, for the world, we should respectfully and gracefully question everything. No?

On human nature:

Many of us have come to believe that if we aren’t given directions we won’t be able to accomplish things. We have become insecure in our own abilities to create, to learn/innovate. Curiosity and the ability to self-construct are natural, but we have grown so accustomed to compliancy from outside regulation that most of us generally assume they are not natural. Often we don’t invest in curiosity. Often we unconsciously mock passion. We see them as ridiculous or at least superfluous.

“Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Angela Monet
On success:

The web now allows for personalization in public education, with that comes the responsibility, in public ed, to allow for personalized definitions of success. This is great news. This is incredible news. We no longer have to plan/fight for survival or sustainability or even efficiency. We can now choose to thrive, to become indispensable.

On current practices:

We have come through, (many still reside in), an age of knowledge acquisition, where at the end of the day, how much you knew defined you. The potential today however, is to move beyond this static acquisition of fixed content, into life. At the end of the day, what you do, and the community you do it with, defines you.  (humanity 4.0 – esp notice slide 68)
In this new environment, in this knowledge flow, we have the opportunity to learn faster by working together in addressing challenges that draw on the *tacit knowledge of each person. This is an opportunity that none of the current leaders of the commercial Internet understand, much less address.  There is a **white space here.  – John Hagel

The bottom line, you get to choose who you are.
It’s your choice. 

What we’re seeking here in the Lab, for the community of Thompson School District, for anyone so inclined in the world, is more free space to individually venture out and make personal choices.
We believe that is how individuals/communities will thrive.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who come alive.
-Howard Thurman


*tacit knowledge
Let’s start with the observation that the growing avalanche of data increasingly distracts us from something far more valuable.  Here’s the paradox, as data proliferates, something else becomes more and more valuable and yet more difficult to access.  Tacit knowledge is the knowledge deeply embedded in each of us, our relationships and our unique contexts.  It is the knowledge that we find most challenging to articulate and communicate. As seen in the link above, John suggests, in order to thrive, we exist in this tacit knowledge, build trust based relationships, and pursue our unique talent development.
**If this idea of a white space interests you, recommended readings: 

The book I’m currently reading/loving: Wounded by School, Kirsten Olson

About monika hardy

experimenting with the intersection of city and school.


8 thoughts on “choice

  1. I totally agree that choice is essential to meaningful learning, Monika.

    How do you – or how does the lab – interact with students who choose not to pursue a passion or line of inquiry?

    We work with students leery of school – as do other drop-out prevention/recovery schools I’ve read about – and so we expect that it will take time for students to buy-in to us, our school, and making choices about work instead of making the choice to test us or avoid it. Has the lab worked with any students like that yet? What kinds of approaches or responses have you developed working with such students at the lab or in your career before the lab?

    I’m always in need of another idea 🙂


    Posted by Chad Sansing | February 1, 2011, 7:43 pm
    • before the lab – relationship first, i was a coach, went to events, listened. the kid was always way more important to me than them knowing the math. back in the day – that was good and bad (they would learn/do the math for me or a grade, so not really learned). today – i think only good (i believe success is no longer riding on algebra skills – why i’m doing the lab).

      in the lab – we aren’t selling anything, aren’t trying to get kids to buy into anything. for some it’s taken a whole semester to believe that. but once they do believe that all you’re after is helping them figure out who they are.. there’s little that will stop them. this semester almost daily a kid is saying, i just want to learn everything. i can’t imagine how this would grow if we could unleash them from all the policies. if we could, my prediction is there would be craziness for a year. then all would settle into their element. adults and kids.

      some in the lab decided that what they came into the lab to learn wasn’t their passion. they decided they didn’t have enough motivation to learn what would be expected, ie: what they need for the standardized tests. so they went back to a more traditional class 2nd semester, but with a different lens, what it’s like to be a teacher, how hard it is to learn/teach when given an agenda. again, it’s choice. there is a ton of great teaching going on in our schools, it’s just not very often that the right combo of people are together in a room. the gathering hasn’t been per choice, so 70% of the time (ish) can potentially be spent on classroom management. we end up thinking a teacher is bad or a kid is bad. but really it’s just about the reason they are all there. must aren’t their by choice.

      gosh Chad – have you read Kirsten’s Wounded by School?

      Posted by monika hardy | February 1, 2011, 9:14 pm
      • Great insights, Monika – thank you for them!

        Kirsten graciously joined the first four of us after we read and reviewed her book together and posted our responses to the Coöp. You can search back through the tags to find our posts. Here’s mine:

        As a system we pay so little attention to the inner lives of anyone involved with school. What a shame and what an indictment.

        On a slightly less maudlin note, I am with you regarding not selling anything, but I’m also exploring how that stance fits in with cultivating a culture of being the best, as described in Kirsten’s post about schools that learn.

        What do you think?

        Posted by Chad Sansing | February 2, 2011, 10:05 am
  2. Monika, I’m just heading over here.

    Many great critical philosophers of the institution have posited that school is deliberately designed NOT to encourage choice, while seeming to at the same moment. It exists in the duality that “we open the world for you,” (if you student, only try), while at the same time, actually inculcating the belief that, “you are not good enough, except for a lucky few. (Usually white, usually middle or upper middle class, often with certain types of abilities.) Whom would it serve to have an institution like this? What are the barriers to seeing this, among those who work in them, and those who pass through it?

    Why is the institution so hard to see?

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | February 1, 2011, 10:43 pm
  3. Chad, i think when you are following your passion, your choice, your art, there’s really no way anyone can compete with that. it moves to a different realm where best and better don’t even make sense. best and better don’t matter to the true artist. they are relative terms. and relativity exists per that person and their community definition.
    the comparison is not the drive, the drive is the art. the love of the art is the drive. it’s something you can’t not do.

    so what you do with it becomes unmatchable, indispensable.

    in many ways – unmatchable to any observer.. because this is a person not thinking about a pay check or prestige, or if someone is watching/comparing, but someone madly in love with what drives them out of bed everyday. so they certainly have their game on 24/7 and can blow people out of the water. but today, playing the best/better game is going so infinitely fast, i don’t see how you wouldn’t lose focus of your art, if you were worried about the tally/comparison, per se.

    i believe the true unmatchable-ness comes from the unique way a person lives their given art. no one can do it like them. so who’s to say who’s better or best. now it comes down to definition of success. (which i believe most would say is – are you doing what you love)
    there’s no standard for that anymore. the game is open.

    Hagel explains the potential of a neurobiological balance here:

    that’s where my head is now Chad..

    Kirsten – i’m thinking we’ve worn ourselves out from not doing our art.
    without that internal drive, it’s exhausting to keep up.
    in our exhaustion we can’t find the time to notice. we can’t find the means to trust. we don’t believe in possibility enough to respectfully question everything. so we just accept what is already there.
    in our exhaustion, insecurity lets ego take over and we find reassurance and reliability in labels. we forget about others. we rely on a limiting agenda.

    longing for a magical way to gift one moment of calm Kirsten – one moment of hush over the world. permission for all to stop and refocus on what matters most.
    i don’t think it’s a matter of people not wanting it. do you?

    Posted by monika hardy | February 2, 2011, 5:33 pm
  4. I agree, choice is a crucial piece of learning that is often overlooked, particularly in the school system. I’m curious as to how complete choice is reconciled with learning some basics that are foundational for learning (thinking basic reading/writing/math type skills). How do you reconcile a student who has no desire to learn those basics even within areas of passion?

    Posted by ktenkely | February 4, 2011, 4:07 pm
    • hey Kelly..
      i think that’s where detox comes in handy for most all of us in realizing that the basics we’re so sure we need are actually limiting potential.
      i mean – i’m wondering what we think the basics foundational for learning are? you list basic reading/writing/math type skills. what does that mean exactly.

      Posted by monika hardy | February 4, 2011, 4:25 pm


  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention choice « Cooperative Catalyst -- - February 1, 2011

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