For the 21st Century
Draper Kauffman worked for a think tank in the 1970s and became concerned about the inability of the high level people employing his services to imagine a future materially different then the one they were already living in. The prevailing attitude was that the future would be “like today only more so.” Draper, a physicist, when back to school and received a degree in education and subsequently wrote a book in 1976 called Teaching the Future. He visited Gail at the Learning exchange and that is where both of us met him. Draper organized his curriculum in six categories: Access to Information, Thinking Clearly, Communicating Effectively, Understanding man’s Environment, Understanding Men and Society and Personal Competence. Within these he outline 63 sub-categories.
click on modified curriculum graphic for blow up view
Gail and I added to Draper’s Curriculum in 1978 and 1981 and then the KnowledgeWorks Consortium, which Gail was a part of, added material in 1991. Changes to the original six categories included additional sub-categories (including the addition of key physical skills) and changing the gender specific terms. We added two major categories: Design and Planning (based on my experience and Bucky Fuller’s Anticipatory Design Science concept) and Art, Aesthetics and the Human Spirit.
We have used this curriculum to select knowledge objects for DesignShop® events, 7 Domains workshops, Weak Signal Research and our own personal study for 30 years and it has stood up well. One of our basic premises in regards the use of this curriculum which is distinct from common practices is that we believe that it should be employed in all grades from the beginning and throughout life. Details and difficultly may change with age and interests yet basic competency in all of these areas is a minimum foundation for a free and creative 21st Century citizen capable of effectively participating in the future of humanity. The presently dominate trend of specialization goes against against this approach arguing that it is not possible nor useful to seek such a broad understanding. We disagree and believe that overspecialization, and the subsequent inappropriate division of work are, together, one of the major ills of our society responsible for producing many unintended (and often not recognized) negative consequences. Many of these outcomes are systemic, with long feedback loops, and therefore out of the normal range of concern of most individuals and human institutions. The specialization and the typically short range of human time frames are mutually reinforcing - a massive positive feedback loop - and thereby deadly given the possible futures before us. Our survival is not a given nor is the larger ecological system around us “finished.” Yet, bottom line, we act as if it is and our place secure.
My ReBuilding the Future course, and the 500 book reading list which supports it, is an outline of this curriculum for the educated adult who is interested in exploring beyond the artificially narrow boundaries of what today we call an education. The course and the reading is designed to provide a context necessary for exercising active agency in the 21st Century. This course is not all the knowledge necessary for success - this is not possible. Yet, the critical questions can be presented in an organized way. Each participant in the course will answer them in his or her’s own unique way. The course is not about the answers. It is about the questions. I, of course, have answered them in my own way and continue to explore them again and again. I do not want to “educate” others to answer these questions as I do. I want them to explore the questions, ask new ones, and think their own way to their own experienced-based answers. If I can stimulate this to happen, I will have done my work.

As I have stated in my introduction to this web site [futurelink], everything is connected to everything else. This web of connections is the context for every specific thought and action. My premise is that traditional education is deficient in both scope and detail. It does not provide a critical mass of information, ideas and designs to form an adequate framework for an individual’s personal experience. This leads people to draw false concussions and attempt weak actions. Much of modern education has become propaganda - a justification for the status quo dressed up as learning. Education means to lead out. Information can be transferred to one individual to another yet knowledge cannot. Each of us has to combine data, information, intent and action [future link] to fuse into the gestalt we call knowledge. This knowledge, thus harvested and held in memory, must reside in a meta-context (which we call philosophy and living rules-of-engagement) of many such acts of synthesis to approach the ideal of wisdom. That wisdom is associated with old age is not an accident. As a species, Humanity will not lack information, individual knowledge, technology nor means to met the challenges of the future. Given our post WWII history, it is far from given that we will have the wisdom and develop the GroupGenius® necessary to look back a hundred and a thousand years from now with the satisfaction of a transformation well done.

One of the 500 books for the ReBuilding the Future course ends with this question:

However, the chances that any untapped potential will be realized, by whatever lineage, depend very much on our actions over the next few hundred years. But those actions must not be geared only to the needs of the next few hundreds years. The events of this planet can take far longer than that to unfold. We surely have the potential to survive as a species for at least a million years; there is no reason to doubt that. But if we want our decedents to claim that million years and do so in the company of other creatures, then we must think from the beginning in such terms. In short, as I commented in the Prolog, we cannot claim to be taking our species and our planet seriously until we acknowledge that a million years is a proper unity of political time.

Colin Tudge
The Time Before HIstory
p. 353

You may say that this was a statement not a question. It is a statement on Colin Tudge’s part - the last paragraph of his book - a premise arrived at on his part from years of research and thought. The latent question is if Humanity will survive and survive well. If you and I - and many, many others - can actually radically expand the time frame of human thinking and decision making. This is a question that only millions, if not billions of people will answer. A question that might be answered in a few decades or not in a few hundred of years. The Time Before History is review of human evolution before what today we call historical times. Tudge’s premise is that we, as a species, have to expand our operative sense of time; and that to do so and succeed in the future we have to far better understand our history and the many forces which made us the way we are. We also have to understand how we are becoming a major force, ourselves and our now impacting all life on this planet.

Again, to expand upon an earlier point, the pharaonic Egyptians had reached the peak they did only after several thousand years of civilization. This point is made by Plato. In the dialogue Critias, the eponymous hero narrates a meeting that an acquaintance of his had had with an Egyptian Sage, who simply points out that the Greeks have no history and therefore effectively have no culture. After all says the sage, the Greeks were newcomers to southern Europe, while the Egyptians had been in situ for millennia, and had correspondingly ancient memories and traditions. His tone was positively disdainful: to him, the Greeks were parvenus. Traditionally, the Critias has been thought of simply as a piece of Platonic storytelling; but as Mary Settegast now discusses in Plato Prehistorian (New York: Lindisfarne Press, 1990), modern archaeology increasingly suggests that the pronouncements of that ancient sage were literally correct. Egyptians in pharaonic times were fully justified both in their feeling of modernity and in feeling themselves the inheritors of truly ancient civilization. The Greeks by contrast, were newcomers. Indeed, the Egyptian sense of history - already embracing, as it did at that time, about six thousand years - was more realistically developed than that of today.

Intriguingly, the earliest memories of Plato’s Egyptian sage would take us back roughly to the end of the last ice age. And this brings me properly to my main historical point - that humans are not merely cultural beings, minds on legs, but are a biological species, as prone as any to the deep rhythms of the Earth itself. History and archaeology must become one; archaeology and paleontology must become one. We can understand ourselves and what is happening to us, our own impact on the rest of the world, only when we look at ourselves on the grand scale of time. We count the rhythms of our own lives through the passing of days and seasons. As members of families, we note the passing of generations. Historians traditionally deal in centuries. but for the most part we remain blissfully unaware of the deep rhythms that lie beneath - rhythms that must be measured by millennia, or in millions of years, or in tens of millions of years. We are like small boats that bob up and down on the surface chop and are oblivious to the deeper and longer surges of swell and tide. In school we learn of ice ages in one set of books and of “history” in another and fail to see how the two are connected; we fail to perceive, therefore, that beneath the surface tremors of our lives are much deeper and more powerful forces at work that in the end affect us and all our fellow creatures at least as profoundly as the events of day-to-day.

Colin Tudge
The Time Before HIstory
pp. 17-18

There are many facts, details, ideas, speculations and models in this comprehensive and tightly reasoned book. It creates an enhanced context for a “now” which has many millions of years before it and perhaps as many in the future. It expands the horizon of Humanity - our sense of ourselves. It puts long time to work - “to add the dimension of time to everyday perception and hence, I hope, to enhance the sense of wonder.”
There are many facts, details, ideas, speculations and models in this comprehensive and tightly reasoned book. It creates an enhanced context for a “now” which has many millions of years before it and perhaps as many in the future. It expands the horizon of Humanity - our sense of ourselves. It puts long time to work - “to add the dimension of time to everyday perception and hence, I hope, to enhance the sense of wonder.”
click on book cover for further thoughts on this work
The study of a 21st Century Curriculum never ends. None of us ever become educated. When we think we have become educated, this is the first sign of delusion, mental calefaction and social amnesia. It is also important to remember that as we continuously prepare ourselves for the time we live in we are also preparing our prodigy for a time as different from now as our time is from Plato’s Egyptian sage. While it is true, as Tudge points out that our narrow focus on today causes us to not see the long cycles which have huge impact on what we are becoming, it is equally true that we have become powerful, if unknowing, programmers of our own evolution. Just as we are bound by nature we are on the threshold of transitioning what we have long conceived to be nature. This cusp is a moment of great risk and promise. It is a critical moment - a fraction of our past and future if we are intelligent enough to secure it.
Our past evolutionary success strategies and habits lead now only to a dead end. If educate means to “lead out” we must learn, in an incredibly short period of time, how to lead ourselves out of an evolutionary cul de sac of our own creation.

Through the anatomical effort and puzzle-fitting of many men, time, by mid-nineteenth century, had become gigantic. When On the Origin of Species was published, the great stage was seen not alone to have been playing to remote, forgotten audiences; the actors themselves still went masked into a future no man could anticipate. Some straggled out and died in the wings. But still the play persisted. As one watched, one could see that the play had one very strange quality about it: the characters, most of them, began in a kind of generous latitude of living space and ended by being pinched out of existence in a grimy corner.

Once in a while, it is true, a prisoner escaped just when all seemed over for him. This happened when some oxygen-starved Devonian fish managed to stump ashore on their fins and become the first vertebrate invaders of the land. By and large, however, the evolutionary story had a certain unhappy quality.

The evolutionary hero became a victim of his success and then could not turn backward; he prospered and grew too large and was set upon by clever enemies evolving about him. Or he specialized in diet, and the plants upon which he fed became increasingly rare. Or he survived at the cost of shutting out the light and eating his way into living rock like some mollusks. Or he hid in deserts and survived through rarity and supersensitive ears. In cold climates he reduced his temperature with the season, dulled his heart to long-drawn spasmodic effort, and slept most of his life away. Or parasitically, he slumbered in the warm intestinal darkness of the tapeworm’s eyeless world.

Restricted and dark were many of these niches, and equally dark and malignant were some of the survivors. The oblique corner with no outlet had narrowed upon the all. Biological evolution could be defined as one long series of specializations - hoofs that prevented hands, wing that, while opening the wide reaches of the air, prevented the manipulation of tools. The list was endless. Each creature was a tiny fraction of the life force; the greater portion had died with the environments what created them. Others had continued to evolve, but always their transformations seemed to present a more skilled adapatation to an increasingly narrow corridor of existence. Success too frequently meant specialization, and specialization, ironically, was the beginning of the road to extinction. This was the essential theme that time had dramatized upon the giant stage.

Loren Eiseley
The Invisible Pyramid
pp. 16-17

Loren Eisely in The Invisible Pyramid provides further thought about evolution, the separation of Humanity from Nature by the invention of culture, how we have become what he calls “Earth Eaters,” our desire to escape our planet, and the relationship between the sacred and what science has become. He provides a perspective which shatters much of the arrogance of the 20th century and should give us pause to wonder if we will survive the 21st.
click on book cover for further thoughts on this work
Return To: The Student Environment
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GoTo: Masters Campus Master Plan

Matt Taylor
Nashville VCBH Studio
March 2, 2008

SolutionBox voice of this document:
click on graphic for explanation of SolutionBox

posted: March 2, 2008

revised: February 15, 2011
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(note: this document is about 75% finished)
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