Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

D’où venons-nous ? Que sommes-nous ? Où allons-nous ?, Paul Gauguin

With my first post, I want to go to the beginning of everything. Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

These three questions summarize pretty much everything that we as conscious animals have to struggle with. I found this masterpiece by Gauguin through the great book the Social Conquest of Earth by Edward O. Wilson (I’ll review it soon as well). The French artist Paul Gauguin painted this picture in Tahiti and added multiple layers.

For one, the picture shows the progression of human life from right to left. Starting as an infant, over the phases of growing up until facing death on the very left. This simple yet powerful arrangement captures the essential life cycle that we are all in. It reminds me of other pieces of art such as Die Lebensstufen (The life stages) by Caspar David Friedrich.

Die Lebensstufen, Caspar David Friedrich

What both these pictures manage to do is to put our whole existence into relation to the continuous natural progression of birth, life, and death. Gauguin brings it to the essence by noting in the top left corner of his picture the three questions of: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

In some sense, this is also applicable for studying our educational system. Most of the time we accept the status quo and are in our daily routines and paradigms. However, sometimes we get a chance for self-reflection and can think about what is going on. This is a good start but to get a holistic overview of the situation we should always also add the dimensions of the past and future. I want to point out though this doesn’t mean we should blindly follow our tradition. I rather aim for seeing systems within a certain timeframe.

For instance, looking at our modern public school system we can approximately date it back to the Prussian Invention of general schooling around 1800. This is a few hundred years. Comparing this to the existence of the first civilizations not to mention humans as a species it’s a mere blip.

Looking at what to expect on this blog these are some of the points I want to touch upon. So for one, it’s important to look back and understand how we got here. Also seeing alternatives that have existed such as Mastery Learning. But also looking to the future will provide some interesting from change management such as path dependency, the concept of creative tension, or our understanding of time.

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