Its Hard To Understand
Instinct is Natural, Mastery Takes Work
We are born with a natural urge to understand our world, especially the social aspects of it. Its an adaptation designed to help us survive and thrive in communities, and it was formed when we lived in caves, but curiosity is no longer enough.
How We've been Learning To Understand
Social Studies, Civics, and History are taught in schools around the globe, but they were developed in a 19th century educational model, and - barring the efforts of a few extremely gifted teachers - lack the underpinning structures to address a world that is more complex and more diverse than an educator in the 1800s could have imagined in their wildest dreams.
Travel remains one of the most powerful teachers of understanding. There is nothing quite like standing in a new place, overwhelmed by the inundation of sensory inputs, and meeting someone new who opens your eyes to a lifestyle, a new experience, or a new idea. However, we now live in an age where everyone must be proficient in understanding, and taking the time for deep, transformative, travel is just not possible for billions of people.
Those that have come ahead of us; parents, grandparents, and community elders have long been a source of learning to understand. However for the first time in history, our world is moving so fast that these elders are out of their depth and not equipped with the resources to use their accumulated wisdom to help us understand emerging realities.
The Three CRitical Questions of Understanding
We Need to Be Better At Answering These Questions
In order to really understand someone people need to be able to assess three things:
Who Am I? A self awareness of our own identity, biases, hopes, fears and experiences.
Who Are You? A mental model of someone else's context, lived experience, needs, and influences
Who are We? Not just what the relationship is between individuals, but what the bigger societal systems and norms are that are influencing a situation.
What is Necessary to GEt Better At Answering those Questions?
In order to fundamentally shift an entire generation we need to construct a new framework to tackle our ability to know, act, and think.
The Basic Modes of Learning to Understand
Just like our instinct to understand, it is our humanity itself that provides us with the methods we need to learn to understand.
What Is Needed to Scale Learning
There have been many efforts to address this idea throughout the years, to greater and lesser success, they all share one critical weakness: they can't scale. If we have any hope of bringing Understanding to a global population, we must mind four critical issues:
22nd Century Learning Outcomes
We must address not just the needs of today, but be ahead of the curve, providing learning opportunities that are adaptable, nimble, and cutting edge to tackle tomorrow's developments. The challenges of humanity are accelerating at such a pace that we cannot wait for the next generation to solve them.
An Understanding Method
Just as scientists have developed a universal methodology that underpins their academic approaches to creating new knowledge, we need to create a methodical approach to understanding people. Methods and models are not a panacea, but they give people confidence that they can and should explore.
A Changed Public Perception
Perhaps the most difficult hurdle to surmount is to get ordinary people to recognize that Understanding is achievable by people without last names like Gandhi or Mandela, its something we are all capable of and benefit from.
A New Platform for Learning
This kind of radical transformation of learning requires a new infrastructure: policy and pedagogy, materials and methods, but most importantly of all, a platform. Not a digital platform, but an institutional platform.
To solve one of the critical flaws in previous attempts to tackle teaching understanding, individual efforts need a home. People need a place that they can go to any day of the week, with unimpeachable resources, and curates a sense of belonging as well as engaging experiences.