The Long Game in Education: Where Do Schools Fit? | Benjamin Freud, Ph.D. | 13 Min Read

January 4, 2022

I can’t keep track of how many conversations I have had where at some point my counterpart declared that something I’ve proposed “will never happen because…” I’m not suggesting I’m some kind of soothsayer or that I’m the holder of Truth. I do like to imagine possibilities and play around with what these proposals might look like, but that still doesn’t mean I’m way far gone in fantasyland. I pay attention to weak and strong signals, substantiate with information and events, and make connections based on unfolding developments. 

Really, what I’m thinking about is when people tell me that we can’t change school, that parents don’t want it, universities don’t want it, and that’s the way it’s always been. I’m thinking about people who admit that school isn’t perfect, so maybe we just need more of the same, or more of the same with a tweak or a bolt-on, which is just lipstick on a pig.

While we can’t ever be sure of anything, we can look toward the fuzzy horizon, following trends coming from the past that continue beyond the present. Of course, the further out we look, the harder it is to see clearly, but that also holds true for looking into the past. We exist at the moment where past and future meet, where memories and predictions mix with a present reality that is unique to ourselves. This is the flow of time, whether you conceptualize it in linear, circular, or cyclical terms. 

Many of us studied History in school as a meta-narrative: the unfolding of events as stories driven by grand heroes, grand states, and grand exploits. Post-modernism questions these stories and provides a voice to the voiceless by splintering the dominant historical perspective (based on power) into a potentially infinite number of perspectives based on contexts (e.g. identitarian, local, epochal). There have been many inroads into providing multiple perspectives on History, but recent tensions in the U.S. show the extent to which power structures dominate meta-narratives.  

In quantum and living systems views, history unfolds through the interaction of an almost infinite number of wholes, parts, and subparts. Everything is nested into a larger whole. There is no meta-narrative because there is no deterministic force that shapes the universe. Everything has its place, of equal value (though perhaps not impact) and there is constant uncertainty because there is no linearity. After all,…

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Benjamin Freud, Ph.D.

Benjamin Freud, Ph.D. is the co-founder of Coconut Thinking, an advisory that supports schools and learning organizations to co-create, co-develop, co-stress test, and co-implement ideas that nurture the conditions for emergent learning. Benjamin is also the Head of Upper School at Green School, Bali. He was previously the Whole School Leader of Learning and Teaching at Prem Tinsulanonda International School in Thailand. He was the Academic Coordinator at Misk Schools, one of the most prestigious and high-profile school in the kingdom. In 2018-2019, he was also the Head of Upper Primary and Middle School at Misk. Prior to this, he was Vice-Principal of the Middle School and High School at the Harbour School in Hong Kong. He holds a Ph.D. in History, an MSc in Education, an MBA, an MA in International Relations, and a BA in International Affairs. Benjamin was born and grew up in Paris, France. He moved to the U.S. when he was 15 and spent 11 years there in different cities before living in the U.K., Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and now Bali, Indonesia. He started his career in consulting for Internet start-ups in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s, working with people whose ambitions were no less than to change the world. This experience had a profound effect on Benjamin's outlook on education, innovation, and entrepreneurship.