A culture of possibility is a culture of creativity, exploration and innovation three faces of the same primal drive to interact with our environment. As this article points out, this is achieved by focusing on process in education, rather than result. Teach a student how to ask questions, not give answers. Show a student how to express themselves through the arts and it becomes easier to find the answers in the questions. This is not about asking questions for the sake of asking, but about formulating the right question.
All children are inquisitive, but not all are verbally. There will always be those in the class who are the ‘observers’, but their contribution can come in many forms. Typically introverted, as a teacher one must create roles that suit this attitude, whilst encouraging students to explore different roles themselves. Encourage an extroverted child to experiment with only observing; ask a shy child to be group leader for a task. These are uncomfortable exercises for the student at first, but when done with an attitude of roleplay where the student can inhabit the role rather than become it the exercise becomes much easier, and more fun. Bringing theatre into the classroom in this way is a great way to encourage students to gain other perspectives, and catch a glimpse of how marvellously complex the world of human interactions is.
When speaking to teenagers about environmental issues a question that I have often been asked is “what can we do?”. What strikes me each time that I hear this is that it is the wrong question for a student to be asking. In a class I gave in South Africa I was asked this question, and I responded by asking the students what they want to see change on their streets. They all had an opinion on this, from cleaning up the streets to reducing gang violence and creating more after-school activities, but they did not seem to recognise the connection between these visions of possible change and the global problems I was describing. I told them: that is where you begin, with the change that you already know you want to see. Start there, with the knowledge of the wider problems, and you become part of the net of civilisation.
We all know what we want to see change, but we are distracted by the myth that we need to devise a complete solution to all of our problems before we act. Often we are frozen by the enormity of this task, and so nothing changes. As soon as you show people that by coming up with creative solutions to problems on their own doorsteps they initiate change on a wider scale, the level of enthusiasm and optimism shoots up.
Of course, not all problems on a local level can be resolved, and so the process is eternally ongoing. But this is the point of a culture of “can”. It is not about the end result, but about changing micro relationships within the complex system of civilisation to allow new properties to emerge socially, economically, politically and environmentally.