As most of you will know, since Max charged Teacher Maya KR 50 for a “massage and mental treatment”, our Kairos currency (Rosses) has taken off with great excitement and creative initiative. Our students have demonstrated impressive examples of entrepreneurship and self-expression. Businesses have included, among others, a newspaper, a booming popcorn market, a guess-how-many-stones competition, a queue management service for the trampoline, a set of Minecraft instruction kits, a scooter taxi service (which quickly reconfigured itself into a scooter rental service), a beading business and an elastic bracelet business. An investment bank has been created for large-scale operations, which includes a trust fund for selected beneficiaries, most noticeably the two members of a new monastic order, yet to be named.
In Inquiry Class on Friday we invited the children to respond to some questions about their experience thus far, and I took notes. The deep richness of their insights is inspiring — read them below.
Our children are vocal citizens! There has been various calls for changes in our business laws (“It’s not fair! They copied my business!), calls for protection of poor citizens (“What should I do with so much money when others have so little?”), questions about our monetary policies (“When are we going to get new money?”), criticism from budding economic analysts (“This week has been much worse for businesses than last week.”), and from a small group of our priestly renunciates, even criticism of the capitalist system itself (they’ve encouraged us all how simpler life is without playing this game). Some younger students relinquished all their funds when they discovered the Investment Bank was offering monks free food and other services, but soon returned to the battlefield of the business world when they discovered they really did want some of the items on offer (which the Bank wasn’t willing to buy for them).
But these insights are not merely inspiring. They are also a valuable impetus for educational inquiry in our school: what is it that makes such depth of insight possible? And how shall we best “capitalise” on this process? And how shall we replicate it in the future?
Parallel to the classroom-based curriculum of subject content and standard skills associated with school disciplines, here we have a playground-based curriculum that ostensibly is centred in the learning area of the Economic Management Sciences (EMS). However, in contrast to the typical learning outcomes of an EMS classroom, the children are experiencing a really good simulation of the social, economic and political implications of much of the EMS curriculum content firsthand, i.e. experientially, rather than in an abstract “classroom-like” way.
I’ll be more specific. Here are the four categories learning outcomes for EMS in our national curriculum:
- The Economic Cycle
- Sustainable Growth and Development
- Managerial, consumer and financial knowledge and skills
- Entrepreneurial knowledge and skills
Teaching these four outcomes effectively is difficult in the classroom. When learned in theory, they can be somewhat meaningless to a child. And yet theory is important, because role play does not ensure knowledge. There needs to be interaction between the experience and thinking about the experience. Someone learning to speak a language may not recognise the grammatical structures therein. But learning the grammar of a language certainly does not mean one can speak it.
Both are necessary: classroom learning and experiential learning, to avoid more esoteric terms of educational theory. Classroom learning comes from those kinds of conversations where one analyses ideas together in community. Experiential learning are those kinds of conversations associated with the simulated workplace, and other “real-life”, adult-oriented contexts of the everyday world. And as a general rule, both become meaningful, relevant and educationally effective only when the other exists.
For example, the insights listed below wouldn’t have occurred to the children without this simulated field of economic activity. At the same time, the insights wouldn’t have happened either unless we had brought the children together into a facilitated classroom-like conversation after the week of this activity and invited them to articulate what they have learned thus far. Activity and a conversation about the activity are intimately related, and both require each other for education to happen.
Etymology of school is worth pondering. In old English, scol means merely a “place of instruction”. But go further back. In Latin, schola means “the intermission of work, the leisure for learning”, and Greek, skhole actually means “spare time”. In both Athens and Rome, the notion of leisure meant the “proper use of free time”. Somewhere along the way leisure time, i.e. the proper use of free time, evolved gradually into “a place of instruction”, which in turn became our system of compulsory schooling. And somewhere in that systemic shift, except for pockets of schools and isolated classrooms, schooling has often lost its soul.
Historically, compulsory schooling was a reasonable response to the problems of child labour. Unfortunately, much of that reasonableness of that response has been lost. Most educationalists agree that much of the spirit of the natural process of learning becomes compromised by the modern system of school, beautifully illuminated by the clear fact that the richness and depth of our children’s observations below is rare in school, our own included. In the profound pressure of benchmarking and standardization, schools find themselves converting sincere inquiry of life experiences into the pedagogisation of a fixed set of ready-made ideas. The line between a living curriculum and a dead syllabus is a fine one in our modern times.
The schooling system is also a part of life: if a child moves from one school to another, they must be familiar with that next school’s practices. A child must learn to play all of life’s game, and some are going to be a simulated economy, and others are going to the rules and rituals of school life. Our school defines itself as an exploration of this balancing act between the contradictory requirements of an effective education, in the broadest and deepest sense. Our solutions will need to be continually renewed through intelligent and collaborative inquiry, and therein lies the key to our sustained flourishing.
Enjoy our children’s responses to the following questions about our economic activities below.
Kairos School of Inquiry
What surprised you?
- We spent money very quickly
- Lots of businesses going really well
- Some people got so excited that they wasted all their money
- If you have no money, you can just make something and then start earning money
- People had really good ideas
- Some people aren’t buying a lot at all
- I thought my business would be useless, but it turned out to be one of the most successful businesses (Minecraft recipes)
- I thought there was no interest in my business, but then suddenly my business became very popular and I’ve got a big profit (lotto stones)
- Unlike the real world, it’s actually really easy to live without Rosses. I didn’t need to buy anything I really needed.
- I was surprised with the amount of people who became monks, and then how many regretted their decision and betrayed their brotherhood.
- Lots of people made deals that weren’t worth its price, in my opinion.
- I’m surprised the lengths people could go to get money, e.g. stealing and lying. (We had some bracelets stolen.)
- It’s surprising how the school reflects the real world, like stealing and lying.
- Surprised excited how people got about money — just paper and ink
- Surprised I haven’t seen much activity this second week
- Last week, everyone was excited and making great businesses, but now not so much.
- People haven’t been spending as much as before
- Seniors Inc has lots of the whole school’s money.
- Surprised we’re still discussing money for the third week’s Inquiry Session in a row.
- People aren’t being as greedy as last week.
- Popcorn businesses are booming.
- No warning that some people who we thought was working for us have actually started their own businesses.
- Monks gave us (Seniors Inc) their money, with only a certain amount of businesses, but they have been becoming too dependant on us for services that we haven’t agree to.
- There has been less business activity, less excitement. People are now wasting money on things.
- I’m surprised that there are monks in our economy.
- Lots new businesses happening in the Juniors Class, unlike others’ observations.
What made you sad, scared or angry?
- Sad for X whose faulty banknote wasn’t replaced.
- X took our idea of a popcorn service.
- If I don’t have enough money and I want to buy something, I feel sad.
- Sometimes, my conviction to stay a monk means I have to give up things I really want. I should’ve got the things I want before I became a monk.
- I have a worry: someone could steal my scooter which I’m renting out.
- We only received KR200 at the beginning, which wasn’t enough to buy things or enough for me to start a business.
- Angry that people are not taking care of themselves because aren’t aware their money could be stolen.
- Sad because if someone’s money got lost, they cry.
- I’m sad when others become sad and angry and jealous when some businesses don’t do as well as other businesses.
- And sad when Juniors are being taken advantage of by older children. For example younger children are charged more for something than older children who know the correct price.
- Angry when people can get away things, e.g. someone who owed you a lot of money, and says he’ll pay you later, and then doesn’t. You can’t be completely be sure if you will be paid or not (trust), or if someone did in fact paid or not (bookkeeping).
- Sad that businesses might close down if there is less trade.
- Angry because our workers weren’t keeping to your commitments.
- Angry because monks took advantage of us.
- Confident at first about our Seniors Inc but when got so much money; confident that our business will continue to grow.
- Sometimes I’m angry because people say it’s a waste of money to buy from my business — but have are they just trying to bash my business to build theirs?
- Sad that some of my workers can just quit — now I’m just on my own and no one knows about it. I was sick for two weeks and now everyone has left and make something.
What dilemmas did you notice?
- When our business put all our money together we had more than we needed. We thought about giving money away.
- How do we stop someone stealing our idea of a business?
- I became a monk because I don’t want problems and feelings like anger or worry — and I avoided the problems successfully.
- If KR200 start-up fund is fixed, no new money is printed, what will happen when no new money enters the economy? What will the poor people do? Is that the end to them?
- Lots of stressed out feelings for everyone, and those people might start stealing or fighting.
- How do we solve poverty in our school?
- How do we keep track of the money going in and out of our wallets? How do we know if we are making money or losing money?
- Our different break times are creating disadvantages for some classes.
What solutions to problems do you suggest?
- All types of businesses could go in particular rooms, so money would be less confused and things would not be misplaced.
- Regarding taking advantage of Juniors, the price list should be published publicly for all to see.
- Counterfeit money feels a danger. The bank/government should make a list of people who have received money.
- Become a monk!
- A rich company with a lot of money can share with small company or poor people, and so things would be more fair.
- Maybe the government can make a loan to poor people who have lost all their money, to help them start up again.
- Maybe someone can request government to pay for a trademark?
- Advertise yourself better.
- Work for yourself — don’t hire other people.
- Join other businesses so combine forces.
- Create fines a possibility.