Nick Tyler for president!

One of the very best interviews/podcasts of all time, I think, is when Kim Hill interviewed Nick Tyler a few years back on Radio New Zealand National.

The whole 52 minutes of it is just... rife with things to learn. Well, I have, anyway. Nick is a natural-born storyteller and with his, what looks like, limitless curiosity towards the world he has amassed a fascinating collection of stories which link up to basically say, life's interesting. Not always good, or easy, but it's interesting, and it gleams with hope towards the future.

I have listened to that interview several times now, and have no intention of deleting the file off my computer.

Today I found that Nick Tyler talked about 'What makes an engineer?' at a University College London event and starting at a 23-minute mark I found his words thought-provoking and very inspiring.

He basically talked about the fact that if you ask an 11-year-old what they want to do with the world, they beam with ideas. Bringing water to Africa, building things, fixing things.

When you ask an 18-year-old, the answer is, I want to pass A-levels. (=exams) Whatever.

And then when engineering departments only enrol students who achieve high marks in mathematics, chemistry and physics, they are excluding a whole bunch of very high achieving, inspiring students whose interests may lay more towards the arts. Where their passion lay.

As a chair of the engineering department at University College London, Nick Tyler removed the requirement for mathematics, chemistry and physics as the 'enrolling' subjects. Instead, he started enrolling students who had high marks, but not necessarily in mathematics, chemistry and physics.

Or like he says, think of it as enrolling someone who has high marks in photography, French and swimming ;)

And the thing is, it went brilliantly.

Kind of like a lot of the stories about the Finnish education system go, the students are able to achieve high levels of understanding because they do less. Or, to put it more precisely, rather than having to study things they are not really interested in, students study things they have passion for, and therefore they are able to do it well. Better.

University College London started enrolling students who did not necessarily do A-levels in math, chemistry and physics into engineering courses, and found that they got very high achieving applicants out of it, and later, students.

The whole... attitude of Nick Tyler, how he can have such a balanced view of the world, and they way he understands very complex, interlinking problems of the world and how the problems affect each other (the way public transportation affects health outcomes, or how home insulation could save money spent in hospitals etc) and the fact that he says, right at the end of that interview with Kim Hill, that:

the human race is going to survive 
by community, not by individualism.

(It's at 48:05 into the interview.)

And I listen to him talk and I think, if I could, just, 'multiply' Nick Tyler so that one of him could stay teaching at University College London, but then the other version of him could become the prime minister of New Zealand, and yet another president of the United States (OH MY GOD, WOULD YOU IMAGINE WHAT THAT WOULD BE LIKE!!!)

I have such an affinity towards interesting, curious people. I fancy myself as such, too, but that's kind of beside the point.

To go off-topic onto another interesting person I sometimes think about, I still wonder what has happened to a young man that I used to talk to in a Christchurch petrol station. He was manning the pumps in the late evenings, I think he worked 19:00-23:00 on four evenings a week, and I had such wonderful little conversations with him as I used to fill my car on Tuesday evenings on the way back from craft night.

That young man was studying engineering at Canterbury University, doing a Master's degree in... something to do with electronics, and he was set to start an internship with a large motor company in the US. He was going to help them design electric cars and components to them - but whilst he was working at a petrol station in a little Christchurch suburb, he was my Tuesday evening conversation partner.

I miss him. I miss the fact that I don't know his e-mail, or his phone number, so I can no longer get in touch with him and ask, how are you doing? Because I assume he's living somewhere in the States now, doing his electric cars engineering. No longer having to earn minimum wage at a petrol station to supplement his studies :).

And I have a very hopeful view towards the world when I talk to people like that. It fills me with even more curiosity and courage to be part of the change, even if at the moment it means that during the week I write out assignments on how many cubic metres of concrete can go into someone's foundation and on a Saturday, I wash dishes at a cafe.

Because life's good.

Mine certainly is.

Edited to add: it reminded me how, when we were enrolling The Kid in primary school, I said to the teachers that, look, the most important thing to me in The Kid's first year of schooling, is that he enjoys it here.

Not how many numbers he learns, or letters, or where he sits on the chart of medians. (Jesus, don't even get me started on medians... I said to them, actually, that just putting it out there, I do not want to hear the word median, okay?, and fortunately they passionately agreed with me). The most defining impact the first school year has is setting the attitude towards schooling, and so most of all I want The Kid to have fun in school.

And that's exactly what they're doing, fortunately. I have absolutely no qualms about this school, at all, because their culture towards learning matches mine, and I think they're doing brilliantly. The Kid is thriving, writing ever more words, doing ever more stuff with numbers, telling people about giraffes eating leaves off tall trees, and asking questions about the earth and what it's made of. He goes to school with joy, and meets me at the end of the day with busy bustle-ness, telling me about things he's done that day.

A couple of weeks ago when a new instructor/therapist, not sure what his position is called exactly, joined our Conductive Education unit, I had a talk with him on a similar topic. We discussed our goals moving forward and I said to him that, look, the most important thing in us coming here every week is that The Kid has fun here. That, sure, we do important motor development stuff and whatever, but in the end, we continue coming here because it works, and it's fun.

And that the moment it becomes a chore rather than fun, we are going to struggle continuing our weekly routine of attending. In small increments reasons are going to mount why not come this week, and then maybe another, and another, and so beyond all the important developmental goals we are working towards, we need to keep remembering that attending the sessions has to be fun.

He didn't... let's say, entirely agree with me. He had a bit of what I see as an old attitude towards therapy, which is, we do things that are important, and sometimes those things are hard.

And, I get that. I also push my kids to do things that are important, and that are hard. I think my kids are gradually learning the attitude of 'I can do hard things'. The Kid certainly is - he has an attention span and depth of focus beyond what I think is usual for 6-year-olds, and his teachers are continuing to say to me that they are very impressed with the dedication he is able to put towards tasks at hand.

But the thing is, for us, fun is part of it. Our whole family is very much built around the idea of letting every person have joy, and then trying to balance our wants/needs in a way that allows everyone space to live their life in a way that brings them joy.

We weave fun right throughout our children's activities because we know that, in the end, fun is what's going to keep them there.

I think the Conductive Education instructor/therapist is starting to come 'round to the idea, too.

And I tend to think that even Nick Tyler would agree.

1 comment:

  1. Niiiii tore kuulda, et kool osutus õigeks ja et Poisil seal nii hästi läheb :) :)