Education in 2050: A Future Narratives Lab

“I try to laugh about it, cover it all up with lies.

I try to laugh about it, hiding the tears in my eyes.

‘Cause boys don’t cry”

The Cure, Boys Don’t Cry

Embrace logic and feelings and mental health – school as an ecosystem for self-care and mental health

Speech from the participants at the Future Narratives Symposium in Krefeld (Germany)

“There is nothing wrong with you! Why are you sad? Get up and go to work! Stop being lazy!”

This is something we hear every day. From our teachers, from our professors, from our parents. Is this a fact or is it just a myth?

Many people think that mental illness isn´t real because the symptoms aren´t visible. For example: when someone breaks his legs, you can easily see and identify by the causes by the way they walk. But when someone is depressed or sad, it is not as easy to identify but it doesn´t mean that the person isn´t sad or depressed.

Schools have reflected the same stereotypes for decades. School is based on logic. They say: the right system is the old system. They refuse to admit that schools must adapt to new facts or new social developments. That is why mental illness can´t be discussed. In the present day, logic and emotions cannot exist in the same school system.

What is the problem that makes the ecosystem unhealthy? And what are the solutions to create a community and a healthy environment?
Since mental health is such a big issue in schools, what can we do to ensure that the ecosystem in school is healthy? School is an ecosystem comprised of teachers, staff and parents.

First, we need to understand that humans are emotional creatures even in school. We should allow ourselves to feel all kind of emotions – positive or negative. And let others express their emotions. For that we need to learn to identify our emotions and learn how to express them in a healthy way. Schools need to leave room for its members to express themselves. Change to a new myth that this ecosystem is based on logic AND embracing feelings and mental health. Schools should teach all members of the ecosystem (students, teacher, staff, and parents) how to practice self-care and make it a part of daily life. They should introduce them to the concepts of emotional competence and mental balance and make them understand the importance of helping themselves and others.

Mental health is a rising issue in schools, which is why it is so important to speak up, talk about it and raise awareness and create a new healthier narrative concerning this ecosystem.

Watch the presentation at our Future Narratives Symposium here.

Future Narratives Lab

This speech was one of the outcomes of the Future Narratives Lab, held as part of our third transnational workshop in Krefeld, Germany.

As the first stage of the lab, participants were sent out to the city and had to ask people of similar age the following question:

When you think about the year 2050, which are the two main issues / topics that move you or are important to you?

Participants collected these issues and also responded to this question by themselves. We clustered the issues into bigger categories and invited participants to vote for those that are the most important. The participants voted for: a. A peaceful world in 2050 and b. Education in 2050.

Each group, based on the selected thematic category had to experience a Futures Lab (methodology described by Riel Miller in Transforming the future: Anticipation in the 21st Century (2018). The essence of Futures Labs is to find the right powerful questions to help us challenge powerful narratives and then, follow our personal and collective questions with action.

Phase 1 – Reveal: The first phase of the Futures Lab aims to reveal participants’ expected and preferred futures and their underlying assumptions. Each participant had to think about what future he/she expect in the year 2050.
After looking at the expected future, the participants were asked about their desired future. What they are hoping for to happen. Then, each group had to create a collective drawing of their vision for the future.

Phase 2 – Reframe: Based on the identified underlying assumptions of the expected and preferred futures, a reframed alternative future is explored in the second phase. The facilitators introduced to each group a crazy story, a strange scenario and invited them to participate in an analysis of the future effects using the Future Wheel method. One imagined the idea: what if we didn’t have any government anymore? And the other scenario: what if pupils decided about school quality and programmes?

Phase 3 – Rethink: The third phase aims to identify questions based on the insights gained through expected, preferred and alternative futures. These new questions are discussed and reflected upon, informing a new preferred future that encompasses new assumptions.
Then, the second task was to choose one question and look for the narratives that affect the topic and answers to these questions. For example, a group could focus on the question of communication. In our societies, fast connections and communications or digital communications might have become a problem, in a sense that we spend less quality time with people. A possible hidden narrative is the attractiveness of modernity and the need for speed to respond to the hectic pace of life.
So, what was asked by the participants was how to use narratives, words and expressions that describe what they want to happen and don’t focus on what they do not want to happen.

Phase 4 – Re do or ACT: How can we include and pass such narratives to society, today? The participants worked out presentations for the Future Narratives Symposium. One was the speech at the beginning of this post.

Watch Stefan Bergheim, director of the Center for Societal Progress, explain more about Futures Literacy Labs here.

“No one can predict the future. People can fight for what they want and who they want to have by their side.” Participant

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