In our quest for inspiring innovation, creativity and solutions through imagination, what if one of our vital tools is broken? Speaker, author and activist, Manish Jain, believes our education system is producing a society which actually creates issues such as poverty and global warming. His solution for this is a radical theory called ‘unlearning’. This involves looking at whether we’re actually doing the best for ourselves or the planet by questioning how and what we’ve been taught. Below, Jain speaks to environmentalist and blogger Rob Hopkins about his work.
Manish Jain lives in Udaipur, Rajasthan, in North India. He works with a movement called Shikshantar, ‘The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development’. He has been working for the last 20 years, initiating many projects around unlearning, sustainable living, and Gift Culture. He is also co-founder of Swaraj University – India’s first university dedicated to localization. You can read more about his work here. He very kindly spent a fascinating hour chatting to me via Skype…
What do you think in 2018 is the relationship between our conventional approach to education and the state of health of our imagination?
In my own journey what I found out was that most people think education is a solution going forward for the world, and to deal with the different crises on the planet, and I found that the education system, the current one, is actually part of the problem. Not only is it irrelevant, but it also is actually creating, reproducing, the same sicknesses which are killing the planet.
One of the purposes of that is to destroy people’s imagination. It has played a significant role, I see it all over India, Asia too, to destroy the sources, and one of the sources, at least in India, of imagination, is local language. Local language and culture, which is deeply connected to biodiversity. Education has basically told people here that all of our people who speak local languages are backwards, uncivilised, not modern, and don’t have much to contribute to the world going forward. Only the experts know best.
imagination is connected to a sense of abundance
Part of our work is to recover that wisdom and imagination, and to free ourselves from the TINA (‘There Is No Alternative’) worldview. These go hand in hand actually. Re-connecting to traditional cultures, and reminding people that we actually have much more than we thought we had. So there’s a sense that imagination is connected to a sense of abundance, moving out of the scarcity mind set. The current system is a very big culprit in limiting what people’s imagination has been, and probably filling them with a lot of fear as well.