If Dirk Knemeyer was a school principal, the class schedule might look like this: Science, English, Math, Relationships with Other People. Enroll me in that school, pretend Dirk Knemeyer, I liked your talk.
Let me go back to the beginning. Waaaay back to good ol’ Copernicus, the first documented person to posit that the sun – and not the earth – was the center of the universe. Heliocentric Copernicus is the hero and villain of this TED talk, the pivot guiding its initial swings. Before Copernicus (bc?), Dirk explains, we had no concept of the moon; After Copernicus (ac?), we walked all over that moon. Etc, etc, including the fun assertion that toilets are replacing libraries (I overly abstracted there – bc, only aristocrats and clergy could access knowledge in books; ac, we can read books in the comfort of our home commodes).
But this ‘ac’ business doesn’t sit well with Dirk. Not at all. Dirk’s actually pretty fed up. It’s not just the very specific things–such as all those Apple products we love including some that enable toilet libraries? Well, Apple has bad labor practices, including the poisoning of over 100 workers at a production factory in China—it’s the big, deep things, it’s our ability to relate to one another and invest our time in doing so that frustrates Dirk.
I can hear what he’s saying (yeah yeah, I literally did in real time too). A place in our oceans bigger than the size of two Texases filled with “plastic crap” we’ve dumped out? That’s certainly bad. Very bad. I’m on board with Dirk when he announces that the world we’ve inherited from Copernicus is not necessarily a great place.
That ‘necessarily’ provides the give that we need, though. Does Dirk agree? For the most part. But, I get the feeling he feels we’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s going to be a lot harder than junior high math. (And I totally thought junior math was hard.)
Dirk asked us: “What was the moment in your life that means the most to you?”. We talked to our audience neighbors, and then returned to Dirk. “How many of those moments involved people other than yourself?” he then asks. The whole audience raises their hands. “How many of those moments involved high tech technology?” A few hands are raised. This, for Dirk, makes his point: why do we teach science and math and writing in schools and we don’t teach how to figure out how to nurture the most universal thing out there – meaningful relationships.
Okay, so maybe he didn’t mean we need to launch seminar classes to junior high students about how to be supportive spouses or something. That’s silly. But Dirk feels that it’s contemplation—real thought, real feeling [good or bad]—that we’ve managed to lose somewhere between bc and ac (before and after Copernicus, for folks getting a bit confused by this blog, which is more than fair – I blame the lack of junior high education on communication with humans).
What Dirk wants – or at least, my sense of what Dirk wants – is for us to wake up and start helping people figure out what they’re doing, what they’re good at, and make it a better fit than it is now. He says when we align better with each other, happiness goes up and productivity goes up. Maybe we can’t fix that huge plastic crap dump, and maybe we don’t want to give up our toilet libraries, and maybe that’s not at all okay … but I concur that experiencing the ‘not at all okay’ with other people around me, and talking about it, is better than experiencing it by myself. And that, I think, is something Dirk would be content with for now.
Let’s start that new class, kids.