Turning Mirrors into Windows
Daniel D | April 2020
I have a love - hate relationship with mirrors.
Without them, I would never notice the horrendous amount of toothpaste I somehow manage to smear over my face every morning, or the awkward nasal hair curling its way to my top lip. And the world certainly isn't ready for that.
But with mirrors, I find myself obsessing over what's looking back at me more times than I'm comfortable with. I get wrapped up with the world in the mirror, for better or worse.
Thankfully, right next to my mirror is a window - I am reminded that gazing at myself, preoccupied with my own context, is only one mode of looking. I can also look into the world outside myself; a world of excitement, challenge and diversity unbounded.
Looking through the window gives me the power to look back into the mirror with a different perspective, if only in a small way. It reminds me that I have a place in the world, in relationship with others!
The same can be true in education - oftentimes we are so concerned with the private accumulation of information to harbour in our own minds that we forget this information didn't suddenly appear in a vacuum. It grew, through a giant conversation across ages, cultures, histories and languages. To paraphrase Oakeshott, a conversation of humanity.
As Darwin drafted On the Origin of Species, and Descartes published his Meditations, they did so as a result of participating in a dialogue with work that came before them and was happening around them at the time.
Just as Darwin and Descartes most certainly did, we too should study hard, learning as much as we can about those who wrote, spoke and created before us. But we should learn them in a way that points to what they are - contributions to a great conversation, an "unrehearsed intellectual endeavour" that is still going today!
For Oakeshott, the significance of this conversation is not about winning, losing, or achieving some extrinsic reward. It's about wagering. This is impossible without,
...a diversity of voices: in it different universes of discourse meet, acknowledge each other and enjoy an oblique relationship which neither requires nor forecasts their being assimilated to one another.
For meaningful and truly emancipatory education, we need more than just mirrors. As the journalist Sydney J. Harris once wrote, "the whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows".
This blog is dedicated to curating and disseminating how teachers and educators in different fields turn mirrors into windows.