Monday, February 21, 2005
In praise of slow
What's the rush?
The ideas of Carl Honore, in his book ‘In Praise of Slow’, are a real antidote to our current obsession with productivity, speed, consumerism and ‘workaholism’, which has filtered its way into all we do – including education. It seems that to shop is to be!
Carl Honore believes too many of us are living our lives on ‘fast forward’ and as a result our health and relationships are paying a heavy price. Obese children are but the most recent symptom of this fast life.
Carl writes that we are to ‘over stimulated and overworked and struggle to relax to enjoy things properly, to spend time with family and friends’.
His ideas are not a reactionary Luddite plot to shun or retreat from technology but all about ‘living better in a modern world by striking a balance between fast and slow’. Honore believes that slowing down can pay dividends in every walk of life. There are ‘slow food’ movements (a reaction against a KFC mentality), ‘slow cities’ (to allow citizens to find places of peace and tranquility) and ‘slow sex’!
The new manta is to ‘do less better’ rather than ‘first finished is best’. Honore believes we are entering a genuine slow revolution, a culture of pleasure, of doing things at the right speed and less skimming over the surface of life. It is not about opting out but being able to ‘shift gears’ now and then to enjoy experiences.
Our culture is raising the ‘hurried child’ with parents trying to give their children everything. He believes children need slowness and should not become obsessed with achievement at any cost. We are in the process of developing a ‘me first’ culture. Children he believes need unscheduled time; time for imagination, day dreaming and exploring deeply their interests. Even TV, the major form of relaxation for many children, is a paradox with children relaxing in front of a hyper active medium. It has, he says, ‘become a black hole gobbling up children’s time’.
All this applies directly to schools which are suffering from a hyper rational attention deficit culture; trying to do too much they seem to do little well. Teachers rush their students through countless learning tasks, strands and objectives; the curriculum has become ‘a mile wide and an inch deep.’ In the words of one educator they are in the throws of a ‘KFC curriculum’; or ‘death by strands.’ Children are encouraged to consume as many credits as they can – it has little to do with developing a joy of learning.
In education we need also to do less better and allow students time to savor learning experiences and in the process have the time to do things well so as to develop a sense of personal excellence. They need time to reflect on learning to ask and answer their own questions.
Teachers I used to work with believed in the need for students to ‘slow the pace of their work’ so as to allow both quality teacher/learner conversations and for them to produce work they are truly proud of. Such classrooms are full of quality art, language and personal research.. Teachers believed strongly in an aesthetic dimension to learning – a dimension that requires time to do things well.
One reviewer of Honore’s book says he is ‘slow thinker ahead of his time’, another that ‘life in the slow lane is more enjoyable, more pleasurable and more humane.’ Aristotle’s adage that ‘the purpose of work is the attainment of leisure’ has been transformed into ‘I work in order to consume and posses’. We have become a society centred around the possession of things; when we forget people we begin to lose our culture.