Futures of Education
Crystal: What do you find interesting about the topic of the futures of education?
Fazal: There are three different aspects of the future that I’m interested in. One is, how do post-Covid conditions lead us to think about the future differently? How do things that have happened in the past ten years particularly, including the expansion and the sophistication of mobilites with technology and AI, give rise to us thinking about the future differently? How do the present conditions change the ways in which we might think about the future? My other interest is in why is it that we think about the future in such technical ways, rather than in a language that is moral and cultural? Why is it that we are so preoccupied with trying to get a definitive view of the future rather than consider the possibilities? And the third thing that I am interested in is, how do we bring predictions of what might happen together with possibilities that we might morally and culturally imagine? How can we have a moral discourse about the future, rather than only a technical discourse about the future? Those are the three main aspects of the future that I’m interested in: the conditions, the possibilities, and understanding the historical preoccupation with what Kristiina Brunila calls ‘precision.’
Crystal: What made you want to dive deeper into the future of education as a topic of research?
Fazal: Future is in the air. You cannot avoid thinking about it. Everything that we are thinking about relates to the future. But the future is not a new topic. We’ve always thought about the future. Yet I think there is a greater intensity at the moment than there was even ten years ago. Certainly Covid has helped us to think about the future differently, and has raised a whole range of new questions that we cannot avoid. The other thing is that after Covid, with all the talk of new normal and how things might be different and how we are at the inflection point, it has given rise to thinking in new ways about the future. I’m interested in the opportunities that Covid has engendered, rather than thinking about what Covid has in fact changed. How is it that we can change the nature of the discourses about the future as much as which future, and how, and how differently?
Crystal: Do you feel you're a risk-taker?
Fazal: Oh, I’m very much a risk taker! The problem is when you are taking risks, you don't often recognize that you are taking risks. In retrospect you say, ‘Oh, that was a very risky thing to do.’ Risk is not self-evident to anybody. To actually assume that the risk is always knowable for the future is actually probably mistaken. Actualarists are very keen on risk and they do huge amounts of calculations, but there are lots of aspects of life that they never take into account.
Crystal: That reminds me of when you talk about Arjun Appadurai’s Spirit of Calculation, and the notion that we calculate for risk to make risk knowable.
Fazal: Well, some risks are knowable. We cannot deny that. I know that if I jumped out of the second floor window, well…
Crystal: That sounds more like danger!
Fazal: That’s foolishness! But there are other things that are risky. I cross the red light to get to the other side quickly. There is a risk, there may be a car coming, but I think the risk is so minimal that I might as well try it. We're doing that all the time. But sometimes something happens and we say, ‘I should not have taken that risk.’ But to think that you can actually imagine that risk in the moment is probably imagining a very, very rational person. And we're not incredibly rational people. We are driven by emotions. We are driven by commitment. We are driven by hopes and fears. We are driven by a whole range of other things beyond rationality. Rationality is one aspect of risk-taking. The question really is how do you bring reason and emotion together?
Crystal: Are there risks you think the education community should be more willing to take?
Fazal: Of course. To start off with, we should not be so risk-averse. We are becoming more and more risk averse. We try to create rules and more rules in order to avoid risk. Largely because we live in such a litigious society. We are fearful of being sued. But there are lots of risks that ought to be taken. There are lots of risks that are highly educative and highly culturally productive. Going out into the mountains to get a better sense of how we are connected to nature. At one level, you could say oh you shouldn’t go to the mountains because there are bears there. Then we’ll just sit in our classroom and not go very far. We won’t build a gymnastics apparatus for the children, because we might break our ankle or our knee. Yes, of course there are risks. The question really is what risks are worth taking?
Learning from one another
Crystal: You have written a lot about diaspora, globalisation, and convergence. At the Summit we are bringing people together from all over the world. What can we learn from one another?
Fazal: We need to recognise cultural diversity and other forms of diversity have always been there. Now that we have recognised that people are moving, ideas are moving, money is moving all over the place, there is really no way of thinking about communities that are homogeneous. Every community is heterogeneous and in some sense hybridised. I'm really interested in how we understand global interconnectivity. Not only at the macro-level about how countries are related to each other in a geopolitical sense, but at the very local level. How is it that we can take advantage of that diversity and those modes of exchanges that are now possible and perhaps can be shown to be much more significant than it might have been possible for us to show previously? Thirty years ago people found the argument about heterogeneity very difficult to get their heads around. Now I don't think that is so. People still assume that their communities are homogeneous unless there are lots and lots of immigrants walking around and there are different colours that you can find in the streets. But that assumption of homogeneity is actually not true. Even within the whiteness there's a huge amount of cultural and political heterogeneity. If we actually begin thinking about heterogeneity as a default or as the basic building block of our communities and of our discourses about what might be possible, then the question becomes how do you take advantage of that diversity and that recognition of heterogeneity and hybridity and ubiquitous cultural exchange?
Dr. Fazal Rizvi will be joining us to host a panel on Oct 27 about the Future of Education at the Innovation Summit. Register now for the livestream to hear more from him and other panelists.