I am a Dutch author and trainer in the field of psychology and came across the work of Sir Ken Robinson many years ago while looking for answers as to why so many children— full of potential—seem to be unhappy in school. Seeing young people struggle with their lives instead of simply flourishing seemed to be an unnatural phenomenon. Sir Ken’s thoughts on education and human potential made things a lot clearer to me. The way he addressed the underlying issues by explicitly highlighting the pains and sufferings that come as a result of our current educational systems helped me clear the path for action. I am therefore very happy to be here at the Creative Revolution Hub and look forward to our future collaboration.
The life and the work of Sir Ken have brought us here together. It is inspiring and empowering to be part of a community dedicated to the transformation of education. Many of us wish to contribute to taking Sir Ken’s work forward. How could we not? We are all stakeholders for the simple reason that the promise of education has become the promise of humanity.
Here is where I see my contribution, starting with a quote from the manifesto book Imagine If … creating a future for us all (page 35-36):
“We live not in one world, but in two. The first world is the world around us: the exterior world of the cities and the lands we live in, the people around us, material objects, events, and circumstances. The second is the world within you: the interior world of your personal consciousness. … As the writer, Anaïs Nin once said, “I do not see the world as it is, I see it as I am.” We all create our own lives through the perspectives we develop and the choices we make. All children are born with vast potential. Whether they fulfill that potential has everything to do with how well they flourish in both worlds, outer and inner. The quality of the education they receive is fundamental to getting those conditions right. Education should be the bridge between these two worlds. Understanding how is the foundation to making that bridge more secure for all our children.”
For education to be the bridge between the inner and the outer world, we need to start where these two worlds meet. These worlds meet in our minds and bodies. The mind is our natural starting point—there is no world to experience without the mind or its awareness. The world that we see starts from within, and so does the world we create. The outer world is an extension of the inner world in the same way as being part of an (educational) system makes up the system.
The human mind is the foundation of humanity. The understanding of the ways of the mind will automatically become the understanding of how to bridge the inner and the outer world. Psychology is the foundation to making that bridge ‘more secure for all our children’.
The essence of psychology is self-knowledge. Not the self-knowledge in the sense of our interests, hobbies, cognitive skills, and all that stuff, but in a fundamental sense. It refers to the degree to which we are familiar with the basic, natural workings of our psyche. Our psyches all function in the same way—to understand yourself is to understand the other.
We naturally become more open and sensitive when we learn to understand ourselves and others better. Openness and sensitivity are the natural conditions for our human potential and creative nature to arise. To have this openness and a deeper level of sensitivity in our educational systems and society, we need a deeper level of understanding and knowing ourselves. This self-knowledge naturally comes from within. So that’s where we should start.
Sir Ken addressed two main crises in the world. Both crises are a reflection of our disengagement from the natural world. There is the outer world crisis—the crisis of our planet—and there is an inner world crisis—the crisis of our human potential. Two crises with one answer: the state of our minds.
The human mind is beautifully complex, yet everything we think, feel, or do can be broken down to a fundamental “Why?”. As human beings, we share a deeply rooted psychological nature. This deeply rooted nature is the natural basis for all our actions, and it is what propels every human being in life. It consists of three pillars:
1. The desire and ability to be happy and free from suffering
2. Having an inner, unlimited space
3. The natural interconnectedness of life
Everything we perceive, feel, think and do emanates from these three natural pillars. They are incredibly important to every single human being.
Apart from this fundamental “Why?” for all our actions, there is also a fundamental “How?”. The “How?” relates to what I have come to call our natural skills—the way in which our minds naturally operate in fulfilling our well-being. The understanding of this natural functioning of the mind results in realistic and successful action—realistic in the sense that it is effective, and successful in the sense that it opens the door to our human potential. Creativity is an expression of this human potential and something very natural and normal. It is human potential at work.
Sir Ken defined creativity as: “The process of having original ideas that have value.” Value and meaning are essential to its effective practice. That means we need to know how to define value and meaning. Again, this requires insight and a human heart—the understanding of oneself and the other.
Natural Skills psychology offers this understanding. The uniqueness of Natural Skills psychology is that it is a natural paradigm. The advantage of a natural paradigm is that things happen naturally, allowing nature to do the work for us. All we have to do is not block its operation. Human potential is a natural phenomenon. The more familiar we become with our natural skills, the more confident we will be in using our natural human potential and gaining wisdom.
The importance of Natural Skills psychology can be compared to the importance of the alphabet and grammar when learning a language. No matter what language you choose to study, you will not be able to bypass its alphabet or grammar. These are fundamental and make up its natural backbone, so to speak. The same is true with Natural Skills psychology. For any emotional or social skill to be effective, it has to be based on our deeply rooted inner nature and the functioning of our natural skills. Natural Skills psychology is fundamental to any effective type of social and emotional learning. It is where it all begins.
That makes Natural Skills psychology indispensable in education. It is about learning to read and write psychologically. This psychological literacy brings self-confidence, strengthens our mental resilience, and helps to create a positive, compassionate attitude toward life. That is what is most required these days.
In the opening post of The Creative Revolution Hub, the following words of Sir Ken are quoted: “… Getting people to share ideas, to collaborate, to work together to see future possibilities and to bring them about through joint projects and through the joint support that comes from compassionate collaboration.”
Like creativity, compassion and collaboration are natural human phenomena. It is normal to be creative, it is normal to be compassionate, and it is normal to work together. It is therefore also very possible. What it needs first is a realization of our shared human nature—our longing for happiness, freedom, and connection. This then becomes our common sense.
The effect of teaching Natural Skills psychology will be twofold. On the one side, it sets the conditions right for our human potential to flourish, enhancing and safeguarding individual and social wellbeing. On the other side, it will have a self-transformational effect on the educational system and society as a whole making the world a more humane place.
That is why I am a strong advocate for teaching (Natural Skills) psychology in our schools as part of the standard curriculum. It will enhance all eight core competencies formulated by Sir Ken because these competencies are natural human competencies.
I aim to first get the message of Natural Skills psychology out there and gather as much support as possible. For this purpose, I have written the book Natural Skills—A Natural Approach to Psychology. The book has been published in The Netherlands in October 2021 and I’m now looking for ways to have it published in the UK and USA. At the same time, I want to start working on developing school programs and doing some educational pilot projects with educational pioneers in The Netherlands.