Berlin Consensus

At the Berlin Roundtable September 6th, 2016, we reached what was very close to consensus on the following:

We value human life. Not killing other humans is better than killing other humans.

This means that peace is better than war. Going back to a fragmented, tribal, world is therefore not an option.

We also value the lives of future generations, which in the age of the anthropocene means that we need to tackle the global environmental problems.*

To be able to meet the challenges above, we need to somehow perceive, and operate within, the increasing complexity of our world.

This increased overall complexity has at least three origins:

  1. Increased technological complexity
  2. Increased dynamic complexity
    1. Meaning that development happens faster and faster. Major technological shifts are now intra-generational rather than inter-generational.
  3. Increased subjective (inner) complexity
    1. As the world shrinks, we are forced to handle different cultural perspectives etc.

We need to embrace complexity, rather than adopt unproductive reductionist and simplistic worldviews.

We need to do this on an individual as well as a societal/systemic level.

To embrace complexity on a societal/systemic level might be the more urgent issue.

In a democracy, this implies that we also need individuals to have the ability to understand the complexity of our challenges in order to elect political representatives that can embrace complexity on a societal/systemic level.

So now we understand why we need to develop the ability to embrace complexity both on an individual and societal level.

The question then becomes: Is it true, as some developmental psychologists claim, that we as individuals have a lifelong ability do develop our ability to perceive and handle complexity?**

If it is possible to develop our ability to perceive and handle complexity, is this process then in any way possible to somehow facilitate or is this something that should just grow out of a positive and nourishing environment?

What might such a positive and nourishing environment look like?

Participating in the roundtable were: Michel Alhadeff-Jones, Lene Rachel Andersen, Sturla Bjerkaker, Tomas Björkman, Jos van den Broek, Lasse Dencik, Tobias Etzold, Arthur KokBeate Richter, Jan Visser, and Michael Winkler

* Lasse: ad preventing Xenophobia to this list

** This could be an open question for a later workshop.

We (Tomas and Lene) think that the above issues were what motivated the German philosophers when they wrote about Bildung.


Scientific Roundtable in Berlin

We are building a European network of scientists from the fields of education, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and other human and cultural sciences in order to explore Bildung and ego-development and the connection between the two.

Our first initiative was a roundtable on September 6th, and Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik was so kind as to let us have the meeting in one of its meeting rooms. We are very happy to have made this connection between Bildung, human development and political thinking this early in the process.

It was a great day with many exciting discussions and a wonderful dinner afterwards, and we wish to thank everybody who joined us and contributed to our mutual Bildung:

Dr. Beate Richter, who wrote a Ph.D. dissertation about Bildung and Robert Kegan’s developmental psychology, Professor Michael Winkler from Allgemeine Pädagogik und Theorie der Sozialpädagogik, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, and Professor emeritus Jos van den Broek from Science Communication and Society at Leiden University; all three were co-organizers.

Also contributing were: Ph.D. Michel Alhadeff-Jones, a psychosociologist and philosopher of education specializing in adult training; Sturla Bjerkaker, former Secretary General of the Norwegian Association for Adult Learning and principal of the Nordic Folk Academy, Norway; Professor emeritus Lars Dencik, Childhood, Youth and Family Life, Department of People and Technology, University of Roskilde, Denmark & Stockholm, Sweden; Ph.D. Tobias Etzold, research associate, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin; Ph.D. Arthur Kok, philosophy, writes about multiculturalism and the need for “metaphysics,” Netherlands; Professor Jan Visser, founder & president Learning Development Institute, Former Director at UNESCO for Learning Without Frontiers.

We cannot mention everything said at the roundtable, but at least three things stood out:

There were a number of critical voices concerning our choice of Piaget, Kohlberg and Kegan as our main sources in developmental psychology, and Lars Dencik recommended that we study Vygotsky. We also discussed the danger of using a model that could so easily become normative.

Michel Alhadeff-Jones pointed out the importance of Bildung being about emancipation – we really like the concept of emancipation. In the conversation starter we sent to the participants before the roundtable, we wrote about three kinds of freedom and it may be worth exploring existential freedom as emancipation.

We tried to sum up the discussions and reach a Berlin Consensus. We almost managed, and you can read Tomas’ text here.

We look very much forward to further collaboration and conversation with everybody! We really enjoyed the day.

Our next step is two more roundtables, one in Leiden on January 26th, one in Stockholm on March 14th, plus an upcoming deadline for an application for a scientific workshop with more participants.