THE MONTPARNASSE INITIATIVE: SCHOOL OF THINKING
Summer School 2018 – The 1st (Prototype) Edition
July 12 – 18, 2018. Tour Montparnasse, 20e étage
WHAT IS THIS ABOUT?
An exploration of thinking itself: the background activity which underpins all knowledge and action!
A challenge to go beyond your assumptions and mental habits;
An experience of thinking together with (very different) others;
Co-creation of a new program of experiential learning.
Throughout our academic education we encounter various knowledge schemes that help us to navigate the world, solve problems and understand reality. For example, sociology helps us to understand the ways in which we shape our societies; biology helps us to understand the diversity of life and its history; and physics helps us to understand the fundamental laws governing matter and energy in the universe. However, throughout the course of education, something else gets formed which is even more fundamental in its impact than the academic knowledge and specific skills acquired. That mysterious “something else” weaves in as a background, is rarely reflected on, questioned or challenged. It consists of the habits of our thinking, the behavioural patterns of the thought itself.
In learning a new scheme of knowledge you first acquire a new set of categories and concepts which say what your reality is composed of. It may be cells, chimpanzees, social institutions, quantum bits, medical disorders, or other. Thus, your mind learns to continuously search for and recognise these particular objects, among all possible others. Then, you learn which properties are important and relevant in your objects of interest. What qualities do the objects display? Do they act? Why and how? You learn not only to observe these traits, but as well to attribute and presume them. Finally, you adopt your own profession, as a specialist, an expert: you come to assign specific properties and values not only to the objects around you, but to yourself as well. What results from such a formation is a thinker whose ongoing mental activity has became perfectly fit for interaction with a specific set of objects, equipped with a specific set of properties. Fit for a specific profession. Fit for what he or she has been trained for…
Yet, when you consider people who excite and move us, people who make new, transformative contributions —to any domain— you will notice that they were not exactly “fit” in the above sense. They do not follow the prescribed paths, but are able —and dare— to venture out and think in novel ways. Sure, they understand the preexisting know-how and conventions, but they approach them more in the style of Picasso: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. Regardless of the type of contribution they make, be it an artistic project, a scientific discovery, a new technique, etc., the difference of their approach starts in their minds: they do something differently in there. Some might say that the difference between such revolutionary thinkers, inventors, artists, and the rest of us, mortals, is genetic, or in the hands of pure chance: these people were simply born this way. Well, that’s one way of… thinking 😉 But this summer, in Montparnasse, we will explore another one!
The Montparnasse Initiative: School of Thinking (MYST) is a new collaborative educational project in which we will flip the foreground and the background of all conventional knowledge and action. While most, if not all, kinds of education aim to provide you with a new frame for your thought to settle in —a new set of concepts, their interrelations, and procedures for you to adopt— MYST aims to challenge you to catch that ‘settling in’ as it happens, over and over, and to learn to direct your thought out of every possible box. Providing an intense workout with multiple well developed frames for thinking (systems thinking, complexity thinking, techniques for creative thinking, etc.) MYST will focus on strengthening the “muscle of thinking” in itself: Do you notice when you are settling for a frame?, Can you make a good use of it, but not get stuck in?, Can you see its limitations?, Can you choose not to adhere?, Can you do all that in touch with others – not against them?, Can you articulate a new path of thinking, however uncharted and new?, Can you see and hear what others think?, Can you withdraw your habitual categorisations?, Withdraw properties? How else could the same phenomenon be framed?, How different would it appear and act?
The intended learning outcome of MYST is a radically strengthened disposition of each participant towards free, independent, critical, creative thinking — towards its open-minded, collaborative, confident articulation — and towards supporting and strengthening these dispositions in others. By observing the background mental activity of our habitual thinking and interactions, and by getting to know how to stir and direct that activity, we develop the power to reshape the world as it appears to and affects ourselves. By doing that together, with others, we develop the power to reshape the real world — as it appears to and affects everyone! Once we can do that, we instantly turn into the revolutionary thinkers and artists ourselves, regardless of the genotype. Even more than that: we turn into magicians…
The purpose of the 1st Summer School of MYST is to prototype and develop the program. Each training module will be delivered for the very first time and should be understood primarily as a demonstration: a material for other people to experience and provide feedback on.
While the overall flow of events will be similar to that of a regular summer school (classes, exercises, lectures, …), the social composition of the school will be different. Instead of the traditional setup in which the students are present all the time, while the instructors make their appearance only individually or in duos, the group of participants will include all the already recruited prospective instructors (12-14 people), along with the contributors to be recruited from within the CRI ecosystem (12 people) and the general public (up to 4 people).
All participants will thus be asked to assume a triple role: (1) of a student, who works on their own thinking skills, (2) of a curriculum developer, who assesses and provides feedback on the coherence and the educational value of the program, and (3) of an active contributor, who either teaches some module(s) of the program, or takes care of another scope of responsibility (detailed below).
July 12-18, 2018 (excluding July 14 or 15 – TBC which one)
Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI)
Tour Montparnasse, 20e étage
33 avenue du Maine, 75015 Paris
Note: the evening Reader’s Club discussions and the Saturday/Sunday events will take place outside the CRI location.
All members (students, teachers, researchers, affiliates, …) of the CRI ecosystem, as well as unaffiliated candidates, are welcome to apply to participate free of charge.
It is expected that each admitted participant will:
- Participate in the full course of the summer school,
- Acknowledge the ‘prototyping’ status of the program and actively contribute to its development,
- Volunteer to take care of one selected scope of responsibility.
In order to apply please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, June 29, 2018.
In your email please provide:
- Your name and affiliation,
- Your contact handles (Slack, Skype, WhatsApp),
- The scope of responsibility you are willing to take care of (if indicating more than one possibility, please sort them in the order of your preference).
Available scopes of responsibility:
- The Space Maker: keep the room (chairs, tables, flipcharts, whiteboard) appropriately arranged (1 person – 5 days)
- The Tech Nerd: organise and setup the beamer, screen, connectors, cables & troubleshoot if needed (1 person – 5 days)
- The Reader’s Club leader: select & reserve a bar/restaurant suitable for the discussions (1 person – 4 evenings)
- The Reader’s Club presenter: select a paper (your own or someone’s else) to be discussed (2 people – 1 evening each)
- The Camera(wo)man: prepare the video documentation of the most interesting moments (1 person – 6 days)
- The Photographer: prepare the photo documentation of the most interesting moments (1 person – 6 days)
- The Yoga Master: teach the “body thinking” module on Friday (1 person – 1 morning)
- The Scout Leader: prepare and print maps for the Saturday walks through the city (1 person)
- The Campfire Master: find a place for the campfire, get a permit if needed (1 person)
- The Fire Guard: bring the kindling wood, make the fire and keep it going (2 people)
- The Kids Club Team: develop and organise a future parallel track of the program addressed to school kids (4 people – the future editions)
Applications will be accepted on the first-come, first-serve basis until all scopes of responsibility are successfully assigned.