Thursday, 17 May 2007

Habitable Sculpture

What is my Habitable Sculpture?

It is an abstract work of art that one might live in. It is a piece of garden sculpture. And also a walk through the house is a walk through a piece of the garden. The garden makes use of a beautiful natural space, a space containing 5 ponds, a mountainside, and an area filled with massive rocks, nature’s own pieces of sculpture. A walk through the sculpture offers a series of discoveries – both outside and inside.
The pictures show the pond that will form part of the sculpture's setting, and a floating framework made by the architect to give an idea of the scale and position of one of the sculpture's components.

In detail it is as if the object were lowered into the setting, how else could it have got there? The exhibit of nature’s wonders and the artistic elements are subject to transformations resulting from nature’s change of day and night, seasons of the year and immediate splashes of weather.

All is unified by certain repetitions – views of rocks and trees and water plus the scattering of man-made objects and three very similar glass enclosed spaces. Some internal art moves kinetically either electrically or triggered by the observers own physical movement.

The garden and the Habitable Sculpture are linked together by glass openings with their own alterable degrees of varied apertures. The edifice is also a theatre in the round with dramatic events triggered either by nature day and night but especially by electric illumination of garden elements or visual movement within the mirrored cube.

Walking through the Habitable Sculpture’s garden surrounds also provides a series of discoveries of the Habitable Sculpture itself for it cannot simply be seen from any simple vantage point. In all, it is a quest for beauty and delight and fun. Fun from smiling and sitting and reclining and sleeping and walking. Fun from listening to nature’s sounds and from bathing in hot water and swimming in cool ponds. Fun from skating and walking and climbing and arriving and conversing. Fun from eating and drinking and playing games and sports.

International School of America

About the International School of America

The International School of America was founded by myself as a non-profit educational foundation in 1958. Its mission was and is to maximise the educational benefits that formal education may derive from international travel. The round-the-world plane ticket was recognised as the most expedient vehicle since it provides for students and faculty to reach between six and nine destinations during an eight-month academic year. In each destination each individual student lives with a native family for two or three weeks while engaged in class meetings, guest lectures, field trips and particular individual field projects. The academic courses are generally related to a specific theme.

2004's theme was a examination of the world’s quest for sustainability and the challenges which face those working towards global sustainability. Previous ISA themes have included the family, man and nature, world religions, film and social anthropology, utopias and utopian communities and global ecology – nature, sociology and sustainability.

The ISA relies upon the leadership of outstanding academics with extensive field experience and a real talent for working closely with their students. Previous program leaders and members have included:
Clarence Taft
Edgar Snow, international journalist
Philip and Marjorie Appleman, Indiana University
Edward Kern, Photo and Education Editor, Life magazine
Kazuo Kawai, Ohio State University
Claude Bass, Stanford
Schuyler Camman, University of Pennsylvania
Paul Conners, Princeton
Louis Nemzer
Daniel Lerner, MIT
Huston Smith, MIT
Gregory Bateson, University of Hawaii
George DeVos, Berkeley
Robert Gardner, Harvard
Vlad Pertic, Harvard
William Rothman, Harvard
Edward Goldsmith, publisher, The Ecologist magazine

One of the outstanding achievements of the ISA has been its international reception and recognition in spite of its small size. It must be fair to say that that nature of ISA’s system and its quest for firsthand experience has opened many doors and hearts worldwide. Only the then soviet union rejected an application to live with Moscow families.

In the past ISA students have met privately with Malcolm X, Mrs Indira Ghandi, Mrs Eleanor Roosavelt, King Constantine, Jawaharal Nehru, Yukio Mishima, Hu Shih, Madame Chaing Kaishek, Ambassador Edwin O. Reicheuer, Ambassador Jon Kenneth Galbraith, Max Lerner, Lynn Margulis, Vandana Shive, Margaret Mead, Satyajit Ray, Willy Brant, Edgar Faure, Jane Goodall and Richard Leakey, among many others.

Alumni of the ISA include leading executives of major corporations and outstanding members of the medical, legal and film-making professions as well as environmentalists and writers.

The ISA offers an unequalled academic and personal challenge to students from a whole range of disciplines and backgrounds all contributing to the unique atmosphere of the group.

Board of trustees

Karl Jaeger, Chairman
Edward Goldsmith
Jean Houston
James Lengel
Richard Hasten

Population: Planetary Population Partnership

What is the Planetary Population Partnership (PPP)?

PPP is an ambitious and powerful plan to bring together nations, states and provinces in a partnership that recognises the importance of a sustainable population. These partners have in common an already relatively low population density, which they may or may not currently value, protect and fully benefit from.

Why PPP, and why a sustainable population?

Some facts:

- The earth’s present population of 6 billion is predicted to rise to 8 billion by 2025.
- In the last seventy years the global population has tripled. It continues to grow at an unsustainable rate.
- UNESCO estimates that the global population is already over-consuming the planet’s natural resources by some 30%.

An unchecked increase in the global population may well cancel out all other attempts to curb climate change and sustain human life. The issue of unsustainable human numbers cannot be overlooked in any serious attempt to protect the environment.

PPP can encourage nations/areas with low populations to attach due importance to sustainability rather than growth, and to see their low population as a cultural asset to be treasured. They can share ideas within PPP, and spread their values to other nations by way of example. A nation that is not already over-populated and over-consuming can realise sustainability ideals far more quickly and visibly than those that are. They can also learn to value their asset before it is too late.

Who would be possible PPP members?

Nations such as New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Sweden and Uruguay; states such as Colorado, Maine, Montana and Oregon; provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia.
All of these have a population density of less than 25 people per square kilometre.

What might PPP do?

1 Rethink notions of the benefit of growth in numbers and move on to seeking improvement in the quality of human life both individually and collectively as a society.

2 Given a sustainable population, pursue a sustainable environment in all its aspects.

3 Approach more personally and innovatively the global issues facing the nation’s future.

4 Create various avenues of communication between the PPP participants for sharing knowledge and information, including information about each other and their own areas/countries. This will include, in particular, good communication between the young people of each nation/area and working partnerships between schools.

5 Explore what an ‘ideal’ population might be. In the case of a population considered too low in terms of prosperity and quality of life, consider how a PPP participant can encourage population growth in a sustainable and controllable way.

6 Explore the possible significance of their sustainable populations to their economic philosophy and procedures.

7 Act co-operatively to share research and experimentation on mutually desired goals.

8 Make efforts to enhance friendships and understanding, particularly between those partners whose cultures are dissimilar. Provide professional and educational international exchange programs to this end.

9 Create and practise a shared philosophy stressing happiness, creativity, beauty, sustainability and wisdom rather than competitiveness.

10 Provide a model for other nations/areas on what a workable population is, how it functions socially and economically, and how to live sustainably.

For example

Areas with low population densities sometimes have certain common issues that they might want to address together.

For example:
- many potential PPP areas rely on cars as a primary means of transport. It is often not possible to walk/cycle from A to B and there are not the numbers to support frequent public transport. Therefore, a common goal might be to find and promote more efficient and environmentally sound ways of driving e.g. production of cars run on bio-fuels, national car-sharing schemes and car clubs, and so on. Sweden has a car industry and may have particular influence in this area.

- many have abundant natural resources. PPP participants could confer over ways of using renewable resources, and share understanding, ideas and plans.

- because they are not crowded, many have great natural beauty, and for some tourism is an important industry. PPP participants might therefore explore how to encourage low-impact tourism and develop this industry in a more thoughtful way.

- many are food-producing countries. How can they produce crops organically, and transport them without high ecological compromise?

- What would be the best way of nurturing ecological values amongst the young people of these countries so that they inherit and develop these values for the future? Are there ways in which schools can make students aware of their cultural asset (a sustainable population) and teach them how to manage it for future generations?


PPP statements are being sent to potential partners with the invitation to attend an informal, exploratory conference. The conference will preferably be hosted by one of the member nations, and it will provide an opportunity for the sharing of thoughts and possible initiatives.

Population: The Jay Family System

In recognition of the present predictions that the global population of 6 billion is projected to rise to 8 billion by 2028, population poses a great threat to the planet’s ongoing well being and sustainability. UNESCO studies reveal that our planet is already over-consuming by more than 30% the earth’s natural replaceable resources.

Radical attempts to reduce the population may produce extreme or undesirable results. In China for example, mandatory restrictions on family size have resulted in a lack of female children, a lack that will be felt heavily in China’s next generation.

Recognising that we cannot solve this problem in one step, but that we all have a part to play, I suggest that we think differently about family systems. At present a typical family in the developed world consists of 2 adults bringing up at least one child. My suggestion is to consider the potential of these 2 adults sharing parenting responsibilities with another 2 adults. Each couple has one child, to create in effect a family of 6.

What are the benefits of this system?

Firstly it allows couples to have just one child without experiencing the drawbacks that come with having an only child. The system outlined here solves these problems by creating a social environment involving playmates and companionship for the two children, and by providing a relatively large family of 6 people.

What other benefits are there? For the adults there is a reduction in the stresses involved in raising any number of children, because the parenting duties are spread amongst four people instead of just two. It means, for example, that if one of the mothers wishes to go to work and the other to commit herself to full time parenting, this would be viable.

The advantages from the children’s position are immense. Firstly the reduction of stress on the adults will mean less stress experienced by the two children. Also the reduced likelihood of a stressful divorce and subsequent split family scenario are disadvantages avoided by the children. On the other hand, if a parental break-up is caused by other factors such as death of one parent or the departure of an adult, the children will still have three adults to look to for care and nurture.

As to the exact day-to-day functioning of the family, great freedom of design is possible. The main criteria should be the well being of the children. The level of interaction between the couples is to be decided among the families and may vary over time. They might live with or near each other; they can be as dependent or independent of one another as they choose. They might even be quite separate physically, living in different towns or areas. Even in these circumstances there are opportunities for sharing responsibilities and experiences, and bringing the children into regular contact.

The decision to seek to establish the family can be made at any stage prior to having more than one child. Two couples who already have a child each may join together. This will mean that every member of the group will be able to see and become acquainted with one another. Here a ‘try out’ period may be entered into to see how satisfactory it may be.

On the other hand, two couples, neither of whom have a child, may prepare for the formation of this type of family and, in turn, two friends without partners may decide to work toward a Jay family. In this case the two individuals could be simply good friends or even siblings. In short, the possibilities are endless and can be tailored to each family's needs. All that is required is that there are no more than 2 children.
If you have any thoughts about the system, would like to know more or would like to be put in touch with other potential Jay families, email me at This system is one suggestion as part of a global rethink on population and how to control its growth in non-coercive ways. To this end I am also working on a project called Planetary Population Partnership, described on this site.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Our Future Planet

Our Future Planet.Org

OFPO is the creation of a small group of seekers. OFPO’s focus is to help young people become more involved in their planet’s future. To deliver our aims we are devising systems which we hope will protect and enhance the quality, liveability and beauty of the earth.

Our four areas of initial interest are Population, Education, Transportation and Sustainable Economics. As well as outlining some of these issues and giving our thoughts, our website also hosts a forum, blogs and polls so that young people can give their views.


How can we approach the problem of an overcrowded planet? How can young people help to tackle the problem? OFP introduces two possible strategies, the Jay Family System and Planetary Population Partnership (both described on this site).


Education is one of the greatest gifts we have, but is it as good as it could be? Is it in step with the way young people live and think? OFP raises questions, invites opinion, hosts a Wikischool and plans to run a competition asking young people to design their ideal school.


See OFP’s plans to advocate and consult on community car clubs. We are operating so far on grant money from the RSA and intend to fund the consultancy with small fees, further grants and possible donations from commercial operators to whom we may bring business. We also host discussions on travela nd transport and how to go green.

Big Business:

How do we make wise choices in the things we buy and the people we work for? What is truly ethical business? We raise questions, address issues and invite discussion.



The Student-Centred School System

Imagine a school without classrooms or 45 minute long classes. Imagine a school instead which educates each student as an individual just as the doctor treats each patient as an individual. “Impossible!” one might say. “That’s like individual private tutoring! Only the wealthy can afford such a privilege.” And, indeed, this may be true until Information Technology and a different, student-centred, school system is allowed to fully come into its own.

We are talking about an educational revolution, but one which is overdue.

Let me describe one possible three part student-centred educational system to illustrate the design of an educational revolution. I shall label these three elements:

1 Achievement Units
2 Lab Projects
3 Mentors

With the elimination of the classroom we will automatically eliminate the lesson as we know it, and the need for classroom control and passive learning (“Sit still and be quiet so I (the teacher) may give the lesson”). We will also eliminate the need for a variety of grades at the end of the term and for the inevitable bell-curve pattern of results which necessitates that some students succeed whilst others fail. And we will eliminate the need to ring bells at the end and beginning of classes.

With the elimination of the classroom, it is no longer incumbent upon the teacher to be the sole or primary source of knowledge. We are free to put students in direct contact with the curriculum material, and material beyond this, on an individual basis rather than through a teacher. We shall do this with so-called Achievement Units.

Achievement Units are small pre-constructed units of knowledge, information (lessons if you will), which each individual student has direct access to via DVDs, CD Roms, the internet, audio material and of course all usual written material - whichever is most appropriate. The student-centred school will have hundreds of such Units on a very wide variety of curriculum-based subjects. A student selects the Units to be taken and pursues the understanding and learning of that package of information - alone or with a companion student - in specially designated and equipped areas of the school. Upon learning the content of the Achievement Unit the student asks to be tested on the Achievement Unit. The test is designed to demonstrate mastery learning on the student’s part. There is only one grade: Pass to achieve the Unit. Students who fail try another version of the test again later, when they feel they are ready.

Whilst this may seem rather radical compared to the current examination system, consider that it has been happening in exactly this way in driving schools for decades. If a driving student fails, he or she practices more and takes the test again when ready. In the case of Achievement Units, once the student achieves the Unit, this becomes a part of the student’s cumulative school record of achievements, so that the record is one of 100% success (albeit perhaps eventual) rather than some successes and some irredeemable failures. Psychologically this is very fortifying for the students. There are no ‘A’ or ‘B’ or ‘C’ students. Some students may achieve more Units but all students will have successes - achievements of equal worth.

And Achievement Units will cover a broad range of topics, including all academic requirements and various levels of ability, thereby accommodating various interests and abilities and thereby treating students as individual learners.

Achievement Units offer further benefits. They are easily open for inspection by teachers, parents, other schools, governing bodies and so-on, which is not the case when the teacher closes the classroom door. Achievement Units can offer superior lessons compared to what most teachers can offer. Achievement Units mean that a student is not left behind to the degree that often happens when a student is out of school with the ‘flu for a week and finds it difficult to grasp a cumulative subject such as algebra upon returning. Also supply teachers become less necessary. Achievement Units do not get ill the way teachers do. Now that teachers are freed from classrooms, some are always available when a student needs individual tutorial help with an Achievement Unit. ‘Bright’ students are not held back by mediocre classrooms and less well prepared or capable students are not left behind by the classroom pace.

Perhaps most important, all in all each and every student is more respected as an individual and given more choice (as a customer of learning). When a student needs a break, he can take one. When a student is keenly interested in a particular topic the student can pursue a series of Achievement Units on that topic.

The second element of our student-centred system we call Lab Projects or Group Projects. These are quite different and distinct from Achievement Units. Lab Projects are proposed by teachers or students or an expert from outside the school faculty. These proposed projects are described and ‘advertised’ and interested students meet in an exploratory meeting with the leader to be. If there is enough student interest in joining the project and it seems a feasible project, it becomes part of the school’s curriculum. A typical project might meet once a week for three hours, over several weeks. The project would end at some logical point and would result in a report or a project (the completed production of a video film or a school play, etc).

Lab Projects are much more real life/hands on in nature. There is no test. The result (or failure) speaks for itself. Lab Projects may be related to Achievement Units insofar as Achievement Units may offer information required for the successful completion of the Lab Project. A very simple example could be the undertaking of an Achievement Unit (or series of) in grammar and written English for a Lab Project in which students write and edit the school magazine. This is one obvious way in which the student can engage in ‘enablement learning’ – the learning of something for an immediate and specific purpose, to help achieve a tangible goal.

The leader of a Lab Project is always important and well identified and may well determine how many students join a project. If a teacher, Mr Jones, proposes a Lab Project on The French Revolution or World War II, his Lab Project will get student customers provided that Jones has a reputation as a good teacher. Built into the system, therefore, is a demonstrable teacher review and feedback mechanism. Also if a project is led by, say, a retired architect, the students will have a chance to work with, and identify with, someone other than a teacher. This gives education a scope that extends beyond the walls of the school and into business and the wider community.

Mentors provide the third element in the student-centred system. Ideally each student shall have two mentors and shall meet regularly with them, but may also contact them between meetings when it is felt necessary. The mentors’ role is to help the students achieve their goals.

Also part of the mentors’ role is to keep tabs on the students’ activities vis-à-vis Achievement Units and Lab Projects. If a student is over-specialising in one area, let’s say English, and abandoning other areas, the mentor may make suggestions as to how the student can extend their interests into other subject areas. Recognition will be given to how subjects are laterally linked – for example if a student has a special interest in the English language but dislikes science, the mentor can guide him or her to Achievement Units dealing with the biographies and writings of famous scientists, as a way of igniting interest in that field.

The mentors will consider their students as individuals, having spent an initial session asking the student his or her personal ‘story’ – that is, what the student aspires to, what motivates them, what demotivates them, and so on.

Here we have a brief description of a feasible student-centred school system. This removes the need for parents to shift their children to the right schools with the best level classrooms. Also Achievement Units can be replicated and used in any schools, and can be added to, amended, updated and, if ever necessary, removed with ease.

A student-centred school system will achieve the universal goals the government, parents and LEAs seek. Putting names in a hat and then sending students to schools with the existing classroom system will not achieve much, if anything, other than upheaval and more chaos because it fails to get at the essence of the problem, mainly our out-dated, inefficient, classroom system.

The above described system was approved by the Massachusetts State Department of Education for a new secondary school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, under the American Charter School procedure based upon an application by the International School of America. A more detailed account of the student-centred system can be obtained by emailing