Education is not the filling of a pail


“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

I’ve written before about the serendipitous intersection of ideas that seems to happen when I create these IQs. This is another example. Bear with me while I wind the threads together.

Today, in Sydney, and around our fair state of New South Wales, there are many bushfires – some raging out of control and destroying homes in their path – which coated the city in a large amber-coloured cloud of smoke. This image was taken right outside my house. Normally, at this time of day, I would expect to see blue sky and a few wisps of cloud. Today? Not so much.

I want to pay my respect and offer condolences (kinda futile via a blog post, but still…) to those who have lost homes (hopefully not lives) as a result of today’s bushfires. It saddens me to think that people’s memories are now simply charred ruins. Photographs, clothing, musical instruments, paintings, books… all burned beyond use or recognition.

Which brings me to today’s quote.

To find something fitting for the image I shot today, I searched for “fire quotes” in Mr Google. And my old acquaintance W.B. Yeats turned up on the first page. I studied Yeats in high school. I love the guy. His poems are masterful, and his poem “The Second Coming” – while devastating and fairly bleak – is utterly brilliant in its power, thrift and intensity. It’s my all-time fave. (Included at the very bottom for your convenience, education, and overall gaping-in-awe…)

Today’s bushfires are the second round we’ve had this “season”, and they have occurred far too early, it being only Spring here. It makes me think of the hovering spectre of global warming, and how these bushfires may well be the beginning of the more extreme weather events theorised by Climate Scientists.

The bushfires make me think of Yeats’ poem, in particular:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

Climate change, extreme bushfires… mere anarchy being loosed upon the world.

And as if we don’t have enough cataclysmic change to deal with, W.B. Yeats’ quote for today highlights in sharp relief the current education dilemma present in the USA and (I feel) edging closer in Australia.

I can only go on my own observations. This year, my amazing, intelligent daughter has slowed down dramatically in her growth and progress at school. Her previous two teachers challenged and pushed her in ways that lit a fire in her imagination. Indrani craved education and challenges last year.

This year, Indrani seems to have been absorbed into the ranks of the “lowest common denominator”, and for the first six months of the year, was hugely bored and disinterested in school altogether. (I’ve lost count of the number of conversations Bel & I have had about this.)

This personal, in-my-face observation of how children learn best – when they are challenged, and when their imaginations are stimulated – makes me more determined to learn from the work of Seth Godin, Logan LaPlante, Sir Ken Robinson. There are a host of people who suggest that the current education system isn’t working as it should, and among other things, is little more than a protracted job interview for a non-existent role in a rapidly-disappearing industrial economy.

In a lot of ways, I’m already hanging around at the fringes of convention – I run my own creative business, I regularly follow and interact with positive outliers online, and I am reinventing my business and lifestyle by planning a trip around Australia with my whole family, where we will work location-independently, homeschool our kids, and pursue new art projects like making a feature-length documentary about stress and depression.

As a result, I find it easier than many to sit outside the norm. I can’t WAIT to see what happens to my kids’ learning and development when we homeschool them in 2015-2016. I’m sure there’ll be periods of abject frustration too, but I hope to provide a more creative, problem-solving, and life-skill-equipping education for her during that period.

I read a blog post by a fabulous writer/blogger/Misfit called Kristen Runvik earlier today. It was about how many BIG problems exist in the world to solve, and how we each need to find something that lights us up, serves others, and makes a positive change that will outlive us. (Read it here. It’s SO worth it.)

Fire. Yeats. Education. Change-making.

So, now for a wrap-up, take-away, sound-bitey summary for me and for you:

There is much change needed in the world, and many opportunities to make a lasting difference: climate change, education, mental health, family balance, etc.

It’s time to light a fire in your heart, and start doing what you were put here to do. Make it happen.

With love,
Israel. xo



The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


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