Interview with André Platteel - Embracing uncertainty to reach connectedness

By Coraline Reeder - Mar 9th, 2016

Author and Your Lab founder André Platteel is one of the speakers at TEDxAmsterdamED this year. We asked him a few questions to find out more about him, his views on learning and education and of course his ideas about this year's theme Born to Learn.

What does #BorntoLearn mean to you?

We never stop learning. Even though most of us leave formal education in our early twenties, which is strange by the way, we do not stop learning. The world around us is always evolving and we need to learn to cope with the changes.
Our current education uses increase of knowledge as a tool to control our ever-changing reality. But knowledge is only useful for a short time. When reality changes all the time, our knowledge is already outdated by the time we acquire it.
We should create a culture of not-knowing, an orientation towards reality that is humble and open in order to come in contact which something that goes beyond knowledge: a deep feeling of connectedness with ourselves and everything around us. From such a deep connection intuition and spontaneity arise, giving us the chance to react in the moment. I think this is the most perfect way to deal with change. This way of learning is actually a way of being, which should begin with education, and should always continue, for the rest of our lives.

What motivated you to get involved with learning/education?

Well, I noticed I kept getting stuck, my knowledge was not sufficient to find my place in this world. I was the first person in my family to get an academic degree, which was a huge source of pride for my relatives. But I soon learnt that academia didn't meet my needs, it did not answer my questions. On the contrary, more questions kept arising. My curiosity and need to learn about how the world worked were greater than what my college could provide, which led me to find mentors who could satisfy that need. Because I kept asking questions, they kept teaching me ways to find the answers. These mentors have contributed massively to my development and worldview.

Have you yourself now become a mentor? That is not something I aim for. I am doing the things that fascinate me, and if other people join me in that same fascination we can share and become mentors for each other. So I keep surrounding myself with mentors. They keep me open and flexible, as I don't want to get stuck in dogmas and I want to keep learning.

What's the last thing you've learnt?

The thing that fascinates me is that we are so busy looking for our identity, for who we are in this world. But what is the role of 'identity'? For me identity is a collage of strategies we use to dispel fear. I will give you an example. I was always known as the empathetic guy. This was part of my identity, and I liked being this guy. But then I took a good look at this part of my identity and I found that it was rooted in my youth. Empathy had become a way of dealing with unsafe and frightening situations when I was young, and while that strategy had served me well in the past, it was no longer useful or necessary in my adult life. From this I learnt that I don’t have to be the 'empathetic guy', I can be interested in people, or not, but that is my own choosing and I can adapt according to the situation.

What do you hope to learn on the day of the event and from being part of TEDxAmsterdamED?

What I find exciting is that we can work together to find a way of teaching that makes us understand what makes us human. At the moment, we learn how to do something well, and even how to improve the things we do. But we do not learn why we do the things we do. If we stay unconscious about the strategies we use to avoid fear and uncertainty, we actually create fear and uncertainty.
Exactly this is what is happening in our society. This is a recipe for burnout, both individually and collectively as a society. I hope to meet new people at TEDxAmsterdamED so we can combine powers and create a culture that is no longer based on fear and strategies, but on openness and common growth.
New education systems can be a base for this. With regards to teachers, this could demand new approaches to education and their roles in it, which is exciting and daunting at the same time.

Can you give a one sentence summary of your talk?

In this rapidly changing world our knowledge has a sell-by-date. If we realise real learning can actually take place in this climate of not knowing and uncertainty, life would be much easier. I believe this realisation would actually set us free, so we can face the world with open eyes and learn and grow more intuitively.

Can you share a quote that has inspired you in the field of education?

'The truth isn't a member of anything.' - K. Schippers (author, poet)

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