By Aric S. Queen
Somewhere in the midst of the madness and mowhawks – we lost site of what being a “rebel” was all about.
Middle ngers and smashed guitars told us to say, “No!”, but by the time they were heard, we weren’t really sure who we were saying “No!” to.
Obviously, it was The Man.
But who “The Man” was and what, exactly, he was trying to get us to do was – and stayed – vague.
To some, John Hunter might be considered “The Man.”
He’s in a position of power, of influence, of education and of strict code. He’s one of the world’s most respected leaders – like the United Nations and the Pentagon, calling on him regularly for guidance and consultation.
But to others, John Hunter is seen as a rebel.
He took what was an established path and began to laterally machete his way alongside it. He and his followers would end up in the same place, but the approach was something beyond unorthodox. And his followers were so infantile, few of them could even tell you what “unorthodox” meant.
John Hunter was basically leading children into a mode of mental transport that wasn’t sanctioned by the government, state or town they resided in. An act so rebellious, it could have been punished by the highest of titles.
That if, if it hadn’t worked. If it hadn’t have worked very well.
And if it hadn’t changed the way the world looked at education altogether.
To meet with the famed John Hunter – TED’S 2011 “Most Influential Speaker” – is an exercise of futility. He’ll laugh off all claims of celebrity, ignore his phone’s constant ringing, and probably spend more time finding out about how you’re doing than focus on anything dealing with him and his fame. His suitcases sitting next to his desk have just returned from Washington, DC, where he was presented the Search for Common round Award previous winners include Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu. And in a few weeks, he’s heading to Austria being observed by a Master Class, Shanghai introducing the game to China, Vancouver, where he’ll be honored as one of the Top 100 TED Speakers of All Time, and then heads to pre-production for a major motion picture featuring himself and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
But seriously How are you? id you eat? o you need a coffee? Where in town are you staying?
And it’s these genuine pleasantries that got him to where he is now. Thirty-five years ago, he decided to take a different path to teaching our young by not teaching them at all. But, instead by letting them teach him.
See, if you haven’t heard John’s “World Peace Game” talk yet, you’ll be sure to very soon – in cinema, on television, in print, on mobile devices, etc.
And for all of its hype, its sold-out crowds, its accolades, John Hunter laughs when explaining it as if any of us could have come up with the exact same idea. He’s good like that.
“Put all of the world’s problems – war, pollution, finance on a multi- leveled platform and let children, 8 years old, work together in solving them,” he said.
A few examples:
World problem: A microscopic endangered species discovered on the site of a vast oil eld just before drilling commences. The anticipated oil wealth would avert an impending famine, but political complications with allies and adversaries make the decision to drill.
The question remains: drill or not drill? rilling would kill off the species, but not drilling would push them closer to the brink of famine.
Children’s solution: Poor country owning the land appeals to other countries to help. They take up a collection turn the land into an eco- park for tourist (keeping them away from the microscopic life on the abandoned drill site) and famine is averted, ecology promoted, and all countries feel they are winners.
World problem: Two wealthy countries’ farmers are about to go to war over a single aquifer on the border between the countries. The continued high rate of pumping for water for farming on both sides of the border will cause the aquifer to run out soon, but each side claims it needs the most water.
Children’s solution: One Prime Minister and her CFO, will “invent” water rationing after researching ways to share water, so the farmers will not go to war or keep over-pumping. The PM writes into her agreement with the neighboring country: on even days one country pumps, odd days the other country pumps. Weather goddess says it’ll work.
These are problems that, even as adults, we would bicker over. These are problems that are being solved in a class of 8 year olds.
Again, problems that now have classrooms all over the world asking the question: Should we spend as much time asking, as we do teaching?
But don’t be fooled by John Hunter – his infectious smile or call-me-as-soon-as-you-get-home-so-I-know-you-made- it-safely demeanor – beneath all of that warmth is one of the world’s biggest rebels.
Except that his smashed guitar is a three-tiered platform of simple solution.
His proverbial mohawk is now covered with his listening hat, his middle finger has been exchanged for a thumb pointed upwards.
But does all of that make John Hunter “The Man”? No.
It makes him THE man.
John’s TED Talk – “Teaching with the World Peace Game” can be found on Ted.com, and his book – “World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements” can be ordered on Amazon.