Mental health and emergency response must be essential elements of school curriculums. While writing “Explaining the pandemic to your children”, it struck me that even the best of schools around the world train kids to “ace” finite games and familiar contexts.
What are finite games?
In 1986 James Carse, New York University Professor Emeritus of religion and history, wrote Finite and Infinite Games. In that book he explained that finite games are defined by known players, fixed rules, and an agreed-upon objective. Infinite games, on the other hand, are the ones where the rules are constantly evolving, and the objective is not to win in the short term but to keep playing.
The game of learning, work and life is infinite.
Shocks, backlashes and unknown-unknowns
Shocks, backlashes and unknown unknowns are going to be key features of the 21st century. Resilience is not enough. Surviving one shock or one crisis does not mean that we will be ready for the next one.
We will need to make shocks and backlashes our teachers and learn from them. We will need to become stronger through chaos and crises. That is what mathematician and investor Taleb calls anti-fragility.
Mental health and uncertainty
Living in a state of flux isn’t conducive to our mental health. How might we teach students to become stronger and more sensitive when things are uncertain? How should they process emotions when the world around them seems to crumble down?
One thing is certain that we should not wait till they are “old enough”. Emotional literacy is a critical 21st century skill and we should teach it as seriously as we teach grammar and math.
We have included a module titled “Pain + Reflection = Progress” in our summer school to ensure that our students have the tools, techniques and mental models to deal with personal and community trauma. With our module, we hope to initiate a serious conversation around mental health in schools around the world.
Instead of abstract concepts, we will discuss real case studies and invite students to share their points of view. We will share our course plan openly so that other schools and education initiatives can contextualize and replicate.
It is our appeal to ed-tech companies in emerging markets to avoid the FOMO-powered marketing strategies. The students have a lot to deal with and our goal is to instill a sense of wonder, not hype up collective anxiety.