Water. Or why the school of the future is diverse.
In his speech to graduating students at Kenyon College, writer David Foster Wallace tells the story of two fish in the water. As they drift with the current, a fish swims past them in the opposite direction, nods to them and says ‘Morning folks, how's the water?’ The two fish nod and drift a bit more before one looks at the other and asks ‘What's water?’
Our guiding culture, with its images and messages, determines how we view the world. We are rarely conscious of it. It is simply there and taken for granted, like water to a fish. When we let ourselves drift, we select what we see and how we evaluate what we see without realizing it.
But guiding culture only works in the singular. There is no such thing as guiding cultures. It is constructed by ‘the part of society that has the power to determine the narrative.’¹ This constructs a norm. All those who deviate from it are the “others.”
These people are read as foreign and receive constant signals that they do not really belong. The experience of being made different is humiliating, painful, and tiring. ‘Many who have to fight for their everyday life and normality in a pejorative climate do not find their way into an overall social narrative at all and turn away.’²
Yet Germany is undoubtedly a post-migrant society. By 2022, almost one out of three German citizens has a migration history. Of those under 18 with a migration background, 79 percent were born in Germany. Of these, 85 percent have German citizenship. Almost all young people who are read as foreigners in this country are German. What is considered “normal” as a guiding culture ignores the realities of their lives?
The X-School takes a stand against the marginalization of people who are an integral part of our society. It is high time to think of the post-migrant perspective as a society-wide perspective.
Unfortunately, we have to realize that diversity falls short, especially when it comes to the school system: school structure and culture, learning content and methods, teachers and learning materials, training and attitudes, languages, holidays and rituals - all these dimensions of education stem from the guiding culture. By true diversity, we mean that the entire educational trajectory of students from a diverse community for a diverse society takes place in an intersectional critical educational structure.
True diversity is a challenge. Genuine diversity can become uncomfortable. Tensions, irritations, fears arise. Learning to deal with this is our challenge. Experiencing multi-perspectivity, communicating and collaborating beyond national, religious and cultural boundaries, dealing with disagreements in a non-violent way, and human connection beyond constructed identities - all these are essential for children of future generations. True diversity is a huge opportunity to set the course for human coexistence in a globally connected world.
Online, national borders and identities are becoming less important. Offline, humanity's greatest challenges (e.g., climate change, environmental degradation, pandemics, artificial intelligence, nuclear war) are transnational in nature. A world in which communities are clearly siloed against each other is no longer a serious option. ‘Conversations that cross borders can be a pleasure or a pain - depending on the circumstances. But one thing most certainly is: unavoidable.’
Acknowledging the diversity of life's realities expands our horizons to include the subjunctive; we not only perceive the status quo but realize that things could be different. In this way, we first become aware of the framework in which we operate, the glasses through which we see the world, the unconscious thought patterns, and the instinctive swimming along in the mainstream. We examine cultural, familial, media preconceptions. What do I agree with? What do I want to fight against? Who am I and who do I want to be? In the words of David Foster Wallace: We don't just let ourselves drift. We know what water is.
In this way, X-School becomes a place where everyone belongs and learns to view realities from different perspectives. Instead of the echo chamber effect of a group of like-minded people, a democratic discussion culture of diversity is cultivated. Out of it, all parties learn to define themselves and open up to let the story of the others in. An opening that allows the complexity of life to become visible. An opening that is equally one of the head and of the heart. An opening that unites us in our humanity.
This is our manifesto of the many. The post-migrant perspective becomes a world perspective, the students become world citizens, the X-school becomes a world-space school.