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Wellbeing is not the Answer: It is the Question

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By Jonathan Milne, Managing Director of The Learning Connexion

At age 19, studying at art school, I nearly died of pneumonia. I was kept alive by my GP who visited every day for three weeks to top me up with penicillin. On the plus side, the illness seeded a desire to create a school where I could see myself being a student.

Years later (after many diversions) I ran art classes attracting people who wanted to do art that was relevant to their life. They were the inspiration for The Learning Connexion (TLC). Besides art, they were seeking meaning, purpose, and a different way of living.

Numbers grew. After misadventures with landlords, we searched for a campus of our own and this is how we came to an ex-research* facility in Taita, Lower Hutt. It looked bleak except for beautiful native trees and landscaped grounds. We had to figure out how to change the image to fit new goals.

We commissioned Sue Lund, a brilliant graduate, to make the buildings disappear.
Now they look like this:

Building mural

We never dreamt the painting epic would take eight years but that’s the way it is with creativity. Possibly Sue’s work (mostly unseen and under-appreciated) is New Zealand’s biggest mural.

Sue LSue’s courageous and challenging work fits the ongoing story of creativity as practiced by The Learning Connexion. Creativity demands a leap of faith. It’s like getting from A to B when no one knows where B is.

There’s no guaranteed right way. If something goes wrong we have to step back, as Sue did, and decide what to do next. This is how creativity has always worked. The natural world is itself a giant experiment that continues to evolve.

At a personal level we have to experiment, test, build new skills, assess and develop. It’s a case of nurturing our adaptive intelligence. It’s all built on experience.

For most students the process is liberating.

This is why wellbeing isn’t the answer, it’s the question.

Learning should be exciting, always generating new questions and new skills. Something dramatic is happening because TLC graduates report an average 54% improvement in wellbeing. Adaptive intelligence sidesteps the stress that contributed to my pneumonia at art school.

Obviously, this is not a cure-all. There are situations where people benefit from medical and other interventions. Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of students (young and old) would benefit from a shift to experiential learning. TLC’s approach opens alternative entry points across the spectrum of arts and sciences. We are a research project with 33 years of hard graft and positive results that are available for sharing. Let’s grab the opportunity.

For some historical background to the TLC campus: Old Taita scientists know where the good dirt is buried | Stuff.co.nz

To start a discussion, ask questions or share ideas, email to jonathanmilnetlc@gmail.com




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