2 min read

on time

on making learning a pursuit that is wise and lyrical, seductive and intriguing. Something that is intrinsically human.
on time

What is time?

  • 'the interval between two events'?  
  • 'a limited stretch of continued existence'

This rather thought provoking comment is the opening paragraph from an educational resource published in 1972.

I retrieved this book "Time" from a chucking out exercise at a former school.


This series of texts, produced by the Macdonald Educational Unit in London, has brilliant covers and features content that in today's Googleable world is arguably redundant.

But the rest of introduction is just as lyrical and intriguing.

It opens with a story.

Time is a difficult concept to grasp. Perhaps something of its elusiveness is revealed in the following story attributed to Professor George Harrison:
"A certain retired sea captain who made his home in a secluded spot on the island of Zanzibar. As a sentimental reminder of his seafaring career he still had his ship's chronometer and religiously kept it wound and in good operating condition.
Every day exactly at noon, as indicated on his chronometer, he observed the ritual of firing off a volley from a small cannon.
On one rare occasion he received a visit from an old friend who inquired how the captain verified the correctness of his chronometer. "Oh," he replied, "Ihere is a horologist over there in the town of Zanzibar where I go whenever I lay in supplies. He has very reliable time and as I have fairly frequently occasion to go that way I almost always walk past his window and check my time against his."
After his visit was over the visitor dropped into the horologist's shop and inquired how the horologist checked his time. "Oh," replied he, "there's an old sea captain over on the other end of the island who, I am told, is quite a fanatic about accurate time and who shoots off a gun every day exactly at noon, so I always check my time and correct it by his."

The story is fantastic because it begins by encouraging an enquiry into the subjectiveness and arguably, the relativeness of time.

It's evocative and seductive and it's the start of a text aimed at up skilling teachers in a core set of knowledge that underpins how we as humans make sense of the very fabric upon which we live our lives.

It's knowledge writ large and made beautiful.

And not anything you'll find on Wikipedia.

I rarely see in any of our discussions about future focused 21st century learning, anything about making learning a pursuit that is wise and lyrical, seductive and intriguing.

Something that is, intrinsically human.

And we're lesser for it I think.

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