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How do we learn? Palestinian thinker Munir Fasheh suggests that it’s a modern myth that we can only learn from formal education. In his TEDx talk he talked about how he learned a lot from his mother..and a chicken. In this special conversational session Fasheh visits The Mosaic Rooms to explore how we can discover ‘hidden treasures’ and learn from those around us.
Fasheh says: To understand the contemporary world, we need to look not only at what is presented, but also at what has been made invisible and belittled, which, in my experience, is far more telling. In other words, we need to build not on need but on what is abundant as our foundation. An awakening event in my life was ‘discovering’ my illiterate mother’s mathematics. Her intelligence was not connected to abstractions but manifested in her fingers, imagination, and eyes that connected her mind with reality. In addition, her maths was connected to art in the dresses she made for women, and had use-value, whereas my mathematics had exchange value.
I can summarize my life so far – in most aspects – as occupation and return. I was one of the first group of refugees in the modern Middle East: of Palestinians who became refugees in 1948 (caused by Britain). Our house and land were occupied; and the maths in our house was also occupied (by the maths I acquired in schools and universities and by Bertrand Russell whom I loved in secondary school and college). I ‘returned’ to knowledge, but not yet to land and home. I was freed from the binary logic by my return to muthanna, from institutions by my return to mujaawarahs, and freed from citing theories by telling stories.
Fasheh leads a conversation with the audience to explore these ideas, how we learn from each other and how we can discover the value of the knowledge we hold in ourselves and our own communities.
Munir Fasheh was born in Jerusalem, Palestine in 1941; in 1948, he with his family were expelled from their home and moved to Ramallah. He studied and taught math for many years; got his doctorate from Harvard in education and worked in Birzeit University. During the first Palestinian intifada (late 1980s), he left academia and established Tamer Institute for Community Education, which revolved around protecting and providing “learning environments”, building on what is beautiful, inspiring, healthy, and abundant in people, communities, and cultures, and making sense of one’s experience. In 1997, he established the Arab Education Forum within Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Currently, one of the ideas he is working on is to establish a college “Home of Wisdom” in one or more Palestinian universities.