We went to Testrup Folk High School to test our content and education formats with 30 philosophy students for a week. The students were around age 18-20 and a bit older, some came straight out of high-shcool, others had already studied at the university and took a gap year, and one was an electrician.
We opened the week by asking everybody–including ourselves–why we were at Testrup and why philosophy. The overall response was that the young people wanted to focus on something they really cared about and where they were not being judged and measured. They were also looking for a sense of community and they wanted new friends. One knew that he was not going to study philosophy but he wanted to know philosophy before he stared studying, and some were considering studying philosophy later and just wanted to try it out.
Our main take-away from the week was that our normal way of presenting future research to businesses and other organizations is radically different from the kind of education we need as citizens.
Businesses and organizations generally want some scenarios of the future according to which they can plan their activities. They are rarely looking for interesting philosophical discussions, ethical paradoxes or how to improve democracy and shape our societies of the future. They usually want answers, not more questions.
As citizens we want to shape the future and to strengthen democracy, so we should engage in exactly that: more questions, more paradoxes and long, interesting philosophical discussion about how we can shape our societies of the future.
The latter was exactly what the students at Testrup wanted and their level of reflexion and consideration was really high. Not knowing exactly what we went into, we had somewhat underestimated them and started out popularizing too much. After they complained, we quickly raised the level and we got into some very sophisticated discussions about, among other things, basic income and what happens to a society long term if we change our economic model that drastically.
Another lesson was how counterprocutive the presence of a camera was to our conversations, so though we took some pictures we are not going to share them here. Instead, here are three dead white men: left: Pastor Nicolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig who came up with the concept of the folk high schools, middle: Ludvig Holberg, the most influential Norwegian and Danish Enlightenment thinker and comedy writer, and right: Steen Steensen Blicher, the Danish author who modernized Danish novels in the early 1800s by narrating from a first person perspective.