I couldn’t begin to do the job I do today if I hadn’t spent my whole career listening to, working with, reading about, discussing and being challenged by what other people think. Intellectual or imaginative break-through might come in moments of private reflection but it’s always against a backdrop of collaboration.
In 1676 Isaac Newton wrote to fellow scientist Robert Hooke: ‘What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.’
In their book New Kinds of Smart, Claxton and Lucas have a chapter titled ‘Intelligence is Social’. In this they make the point that, despite the world being more networked today than at any other time in history, we still see schools promoting individual achievement above all else. Competitive reward systems contribute to a culture where students have limited opportunity to experience the wealth of learning that comes when we shape ideas together.
At a time of extraordinary global uncertainty there is no doubt that our futures will depend on our ability to access our most imaginative and creative thinking. It is of course the responsibility of any school to support each student to achieve their best but we must also look to people like Isaac Newton and remember that our greatest human potential will be achieved when we make time and space for those individual minds to come together.