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The class had become jaded by the same old read-and-regurgitate method of schooling, which had become the norm. A depressing air of futility escaped as textbooks were opened around the room. Everyone resigned themselves to interface with the dead information trapped inside those aforementioned textbooks. A shudder of dread ran down the spine, as the ensuing hour seemed to stretch into eternity. Thoughts became dismal and forlorn – and that was only from the teacher! Multiply that by 10 for the students – those who were awake anyway. The lesson may well have been titled “Pointless teaching – Why??” A faint gleam of revolt shimmered through a small crack in the veneer of the very ordinary-looking teacher. “Let’s try something different”, she declared, as a germ of an idea developed in her mind. “What’s important about humans’ relationship with matter?” she asked the class. No response. “Okay, try to imagine what life would have been like if you were a teenager living 500 years ago, pre-chemical-revolution.” One intrepid head popped up, “Maybe I’d be working in the fields?” “Exactly! What else? Would you have warm clothes? A cell phone?” All of a sudden, intrepid heads were popping up all over the classroom. “We’d be cold because there would be no cheap, warm material for clothes! We’d have very little food! No cell phones! No mp3 players!” “So access to matter makes some aspects of our lives easier. Frankly, the ‘good-old- days’ are a myth when we consider how desperate the majority of lives were.” “Now, if we were in a romantic relationship with matter, how would matter feel about us? Would matter complain that we ‘just don’t understand it’? Do we treat matter as if it is the only ‘stuff’ in the world? Are we careful with it? Do we use it responsibly?” And with that subtle change of context the class was off and running, excited about the prospect of renewing our relationship with matter, so that it would not break up with us and move to Mars!
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