“Learn to change the world” OR “Learn, to change the world.”

Image: http://harvardeducation.tumblr.com/post/97884586499/today-hgse-proudly-launches-our-campaign-underLast spring, I completed my Master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). As the next batch of new students will be starting classes in a few weeks, I’ve been thinking back to the school’s slogan: “Learn to Change the World.”

Seperately, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack to Hamilton. At one point, Hamilton’s sister-in-law receives a letter from him. In response to the greeting line of the letter, she sings, in reply:

It says: “My dearest Angelica,” with a comma after “dearest.” You’ve written, “My dearest, Angelica.”

Image: http://cdn.thewritepractice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/the-oxford-comma.jpgCommas are important, obviously. This is certainly true of the HGSE slogan. The meaning changes, subtly, when a comma is added: “Learn, to change the world.”

In general, I’m a strong advocate of learning how to change the world–the “non-comma” version. I once created and co-taught a course called “Be the Change(maker)” for undergrads which explored exactly this topic. I’m a firm advocate of the idea that such skills can, in fact, be taught.

However, I’m also intrigued by the deeper implications of including a comma. Instead of learning how to change the world, this elevates the learning, itself, to be a radical act of change.

Learn to change the world.

Learn, to change the world.

If we really believed that the act of learning, itself, could be transformative and, in fact, world changing, what would schools look like?

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