Stories of Impact Podcast - The Role of Education in Human Flourishing

S5E3: Transcript
The Role of Education in Human Flourishing with The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson and Andreas Schleicher

Tavia Gilbert: Welcome to Stories of Impact. I’m producer Tavia Gilbert. Every first and third Tuesday, journalist Richard Sergay and I bring you conversations about the science behind innovative tools that help human beings flourish.

Today, we’re honored to be in discussion with two global leaders in education who speak of nuanced, experiential, community-centered learning opportunities offered within a moral and ethical framework as a key component of human flourishing. Our guests offer their insights on how education can support students’ efforts to become the wisest, happiest, healthiest, and most capable version of themselves.

Today, we hear from Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organisation with 38 member countries who stimulate economic progress and world trade. Schleicher studied physics in Hamburg and then mathematics at Deakin University in Australia, where he graduated with a Master of Science degree, and he has worked for over 20 years with ministers and education leaders around the world to “innovate and transform educational policies and practices.” But we’ll start the episode hearing from The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African-American woman to lead a top-ranked research university — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the United States. Dr. Jackson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Ph.D. in Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics — both degrees from MIT. She is the first African American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT in any field, and in her 75 years of life she has had an exceptional career that includes senior leadership positions across academia, government, industry, and research. Here’s Dr. Jackson:

Shirley Ann Jackson: We’re not on this planet alone, and we’re not in this world alone. So to flourish, means that one is living with one’s fellow human being, and that there’s a connection, and that we’re all in it together. And we have an obligation to lift each other up. But in lifting others up, one is lifting oneself up, because I believe that none of us succeeds purely alone, there’s somewhere that a window has opened, that one has the opportunity to step through.

Tavia Gilbert: And if we have an opportunity to step through that window to a larger space than we ever imagined, Dr. Jackson says we should embrace it.

Shirley Ann Jackson: If one has the opportunity to operate in a larger frame, and do things on a global basis that can have a positive impact, then you know, that’s a great gift. And one should make use of it. Success is not merely about professional accolades. But it is about the whole of one’s life, and how one links to others and what one can do to serve others. And that’s how I was raised, and to live to a certain standard that has to do with an ethical framework. And that’s what I try to do.

Tavia Gilbert: Dr. Jackson has had an astonishingly successful career. She is the embodiment of the fruits of education, and her life story uniquely exemplifies human flourishing. How has she achieved so much? This accomplished woman was raised by her parents to pursue lifelong learning and to embrace every opportunity to grow and make her own frame ever larger. You’ll have already noticed how this powerful, yet humble leader speaks from a quiet center — a power and groundedness she inherited from her parents.

Shirley Ann Jackson: My mother lost her mother when she was a teenager. So she had to spend a lot of time by herself, even though she had older siblings. But she was the youngest. So they sent her away to a boarding school, because there were no high schools for Negro girls at that point where she lived in Virginia. And so she was away for much of what we would call her high school years. And then, of course, she went on to college. And so with that, living with her mother being sick for a period, and then losing her, she had to kind of have a centeredness, and she had a quiet centeredness My father’s father passed away, we think, having to do with the 1918 flu pandemic, when my father was a toddler. And so he, too, had to make his way. And that had to do with why he ended up leaving high school to go to work. My parents taught me and my siblings things early and got us on a strong path in the formal educational sense and who valued education very highly. My mother did go to college and did some graduate work. My father did not graduate from high school, but he was a brilliant man. And both of them contributed to what my world frame is: My mother in terms of learning and discipline, in the formal sense, but also a centeredness to know who one is, and to not be afraid because of that, or be embarrassed because of who one is.

Tavia Gilbert: Born in Washington, D.C., in 1946, Dr. Jackson came of age when few women, let alone few African Americans, were encouraged to seek opportunity in higher education, especially STEM fields. She found the fortitude and stamina to cope with the challenges of her path through the support and wisdom offered both by her parents and by her faith.

Shirley Ann Jackson: So my parents were very important in my life and in the lives of my siblings. And so they had this drive and centeredness and belief in education. And I grew up in the church. And so when I was a freshman I used to, in college, I used to read passages from the Bible, and that kind of kept me going. And I loved science and math, and so nothing was going to dissuade me from learning more and doing more. I’ve experienced some of the negative things that one might have expected in that era, being left out of study groups, and people not sitting next to me in class or eating with me in the dining hall. But I was always focused on learning the subject. And that’s what I loved. And also, that my parents taught me there was no place that others could go that I should feel that I couldn’t go.

Tavia Gilbert: Dr. Jackson has dedicated her life to inspiring and guiding students to pursue their passions, no matter what obstacles they might face:

Shirley Ann Jackson: One has to be excited about what one does in an inherent way. One has to learn as much as one can, and then one has to try to set goals. I think of myself as a visionary and a pragmatist, mainly to look at a big thing, and then say, how am I going to get there, step-wise. And I also tell young women, and anyone who comes from a group, historically excluded or underrepresented in a particular area, to not let others set the boundaries, not let others define the ceiling. One can run into practical inhibition, I’m not naive, but my father, who as I’ve said, always had a big influence on me, always said, “Aim for the stars to reach the treetops, and at any rate to get off the ground.” And his basic message was, if you don’t aim high, you won’t go far. And I’ve, I’ve always believed that.

Tavia Gilbert: Dr. Jackson’s personal story is just one illustration of how flourishing is fed by education. And both Dr. Jackson and our next guest, Andreas Schleicher, agree that the kind of curiosity that drove Dr. Jackson is innate to every human being and that it can and should be nurtured by education. Here’s Andreas Schleicher:

Andreas Schleicher: Education comes usually from the outside, is something that is brought to us. Learning is our own curiosity, our own openness, our own sort of expansion in our perception. And I think that distinction is very important. We are all born with that human curiosity, you know, we are born with the openness to people from all beliefs, from all ways of life. We are born to accept new ideas. We are born to question the established wisdom of our time.

Shirley Ann Jackson: Curiosity is a sort of innate desire to learn about the world, to learn about things around one. It starts from a fairly small frame, in terms of those things that one can see most immediately and touch. But then it goes to a wider frame as one thinks about how what one learns here translates beyond where one can see, and a desire then, to try to go beyond what one can see today. That is, to me, what curiosity is about, and it’s important, because it is the root of learning. And it also then means that the way one learns, is not limited by the formalized frame.

Tavia Gilbert: If seeking education is a conscious choice that grows out of a sense of wonder, then innate human curiosity and human flourishing are inseparable. And if flourishing might be defined as continuous, unfettered participation in the fullness of the human experience, then, in the minds of these two extraordinary leaders, education and human flourishing are also inextricably linked.

Shirley Ann Jackson: Education occurs on different levels. You can think of a young person, a baby, toddler, learning to walk. And in doing that, then the width of the world that one has to play in, to discover, is larger, but then one learns along the way where certain boundary conditions are. But learning is growing and continuing to grow. And then with that, there’s kind of an ever widening circle of who one is and how much one understands about the world.

Andreas Schleicher: Education can prepare us for something, it can have an instrumental kind of value. But when you talk about human flourishing, you need to get beyond that. Education is the foundation for flourishing, not maybe just education coming from the outside, but the openness and the willingness and the capacity to learn, that is so fundamental for our flourishing. You need to build that capacity, it is not inborn to us. And flourishing is not coming just by nature, it’s something that we have to invest our energy and our will to make it happen. It’s about opening minds, curiosity. It’s about opening hearts, compassion. It’s about the capacity to mobilize cognitive, social and emotional resources. And all of that is about education.

Tavia Gilbert: Both Dr. Jackson and Schleicher have devoted their lives to educating themselves and to educating the next generation of leaders. And both visionaries look to the future of education as a path to sustained curiosity and self-determination — a formula that results in human flourishing. Schleicher says:

Andreas Schleicher: Human flourishing is about living a meaningful life for one’s self and his community. It’s how we become the most beautiful and best version of ourselves as individuals and as communities. Openness, the willingness to see the world through different lenses, perspectives, appreciate different ways of thinking, different ways of working, different cultures. It is also about resilience, my willingness and ability not just to learn, but also to unlearn and relearn when context changes.

Tavia Gilbert: While Dr. Jackson can define human flourishing on perhaps the simplest, most individual level —

Shirley Ann Jackson: Being able to live a certain way, and not be struggling for subsistence.

Tavia Gilbert: — she also links education and flourishing to humans living in community:

Shirley Ann Jackson: The connectivity is to have people have, of course, their basic needs or person, taken care of, which really involves human and mental health. But then, to be able to be learning, being educated, discovering and inventing or creating things, because that gives avenue and meaning to how an individual relates to the world, and how individuals relate to each other.

Tavia Gilbert: Schleicher agrees that community is essential to creating a holistic education experience that will offer people a path to their deepest meaning and purpose, and to their greatest flourishing.

Andreas Schleicher: You learn to find meaning in the class, in the community and the society, and to contribute to society, and the social function of learning is very important. We should use the classroom or the school more deliberately for that social learning. Good schools of the future are really the center, the heart of the community. They are not, you know, an outsourced place where, you know, you put students to teach them something. But really, they have very, very dynamic links with all layers of our societies. The School of the Future has open walls, basically, where, you know, community is a very important part of learning, where we bring the community into the school to help young people understand the future and build aspirations for the future.

Shirley Ann Jackson: What one is talking about is creativity and creation of things that have impact on not only one’s own life, but on others’ lives and can translate the things that can lift everyone. We’re actually dependent on each other, on other creatures and on the world around us to live, to survive even, but that human connection is what defines us, I think. Community has to do with understanding the interconnection of people around the world, how all of us are linked. What happens here can have impact on what happens there. And caring about that.

Tavia Gilbert: It’s clear to Dr. Jackson and to Schleicher that educational institutions are necessarily transforming along with every other segment of global society, not least because of the increase of technology in the classroom, tools that may offer dynamic benefit.

Andreas Schleicher: Learning is not a transactional phenomenon. It’s always a social, it’s always a relational phenomenon. But technology can support this. You know, think about artificial intelligence, it can make learning content so much more adaptive, so much more interactive. Technology can find out very quickly where you are good at, where you still need to improve, where you struggle, where you find things boring, where you find things interesting. Learning analytics can give teachers so many more signals about how different students learn differently so that they can then adapt their learning environments and personalize learning to a much greater extent. You put all of that together and we can really think of an entirely different environment for learning.

Tavia Gilbert: As promising as new technologies may be, the key to the future of education is not more technology. Schleicher believes that to best serve students and their communities, flourishing education will be grounded in ethics and values. In fact, the moral component of education is especially important in an age in which technology is becoming integrated into every aspect of our classrooms and our lives.

Andreas Schleicher: Flourishing is about finding and creating meaning. It has to do with hope. It has to do with belief. It may have to do with faith. It’s something, having that kind of compass. Whether we can distinguish right and wrong, good and bad, I think is very central to human flourishing. The future really needs to be more about learning, creating environments in which people can flourish, where they can find their meaning, where they can find their dreams and hopes, and where actually they find out who they are and who they want to become. In the digital society, we have the luxury to think about human flourishing, to develop human flourishing, to develop education, to help people become the best and most beautiful versions of themselves as individuals and a society. In the current education system, we sprinkle values on top of the content, and in the future, we need to see those values as at the heart of education. And then the content is the way to teach the expression of those values. You want a great scientist, but you also want an ethical scientist. You want a policymaker, but you also want a courageous policy maker. And I think if we are not clear about the values that we are promoting in education and then how we build educational content around this, everybody will just become a little wheel in a large machine. And that’s often how teachers feel.

Tavia Gilbert: Dr. Jackson also embraces technology, and also keeps in perspective what it has to offer. Ultimately, she sees technology as an advanced tool that allow its user to be of greater service to others:

Shirley Ann Jackson: What excites me the most is the coming together of the physical, the biological, and the digital worlds. One now has advanced tools and technologies to really probe life, at its genetic level, but then to try to understand how that is manifested in a more mesoscopic, or macroscopic way, and therefore affects how we live and how we live can be affected through the mitigation of disease, through the impact we have on the environment, or through technologies that make a living easier, but importantly, can uplift the lives of others. Flourishing inherently links to how others live. As I said, I’m not here alone. And so I can be doing what I do, and I love it and discover exciting things and, but the very fact of my being able to do it depends on a society and a construct that supports that. It also depends upon my having my health and strength to be able to do that. Inherently, then, it makes one look beyond what one is doing in the moment.

Tavia Gilbert: Dr. Jackson artfully links science with faith, service, passion, and flourishing.

Shirley Ann Jackson: What do I mean by passion? Well, it’s something that one is relentlessly interested in doing, pursuing, or learning about, and something that gives one motivation every day, the thing that helps one to turn corners, and not be afraid of what’s around the bend. And, it’s what you love. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. And science is about discovery, and proof, so one is learning about oneself. And so I’ve always operated that way, but also what it means to me, it’s not just about me, me, me. It is about feeling an obligation to help other people. And to fold that into what I do every day. I did theoretical physics, and I love physics. That’s what kept me going, all the time. I love the mathematics of it, I love the explanation that one can develop an understanding of nature and what’s going on. But then, one more through phases in one’s life. And so one comes to a point where it’s not just about the, what I do. It’s about what I can teach others to do. So that is why I became a professor, this idea of bringing others into it is very important. And it is part of flourishing, because it is helping others to learn, discover, and then of course, realize their dreams.

Tavia Gilbert: Schleicher also wants students to realize their dreams, so he’s invested in ushering global education into the future, revolutionizing models from the past that no longer serve students, teachers, or their communities, and reimagining models that support everyone’s ability to flourish.

Andreas Schleicher: Education can be about making you compliant with established ways of thinking, established ways of working, and drive out some of that curiosity. We designed our current education very much in the industrial age when the objective was conformity, compliance with the established wisdom of our times. In tomorrow’s world, we need to create more environments where students can explore, where they can take risks, try out new ideas, where they can work with other students. Social learning will become very important, creating learning environments that are more agency-based. As a teacher, you’ll be probably less an instructor, you’ll be more a coach, a mentor, a facilitator, a designer of innovative learning environments. I think that’s going to be the challenge of tomorrow’s education. You can see many good examples today. I think the challenge is how you make them systemic, how they are not, you know, innovative approaches despite the education systems, but innovative approaches because of the enabling environment that we create for new ideas to flourish in education.

Tavia Gilbert: Some cultures are on the cutting edge of education already, while the West may be lagging behind in terms of educational transformation.

Andreas Schleicher: The education systems in the world that are most successful are the ones that have made education a whole of society experience and a whole of society enterprise. It is not a public enterprise, it’s really a whole of society enterprise. And I think in the Western world, we can learn something from the Asian cultures there, where the value of education is much more holistic, it’s the individual, the family, the community, the society. In the Western world we have tended to commodify education over the last decades. We have made students to consumers. We have made teachers to service providers. We have made parents to clients. We have created a distance between the players in education that really hinders human flourishing rather than fostering it. We can learn a lot from the Eastern cultures where we find fewer social disparities in education, because if you made that human approach to learning so central, then, you know, people from all walks of life will take the time and energy. People invest in education, their time, their effort, to become a better person, to become a better version of themselves.

Tavia Gilbert: We’re on the precipice of significant shifts in global education, but many traditional systems, especially those in the West, may not be transforming as rapidly as current inflection points demand.

Andreas Schleicher: Today, students are often just consumers of, you know, pre-established “learning content.” You hear about the results of an experiment rather than participating in this or doing this experiment. Technology can actually enable many very innovative learning environments that we couldn’t dream of 20, 30 years ago, but you don’t see so much of that happening yet, even though the pandemic has brought it out quite clearly. You know, if you were capable to learn on your own, if you have that motivation, you know, right strategies to learn, a supportive ecosystem around you, you could flourish in this period of a crisis. But if you were used to sort of being spoon fed by your teacher, you know, getting little chunks of knowledge that are often not well-connected, not having a good system of support around you, parents included, not having innovative technology, you were badly left behind. And I think that is what the crisis has done in the short term, is what the future is going to do to us in the long run.

Tavia Gilbert: Schleicher is optimistic that education in the future will imbue students with an internal guidance system that may make them more open-minded, empathetic, successful global citizens.

Andreas Schleicher: I don’t think we have much choice, you know, if we want to develop as individuals and as societies, and as communities, if we want to live in harmony with the planet, I don’t think we have much choice than to, to get that right, and I think we should use that chance. And that’s why I’m an optimist. Do you have that kind of compass in you that you need to actually listen meaningfully and appreciate the different ways of thinking and working? I think that is really what a very central role of education is about. In order to excel, you need to be open to other ways of thinking. It’s not just listening to the words of other people, but you need to be able to develop that sense of empathy towards others, towards other ways of thinking, and not just at the individual level to a specific person, but also to, you know, other cultures. Our societies were always most successful when we did that well. Think about Europe and the great Renaissance. People from all walks of life were coming together, and they built great things. And I think that openness, which, you know, you could describe with the word of listening, I think is absolutely central to this. And again, this is something that we need to learn, we’re not born with that capability.

Tavia Gilbert: Listeners of this podcast will have heard our many conversations with guests about the seismic shifts we’re living through in this fraught time of rapid digitization, political polarization, blurring of borders, and breakdown of traditional systems of authority. Less than a year away from her retirement, Dr. Jackson is clear-eyed about how much is at stake for the future.

Shirley Ann Jackson: Here at the university, I try to translate all the things that I’ve said to you into how we educate the young people here, because they are our future. And if we’re going to flourish, as a human race, it will depend upon what they do. It comes from being a university president, and looking at the potential that these young people bring. We have a big opportunity to do the right imprinting here. I mean, they come as adults to us, young adults, but what they learn here from an experiential perspective, informs how they live out their lives and careers once they leave here. And so that gives me great hope. Clearly, we face some existential threats. But in the end, the human species wants to survive. And so I have a belief that people will come together.

Tavia Gilbert: And people must come together and work together to solve global problems:

Shirley Ann Jackson: Those greatest challenges or questions are not ones that can be answered in isolation, through the lens of one discipline, one person, one region, one nation. You do it in a way that is inherently inter- and multidisciplinary. It requires bringing together and bridging disciplines, sectors, geographies, and generations, and universities are the ideal communities to do that.

Tavia Gilbert: Like Dr. Jackson, Schleicher believes that expansive education holds the key to humans’ ability to survive and thrive in the future:

Andreas Schleicher: The tribalized world is the world of nature into which we are born. You know, we are born as people to relate well to our family, to relate well to people who look like us, to relate well to people who think like us. And that’s how we were born. And if we don’t invest in learning, invest in education, that’s who we are staying, and technology can reinforce this. You know, social media will make you, you know, reinforce talking to people who think like you, who look like you, who work like you. And so we’re not getting out of this without learning, without effort, without, you know, broadening our picture. It is this kind of bridging social capital that we can build the capacity to build trust to other people, to other societies, to appreciate different ways of thinking, different ways of working, different cultures, to learn to think like an artist and work like an artist, to learn to think and work like a scientist all at the same time. And the world that we’re going to see around us will be the world that we create in the minds and in the hearts of people in their lives. And that’s why I’m confident if we actually make the right investments in education, if we find the right balance between the values, the attitudes, the skills and the knowledge in education, we can change human capabilities.

Tavia Gilbert: Again, Dr. Jackson’s own life experience can be explored as a practical application of Schleicher’s ideas. Dr. Jackson’s work shows the impact of careful listening, courageous open-mindedness, and a desire to understand different cultures. When, in 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Jackson to serve as Chairperson of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission — the first woman and first African American in that position of leadership — she had to find the right balance of values, attitudes, skills, and knowledge, to lead in very difficult circumstances.

Shirley Ann Jackson: One of the things that I had the opportunity to do, as chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was to make an impact on newly emerging economies and governments. I became Chair of the NRC not too long after both the Chernobyl accident that occurred in what is now Ukraine, as well as the creation of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. These states were left with nuclear facilities, in particular nuclear power-generating stations. I became chair not that long after the ANC government came into being in South Africa, after Nelson Mandela was elected as president. And now you had a situation where the nuclear facilities had been developed and run by the Africana government. And now you have a government of people, some of whom had lived in exile and many of whom didn’t know much about nuclear technology. We had the opportunity to help them develop a full nuclear regulatory framework, to bring inspectors to the NRC and train them, and overall, help create a construct within which they could use nuclear energy. Why am I telling you this? Well, by the time I became chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, I’d had a range of experiences from both fundamental research, but working with governors in New Jersey, on issues that linked science, technology, and economic development, and public policy, and worked with business people as well as with the politicians. I had also been a professor, and what does being a professor require one to do? Even though one is teaching students who inherently are interested in science or in physics, one has to be a really good explainer, and to be able to explain complex phenomena to motivated and bright young people, but who are just learning the subject. Well, in many ways, there was no better preparation for doing some of the things that I just described to you. But also being able and being required to justify regulatory decisions based on a complex technology to the public, as well as to politicians, and whether it was in another country, or to our own people in the Congress. I enjoyed that, it was deadly serious, but I enjoyed it, because I felt I was making a difference. And I loved talking about the subject. And so, that is human flourishing to me, both for myself as an individual, and in terms of what I hoped and believed to be having a positive impact on the lives of others.

Tavia Gilbert: Dr. Jackson has been called a “trailblazer” throughout her career, and what has been characteristic about her multifaceted teaching style, including her skills not only as a scientist but as a communicator and mediator, listener, person of service in community, and courageous collaborator, will be characteristic of successful future models of education, and of future educators.

Andreas Schleicher: The future of teaching will need to integrate many, many more functions, where actually it’s the development of individuals that’s at the heart of teaching. We need to think hard about what we’re trying to achieve. And only when we have a clear understanding of what the goals of education are, then we can enlist people to this course. We can reconfigure the space, the people, the technology, the time, to build the learning environments to support those goals. You may be very good in the subject that you teach, but you do not spend enough time to work to understand how different students learn different, and really to know your students. The work of, you know, which is at the heart of teaching, often gets outsourced. You know, teachers then outsource it or education outsources certain functions to the school psychologist or the social worker. The goal of education is about helping people find meaning for themselves, for their communities, make good choices between the present and the future, make good choices between themselves and society, learn to live with themselves, learn to live with others, learn to live with the planet. Then you need to build learning environments that can support that. And that’s certainly not an environment where individual students sit behind an individual desk and just, you know, learn things by heart. When I think about the future of the classroom, it is not, you know, a teacher standing in front and then students sitting behind, you know, individual desks. But it is an environment where students and teachers interact, where they share solutions, strategies, approaches, ways of thinking, ideas, and the kind of absorption of content, that probably is done best individually and outside the classroom. It’s a room of learning, of social interaction, and where teachers will every day after redesign that learning environment. That will require a much more multifaceted approach to learning where you work with students to build their learning environments, where you work with your colleagues, your fellow teachers, to train yourself, to learn yourself. A school is really a place where everybody learns — not just the children, but the students, the teachers, the parents.

Tavia Gilbert: The benefits of the education of the future, where students and teachers and parents and communities learn together, will be enormous, but it will require everyone to work together, to create a system in which the needs and goals of all participating are taken into consideration.

Andreas Schleicher: Students will find many more interesting ways to educational content than through just their teachers. To have a mentor, to have a coach, to have a facilitator, to have someone who helps you find out who you are and who you want to become and, you know, guides you on that way. I think that’s going to be even more important in the future. In the past, you could always look towards older people, they were the models. Their path was quite reliable. In the future, you know, looking up to other people is not enough. You need, basically, a very strong ecosystem of support around you. And teachers will be very, very central to this. I do think that’s also going to make the work of teachers so much more interesting and engaging.

Tavia Gilbert: And Schleicher once more affirms the imperative of shifting out of classroom hierarchies, siloed subjects, and rote memorization, into experiential, community, multidisciplinary classrooms without walls:

Andreas Schleicher: In public policy, we spend so much time and energy on the “how” of education. We negotiate teacher salaries. We negotiate class sizes. We look at the institutional environment. We make it predictable, reliable, we define exams and assessments, all the structures, the processes. We spend actually surprisingly little time on the “what.” What are we educating for? What are the knowledge, the skills, the attitudes and values that we really want to develop? We need to reverse that. And it’s not just public policy, I think it’s communities, societies, need to think much harder about for what world are we educating the next generation, and what do we put at the center? And then, how do we configure the time, the space, the people, the technology, to develop those values, develop those skills, foster those attitudes, nourish the right knowledge. I do believe if we get the education right, if we build the right foundations, we build the right future. And there’s no shortcut to this.

Tavia Gilbert: We’ll return in two weeks with our next episode, a discussion of human flourishing, human potential, and happiness, with guests including writer and thought leader Arthur C. Brooks.

Arthur C. Brooks: People often say listening is a key component of happiness. It is, because it denotes humility, and humility is a source of happiness. There’s a lot of research on this, that when you measure the humility that people have in their lives, it goes straight up with happiness. It’s a direct correlation, humility and happiness. Humility brings peace. It’s stressful to hold yourself erect in a state of hubris. It’s hard to do that all the time. It’s much easier to say, I don’t know. Tell me what you think. I might be wrong. I’m going to change my mind. That’s a state of nature in which you can relax into relationships, in which you can develop love. That requires listening, but it’s based on humility, which is the fundamental virtue that obviates the worst of the deadly sins, which is pride.

Tavia Gilbert: Stay tuned for the full interview. In the meantime, if you liked today’s Story of Impact, we’d be grateful if you’d help us reach new audiences by taking a moment to follow the podcast, and to rate and review us. Join us on social media at Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Visit us at This has been the Stories of Impact Podcast, with Richard Sergay and Tavia Gilbert. Written and produced by Talkbox and Tavia Gilbert, with associate producer Katie Flood. Music by Aleksander Filipiak. Mix and master by Kayla Elrod. Executive producer Michele Cobb. The Stories of Impact Podcast is generously supported by Templeton World Charity Foundation.


  • Richard Sergay is an award-winning veteran network television journalist and senior media executive who spent much of his career at ABC News. He reported on major domestic and international stories for World News, Nightline and Good Morning America and ABC Radio. Richard completed a six-year assignment as Bureau Chief and Correspondent based in South Africa covering the end of White rule and Apartheid, as well as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the ensuing peace negotiations. After the South Africa assignment, Richard began a new beat for ABC News – the first for any major network --  focused on the digital revolution unfolding in the U.S.
  • Writer and producer of several nonfiction podcasts with a global audience, Tavia Gilbert is the acclaimed narrator of more than 650 full-cast and multi-voice audiobooks, Booklist’s Audiobook Narrator of the Year, and a multi–Audie Award-winner, including for Best Female Narrator. She is also the creator of The Abels, a scripted podcast in collaboration with the BBC. Tavia holds a BFA in Acting from Cornish College of the Arts and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she is in the Writing & Publishing faculty.