What Does the Museum of Procrastination Commercial Teach us About Education?

I was in Sydney, Australia recently and I kept seeing this commercial for HSBC Bank Australia about a Museum of Procrastination. Then, on the 16-hour flight back to the states, I must have seen it a dozen times while watching a couple of movies. First, this is a brilliant commercial. Second, I don’t think it is a bad idea for an actual museum. More on point for this blog, however, this commercial casts a wonderfully compelling vision for schools, places where people learn to dream and do something about those dreams.

As the tour guide explains, “this is where we put our good intentions that never fully materialize.” They visit a room of gym memberships that were only used once, another room with a stack of unfinished novels, a room with a tower of musical instruments that have only played Frere Jacques, and then a long hall with “millions of ideas, inventions, Eureka moments…some could revolutionize the way we live our lives.”

Of course, there is a massive body of research about procrastination and many perspectives on the topic. Some argue that procrastination does not really exist, it is just evidence that our commitments and values don’t align with our goals and obligations. Others suggest that it is a good force, that it can be used well. We can procrastinate on the things that are less important so that we devote more time to the things that are most important to us. Still others argue that it is due to a lack of discipline or failing to develop strong and positive habits. Then there are those who argue that procrastination is really all about prioritization or maybe even nurturing the trait of conscientiousness. The resources to study procrastination have grown to the point that we even have a bi-annual conference dedicated to the subject.

If look at the Latin roots, the word procrastination gives us a familiar definition. It is literally from the two words “defer” and “tomorrow.” It is about putting something off until tomorrow. On the flip side, the opposite of procrastination is to do, finish, carry out, or even to be proactive; and that is a grand vision for education.

Instead of making education about preparing for that which we will do tomorrow, what if it is more about doing today so that we can do even more tomorrow? What if our learning organizations were places where every day was largely consumed by learners doing things that matter for their lives, goals, current and future callings? What if each learner could clearly articulate how what they are doing supports their goals and callings? What if we made it our mission to nurture learners whose accomplishments will fill the antithesis of a Museum of Procrastination?

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, host of the MoonshotEdu Show, professor of education, AVP of Academics, and Chief Innovation officer. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), and Adventures in Self-Directed Learning. He is passionate about futures in education, educational innovation, alternative education, and nurturing agency and curiosity.

4 Replies to “What Does the Museum of Procrastination Commercial Teach us About Education?”

  1. Josh Shaine

    Dr. Bull –

    Thank you for the post, as I would never have seen the commercial without it – it is a very vivid commercial indeed. At the end of your essay, you pose a few questions. I am only going to respond to a couple of them:

    “What if our learning organizations were places where every day was largely consumed by learners doing things that matter for their lives, goals, current and future callings? What if each learner could clearly articulate how what they are doing supports their goals and callings?”

    The latter question presupposes that our learners have a sense of their goals and callings and, within that, that each of us *has* a calling.

    Would that that last were true, let alone the rest of it, but unfortunately I think we do not even remotely all have a calling. Being a person without a calling in a system designed explicitly to help one to fulfill callings is to feel (and to be) left out. I know this from seeing it in the few places in which that *is* a clear institutional intention.

    There is an inclination to INSIST that everybody has “purpose” and “a thing” that they love to do. There is one obvious and challenging type of exception to this: the multi-potential individual. While some of those do find one field of endeavor that drives and motivates them, the vast majority tend to be perpetually torn in half a dozen directions or more, with no one siren’s call stronger than the others’.

    But as surely as that, if less commonly, is the individual who is not deeply drawn to any of them. Nor is it through a lack of aptitude or potential or vision. She can write circles around others, argue convincingly, research well, translate between languages, and learn new fields. While each of these can be performed competently, and others as well, none provides any substantial degree of satisfaction.
    *****

    That is certainly an extreme, but a real one.

    On the other hand, though, a visit to our colleges exposes one to a vast sea of late adolescents who “don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.” We know the made-up statistics of how many collegiate students change their majors and how many careers the average person will go through. For all that those numbers are largely invented, the stories behind them are not.

    For a too short number of years, I ran a high school in which our intentions included a graduation requirement in which each student *either* needed to know where they were going and how they were going to get there *or* how they were going to figure that out.

    I am pretty sure that I was grossly under-prepared for the task of leading such a mission, but more qualified and competent by far than most of the hordes in our secondary schools or institutions of higher learning.

    It is a beautiful image that you draw and one that makes me wish it were so, but I don’t think enough of our youths know to make it a viable approach, even discounting the ones who know and realize later that they are wrong for one reason or another.
    *****

    Your finishing question is “What if we made it our mission to nurture learners whose accomplishments will fill the antithesis of a Museum of Procrastination?”

    I think that is a fine mission, but we must no less have the mission to prepare our charges for a world in which the Museum of Procrastination is a real concept and equip them with the tools to cope, because no *one* of the images that people have of what procrastination is (or is for) is correct.

    We are far to varied a species to have only one cause behind what looks like a singular behavior.

    • Bernard Bull Post author

      Thank you for the wonderfully thoughtful comment! I am not, however, convinced that we live on a purposeless world with purposeless people. Every learner has multiple callings. It is just a matter of surfacing them. If nothing else, they all have the calling of learner/student, citizen, and fellow human being.

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