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Broadening Perspectives: The Imperative of Extending Our Awareness

By Isma Ali MD MRCGP

Confucius said, “To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”


The modern homeschooling movement that gained momentum in the mid-20th century, was fueled by various factors; Some families were dissatisfied with the quality of education provided in public schools, while others were motivated by religious beliefs, educational philosophies, or a desire for more flexibility in their children's education. I was probably motivated by all of these.


As we age, we often become more aware of the vastness of knowledge and the complexity of the world. And so, as a homeschooler, I chose to un-school myself to aid the education of my children. This has led to a whole new thirst for knowledge and the chance for me to learn a whole new set of skills – Latin, crochet, and horse-riding, are just a few of my new skills.

The world is becoming increasingly complex, with interconnected systems and a constant influx of new information. Navigating this complexity requires adaptability and a continuous commitment to learning. Feeling like one knows less can be a byproduct of attempting to grapple with the intricacies of an ever-evolving world.


Reading through the Waldorf handwork blog about sewing recently, I found myself feeling as though something was missing. And then I remembered - whilst studying the Mongol raids in the 13th century with my children a few months ago, we were fascinated by the fact that the Mongol warriors carried sewing kits!


As mounted horse troops had to carry all their essentials, all tools had to be useful and portable. Much of the Mongol warrior’s use of leather in their armor, and for their horse tack, required upkeep and repair, so a sewing and stitching kit was vital. This included five different needles with eyes for attaching the cord, a tweezer set and a heavy iron awl which would have aided in piercing heavy leather before stitching, as well as punching buckle holes for belts and straps.

It dawned on me how few people probably knew about this or had access to this knowledge about sewing kits having been used prior to the 18th century.

This is just one of many examples when a deeper dive into a subject has unleashed a whole new outlook.


Whenever starting a unit study, drawing information from various sources ensures a more holistic and well-rounded understanding of the topic. Students can gain insights from different perspectives, fostering a comprehensive grasp of the subject matter.

Traveling and meeting people from around the world has allowed me to realize the narrow view I held of the history of the world for much of my life. I want my children to see the world in all its facets with every viewpoint to think critically and make their own conclusions. To prevent them from being boxed into a certain group or faction of society.

Broadening your perspective can also be life enhancing in many ways, leading to personal growth, increased empathy, and a deeper understanding of the world around you. Having a broader perspective takes empathy and an interest in another’s opinion may give you something to learn. It may be a perspective that you never would have thought to take on your own.

It allows you to see the world from different angles, understand diverse viewpoints, and appreciate the complexity of human experiences. It also tells the other person that you respect them, even if their opinions differ from your own.


Fostering an environment where students feel comfortable discussing and questioning information from different sources encourages open dialogue to explore contrasting viewpoints. Being adaptable and willing to adjust the range of sources based on student feedback and evolving discussions allows for continuous improvement in the learning experience.


The tendency to focus solely on what is familiar or immediate, poses significant risks to personal and societal growth. When individuals become entrenched in their own perspectives, they inadvertently close themselves off to alternative ideas, hindering innovation and stifling progress. This narrow viewpoint can lead to the dismissal of valuable insights and the perpetuation of outdated beliefs. This often manifests in an unconscious acceptance of our own experiences, customs, and beliefs as the only valid ones. Such complacency can blind us to the richness of diversity and the myriad ways in which different perspectives contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the world.


Extending our awareness requires a conscious effort to question assumptions and challenge the status quo. Instead of accepting things at face value, we should actively seek out new information and diverse perspectives. When we engage with individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, we open ourselves up to a wealth of perspectives that can enrich our understanding of the world. Diversity fosters creativity, innovation, and problem-solving, making it an indispensable factor in the pursuit of knowledge and progress.

A healthy dose of humility is also required to recognise that our own perspective is just one of many and allows us to approach new ideas with an open mind. Humility encourages a willingness to learn from others, fostering a collaborative environment where individuals can contribute their unique insights without fear of judgment.


The thirst for knowledge is a fundamental aspect of the human experience that drives intellectual curiosity, lifelong learning, critical thinking, and a passion for discovery. It is a force that has shaped societies, propelled scientific advancements, and enriched the lives of individuals who embrace the continuous journey of learning.


The importance of extending our awareness cannot be overstated. By avoiding tunnel vision and questioning assumptions, we open ourselves up to a world of diverse perspectives that can shape a more inclusive and adaptable society. Embracing humility and actively seeking input from others allows us to break free from the constraints of familiarity, unlocking the potential for personal and collective growth. And in a world that is constantly evolving, the imperative of extending our awareness is not just a choice but a necessity for a thriving and dynamic future.

Embracing a lifelong learning mentality and staying open to new ideas can help navigate the challenges associated with feeling like you know less as you get older.


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