The School Of Life Is Coming To Town: An Interview with Perth Director Ande Roestenburg

Talk with Two Clipboards

By Ebony Campbell

Outrageously well spoken, engaging and professional, Ande Roestenburg transmits an energy that makes you feel secure and worthy of her time. The Perth Director of ‘The School of Life’, who believes that ‘people learn when things are fun and engaging’, will be steering ‘students’ in the right direction this September, when Northbridge will become the hub for those that are ‘disenchanted with the system of knowledge’ (just like the founder Alan De Boiton was in 2008).

Having attended three of Western Australia’s five universities, Roestenburg is anything but out of touch with the formal education system. ‘Every time I thought I wanted to go into a different field, I thought I had to go and get a new degree. While I have no regrets, I feel like I finally have it sorted. Formal education has its place; yet we live under the false notion that a certificate legitimises a person, or that our IQ is fixed.’

With no intention of integrating into the formal education system, ‘The School of Life’ is happy to challenge the status quo. ‘We are a not-for-profit social enterprise run by passionate people, and there are already [other] people injecting their passion into the education system. At The School Of Life we use culture to provide current and relevant ways of thinking. In one class alone there may be 20 different views brought up on the topic and we are asking, “how can we challenge these views?”’

In light of Robin Williams’ death, Roestenburg agrees that emotional intelligence is vital for study and a fulfilling life. ‘Yale University would say it better than I, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for people to have a solid support network and take time for reflection. I’m lucky enough to have never suffered from a mental illness, but that doesn’t mean I never will.’

One thing humanity may never do is work out ‘How To Fill The God Shaped Hole’, yet ‘The School of Life’ are trying to do just that in Roestenburg’s favourite class of that same name. ‘In the past, religion was the only way to answer questions that humans had about the universe. You only have to go down to Margaret River and see the waves crash to feel there is something more.’

When it comes to pricing the workshops, which cover major social issues, ‘The School of Life’ is adamant about keeping costs low. ‘It’s more important that people can afford to attend, than that we make a profit off the ticket sales. The School of Life is still a business, but we operate on the basis of simply charging enough to get by. It’s easy for [other] businesses to get carried away. For instance, you generally can’t see John Butler for under $100, so a price bump could be justified by some.’ Luckily for us in Perth, the ‘Secular Sermon On Fairness’, featuring John Butler and Julian Burnside (2014 recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize), will only cost a mere $35.

Even if you’re unable to make it, Roestenburg doesn’t mind sharing her secret for success: ‘Don’t strive for success. Strive to create social value.’ C’mon Perth, we can all do that.

From ‘How To Make A Difference’ to ‘How To Spend Time Alone’, head here for more information on the classes available: http://www.theschooloflife.com/melbourne/shop/classroom/perth/

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