My latest book GOODNIGHT EVERYONE was inspired by the film ‘Powers Of Ten’ by Charles and Ray Eames. I’ve long been a fan of this film but when I read more about it I discovered that in fact the Eames’ were themselves inspired by a book called ‘Cosmic View’ by Kees Boeke. When I began looking into Kees Boeke’s life and how he came up with the idea it turned out to be very interesting so I thought I would make a short post about him here.
Kees Boeke was a Dutch Quaker who married one of the wealthy Cadbury daughters in the UK. He was deported from the UK for his campaigning for peace and opposition to WWI. He and his wife moved to the Netherlands and abstained from using money, tax and public transport whatsoever as it contributed towards the state and public funds are spent on weapons. The Boekes were imprisoned several times. In the later 1920s Kees changed tack and withdrew from international peace movements to focus his efforts on education as he believed that it offered the greatest power for change. He created a school called ‘De Werkplaats’ which was based on the Montessori method but extended to fit with his sociocratic philosophy. He believed such a system would never allow for conflicts or war. In Boeke’s school the children were treated as equal to adults and they themselves decided what they should learn. They needed to take responsibities for their actions, there were no cleaners, the children were responsible for everything to do with the school themselves including cleaning and food. His school eventually became well regarded in the Netherlands and the Dutch royal family even sent their children there.
Kees came up with the idea for his book Cosmic View during a lesson about the metric system. The metric system is of course based on decimals and so the children were experimenting with the consequences of adding more and more zeros. The children drew scenes of 1m/10m/100m and continued this until they went to the whole of the universe. The original version was apparently prompted and drawn by the children themselves. It was later redrawn and published as Cosmic View, and this was later made into the film Powers of Ten. Powers of Ten became a very influential short film and amongst other things inspired google earth.
Read more about Kees Boeke here: wikipedia