Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Odyssey of Western Education

All education is training or preparation for reality. But preparation for what reality?

Different cultures build their educational systems around the demands of certain environments. Survival as a hunter-gatherer in the rainforest or in the arctic tundra or in a southwestern desert is very different from social inculcation in an ancient empire or medieval France or early industrial England or modern corporate-dominated, information-rich America. And what of the 21st century? - ecological disaster, political chaos, global networks, material plenitude, poverty, spiritual renaissance, interplanetary expeditions...? What will be the primary environment we as a species will be preparing for and/or reacting to?

Major Markers or Quantum Leaps in Collective Human Development: A Mapping of Global History

1. Tribal..... nomadic groups, hunting skills, warriorship, shamanism..... (prehistory to 10,000 B.C.)
2. Ancient Empires..... kings, scribes, priests, caste-system..... (e.g., Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia)
3. The Greeks..... city-states, democracy, discovery of rationality, individuality.....
4. Christianity and the “Axial Era” or birth of Major Religions..... rise of non-ethnic, non-tribal religions claiming universality.....
5. Modernity..... rise of the scientific method, modern technology, nation-states and social/political revolutions.....
6. The Consciousness Revolution of the 1960s-70s..... the birth of planetary human awareness?

[7. ??? THE NEXT STAGE IN COLLECTIVE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT?????????- 'Postmodernism'...'Information Age'... Automation...Community on a large scale reborn... Plenitude...Scarcity...Genetic Engineering... Nanotechnology...Interplanetary voyages... Riots...Terrorism... Pax U.N./Americana...Evolutionary/Cosmic Regression or Metamorphosis... Loneliness and the New Solitude...the Unenvisioned, Unknown and/or Unanticipated?........... More of the Same?……………………]

Three worldviews dominant in Western culture: their traditions, typical methodologies and pedagogical applications:

I the Classical/Conservative/Intellectualist Tradition (Greek rationality and logic)

II the Scientific/Empirical/Behaviorist Tradition (applications of the scientific method)

III the Experientialist/Consciousness/Awareness Tradition (any of the “inner” disciplines of concentration, meditation and/or contemplation)

There were three symbolic manifestoes reflecting these traditions, three 'toolboxes' on how to investigate and learn about the world:

(Note: in Greek means tool or instrument)

1. Aristotle's Organon (~ 4th Century B.C.), his writings on logic and correct reasoning, especially deductive reasoning

2. Francis Bacon's Novum Organum (1620 A.D.), an early modern celebration of the new scientific method of the more productive approach of inductive reasoning, testing and observation

3. P. D. Ouspensky's Tertium Organum (the "third path or way") (1940 A.D.), an exposition of the "inner" path of awareness or development of consciousness of the Sufi mystic and teacher George Gurdjieff; representative of many Eastern paths (yoga, taoism, Buddhism) which, during the 1960s-70s, would be imported into and assimilated in the West.

The Main Idea!!!

*WORLD (What is the world like? -- three different images!)
*THE MIND (What is the mind like? -- three different takes!)
*PRIMARY TOOL/DISCIPLINE/METHOD (three different toolkits!)
*LEARNING AND TEACHING (three different approaches!)
*PRODUCTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS (three different standards of success!)

A Brief Bibliography

Bowen, J. (1972-81). A History of Western Education. (3 Volumes)
Csikszentmihali, M. (1991). Flow (The Psychology of Optimal Experience).
Cromer, A. (1993). Uncommon Sense (The Heretical Nature of Science).
Ferris, T. (1989). Coming of Age in the Milky Way.
Hanh, T. N. (1976). The Miracle of Mindfulness.
Hicks, D. (1981). Norms and Nobility (A Treatise on Education).
Kimball, B. (1986). Orators and Philosophers (A History of the Idea of Liberal Education).
Novak, D. (1996). The Curriculum of Consciousness (A History of the Disciplines From the Greeks to Post-Modernity). (Thesis)
Schubert, W. (1986). Curriculum: Perspective, Paradigm, and Possibility

[DN/1998, 2007]