Friday, July 13, 2007

Ten Pedagogical Tribes

What is the basis of a good education? What is the world truly like? What is the nature of the mind? What is the best gear for the path, and how are resources best distributed?
We will examine ten competing visions, ten historical, contemporary and future tribes, ten learning kits, ten pedagogical journeys. Each one has a different interpretation of what’s real, what’s important, what to look for, how to find it, and how to best to express it in our lives. Each vision contains a different view of what it is to be fully human and which human facet most characterizes learning. Each sees a different political context in which the best can occur.

Some models emphasize the development of the intellect, others the scientific method and its applications, others creative imagination, others deep personal awareness, others taking full advantage of technological innovation, others social influence and monetary success, still others a critical view of society’s relentless conditioning and a view toward empowered freedom and justice for marginalized groups, others the attainment of school-based standards of achievement in preparation for global competition, others promoting a fierce independence of mind and spirit, others religious piety or spiritual exploration, and finally, others representing a profound meditation on the existence of all these models in a society of deep diversity. Each tribe prepares you to live in a different world, with different values being accentuated, paths pursued, and outcomes sought for.

Each vision/tribe/pedagogical practice kit has its own version of the “three ‘r’s”, its own head-gear, its take on developmental sequences or stages of maturation, levels of learning apprenticeship, and also its view of what constitutes advanced study and fruitful research. The ten models we will consider should be seen as tribes in the sense that each has its own special totemic identity but also have many kinds of affiliations with each other too. Some are first cousins to each other! Our main attempt here is not to give an exhaustive historical or philosophical account of this complexity, but rather just to give a brief taste, the “flavor” of each of these perennially important positions and traditions. In one form or another, they keep cropping up! So getting some sense of each, gaining an “ear” for them, recognizing them in discussions of education issues, is helpful. It is useful to see where someone is “coming from,” the assumptions they hold dear, their core practices.

The ten models we will briefly sketch are:

the classical conservative
the scientific empirical
the experiential/holistic awareness
critical pedagogy
market success
the technological matrix
the national standards movement
the outlaw/nomad
the futurist
the religious/spiritual

The Classical Conservative Tradition

This is the tradition of the liberal arts, which has its foundation in the culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Here good education is centered around the great books or classics of Western civilization from Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey and Plato’s Dialogues to The Divine Comedy of Dante and the plays of Shakespeare to the novels of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf…

It assumes the world is fundamentally an orderly place and that the mind can see and understand essential structures. Truth is that which corresponds to reality. Art, in the widest sense, is the fitting or beautiful representation of reality, which may or may not be beautiful.

It praises good work in any field as that which perceives or represents its essence, is ordered, whole and balanced – does what it was supposed to do. It criticizes that which is superficial, confused, a disordered jumble, extreme or unbalanced…

Its elementary tools are the three r’s, the arts of reading, writing and arithmetic/mathematics. It tries to develop good habits (early on valuing memory and repetition) in the student, under good tutelage steering him through an apprenticeship in thinking, learning the ways of intelligent discussion, to the point where he can truly engage with and appreciate the great classics. It’s all about the development of a mature mind, character and sensibility. It develops the ‘high culture’ of striving for the very best and preserving the pantheon of mankind’s finest achievements.

Mortimer Adler has been a great 20th century exponent of the “great books” as the core curriculum of a superior education. Some of his works are How To Read A Book, a guide to in-depth reading of the classic works, The Great Ideas, a discussion of the key notions or most powerful concepts by which we can understand any field of inquiry from politics to philosophy, and The Paideia Proposal, Adler’s manifesto on how to do schooling right. Adler was the editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s edition of the Great Books of the Western World.

Other advocates of this approach are:
Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind which attacked higher education for its permissiveness and watering down of high standards
E. D. Hirsch, Jr. Cultural Literacy which stressed the need for a common fund of knowledge and shared basis of facts and reference points
Theodore Roszak’s The Cult of Information which argues that oceans of data and information were not the same thing as genuine knowledge or understanding!
Susan Wise-Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had which offers the challenge, suppose you really wanted a top-flight education? – what would that foundation really look like?…
Italo Calvino’s Why Read the Classics? – a fresh take on what makes a book terrific
Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran -- classics as forbidden & dangerous
2. The Scientific Empirical Tradition

The rise of the tradition of empirical science in the West needs no introduction. Or does it? We live and breathe science, and its great progeny technology, in the West. But Alan Cromer in his wonderful little book, Uncommon Sense, argues that we should not. Here he makes the case for the “heretical nature” of science, that it took a very unique set of circumstances found in early modern Europe to arise as an historical phenomenon. Many societies and civilizations of the past have produced encyclopedic observations of nature and natural phenomena – but not science as we know it. Recording observations is a necessary foundation of science but not the heart of science, which is the determined asking of questions and the confirming or disconfirming of possible answers. To be a scientist in the true sense is not to accept things passively but to play a much more active role vis-à-vis nature and natural occurrences. It is to see interlocking patterns on the journey to the heart of nature. It is to see how things are connected, how they work. It is to not stop until we see how all processes, all the fundamental forces of the physical universe, are connected in a single “unified field theory.”

No one scientist can do it all but each wages a constant battle with intellectual laziness, group prejudice, and magical-superstitious type thinking (which is to say, no thinking at all). Any book on popular science (astronomy or evolutionary biology) by Carl Sagan or Stephen Jay Gould will beautifully demonstrate the sparkling and restless curiosity, delight in daring, intellectual independence, questioning spirit and willingness to probe and explore. Such excitement is of the essence of science as a mental trait rather than a body of knowledge to be transferred.

Two main stages in the codification of the craft of scientific activity: First, concurrent with the great triumphs of the physics of Galileo, Newton and Copernicus, the early “mythology” of the famous scientific method: the famous and oft repeated cycle of observation, hypothesis, experiment, and generalization. (‘Mythology’ because it’s really the asking of artful questions that precede exact and disinterested observations – we could ‘observe’ till we’re blue in the face and it wouldn’t be science! We wouldn’t even ‘experiment’ unless we had something we wanted to find out!) Nonetheless, the emphasis on empirical or field experimentation and research was important to counteract the tradition in the ancient and medieval world that understanding the nature of things could be attained by pure thinking alone. Modern science simultaneously honored nature “out there” and the method-based, right use of the mind (see Descartes famous Discourse on Method) aimed at revealing and controlling her secrets – mere opinion or speculation wasn’t enough.

The second stage or formulation of the scientific method comes hand in hand with cognitive psychology. Early in the 20th Century John Dewey made the case in his How We Think that the fancy, elaborate enterprise called science really reflects how we basically think in everyday situations: we deal with problems by making guesses or hypotheses and then checking them out. Thomas Kuhn’s famous idea of “paradigm shifts” that mark great discoveries and changes in science (in contrast to the routine activities of normal science) described in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Norwood Russell Hanson’s Patterns of Discovery, and Arthur Koestler’s The Act of Creation are works that show how the human mind functions on the edge of a discovery or major conceptual shift. Now the philosophy of science sees the hallowed method as more an ensemble of heuristic strategies and as less mechanical. Science in a word is simply the art of problem solving and requires all the traits that we have come to associate with success in any field: initiative, self-management, collaboration and teamwork, creativity, and a willingness to check results

B. F. Skinner in the 1950s and 1960s became a scientifically inspired yet very controversial leader in defining learning objectives in behavioral terms, using a set of rewards and punishments, a precise set of incentives and disincentives, as a set of tools to achieve carefully defined and measured learning objectives. Skinner typified the scientific impulse for precision. Teaching was simply the application of the science of behavior, the application of a rigorous scientific psychology.

Pedagogically and practically, science has come to mean not only the devotion to empirical evidence, statistical representation of such data, experimental design and research, definition and measurement of different variables, etc. – it has also come to mean a certain style or way of doing things. There is a kind of rationality that is the application of scientific thinking: breaking something up into constituent parts, dividing a goal into manageable objectives, creating milestones of progress, devising tests and analyzing or evaluating results. Mankind got to the moon using NASA’s “critical path” methodology: formulating a goal and then backtracking to see what are the critical points that must be achieved at each stage of the way.

Again, practically, the application of scientific thinking to educational issues means doing empirical research – how students “in the field” do under certain conditions and what changes take place when certain variables are changed (e.g. how they do in relation to socio-economic class) or treatments given (the application of a particular pedagogical technique, like the use of phonics to improve reading).

The research in the field of education is vast and covers everything from descriptions of learning style and kinds of intelligence to classroom teaching and management techniques to factors that define and influence the atmosphere of successful schools.
ERIC, the Educational Resource Information Center, is an enormous online database, guide and clearinghouse for such research.

Aside from the essentials of inquiry and of doing good research (e.g. found in Booth, Colomb and William‘s The Craft of Research), there has grown in recent years a new body of “qualitative research” which sees the teacher in the classroom as a kind of anthropologist or in-flight, reflective practitioner of his/her craft.

3. The Pedagogy of Awareness

Energy, process, evolution, feeling, experience and reflection, the vital importance of direct encounter and personal awareness, a growing planetary consciousness…

John Dewey, the foremost American philosopher of education, can be seen in two lights: one, the liberal, progressive and secular philosopher of science, the proponent of the native human quest to solve problematic situations by refining the art of inquiry (of which science is the chief manifestation) and, on the other hand, the heir of the Romantic tradition’s focus on the precious and fundamentally good nature of the child. The latter Dewey followed the pedagogy of Pestalozzi and Froebel and emphasized the centrality and validity of the child’s interests and concerns. No more was the child to be seen as a saluting soldier-follower of the teacher-martinet or the material to be assembled on the assembly line. The student was the heart and starting point of the educational process, which was the satisfaction and refining of natural curiosity and interests via collaboration in the art of inquiry. Learning was to be seen as an inherently social and democratic or non-authoritarian process of finding out. As with science, the heart of education was asking questions – and following up on them. So Dewey was apologist for modern science – and, at the same time, an advocate of a new creed that only really flowered in the Twentieth Century. Dewey became an apologist for what we now call the holistic view of human nature and learning.

In contrast the late 19th Century scientific materialism, early in the 20th Century there arose a refreshing philosophy of temporality and process: Bergson’s Time and Free Will, Creative Evolution, Heidegger’s Being and Time, Whitehead’s Process and Reality. John Dewey’s masterwork, Experience and Nature was another in this line of thinking that did not interpret reality as an assembly of static substances that only changed marginally. Time and process was the essence of things! Dewey talked about how we are mislead by ideas of permanence and talked about the “career of an entity.” Whitehead said “there was no such thing as Nature at an instant.” Einstein revolutionary reinterpretation of time as no longer an absolute, uniformly flowing like Newtonian time, was in the air. Whitehead elaborated a metaphysics that saw all entities as undergoing organic development and that the building block of reality was the event or ‘occasion’ and that relationships were connections between and among events. Existentialists echoed Dewey and Whitehead in seeing experience as radically contingent or precarious. It wasn’t as if you were a thing which, once in a while underwent modifications, but you were/are essentially a no-thing thirsting for definable existence. Martin Buber suggested that people are not inert entities but beings who literally find themselves/ourselves in encounter. Not to risk is not to be. To be is to risk, and to be at risk. In this view, change and the rhythm of change is constant and what looks permanent is really what needs explaining.

In the turbulent period of the 1960s and 1970s America (and Europe) discovered the inner land of meditation! The outer turbulence made some attempt to go deeply within to find not only peace and self-knowledge, but the inner resources for social change and political commitment. Into this scene of social unrest and revolutionary changes for groups like blacks, women, students, and soldiers at war, came the influx of the Asian wisdom traditions: Zen Buddhism, the forms of Hindu Yoga, and Chinese Taoism. Along with these ancient and venerable disciplines came a host of American human potential movements of every sort and description – fads as well as genuine psychic and spiritual pioneers. (Jacob Needleman’s The New Religions and Theodore Roszak’s The Making of A Counter Culture tell this story very well.)

When all material needs are satisfied, what do people look for? When a culture “has everything,” what becomes its next goal? What makes life complete when you have a house, car, boat, and two wonderful and smart kids?

Regimens of self-improvement and the more rigorous and inward journey of self-awareness are now as American as apple pie. The Gap and Buddhist meditation. American culture has matured to the point where it asks the same questions about our ultimate source, as do the traditions of the great religions. America has become a strange place, a place where narcissistic regimens of self-improvement collide with the disciplines of deep awareness that touch upon the core mystical traditions of the world. Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson’s book, The Cultural Creatives describes and examines this paradoxical and possibility filled ferment that is America today. America is a place charged with vital confusion and the clash of titanic visions. How will it/we find our place in a global reality? How do we understand ourselves and our role in an increasingly interdependent world? How do we become veritable citizens of the planet? How far does the web of life extend?

Holistic education pivots on the art, skill and learning of self-awareness. Without this primary sensitivity, everything becomes ‘external’ – something to control, manage or manipulate.

Rudolf Steiner inspired Waldorf schools and Montessori schools are both pedagogical traditions that emphasize sensory awareness and attend to the deeper organic and personal rhythms that we are ordinarily unconscious of. They both have as their agenda developing a comfortability and deep friendliness with the world in contrast to the us-versus-them, competitive orientation implicitly inculcated in most educational regimens. Here the development of care, sensitivity, and stewardship values are cultivated as the “way,” again in contrast to the “end-gaining” mania of society.

There are thousands of good books on meditation, although a period of intensive retreat is the best introduction to the serious/joyful path of self-knowledge and ultimate enlightenment. It is good, however, to cultivate a “ginger mindfulness” as a gesture of balance and self-friendliness in all one’s activities. Gentleness toward oneself is not the same thing as laziness or self indulgence. Meditation is often seen and pursued as holistic practice, that is, one that is engaged in the discovery and integration of the different facets and dimensions of the self.

Good introductions to meditation include:
Any book by Thich Nhat Hanh, especially The Miracle of Mindfulness, and his Peace Is Every Step. There is a universalist, non-sectarian appeal to Nhat Hanh.
The classic of the 1960s-70s era that deeply affected many Americans, Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. This small collection of talks has had a real resonance with the American spirit.
Joseph Goldstein’s Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana’s Mindfulness in Plain English
Robert Thurman’s Inner Revolution and Infinite Life (what Uma’s dad, a Tibetan Buddhist scholar at Columbia University, has to say!)

The Critical Pedagogy Tradition: Social and Revolutionary Activism

“Tell me what you think you know, and I’ll tell you where and how you live!”

Schooling’s job is to reproduce the established order.

A society not based on justice will always be unstable and, in the last analysis, cruel.

This approach to teaching has its roots in the philosophy of Karl Marx. Here the main objective is to understand the unjust composition of society, determined by the historical evolution of economic structures (like slavery/kingship, feudalism, capitalism, coming socialism), and the historical process that is tending toward human empowerment and recognition. Every historical era has its dominant class. Corporations and great accumulations of wealth (‘capital’) provide the dynamics of today’s society, from shaping electoral politics to the kinds of occupations available. But capitalism is a human artifact, a human creation, one which distributes goods, power and recognition in a certain way. Great wealth has the effect of creating great poverty and manufacturing inequities. Schooling similarly reinforces privilege and social caste. In the Marxian view, revolutionary activism sensitizes workers (students as well as teachers, various functionaries and managers, are laborers!) to their actual condition and hence helps usher in a society based on care and mutual benefit, rather than the hoarding of resources and status for the controlling class. Literacy here, as taught by the great Brazilian teacher Paulo Freire, means learning is essentially consciousness-raising, how to read by discovering – and precisely naming – the conditions that define one’s social class (like boss and functionary, landlord and tenant, debt and mortgage). In a society ruled by wealth, power manipulates from behind the scenes. Understanding who has power and who ultimately benefits from its exercise is the key that unlocks so much.

“Knowledge” is not politically neutral! Critique of the “banking metaphor” of education whereby the teacher has all the knowledge and pours it into the empty head of the student… a commitment to mutual questioning and collective inquiry…

Where you are in the socio-economic hierarchy, your “class” location, by and large determines your beliefs… your view of the world simply mirrors your socio-economic class and aspirations… to become aware of this is to create a true learning horizon for the first time… all of a sudden all assumptions become worthy of critical examination…

Exposes -- constant exposure of oppressive circumstances and relationships, presenting live specimens, cultural exhibits, embarrassing juxtapositions of the discrimination, hypocrisies and inequities of the current state of the society, especially in and of the media environment, which is one of the institutions, along with schooling, which props up and amplifies society’s dominant and destructive myths –
Critique/Theory -- explaining how the parts fit into the whole, the systematic articulation the contradictions of society in comparison with the visionary projection of a just society
Liberatory Praxis -- social struggle and social activism, gear for the long haul, a series of broad strategies and changing tactics (psychological, legal, popular, artistic, political and educational) that guide the growing realization of freedom of different groups (blacks, women, latinos, gays, the poor, the very young, service workers and other marginalized groups, students, white collar executives) through their respective struggles for dignity and recognition and promotes the equitable construction of the larger community as the full expression of our humanity

Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, The Politics of Education, etc.
Kalle Lasn, Culture Jam (how to interpret the media as mental environment)
bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope
Ira Shor, Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change
Joan Wink, Critical Pedagogy: Notes From the Real World
Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities

5. Market Success

Late 20th Century market capitalism as outlining the path of career advancement and the unabashed goal of financial success and survival of the fittest…

A zillion American business/managerial success manuals -- from the Norman Vincent Peale all time best seller, How To Win Friends and Influence People business, to how to climb the ladder of success and stay there (Up the Organization, How to Swim With the Sharks, etc., etc.), to contemporary corporate applications of the ancient Chinese classic on strategy, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War -- are a treasure trove of advice on positive thinking, visualization for success, wily tactics, aggressively and energetically charting the mental tools and organizational skills key to your personal path to success. They spell out the necessary qualities of determination, drive, decisiveness, persuasiveness, flexibility, creativity, collaborative communication, being focused on results, displaying a winning orientation and topnotch organization skills to boot; an emphasis on innovation, the competitive edge, productivity and social utility, if not enjoyment… creating commercial abundance... Business success as sport and source of satisfaction… what’s wrong with the pursuit of the American dream?… ambition as the very motive power of achievement, a virtue instead of a vice… financial success as the source of good(s)…

David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,
and Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life (bite sized essays that will put you at the top of your game)
Tom Peters, In Search of Excellence, Thriving on Chaos, etc. (Peters has been for decades the management guru!)
Stephen McCovey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal (the godfather classic on how to do it)
Virginia Postrel, The Substance of Style
James Twitchell, Lead Us Into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism (how advertising and commerce are surprisingly creative, productive and civilizing)
Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization

6. The Pedagogy of Technology

The close union between cognitive psychology and the stunning assimilation of computer technology in recent decades has created an information explosion and accessibility undreamed of except by the highest caliber of scholars in the past. A world of information is now readily accessible to any student of whatever age and circumstance. The advent of the Internet has made the place (school site) and the timing (school-based curricula) almost a thing of the past!

Lewis Perelman in his provocative book School’s Out argues that the advancing, even avalanching, growing edge of technological development (electronic hybrids of all sorts) almost makes school, as we have known it, an antique, like brick and mortar and the horseless carriage. He argues that the system known as schooling resembles a Soviet-style “collective farm” where everything proceeds in lock step according to standards set by the state monopoly on education. The vast and rigid machinery and bureaucracies of education now are impediments to real learning and to the ways that people actually learn. From context-based and apprenticeship learning to the seemingly perverse zig-zags of people’s genuine interests to embedded systems of expertise to “hyper-learning” media and channels, Perelman says we face a new world in which learning becomes our natural (and ‘smart’!) environment, not the painfully slow and bureaucratic certification process that has now become an albatross around our necks and hampering us by placing unnecessary barriers and hoops around what we do quickly, naturally, self-motivatedly and enjoyably. Schooling puts the barriers up and then by doing so creates the great ‘motivation’ conundrum!

Schooling is an artifact of the old assembly-line manufacturing mentality. The information age, aided and abetted by electronic media of all sorts, encourages and requires a much more agile and interesting configuration of qualities. Education is no longer slavery in a post-industrial, creativity and knowledge based society. The arts of knowledge production, navigation and connoisseurship are the premium arts of our new era. Creative adaptability and an appreciation of the cognitive skill sets of the mind are key. That long-term memory and storage can be done by computer makes us realize that we are not computers but creative synthesizers of data and phenomena. We dance with reality – or play with it – not follow it blindly and mechanically!

Howard Rheingold, Virtual Reality (an vivid mapping of our new world)
Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital
Don Tapscott, Growing Up Digital
Douglas Rushkoff, Playing the Future: What We Can Learn from Digital Kids
Ray Kurzweil, The Coming Age of Spiritual Machines (sure to traumatize you!)
Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class
Mark Pesce, The Playful World: How Technology Is Transforming Our Imagination
Kevin Kelly, Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World (where have we heard about this one before!)
Wired Magazine
Joshua Green, “No Lectures, Just Software,” The New York Times, 8.10.00

7. National Standards

Based on the notion of clearly articulated educational goals and measurable progress toward those agreed upon goals. Educational goals should represent the consensus of experts and/or acknowledged professionals in the various disciplines, like history or mathematics. They should spell out what should be achieved by students and expected at what grade level.

The National Standards Movement, originating in the late 1980s and 1990s under Bill Clinton’s leadership, purports to define the ways of measurement of knowledge performance, assessment and accountability of educational agencies like schools, with the emphasis being on superior performance in the context of global economic competitiveness. The motto: Make our students competent, make our country best!

Educational goals should be broken down into manageable and attainable objectives. [This is an example of scientific-style reasoning or the application of scientific style thinking to social problems.] Curricular objectives should have internal standards or evaluative “rubrics” by which progress or attainment can be gauged. It should be clear how and when subject material or topics are mastered.

Failure on the part of students should have a diagnostic function, that is, identify who needs help, in what areas, and how much. Likewise, teachers, schools and principals should be judged as failing or passing, and also with a view to eventual improvement. [Like corporate business accounting, student and school performance should be clearly measured and transparent.]

George W. Bush concretized this movement by initiating federal legislation, entitled Leave No Child Behind, to ensure proper standards of literacy and numeracy and to guarantee that the structures are in place to ensure proper education for all. The correlative of this is periodic, universal and systematic testing to make sure of student attainment and schools and teachers live up to their obligations. Finding out who’s failing and why, and how to fix it, is part of the bargain.

A new kind of “PTA”! – emphasis on performance, testing and accountability…
As with any scientific style, the application of exhaustive educational research is crucial. In line with this, there is the conversion of every skill or subject into a detailed list of evaluative standards or markers called “rubrics.” What is a good composition? -- Five characteristics. What’s a good research project? Look for the evaluative rubrics. How do you judge good writing or good math skills for someone in middle school? Again, what is key is spelling out specific and detailed measures of competency, successful performance.

Student and parental choice has been another hallmark of this approach: student vouchers that enable students and their families to choose successful schools instead of failing ones and new kinds of schools, like charter schools – less encumbered by teacher unions and administrative red tape, privatized commercial operation of some schools, are examples of how choice and better quality for educational “consumers” might be attained. Getting results is the name of the game!

Politically conservative writers and apologists have generally supported this emphasis on testable competency as the fundamental function of schools, in contrast to the liberal ‘permissiveness’ and too much freedom on the part of students. Basically they say that the nation has a stake in ensuring a well-educated citizenry and workforce. Students should know how to add and subtract and know the history and primary documents of the country, like the Constitution. Inculcating basic communication skills, like reading and writing, fostering math and science literacy, and making sure (by standardized testing!) there is a common fund of knowledge, is the goal and means of this approach.

The writings of former Secretaries of Education William Bennett and Diane Ravitch
E. D. Hirsch, Jr.’s famous Cultural Literacy is a persuasive argument for a common fund of knowledge that all students should eventually have
Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and Dinesh D’Souza’s Illiberal Education are ultra-conservative diatribes against what they consider liberal permissiveness, especially in higher education
See “Leave No Child Behind” at the website maintained by the US Department of Education (
8. Nomads and Outlaws

dissidents and rebels, deschooling advocates, civil libertarians, radicals, individualists, artists, revolutionaries, counterculturals, hackers, anarchists (or rather, polyarchists!)

This is the tradition of anti-tradition, the contrarian stance of the romantics and the existentialists, the counterculturals of all ages and historical epochs…

life is short! this fact is the only rationale! all fine sounding ideals are hooks!

claiming one’s uniqueness and passion as the only way

“to find the unknown, you have to go by way of the unknown”… if you cling to the known -- that is all you will ever know… safety will only guarantee…safety

Society’s main aim in education is socialization, replication of itself, the transmission of the status quo (under the illusion of rosy change), conformity (how easily this is proved!), productive utility, replacement value… Nor real compromise is possible… adventurous individuality doesn’t ask permission, defines its own norms and standards, has the courage to hew its own path, create its own life, its own life-curriculum (own religion, own sexuality, own canon of taste and value, rhythm of learning, etc.)… radically listening to one’s deepest and most authentic impulses as opposed to mindlessly following the fads, rituals and handcuffs of convention… one has to create a horizon outside the orbit of society to truly grow… integrity, deep harmony with oneself, is not a given – it is an achievement born of struggle… one has to truly claim one’s life…

Some heroes:
William Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (what innocence and experience both teach, according to this aphoristic account by a premier Romantic poet)
Max Stirner, The Unique and Its Own (the book that Karl Marx thought was one of the most dangerous works ever written!)
Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols and Thus Spake Zarathustra (for the intrepid and horizon-breakers only!)
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript (early existentialist defense of the solitary thinker versus any system that pretends to completeness)
bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress (subtitled, Education as the Practice of Freedom)
Morris Berman, The Twilight of American Culture and Wandering God: A Study of Nomadic Spirituality (where inspiration can be found in the desert culture of decline)
Laura Riding, Anarchism Is Not Enough (especially her unforgettable essay, “The Myth”)
Hakim Bey, TAZ: Temporary Autonomous Zone (why chaos and anarchism are not bad)
Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (a gigantic surgery of new patterns)
Jiddu Krishnamurti, First and Last Freedom (how society is always in a state of decay)
John Taylor Gatto, An Underground History of American Education
William Wimsatt’s No More Prisons – esp “A Gourmet Guide to Self Education”

9. Futurist Pedagogy

A new tradition which has its roots in science fiction and political forecasting in scenarios, the futurism of the 1920s and the future studies of the 1960s, philosophic reflection on deep trends and technological explosion (e.g. genetic engineering)…

Reality is constantly self-creating itself… perhaps a small group of tendencies steadily (and by jumps!) multiplying, intensifying, expanding, and constantly reconfiguring by the dual and simultaneous process of interiorization (growth of consciousness) and exteriorization (growth of scaffolding infrastructures and embodiments) that together propel the evolution of our species in the cosmos as it is lured to new realms of experience (which are continually being created)… what we concentrate on, we make real…

There has always been an interest in the future, from prophetic biblical dreams, to Greek and Roman oracles and omens, to divination via the I Ching and reading tea leaves to intriguing and perplexing psychic phenomena like clairvoyance. Since the early modern era with its emphasis on scientific experimentation, there has grown up a tradition of empirically based prediction (specifying experimental outcomes to be confirmed or disconfirmed, weather forecasting, etc.). More recently there has been, especially with the advent of computers, extensive use of graphic and complex simulation techniques. Modernity has also given rise to the utopian imagination and the alternative imagination. And of course science fiction represents a vast repertoire of depictions of the far and intimate future: alternative universes and parallel worlds.

Imagination: conceiving of things other than what they are… Two kinds of imagination have been cultivated in the burgeoning field of futurist pedagogy: one, the critical imagination which surveys the fundamental tendencies in human nature which in fact construct the icons and technologies of every society from pyramids and cathedrals to personal computers and space probes (and thus creates the full spectrum of the human), and two, the visionary imagination which creatively envisions that which is deeply possible… between these two, it elaborates a montage of major scenarios that pose dramatic choices in and for cultural and human/species evolution.

Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution
Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, and The Future of Man
Karl Popper, A World of Propensities
Bertrand de Jouvenel, The Art of Conjecture
Ernst Block, The Spirit of Utopia
Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Nine Chains to the Moon
Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, The Futurists (ed.), and The Third Wave
Stanley Kubrick, “2001 A Space Odyssey” (film)
Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth
Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self (Buddhist teacher on mandala)
Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto” (notorious and famous essay on the coming hybrid forms of existence)
Donnella Meadows, “Which Future?” (Generation NExT, Winter 1995/96, Page 59)
Marina Benjamin, Rocket Dreams
Ken Wilber, The Atman Project
Robert Aitken, “Envisioning the Future” from his Original Dwelling Place
Charlene Spretnak, “News from Scotopia” from her Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature, and Place in a Hypermodern World
Michael Zey, The Future Factor
Bruce Sterling, Tomorrow Now

10. Religious Education

Religious education can mean one of two, sometimes very different, things: the training in the dogma (beliefs) and rituals of a given religion or tradition (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc.) – or, the development of the spiritual sensitivity as it manifests in children and as it unfolds throughout life.

Is it possible to have spiritual sensitivity without some kind of early religious training in a particular tradition? Good question! Suppose the early training is ultimately rejected in favor of non-sectarian spiritual exploration? What happens then? What’s best for a child growing up? How are “values” best taught? How can you not have religious training/education (things implicitly worshipped) as the child grows up? Is atheism a valid position? What are the goods and bads of religion, historically speaking? How can parents (and teachers) best respect and nurture a child’s innate religiousness? Isn’t some kind of “parochial” education, or narrowness, necessary till the child has wings of his/her own? But isn’t force always damaging? Or is it? What do you mean by force?… respect?… encouragement?… How is fanaticism best avoided? What do we mean by “enlightenment” today?

There is endless catechetical literature in each religion’s tradition -- how to become a good Catholic or Jew or Ba’hai or Mormon…

Lawrence Kohlberg has done important work in tracing the stages of the evolution of our moral sensibility.
Jerome Berryman has edited a tantalizing little book of conversations between Sam Keen and Jim Fowler entitled, Life Maps: Conversations on the Journey of Faith which extends Kohlberg’s profiles of life-stage maturation of basic attitudes
Evelyn Underhill, The Life of the Spirit and The Life of Today
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Flight of the Eagle
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy (an anthology of readings)
Arthur Magida and Stuart Matlins (eds.) How to Be a Perfect Stranger (2 vols.)
Dolores Leckey, The Ordinary Way: A Family Spirituality
Robert Aitken and David Steindl-Rast, The Ground We Share (a dialogue between two prominent traditions)

Dan Novak, University of Rhode Island (February, 2005)