Intuition And Complexity
Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.
vol. V no. 1
First published in 1975. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright ÂŠ 1975-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-283-1 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555 www.EducationalSolutions.com
Besides a brief report on a teaching experiment that took place this summer and a review of one of our books announced in the previous issue, this Newsletter will bring a few articles on the title above. We would have hesitated to use this medium for such a task because of the vastness of the subject, and the difficulty of doing justice to it through the written word, had we not found this summer that many teachers had been helped considerably when participating in a week long seminar. However hard the task, there was in the topic something so vital that no one could be left unmoved and many were deeply moved. In the state of education today any approach that can revitalize teachers must be presented to them, leaving them to decide whether they are ready, willing and able to relate to it. Perhaps some of our readers will let us know what came to them because of these articles and whether this medium is appropriate for the task of disseminating difficult ideas.
Table of Contents
1 What Is Intuition? ............................................................. 1 2 About Complexity.............................................................. 5 3 Intuition And Complexity.................................................. 9 4 The Call On Us As Educators ........................................... 13 News Items ..........................................................................17 A Brief Report On A Summer Experiment .......................................17 Book Reviews ..................................................................... 21
1 What Is Intuition?
For millennia men have talked of intuition as if it had been an obvious movement of the mind. Instead of trying to give a definition in words of what has remained elusive for so long, let us examine what takes place in ourselves when we feel inclined to use that word. Every time we give ourselves the task of grasping a â€œuniverse of experienceâ€? we somehow know that we are unable to say that we are in contact with it unless we feel that we maintain an awareness of the presence of the whole even while we work on part of it. For example, if we want to know love, friendship, affectivity, the mind, the self, etc., we must make sure that the presence of each as a whole is with us while we experience our movements for knowing it better through lightings of that whole which do not exhaust the whole. Intuition is this dual awareness of the self carefully holding the whole and seeing in it this or that. The self recognizes by this deliberate respect of the presence of the whole that the way of knowing being used at that moment maintains the whole in the awareness. This is essential for intuition to be at work. There is therefore a criterion, an inner criterion for knowing that intuition is being used, that one has reached a way of knowing which can be distinguished from all other ways of knowing.
Intuition And Complexity
Perhaps it is not obvious to everybody that there are various ways of knowing at our disposal. Perception is a way of knowing that impacts from the outside have reached us and that there have been additions or shifts of energy in one’s self. This makes perception the way of knowing which is in contact with the total energy of the self, recognizing, because of its previous states, the energy inputs and the transformations within the system. Action is a way of knowing by expenditure of one’s energy and the perception of its results. Analysis is a way of knowing by fragmentation and the perception of the fragments. This is concomitant with a need for further fragmentation to display the contents of the fragments. Synthesis is a way of knowing that reinstates the fragments to their place once analysis has operated. It couples with analysis and has no reality without it — often they seem to work hand in hand. Acquaintance is a way of knowing which lets what is being looked at affect the self progressively with the affirmation that as time goes on more and more of what is looked at reveals itself. Acquaintance involves an active participation of the self in increasing the revelation. Contemplation is a way of knowing like acquaintance but without the active participation, requiring rather that the self withhold participation and yield to what is looked at. Yielding is also a willed movement of the self. Faith is a way of knowing; it is at work when the self knows that it knows without doing anything, not even concentrating, participating, or moving towards anything. All these ways of knowing are at work in every one of us at different levels, different moments, and in different combinations. 2
1 What Is Intuition?
Intuition, singled out here for our purpose, differs from all the above but, like all the above ways of knowing, is compatible with them. The self acknowledges that it differs because it connects with the whole, maintains the whole, respects its presence at the same time as the self perceives, acts, transforms, fragments, unites, etc. Intuition is the way of the self knowing itself as active in not letting the impact of the whole be moved out of awareness and noting what it does to that awareness at work. When people deliberately stress this or that way of knowing but not intuition, they may not know that intuition is also at work. Indeed at the subconscious level intuition must be at work to tell the knower that the work done is within the initial challenge. Intuition may be stressed or not stressed by the self. This does not mean that it is not doing its work all the time, whatever the state of the observer. We all need it and use it, even when we do not suspect its existence. But intuition can come into its own and gain a new importance as an instrument of the self and provide means of working on what cannot be tackled by perception, action, analysis or the others. Those who cultivate intuition have at their disposal aspects of truth and reality which escape others. In particular only intuition can handle complexity, as we shall see in the next two articles. Intuition, although it is not everything, has or could have, an important place in everyoneâ€™s life.
2 About Complexity
It is almost a reflex movement of the mind to seek what is “clear and simple.” The Greek geometers taught us that an ideal system is one in which we start with axioms and definitions and obtain the rest by deduction. This is a “clear and simple” statement that has been universally adopted, and “the scientific method” has tried to use the deductive system as a model for all sciences. Logic flourished as the method while being unable to account for where definitions — good and fruitful definitions — came from. So long as an approach shows some yield no one looks at its foundations. The greater the yield is, the stronger are the acceptance of the approach and the belief that it is well founded. But life seems to present unexpected surprises to those who choose to account for its working; these people suddenly find themselves confronted with justifying to themselves the beliefs they hold. This confrontation has often led to crises in philosophy, science, theology, and now, in the whole spectrum of living. When the Sophists in one of Zeno’s paradoxes could “argue” that Achilles, the fastest racer, would never be able to catch up to the slow moving tortoise, they exposed the error of taking reasoning as the only way of knowing the world. 5
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When Descartes developed modern analysis as “the method” of penetrating the mysteries of the world, his successes in physics and mathematics opened up universes to man’s inquiry. At the same time excesses of using “the method” alone, exposed the limitations of intellectual model making, and only when experimentation was added about two centuries or so ago, did it serve the purpose of the natural sciences. Again and again “the clear and simple,” after yielding for a while a considerable crop of new discoveries, was dropped, amended or enlarged to cope with what was neither that clear nor that simple. A joint development of mathematics and technology for a while made scientists believe that they could rescue “the clear and simple,” which they loved even more than truth. Philosophers have taken it upon themselves to interpret the work of innovators. In their studies they have often used the end products of the work done by researchers as their guide instead of looking at what the researchers actually went through. Complexity cannot be reached by anyone unless what we called intuition is operating. Complexity is not like chaos — bottlenecks of ideas, competing for attention and pressing us to get out of it. Complexity is what we encounter when we stop interfering intellectually with a problem in order to find what is simple. Complexity is felt as an intrinsic component of what we contemplate, what we try to be acquainted with, what we perceive when we let a field make an impact upon us. Complexity is the companion of reality and that which triggers analysis. There would be nothing to analyze in the simple unless even the simple were seen as complex. What is required of us is that we stop the mental processes which reduce whatever is encountered to a schema. Although schemas can be made as complex as we want, schematization is the process we use to substitute for complex reality that which is akin to our mental equipment. Complexity cannot be grasped if schemas are entertained instead. What education has done to most of us is to make us believe 6
2 About Complexity
that it is better to entertain schemas if we want to progress in various professions and jobs. Today since we find most avenues more or less closed and wish to be prepared for what we have not done so far, perhaps the practice of intervening in our schematization process will be of benefit for us. Model making is very useful. The more complex the model, the closer it will look to what we now have to make ourselves vulnerable to, particularly in a world where the unknown looms larger than it ever did before. Complexity is suddenly part of our life today because we have become aware of it.
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Many qualifiers have been given which in one way or another characterize our modern times. They have been called “societies of the ordinary man;” “societies trying to eliminate the impact of the blind laws of economics;” “societies trying to offer equal opportunities to all,” and so on. Adults everywhere are polarized by the choices available and form themselves into opposing factions, and some feel it worth their while to die for their beliefs or to kill for them. Would it be wrong to call our age the opening of the “intuitive era?” Would it be useful to do so? An era only exists because a sufficiently large number of people adhere to certain ways. There have been “Golden Ages” in a number of cultures when a flowering of the arts and literature produced many outstanding and lasting contributions. Often the high standard of these productions ushered in an era of decadence that could not do better than, or even maintain, that standard. The immense analytic contributions of Western Civilization to mankind’s evolution in the last three hundred years put in the shade the fact, now clearly perceived, that it took place at the cost of man’s inner evolution. Man’s awareness of himself as a social being, barely one hundred years old, has led to many confusions, hurting mainly
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because of its being held as an eternal absolute when it only is one of the many successive awarenesses needed to grow up in the world. In looking back at any one life or at the history of any civilization, it becomes clear that in the temporal hierarchies that they constitute, absolutes are created by the demands of a period so that the stresses can be where they belong and so as to achieve the required evolution. Men for most of the 20th century everywhere became acutely aware of themselves as social beings and concentrated mainly in making that awareness generate the fabric of a social life acceptable to almost all. Socialism is a deliberate political form that wants to make this happen by all the means available to those who identify with it. Just as there are people who display in their adult social life all the forms that have been generated over the centuries, there are people who identify themselves as being active on behalf of a form descending upon their contemporaries. All new eras have been ushered in by some pioneers be fore they were recognized and adopted. With people living at one of the seven or so levels of awareness, stressing their own absolutes, and opposing those of others, we recognize that absolutes are only passing phases, individually and collectively. Complexity is compatible with relativity, and intuition is the only way of holding together all those relative absolutes without generating clashes, as happens when absolutes are not relativized. We all live willy-nilly on a planet where sexes, ages, colors, cultures, and religions differ and produce differences. Intuition is capable of not tampering with diversity, as it is respectful of the whole; intuition can channel all other ways of knowing into recognizing the truth about mankind — that it is a mixture of all kinds of evolutions at all levels of expression. What intuition is adequate for will represent its value, and it is adequate to cope with a planet reduced to a “global village” or “spaceship Earth.” All schemas about man break down in the face of the reality of the inhabitants of the planet. The ultimate reality of each one of us is not our individuality but the fact that we are persons. Only intuition is capable of the grasp of a person, of persons as being in 10
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time, unpredictable, unprogrammed, and who are themselves and as complicated as they actually are. Intuition is compatible with all other ways of knowing. It can produce with each of them, new ways of knowing which are capable of entertaining what has been left out because of its difficulty and strangeness. A new era always distinguishes itself by what it integrates of what was not noticed or was marginal until then. Descartes and Frances Bacon forced Europeans to dedicate themselves to nature via the intellect. Hobbes and Rousseau and many others from 1650 to 1800 forced them to see themselves as social beings and to transform the world by their legislations. Today so many voices are calling us to transcend the intellectual and the social and reach…what can be called, “the intuitive level.” At the same time as it inscribes us in the collective evolution, intuition shows us that it is the only way of knowing that brings together all earthians by respecting their numerous differences and their place in time on their individual evolution. Complexity, if respected, becomes ipso facto stressed, since it is the predominant feature of our involvements — complexity as a companion of truth: the truth of our reality, caught as one with all its content, which will affect all our involvements with the world and with people. Intuition is the way of knowing all this in the making and all through life, which places us in the era of intuition and in the new reality we are producing by living it. The question of usefulness can be treated briefly. If intuition is the way of adequate response to new calls, it is clearly useful. And it is also useful because, as our functioning and as our way of knowing, it allows us to respect and maintain the complexity of situations by keeping us free of schematization and of absolutes. To have intuition and to practice using it will make it a tool for everyday life and we can see a good reason for calling the period we are entering into “the era of intuition.”
4 The Call On Us As Educators
In the terms of the status quo, a society employs school people to produce a certain kind of scholar, the church wants faithful parishioners, the state wants obedient scholars, the armed forces and industry want members who identify with the aims of their superiors, and so on. But in all walks of life there are to be found those persons called educators, whose job is to make explicit in their living what they find is necessary to continue evolution beyond the point it has reached. Teachers may be and can be educators, but they are not such automatically. John Dewey is as good an example as can be found of an educator who, through his writings and actions, made the U.S. population aware of the significance for its own evolution, of the shift of the stress in schools from intellectual to social education. American educators for most of this century have interpreted his teachings and effected change so that “the social era” could be a reality. Today a new crisis at all levels and in all quarters is telling Americans that they again have to move in order to transcend their social biases and entertain new challenges. “The education of the person in each of us” is perhaps an acceptable concept for contemporary Americans. But this cannot as easily be put into a blueprint as were intellectual and social education. Those could accommodate themselves to schemas but
Intuition And Complexity
there is no schema for a person, who is unique, unpredictable, and who expresses himself or herself mainly through transformation and change. As educators we need intuition in order to hold the whole and its complexity. Also, we need intuition as a way of functioning to be able to work with complexity and at the same time propose pinpointed activities that educate and respect the contemplated whole person. Masses of daily opportunities exist to provide teachers with practice in educating the whole person in the context of specific activities and to make them into active educators for the new era. We need only become aware ourselves of how to present them with challenges wide enough to provoke inspiration but manageable enough to provide practice. Where in the past we fragmented knowledge and unrolled a curriculum like a carpet, we now place students systematically and constantly in front of wholes that yield their treasures through different lightings. We no longer consider knowledge as an accumulation of items of information but as the by-product of some human activities called knowing. And since there are many ways of knowing, we would give practice in all of them by presenting selected challenges specially requiring each or a combination of them. Our seminars and workshops for teachers have been oriented towards such awarenesses. Our study of the role of Common Sense in the teaching of subjects like mathematics, foreign languages, the mother tongue, and for the deaf, have stressed the benefits of involving students in dialogues with universes of experience and in making them discover that it is what they have done that generated their knowledge. It is very easy to make this plain in a classroom but it is complex to tell in words, what takes minutes to display may require scores of pages to describe. The thousands of teachers who have worked with us know of this difficulty when using the verbal medium. They might understand statements which may be very obscure to the general public, such as: by presenting on a Fidel (a phonic code chart) all the sounds of a language, with all the spellings for each sound, we can offer immediate access to the â€œtotalityâ€? of the language as natives perceive it. Forging 14
4 The Call On Us As Educators
via exercises through that whole, we produce the awareness in students that they already know a large chunk of the sounds of that language and only need to exert themselves to complete their survey of sounds, a goal reachable per haps in two hours. This experience is not possible in the traditional ways of presenting atoms of information to be committed to memory. In mathematics by reaching what can be given as an experience of a whole via a direct access to an infinite set of interrelated entities, we can offer an intuition of several chapters of classical mathematics and from there go on to a cascade of theorems. These have been offered in the past as separate entities to be memorized and they left most students thinking that mathematics was knowledge handed down over the centuries rather than something generated in the mind. Intuition is a powerful way of knowing because it mobilizes our affectivity and maintains us in contact with the real source of inspiration. This source is the one that transcends the moment, but makes possible the access to the content of the whole, made up of the various lightings our mind uses in contact with that whole. If all this seems very different from the humdrum of college education and its sheaves of recipes for holding students’ interest and dishing out knowledge, it is because rather than begin with subject matter we start with the students, with what they can do and what will best serve their purpose today. Educators know that they have some responsibility in taking as many of their contemporaries as possible over the threshold of the “intuitive era” without discarding what is of accepted value in the present curriculum. It is indeed possible to recast intellectual and social education in terms of intuitive education, and our knowledge of this fact tells us that, collectively, we are no doubt well advanced on the road to replacing the social era by the intuitive one. Caleb Gattegno
A Brief Report On A Summer Experiment From June 30th to August 8th, a few of us were engaged in an experiment in teaching at Staten Island Community College. This experiment was jointly funded by the U.S. Office of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (which made a contract with Educational Solutions Inc.), by Staten Island Community College (which offered space, maintenance, staff), and by Educational Solutions Inc., (which trained observers, offered space and personnel). The purpose of the experiment was to examine whether our approach to students — the subordination of teaching to learning —would make a difference in how freshman new to a community college took to their studies and in how they fared during their first year of college. Staten Island Community College had been acquainted with our work and was ready to see if a sufficient impact could be made in six weeks on the open admission students recruited for the ‘75-’76 school year. As for us, we were desirous to demonstrate once more that we had something to offer that was vital for education at all levels. Our target areas were:
mathematics, writing, and reading college texts.
Intuition And Complexity
only awareness is educable in man. *
give exercises so that students know that they can be independent, autonomous, and responsible to take care of their work at college level. **
The students in our classes were randomly selected from a group of incoming SICC freshmen who were 1) enrolled in the College Discovery Program (meeting poverty income criteria), 2) willing to participate in a voluntary summer program, and 3) identified by the college as requiring remedial work on the basis of standardized test performance. But, as people, they were susceptible to an approach that considered them from the start and all the time, as persons. For some of them, who met other students enrolled in the control group, the differences in approach did not all appear to be in their favor since almost all of the routines in the control group were familiar to them while the procedures in ours were unsettling and needed a greater adjustment. Nevertheless, the final comments were unanimously appreciative of the experience. Some even asked why such an approach had not been used in their previous schools. We made 54 hours of video tapes to gather evidence to support and illustrate conclusions we and others may reach. We accumulated at least one protocol for each lesson from observers, who sometimes numbered six for one lesson and never were fewer than three. We received about a dozen visitors, some of whom came a few times. We audio-recorded a number of sessions, produced logs about each student made by three of the four instructors, submitted questionnaires to the students and the observers, compiled their answers, collected a certain amount of the students’ written work and *
cf. “What We Owe Children,” “The Universe of Babies,” “An Experimental School,” “The Mind Teaches the Brain” all written by Dr. Caleb Gattegno
We distinguish three components in the functioning of skills. One is the awareness that, having paid what is required to retain what one cannot invent, one is on one’s own, one is independent. But we need to use our skills to meet new situations and for that we must have initiative or prove ourselves as autonomous. When we adapt our skills to our goals we show responsibility.
studied it. Everyday each class was analyzed in seminars, where staff often viewed the video tapes and planned for the following class meeting. What the material gathered actually shows will be detailed in a comprehensive report. Here we can only say that together with the students we managed to throw some light on how much more interesting for students and teachers classes can be if all concentrate on learning rather than on the subject matter, and how much more subject matter is retained by the students because of their deeper and clearer involvement. Even those students most influenced by their views that routine courses are better for them, and those most difficult to please, stated that it had been a good experience. There are also those who benefited immensely and were sufficiently articulate to state this clearly, saying that they believed they were speaking for all, especially for those who found expression beyond them in such circumstances. What they said made the experiment a very worthwhile involvement for us, justifying the expenditure of time and energy over a period longer than the six weeks of teaching. It was of course for us also an opportunity to find out more about, and to show others, the meaning of the education of awareness and of the consequences of such an education on persons and, through it, on the level of achievement in the subjects. Very few of the students missed the message. Most, recognizing awareness as cardinal for life as well as for studies, found that they had changed in matters they could pinpoint: confidence, ability to articulate, interest for what had escaped them till then, realization that dedication to certain activities carried with it specific benefits, discovery that they had some academic gifts and even some talents, encountering themselves in relationship, etc. We know better now than when we started that what we have to offer is for everybody; that teachers are the makers or marrers of what goes on in college classes; that if they really want to make each class into a laboratory, they can gain the trust of their students, help them individually, provide vital experiences early enough to assist them in all they have to do subsequently, give them a sense of direction and an 19
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overview of what they should do to be on top of their work as well as facility in the skills needed for that work. Here and there it was possible to shed some light on what the responsibilities of students are and to find out that the members of the group had believed that these were not theirs but belonged to the institutions they were in. The shift in that awareness alone had considerable impact on those who came with some openness and made the six weeks very much worth their while. Whether we did enough in that short time to help students cope with what they are going to meet â€” of which we, like them, were not informed â€” will be found out next May when we and an independent evaluator assess a number of components of the situation at the end of the freshmenâ€™s year at that college. Still as an educational team dedicated to proposing solutions to challenges that can be implemented within present situations and at a cost mainly of human changes, we can conclude this report by saying that we saw the confirmation that we can improve postsecondary education through better acquaintance with what students can contribute to their Own growth when in contact with people more aware of themselves and of learning. The staff of the experiment
THE MIND TEACHES THE BRAIN by Dr. Caleb Gattegno, available through Educational Solutions Inc. N.Y.C. $15.00 The mind knows itself; the brain does not (it cannot even feel pain). It is unavailing, therefore, to hope to find explanations of mental life by investigating only the behaviors of the brain. The role of the brain as a vital organ can only be understood by studying the way the mind directs and in fuses it, making it into an instrument at the disposal of the self. These assertions launch the author on his journey â€” perhaps the most daring he has undertaken, and certainly the one out of which he has produced the most enthralling and engrossing guidebook. The scope is nothing less than the development of the total human personality, the evolution of all the mental functionings and capabilities of the adult human self. In a book very much shorter than most novels, the author discusses in detail thirteen pictures taken from different points on his journey, each view showing a certain phase in the evolution of the self. Beginning with the prenatal stage, where biological matters predominate, the route takes in the development of perception, memory and intelligence, and of the symbolizing and intellectual powers â€” functionings traditionally associated with the brain â€” then on through the development of sensitivity, of the capacity to enter into relationships with others, of morality and imagination, of the aesthetic sense and
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spiritual awareness — functionings in which the educated brain continues to play a necessary if subordinate part. The sequence of chapters, although not strictly chronological, is governed by the evolutionary movement which takes the individual through successive layers of learning, each containing new possibilities yet capable of integrating all that has gone before. The text is dense with years of reflection on the self’s journey through life. Certain passages, paragraphs, even sentences, compress a great deal into a little space. Sometimes these compressions speak quickly and directly to the reader; at other times the concentration requires the reader to find how to dilute the content with the lessons of his own experience. It is, indeed, a “difficult” book, demanding an effort of recreation by the reader; it is quite impossible to exhaust, or even to take in its essence, with out giving much time and attention to it. Nevertheless, there is no reason why a book should be expected to tell all, all at once, and for any reader there are enough accessible and telling passages to convince him that what he doesn’t get on a first reading will at least be worth struggling for. Part I of this restricted publication (Introduction and Chapters 1-3) shows the self, in its prenatal and immediate postnatal manifestations, learning about the soma and its functionings: the self-making itself. The model adopted by the author, of a self present from the moment of conception and assuming control of its own shaping, subject to the chemical, physical and biological facts of its environment, is a difficult notion to come to terms with, yet it makes more sense of, for example, premature births, than the more usual model of a self somehow and unaccountably “emerging” when the biological foundations have already been laid. This part of the book also contains detailed discussions of two of the author’s most controversial insights. Why do we sleep? And, in particular, why do babies sleep so much in spite of doing so little that could make them “tired?” Because it is the state in which, through withdrawal from the demands and distractions of the environment, the
self can attend to itself and the tasks that it must do and that it alone can do. We are not conscious of living in an electromagnetic field any more than we are normally conscious of breathing air or walking with the aid of gravity. Yet since instruments tell us that we live in an electromagnetic environment, we can think to ask how we manage to deal with its impacts on us. The author boldly suggests that the “Faraday cage” which shields us from the capricious interference of electromagnetic disturbances was discovered empirically millennia ago by the Chinese when they identified the acupuncture points and the meridians containing them. In Part II (Chapters 4-9) the author shows the self educating the brain for the subtle and complex functions it must undertake. After the self has “given itself” a soma, it has to energize the soma’s functionings. For example, the soma’s sense organs selectively but spontaneously receive energy from the environment that the self must learn to deal with. Apart from integrating this energy (which finds its way to the brain) the self educates the brain by itself sending some of its own energy from the brain to the sense organs, activating the same channels in the reverse direction from inside and creating images, and through the study of the effects of these changes learns how to instruct the brain so that it becomes an efficient monitor of the energy flows that reach it from the outside. The focused, localized, attention of the self to such specific inner studies may be called the working of the mind. Not all the available energy is usually required in order to activate the functionings of the soma, and so at a further remove from the soma we find the possibility of intelligence, for example, which utilizes energy to survey the functionings and to take action, perhaps to bring into play other functionings not immediately engaged. At still another remove from the immediate “aggression” of the environment on the soma, the self can study its store of reality and the manifold interconnections created by the movements of energy within the soma and learn how to reduce the amount of the input that it judges sufficient to trigger a recognition or a response. The resulting 23
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economy in the use of energy can be seen from another viewpoint as the selfâ€™s engagement with symbols, and the evolution of the intellect as the field concerned with this form of activity. Part III (Chapters 10-16) moves into those regions where the differences between the functionings of individuals become more obviously significant than the functionings they share, into those expansions of the self that enable it to transcend its circumstances (because it has taken account of them, learned from them, and found how to balance their imperatives against its own needs) and to express itself through its own choices of response to the situations it encounters, each new conquest of awareness taking the self to the point where eventually it achieves the capacity to put aside for a while even its own individuality. The development of sensitivity and imagination show the self working mainly to refine and strengthen its own inner movements; the emergence of affection and love, and of a moral sense, show it learning how to extend its sense of truth to encompass its engagements with others who cannot be known as the self knows itself. (There is also a chapter on the Aesthetic Self, but here, for once, I feel that the author is short on substance.) The self does not always, of course, deal with the challenges that these opportunities present, and may opt to stay at the pre-human threshold of any or all of them. This Part presses the claims of total humanity, of keeping in touch with the self in its totality, of always striving to know what it is one knows. The book, to anyone who reads with thoughtful sympathy, is powerful and stirring. Its tone of serious optimism is rare, these days, and a wholesome tonic. Perhaps the dark sides of human experience are underplayed. But what, indeed, can be said about them once they have been acknowledged? The only worthwhile thing to say may be what this book says so consistently and persuasively: transcendence is a perpetual possibility. David Wheeler
MAKE YOUR SCHOOLS WORK by Harvey B. Scribner & Leonard B. Stevens. Simon & Schuster, N.Y. 1975 $7.95. In this book an experienced school administrator who tried to change New York City Schools when he was the Chancellor, tells us how he sees the possibility of schools everywhere becoming the right place for learning if parents rather than professionals take the lead. The criticism in this text of what goes on in schools and in the politics of public education will probably be shared by most sensible people who have been in any of a number of public schools in any large community. Less accepted will be the ten proposals that form the main part of the book. Indeed the authors point out the various interests apparently threatened by each of the proposals and expect opposition from these quarters. Professionals and their unions are the most conspicuous group; sometimes parents are mentioned as opponents. It is assumed that students will all agree, as their interests are foremost in the mind of the writers. The ten administrative plans propose the following reforms: 1
The birthday-entrance plan would enroll children in kindergarten or grade 1 on the day of their 5th or 6th birthday, respectively, or the next open school day, thus staggering the influx of students, and making life easier for teachers who could then better attend to fewer students (who would then learn more comfortably because of the attention received).
2 The year-round-learning-center would have the advantages of using the plant more fully, of reducing the number of students in every class (since the plan assumes that only 180 days of the 250 available must be days of attendance), of generating flexibility for parents who can choose when to go on vacation and of forcing individualized programs (since no teacher will be certain of who will attend every day). 3 The most-wanted-teacher plan would automatically give to the best teachers the largest number of students (who would be free to select their teacher). The plan would pay the most wanted teacher in a manner so that he or she could hire aides or colleagues to do the job according to 25
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his or her judgment alone (provided the laws are held to and the school district agrees). The plan could be a process to weed out bad teachers and to give good teachers promotions as teachers instead of removing them from the classroom. 4 The apprenticed-learner plan would relate schools (particularly high schools) to the community, giving credit for work done outside of school and providing opportunities to see education not only as the function of schools. 5 The universal-tutor plan “would provide each student. . . with an older student as a personal tutor.” The plan is notable mainly because the older students who experience teaching could not fail to make great progress. The time given to tutoring would count towards credit as though it were spent in the classroom. 6 The zero-construction building plan would take care of the shortage of money in so many districts and force educators to look at the facilities available and to produce up-to-date schools while spending less for renovation and equipment than would be spent for land, demolition and construction. 7 The high-school renewal plan would be the educational program of the school while it is in operation, meaning that each student and staff member would be involved as a school planner under the leadership of the principal as chief school planner. “The planners must answer two fundamental questions: What constitutes the education of a high school graduate in contemporary American society? What role does, or should the high school play in affording individuals the opportunity to earn a diploma?” “The planners. . . perhaps will sketch out the beginnings of a new system of internal government. . . rewrite the school diploma standards. . . . . will conceive a compelling rationale for expanding work opportunities.” 8 The autonomous-school plan would turn over effective control of a school to the parents involved. It would set forth a governance system that would spell out the roles and responsibilities of parents, principal, district school board and superintendent. “Is it radical to suggest that
the best government usually is the government closest to the governed?” 9 The external-diploma plan concerns diplomas to be earned by persons who aren’t in school anymore. It would substitute performance for time-in -school! “. . . it would allow thousands of competent, responsible people to earn something they don’t have and would like to obtain. . .” 10 The bankrolled educational opportunity plan “is the most ambitious and also the most costly.” “Free public education through high school is the right of all citizens. Those who leave school before graduating. . . forgo their educational opportunity.” It is similar to the G. I. Bill, undertaken by a state. This “would adopt legislation guaranteeing twelve years of free education for all . . . where a citizen has attended school for less than 12 years, he or she would have set aside for his or her future educational use a sum equal to the value of his unused formal education.” This brief summary does not do justice to the reasoning behind each proposal, whose merits would be recognized by more citizens than not. The plans are practical suggestions compatible with what is known of the dynamics of national and local education. Their only weakness is that they are mainly blueprints, and until some are widely implemented, their discussion is academic — although for the writers they are their flesh and blood, the result of deep thinking and a broad experience. What struck me most forcibly is that the writers believe that, if learning becomes more important than anything else in schools, there will be immediate changes in what students can take away from their time spent there. Learning — human learning, that is — has not been made part of teachers’ functioning. So little is available in the literature (mainly because Americans have “bought” behavioral changes as learning) that teachers would not know what to do with their students’ time even if all ten plans were put into operation. Parents are granted more than professionals in terms of insights, interest, flexibility, dedication, which may be true generally but perhaps would not obtain when actual experiments are set to 27
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implement the plans. This produces a theoretical weakness that might be eliminated if we relate to both groups as people who need to know as much about what the maximum equivalent in learning could be for the time spent at school. Besides the ten plans the book offers in other chapters what may be as worth thinking about as the plans if we want to be effective in the thick of education. No doubt, this book will become a text mandated in all schools of education as it proposes so much in a short space and in a very readable form. Caleb Gattegno
About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesnâ€™t require his students to memorize anything, he doesnâ€™t shout or at times even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested. In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1911, Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning. Gattegno travelled around the world 10 times conducting seminars on his teaching methods, and had himself learned about 40 languages. He wrote more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He was survived by his second wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.
Published on Aug 10, 2009