Are We Not All Handicapped?
Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.
vol. X no. 5
First published in 1981. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright ÂŠ 1981-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-309-8 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555 www.EducationalSolutions.com
With this issue we present the last of our contributions related to “The Year of the Disabled,” which for us extended over the academic year ‘80-’81 and not the calendar year ‘81. Last September we dedicated the issue to the teaching of reading to the blind; the December issue was devoted to clinic cases and clinic work; the February issue to the learning disabled and the last one (April) to teaching the deaf. It seemed proper after separating some categories of people from the mainstream by stressing one or other of their needs, to turn to the mainstream and look into what makes us all less than we could be. Our readers, so used to not letting us know what they experience when they get acquainted with some matters through the articles we send them, will once more leave us guessing. Such an activity is debilitating and creates doubt about why this Newsletter should be continued. Since this is the last issue of Volume X, would readers take the trouble to let us know whether we should discontinue its publication? Of course, your subscribing to it is a strong positive feedback, and we could be satisfied with that, but we must admit that we would like a more direct communication which might encourage us to put up with all the work this Newsletter requires. While it is not financially independent and never was considered to have to even break even, its justification cannot be found only at this end. Is there anyone who truly benefits from its existence? How would we know? The News Items as usual serve to share with our readers the progress we are making in our various projects.
Table of Contents
1 Do I Know How To Listen? ................................................ 1 2 Do I Know What There Is To See? ..................................... 5 3 Does Concentration Tire Me? ........................................... 11 4 Why Canâ€™t We Learn Effortlessly? ....................................15 News Items ......................................................................... 21 1 One Day At The Oak Grove School In Ojai, California ................. 21 2 The National Science Foundation Project .................................... 24
1 Do I Know How To Listen?
In most languages there are two words connected with the functions of the ears. In English these two words are “hear” and “listen.” Creators of languages only propose a new word when there is an awareness that something new has been found. Therefore, if the two words listen and hear go on being in use and are not taken to be synonyms, there must be two realities they refer to. A quick survey of when we personally use one or the other, will tell us that to listen is concerned with what we do to ourselves in order to attend to what reaches our ears, and to hear is concerned with the awareness that something has reached our ears from the outside. Our presence in our ears refers to listening. Therefore we all assume that we naturally know how to listen. Very few among us ask the question: “Do I really know whether I understand what is involved in listening?” We can start our critical study of that question on the next occasion we find ourselves in a situation where we are involved with someone who speaks to us. Do we find our self still and present in our ears? Or, as soon as we receive the first words, do we catch ourselves starting our own commentary and feel our split presence: something of us interfering with what is coming? Do we feel that emotions related to the person talking, but not to the matter of the talk, are aroused in us?
Are We Not All Handicapped?
Do we resent being involved in the talk but say nothing about that and pretend to be paying attention while our mind entertains other subjects? Do we hear ourselves saying to ourselves but not to the other person: “Must you do this now?” or “It will soon be over” or “When will it end?” or “Why do you go on?” or “Must you go on and on?” or “Must you tell me things twice or more times? I got it already.” And so on. It rarely occurs to us that all this inner chatter is controllable and does not present itself on the occasions when we really listen, when what is said and how it is said become the objects of our attention. It must be said that interference does not only take the form above. The negative tone of all these remarks can be replaced by a sense of pleasure and still there will be no time for listening. Have we not been anticipating a speaker’s words and added our own words in every slightly prolonged silence between some words, and found that the words we add are favorable to our ego, even if they do not materialize? How could we be listening if we allow such inner behaviors? We can study this tendency not to listen in us, on other occasions than when we relate to people talking to us. At lectures, watching television, at movies, in concerts, when listening is proper, we can catch ourselves letting alien thoughts, irrelevant reactions, occupy our consciousness. The details of what we actually do is for each of us to find out. How we do it too, and why. If the purpose of the study is not only to know but also to improve our capacity to listen, many varied occasions to come closer to our inner life will be needed. There are exercises in store in us since we must have been very good listeners in order to acquire the world of speech and our language. There are, of course, also made-up exercises to help us recapture our capacity to listen, if by chance we lost it. Naturally, to know how to listen does not carry with it that it makes us uncritical of content or manner of delivery of talks. It is not meant for
1 Do I Know How To Listen?
that end but to make us into people who can recognize that to be humans is to be present in what our self does on all occasions in the here and now. In particular, to be watchful that we give the occasion what is due it: to a person talking, the right to be heard fully; to a lecturer, the right to tell us what he or she thinks on the topic which brought us to the lecture; to an orchestra or a theatrical company what it intends to convey of its own conception of what is being performed. Listening is a component of true relating and is as much in our favor, to our advantage, as to that of the other or others. It shows us as much as it shows others, that as humans we know we have to take steps to affirm, to convey, our participation in a relationship we allow to involve us, to consume time in our life. We can practice our ability to listen, anywhere we find ourselves and can become watchful of the power it represents. Indeed, not only can we let things in as they are but we can discover that we own mechanisms of amplification; that we own filters of different kinds, made to work so as only to concentrate on the relevant, the subtle, the characteristic and to keep out what does not matter, including our reactions, our tendencies, our preconceptions and prejudices. By being sensitive to listening as a power of our mind, of our self, we may give ourselves new chances for a fuller life, a life richer in forms of relating with the whole world and with people. The songs of birds, the movements of leaves in a breeze, the kinds of steps of people walking, the qualities of voices, all gain new meanings and new dimensions. Listening is presence and presence is the attribute of our self which when known intimately opens up humanness to the human being we are. That is its main claim at being at the center of our attention. Instead of being a foolish ambition, to want to recapture our ways as babies and little children, is perhaps one of the most worthwhile occupation of our time. If to know how to listen properly is a power, not to listen properly most of the time must be a handicap. Since this last state is so frequent, it is possible to accept that most of us are handicapped in that area of being. We therefore are concerned with the education of the handicapped when we work on ourselves to become better listeners.
2 Do I Know What There Is To See?
How often do we miss something obvious? Most of us don’t know. Let us find a few telling examples besides those which will be met here, so that this study brings us in contact with ourselves as people who could have seen more in what they look at. To begin with we can take as example the study we want to engage in. Don’t we know that when we become aware of something we (a) suddenly notice its existence, (b) marvel at the fact that we did not notice earlier that there was something there we needed to be aware of, (c) that about that thing, we now have questions, some about it and some about ourselves in relation to it. More specifically, do we know that we only feel that we contemplate genuine questions when we are aware of something, whatever that thing? To feel the presence of a question in us concerns an awareness of a state of being, not an idea about an idea. If you were asked: “What is the time?” and you had access to a watch or a clock, there is no feeling that that interrogation moves you. But if you were asked: “Could you make that plane at this hour?” considering that it is, say, two hours before the schedule flight and it is a peak hour for the traffic on the highway to the airport? Here the question touches a chord in us and we may feel many different movements within, perhaps one of doubt or of anxiety, one of calm knowing that there may be a subsequent acceptable flight, one of certainty that two hours is plenty, barred very exceptional circumstances.
Are We Not All Handicapped?
When we relate to questions like these we don’t entertain what is present and could be reached. We therefore do not experience that there is something more to notice and we go on as we did before without it. Don’t we all feel satisfied that if we see something, we simply do and if we don’t we don’t? Do we ever enquire about seeing when we are seeing? Although to know about seeing requires that we stop at seeing. And knowing about seeing generally escapes us. Could it not be that knowing about seeing would make our sight much more powerful? Couldn’t we say that dwelling in seeing was the hallmark of the greatest painters who saw what was there to see but would escape everyone who put his or her awareness somewhere else? All those who have worked on themselves to be able to consider three dimensional geometry problems, or who use Monge’s conceptions of space systematized as “descriptive geometry,” know that it is possible to learn to see in that field is achieved by educating one’s sight intellectually i.e. make sight psychologically different to the point that it functions automatically as if the alteration were physiological. So many more people have taught themselves to see perspective than have to see 3-D geometric figures, it is easier for the readers to examine seeing in the field of perspective since they may find they are not able to do that in the field of 3-D geometry. Seeing requires eyes, but the eyes of the illiterate do not see written words when these are presented to him or her; the eyes of the literate in one script may not see what is hidden behind another script. Seeing is a psychological, a cultural, a social power of the mind, much more than the response to light stimuli. Hence, we can all easily enough find out that perhaps we do not know exactly what it is to see and how much we miss because our sight has been educated only to that point and not further. If I have eyes and do not see what is obvious to someone else, can I call myself handicapped? Should I? Perhaps! Indeed, it is so easy to discover that one does not know what it is to see in so many areas, that it might be healthier for each of us, to accept that we are handicapped and do something to give ourselves both the humility that goes with
2 Do I Know What There Is To See?
that awareness, and the resolution of doing what we can to be less hampered by our sight, that includes the functions of our mind’s eye. For years, after my observations led me to what ended up being a discovery I stated: “… and which was there, for all to see,” for I could not believe that I might be alone in seeing what I saw and was writing about. In fact, I was stirred enough by finding that I was alone to begin looking into what I was doing, to be able to see what I was seeing, which others preferred not to see, that I gave workshops and seminars, here and there, on the subject: “Why is it that the obvious escapes us?” A very challenging, though almost absurd, question. The provisional first answer was: “Because the familiar has lost its power to strike us, to move us, to invite us to ask questions.” Our sight seems to be touched by what moves, not by what is stationary or by what changes too slowly to be perceived or too fast to appear perceptible, but by that which summons enough energy to affect our energy system to the point it can be sensed and acknowledged. After looking at things long enough, to be able to label them as familiar, we no longer mobilize ourselves to question their impact on us. It is for that reason that it is often necessary for another person than an inventor, an investigator, a proponent of a theory, to find out where there are flaws or limitations in what the first proposer saw. Progress in science and technology (and maybe in other fields) results from the questioning of the validity of the original statements. The reader of a paper or a patent, sees not only what the writer or the inventor saw but also the limitations which escaped the first proposer. A third proposer, followed by others, can in turn alter what has been seen by others. If this makes sense to the reader, an important component of education of our awareness results. Indeed, we can remain all the time in the state of suspended judgment and look at everything as susceptible of being revised. What we find, as well as what others find. To be in that state does not mean that we can always bring improvements to what we relate to, nor that we have to doubt the veracity of all statements we hear or read. If we are with a question with an open mind, we shall find
Are We Not All Handicapped?
that it contains what the popular saying calls, “more than meets the eye” and try to go beyond the barrier of the familiar. Among the examples I like to bring out, the following are of the kind I labeled as, “there to be seen by all.” 1
Newly born babies sleep for so many hours every day for several weeks. Does it tell us that sleep is for rest? Do babies need all that rest? For what work? We see babies sleep, but do we see what goes on inside them? Does not their activity escape us because we accept what meets the eye as the actual content of the situation?
Babies crawl where no one around them does. Shall we go on believing that children learn by imitation when clearly here there is no one to imitate?
Babies for months do not attempt to utter the words used in their environment. We all learn to speak after a few months. We all see that, but do we really see it? Do we see for instance that no baby adopts the pitch of each person he or she addresses. We can see that they don’t, but we still proceed to state the children learn to speak by imitation. That seems obvious to those who did not attempt to see beyond the first appearances and who did not examine critically the current view on that matter. They are clearly handicapped in that matter and therefore miss the truth in it.
4 Colorblind people exist. Since they are colorblind, they do not relate to color like the rest of us. They must have developed other means they can trust to adapt to the world where color exists, is used and spoken about by others. If other attributes are present in a situation and can be perceived independently of color, it is obvious that the colorblind will go to them at once and use them to compensate their doubt about shades and hues that escape them. Still there is never a meeting in which the use of color is presented in the way it is integrated in Words in Color, The Silent Way, Leocolor, Math with Color etc., where someone — speaking for others too — does not ask the question: “And what about the colorblind?”
2 Do I Know What There Is To See?
5 If I see that the problem of reading has been solved, I say so. But apparently it is not to be said, since those who don’t see it believe that it cannot be beyond their sight. Am I to say that they are handicapped, in not being able to see? I should, I think! 6 If I see algebra as being more immediately understandable than arithmetic because I see this as implying the other, am I not entitled to suggest activities for very young children which make them grasp algebra before they give answers to their arithmetic sums? But apparently this still remains invisible to most. 7 If I see algebra as present in many other activities such as reading, learning to speak, to spell etc., is my sight the one that has to yield to those who do not see? Who is the handicapped? 8 We see people crying, do we see beyond the behavior? Do we see that there may be causes for crying”? Or, that crying has proper functions? Now to you, readers. Make the list of what you see that others don’t … and of what others see that you don’t.
3 Does Concentration Tire Me?
I select to write on this topic in this Newsletter because it will give me the opportunity to consider an important aspect of the self which gets lost when we utilize for ourselves or our students, the processes that are part of formal education from kindergarten to graduate school. Concentration does not need to be defined. We all know it intimately although we only become aware of it on some special occasions. For example, if we play chess with someone we want to beat, or if we want to read a complex sheet of music and play it at the same time, or if we want to examine something under the microscope etc., etc. On all these occasions we have the opportunity to be in contact with our self and experience the attribute in question. Concentration is then known simply as the presence of the self in the special activity considered, but with, in addition, a distinctive reduction of the field from which stimuli would be permitted to reach our sensitivities. It is the second part of the attribute that qualifies presence, which makes us know it as something else, as something more than itself, and which will therefore better characterize concentration. Even if we are not aware of presence, we know it as a concomitant of being awake (that is, presence is not to be singled out to account for what goes on in sleep, since the self works differently in the two states), and is found at once, if we merely call it. To be aware of presence, is what the self does to itself and can do at all ages and at any moment. It is not learned. As attribute of the self it is needed to perform all the jobs the self gives itself from conception on. Hence there exists a self
Are We Not All Handicapped?
that can give itself the state of presence and can also become aware of it. If, in addition to all the other attributes and all the other functionings which the self can be aware of, the self has given itself the attribute of not allowing awareness to pick up anything besides what serves its purpose of that moment, in the waking state, that is the state of concentration. This spontaneous working of the self is experienced as normally as presence is, but it is acknowledged by awareness as (a) excluding deliberately what could also be reached and, (2) letting in items and functionings of the self acknowledged as required by one’s awareness. Since concentration is a functioning of the self, it can be followed from conception on. Without it the acts of making, of discriminating, of acknowledging that the self is active, that it has done what it intended to do, that it can leave one job to go to another, would not happen. Since these acts happen all the time, concentration is always at hand to be used, examined, reduced, widened. In the state of wakefulness it is not called upon occasionally as would be, say chewing, walking or jumping — which by the way also imply concentration — it can even be said that the state of wakefulness is coextensive to the state of concentration. As sleep replaces wakefulness, concentration is no longer proper and vanishes as an attribute of the self in that state. For many people, this spontaneous use of themselves has lost its character of being spontaneous because it has been more and more connected with paying attention to what is not of their own creation, to forcing themselves to being with matters that often don’t make sense or are not made to make sense. For most of us, so much of what is asked of us during the day comes from outside, is willed by others without our true participation, is imposed on us that when awareness of concentration itself becomes manifest, the feel of the presence of the self is no longer there, or is experienced as an effort, supported by the will but for alien ends — the most common being, to get people off our backs. 12
3 Does Concentration Tire Me?
Hence, for all those who no longer sense concentration as the necessary component of being with something, as the indispensable attribute of the self which makes one’s inner life possible and normal, it is the stress on the will — forcing one to pay attention — that generates what is known as effort. Hence, for all those who no longer sense concentration as the necessary component of being with something, as the indispensable attribute of the self which makes one’s inner life possible and normal, it is the stress on the will — forcing one to pay attention — that generates what is known as effort. Hence the parody of concentration imposes itself to one’s attention and the subsequent observation is that one is tired in that state — one gets tired more and more. Efforts tire. Not concentration. Effort represents an expenditure of energy, while concentration describes a state of the self. The state which tells that one is on top of things, one is close to what there is to do (at whatever plane, in whatever activity) that all is smooth; hence the feel of effortlessness. Every one of us has known that one is awake because the self can concentrate. Those who take some time to reach gradually that state tell themselves: “I’m not quite awake yet.” Alertness may be, for them, a better description of the state, although alertness would add a promptness to be with, which is not required of wakefulness. To fall asleep could be best qualified by the self abandoning concentration as well as the awareness of presence, in particular of focal points. Sleep opens up all the reserves of the self so that any of them can have a place, exactly the opposite of what concentration does. In sleep there is no room, for the distortion of effort. That is why we say that we get rest when we sleep. But effort is an imposed behavior. One that handicaps us. We are handicapped if we hate effort as well as if we accept to make efforts to get anywhere, to achieve anything. A handicap caused by alienation, i.e. becoming someone else than what we could be and have been all the time in early childhood and still are, occasionally, in later years.
4 Why Can’t We Learn Effortlessly?
My studies of learning have slowly taken me to the point I am now at; that true learning is indeed effortless. But when I share this finding I only meet blank eyes as if no one knew that that has been one’s own case for very long. Is this another of the handicaps we display? Particularly if we are teachers, or educators and cannot believe that our students can acquire without effort what seems inaccessible even with effort? May I say that I foresee a time when all students will learn what they need to learn effortlessly. This will happen when we have made ourselves sensitive to the ways of learning of early childhood, the spontaneous learning in-utero and during the first years ex-utero and the ways of learning of those of all ages who found in their case, that effort had no role, no place, no significance. Today we can’t learn effortlessly because we have thwarted ourselves affectively; because we have adhered too much to what has been propagated vigorously by many insufficiently scrupulous (so-called) scientists who did not see a person in every student and who replaced learners by bundles of reflexes that needed to be conditioned. Failure to manage to “teach” so many students in schools, has not led people to examine whether we were doing the right things, whether we were pursuing the wrong routes and rather than putting the blame on the learners, as it is usually done, to accept squarely that the fault was ours, their teachers. This inability of teachers to move, to change their attitudes, to stop adhering to inconsistent theories, does it not make them handicapped?
Are We Not All Handicapped?
Learning has been equated, in the circles where people speak of it, with those changes in oneself that prepare one to become a member of one’s society and one’s culture, to manage to earn a living and to get a job available by doing what has been formalized as tests, interviews, examinations. Learning, in behavioristic terms although widely accepted, has not served the cause of education as the present extended and pervasive crisis is showing. Even if no one is making effective proposals within those circles, it does not occur to them that perhaps their premises are misleading. Perhaps their view of learning is the one to be revised. Perhaps the close examination of spontaneous learning can be of help. Perhaps effective learning is everyone’s birthright and amply demonstrated, many times over, but not seen by the set minds of the (so-called) observers. We cannot see what there is to see if we adhere to any preconceived theory. Adherence blinds us. And every one of us knows it in the case of someone else; rarely in ourselves. If, for once, we turn the light on us and see our adherences we may be able to do something about it. Otherwise only chance will make us be on the side of truth. If we saw how easy it is to turn the light, how easy it is to deal with our adherences once we expose them to ourselves through our awareness. No one else needs to know about them. We do not need anybody to do the job of seeing, of spotting the hidden energy we carelessly placed on them. Adherences are not everything and there is no real need to get rid of them, unless we know why we must do that job and what will result from it. Particularly if we do not adhere to not adhering and consider the value to our self of being aware of the boundaries of awareness as they showed themself to us when we did not notice our adherences. In fact, the initial question of why we do not believe that we can learn effortlessly, has become other questions that were hidden behind our belief. One of them, concerning adherence, is much more definite perhaps even more concrete, than the original one and if tackled seriously may help us develop into people who can learn effortlessly and, for some, even teach so that people always learn effortlessly.
4 Why Canâ€™t We Learn Effortlessly?
If it were not possible to learn effortlessly no one among us could have done all we did from our birth on to find ourselves sitting, standing, walking, etc., learned at certain stages of our growth. We know they were learned simply because there were times when we could not, say, stand and later when we could. There were times when we could not throw and others when we could, and similarly for each of our acquired skills. Nobody ever suggested that children make efforts to learn to speak the language of their environment. Does this mean that they learn it effortlessly. I would say so. Hence, I know many, many, learnings which can be labeled that way and through careful examination I found that what I did as a baby I can do again as an adult, and I learned many things, almost as effortlessly. Of course, knowing my limitations I do not try everything, only what does not require that I actually be a baby and what concern awareness, presence, concentration, relaxation, suspended judgment, surrender etc., These are all spiritual qualities rather than conditionings. In those human states, I find that I am the best possible learner I could be, not having anyone to please, not being distracted by extraneous demands, always ready to let the challenges guide me, enlighten me. It is my state that tells me I am a learner at that moment; that I am learning, comes from a different awareness. One which tells me that I am different from what I was, either because I find my throat capable of producing new combinations of sounds I could make, combinations selected to generate another language which I find myself holding at least as sounds, as part of my flesh, or because I see meaning behind mental acts I can perform but did not perform as yet, meaning that reflects a change in my awareness of what I am looking at whether algebra or geometry, classifications in botany or zoology or many other perceptible forms, diagrams, schemas or mechanisms. Learning effortlessly is actually the real way of human learning; possibly the only one, even when covered up by the clutter of other concomitant signals that point towards the presence of effort. Anyone who is capable of such learning can tell oneself that the future is open. And it happens that that is precisely what we all are capable of when learning on our own.
Are We Not All Handicapped?
Once aware of it we can no longer retreat. We can give ourselves to making it known to others. Through the medium of words we can touch some, the most advanced on that road. Through demonstrations we could perhaps touch more, provided they do not think that what they see performed in their presence borders on magic. If demonstration is followed by some other work — in seminars, workshops and by experimentation — other teachers can be made to join the ranks of those who can subordinate teaching to learning. First, because they are studying learning while it takes place and second because they have realized that their students are learning systems with a lot of credit to that name. What we are talking about here is not an idea, nor a plea for something we have discovered. It is a fact of awareness. As such it will strike anyone who opens oneself to it. It will convince at once — as facts do — that we better live with it, perhaps live up to it, as we know how to do when we meet with calamities. Except that this time, it will change our world in a manner which fits our human evolution, which sends back the message that we have another destiny, one in which joy can have a place. The handicap of not seeing that true learning is effortless — once illuminated by awareness — will return to the ranks of teachers, the legions that are needed to give the education of a billion children a new basis for a new departure. When human learning is seen as effortless, there will be plenty of time in one’s youthful years to prepare oneself for the encounter with what the future contains. The erosion of our energies in efforts has left us impotent. By removing the handicapping vision that effort is necessary in learning and by replacing it with a more realistic one, we shall find ourselves endowed with powers visibly available in a few among us, but in fact belonging to everyone of us as a birthright. Effortlessness in learning corresponds in humans to what has been achieved in calculators and computers electronically. Almost no energy is required to perform some complicated calculations by these electronic devices which are the fruit of our mind. Let us learn the lesson they provide; let us cultivate effortlessness, and recast in those terms what has been traditionally
4 Why Can’t We Learn Effortlessly?
reserved to the “gifted,” so that everyone can do it. This itself does not require effort. It flows out of a mind made available as a channel used by reality to express itself. Stillness — in the sense of no noise due to distraction — is then a property of the mind when it is directed by a descending future to do the right things. Absence of that other distraction — ambition — accompanies the state of quiet which tells oneself that one can expect as routine what has been judged this far as impossible.
1 One Day At The Oak Grove School In Ojai, California Ojai is a city of Southern California where Dr. Gattegno had occasion to work with teachers since 1958. At that first time it was mainly on the teaching of mathematics with the rods but later it was also for the demonstration of Words in Color. This time, on the last day of April ‘81, and the last half day of school before the vacation caused by Krishnamurti talks, it was to present the subordination of teaching to learning to the staff of the Oak Grove School. That school is supported by the Krishnamurti Foundation, as one of eight such schools in the world where an attempt is being made of educating the enrolled children in a manner that will take its roots in Krishnamurti’s expressions of humanity. The director of the school, Mark Lee, is an old friend of Educational Solutions; he already saw 16 years ago how the techniques and materials it proposes could assist in objectifying the aims of the Foundation. For a few years in Bangalore in India he directed the Rishi Valley School, the first Krishnamurti School in the world, where he introduced some of our approaches. Hence our association with the Oak Grove School can be said to be founded on a long acquaintance. (Dr. Hinman last year did two days of consultancy there. In February, Dr. Gattegno - who was in California — visited the school not then in session because of winter vacation, and talked at length with Mr. Lee, his wife, David Mooney, the pedagogical director and one or two staff
Are We Not All Handicapped?
members. It was agreed then that if it were possible, another visit would be arranged soon.) The date for this visit was selected because of a course in Oakland on the first weekend in May which would have brought Dr. Gattegno back in the area, but just before school closed for the talks. These talks are part of this school teachers’ education for the never ending work of knowing more deeply what Krishnamurti can contribute to education in general. In fact, that same staff had this year already eight sessions with Krishnamurti — a pattern that has been going on for some time. The day had three parts. (1) The morning, working first with the children in two classes — the younger ones to whom Spanish was taught, the older ones to whom algebra was taught — followed by one session with those staff that could attend. (2) The lunch-time, a session with Krishnamurti and the trustees of the Oak Grove School and five people who work at the school, that lasted for two hours. (3) The evening, dinner and for almost three hours after that, a seminar with the staff. The day closed after fourteen-hours. A breakfast with a few people the next morning and a session in the car with Mr. & Mrs. Lee gave this visit the roundness required to help assess its significance for all concerned. The morning session confirmed that effortlessness in learning a language can be experienced even by children who need some time to acquire the rules of the games they need to play. If included in the schedule as a regular subject to be worked on, we can bet that a language a year can be learned to a respectable level; the learning of one, making the learning of the next easier and more effective. It also showed that mathematics, being of the mind, can be handled by students only being involved in thinking about virtuality and seeing that what there is to do can be done mentally and expressed in words indicating clarity for themselves and making it appear thus for others. The teachers who observed the lessons could state, at the following session, that they learned something about the subject matter besides what they could gather from watching the teaching of their own students. In this they saw that concentration on the challenge at hand
can be obtained and maintained for the duration of the lesson, provided the teacher’s presence is felt as helpful and concerned with letting students understand what there is to do at every moment. If ever the challenges are neither too easy nor too hard, one can see the children exert themselves and take themselves where they have to be in order to go on. Learning becomes visible and visibly satisfying. Although no word was used to convey that the lessons were the result of years of study of learning and that everything in them could become accountable on actual evidence gleaned by the teacher as the lessons went on, the observers were trying to find the guiding principles and were concerned with learning as they know it, they asked: “Would it be retained? For how long? What would one do as a follow-up?” Hence, opportunities arose at the session with the teachers in the morning, of expounding why each of several steps had been chosen to be part of this lesson. During lunch, Krishnamurti placed Dr. Gattegno on a seat opposite him, leaving the head seat to Mr. Lee and giving to Mr. Mooney and a trustee, Mr. Lilifelt, the next seats by them. The other trustees and the guests sat along the long and narrow table beyond these five. Krishnamurti and Dr. Gattegno had only a few moments to talk before the buffet-style meal started. During that time, Dr. Gattegno said to Krishnamurti that he knew of his work since 1937 and had been in audiences at talks of his in London, Saanen (a few times) and New York and read some of his books as well as many of the verbatim reports of talks over these years. He also indicated to him later in what way his personal work had been affected by Krishnamurti’s insights into human psychology. It happened that both Krishnamurti and Mr. Lilifelt had known Jean Emile Marcault, a major influence on Gattegno’s thinking since the late thirties. Krishnamurti who this year is 86, announced that he was studying America by watching some programs on television. His questions about the state of this nation served as probes to find out where everyone was on that subject. In a lively manner, with anecdotes which had both a striking content and a deeper meaning, Krishnamurti seemed to have a wide grasp of what is happening in the world in many areas and to have met investigators on the frontiers of knowledge and to have been consulting with them and being consulted by them. Of course, he had no knowledge of Gattegno’s work beyond what Mr. Lee had conveyed to him. Still since, 23
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Krishnamurti has been interested in finding people who can make inputs into the foundation’s schools — which he is personally wanting to affect so that an education which he intuits can be offered to the coming generations — Mr. Lee suggested that Dr. Gattegno may have a contribution to make there. This would be at first at the school in Ojai, later possibly to the other seven Krishnamurti schools in Canada, Europe and India. At the end of the luncheon Krishnamurti seemed satisfied that he could see Gattegno as a resource for what they were trying to do. His departing greeting was very warm and accompanied with the expression of a wish for another encounter in a not too distant a future. To Mr. Lee he said later that he would value some cooperation between them and Educational Solutions. During the evening with the staff of the Oak Grove School, the main stress was on finding how the work of Dr. Gattegno fits in with the guidelines of the founder. Since not many in the group had an adequate grasp of Krishnamurti or Gattegno’s educational and psychological insights, the seminar took the form of a question and answer session with Dr. Gattegno’s comments on the answers in the light of what he knows of Krishnamurti’s work. Mr. Lee’s exceptional acquaintance with both, made him emphatically state that he saw great promise in a future cooperation and hoped it can soon be worked out. A few members of his staff supported his motion that it should be examined carefully to estimate its chances and if these were good to move seriously and vigorously ahead. Some people who stayed behind after Dr. Gattegno’s departure, started the examination of the evidence gleaned collectively during the hours of that working day. Mr. & Mrs. Lee on the way to the airport after breakfast the next day expressed their hope that the staff’s practical education can be continued in the months ahead with Dr. Gattegno, if possible, but certainly with Educational Solutions.
2 The National Science Foundation Project It is already three quarters of a year since we received the grant to produce a computer program on mathematics and six months since we began to look at some of the sections. We were slow to begin and only
recently we had enough to look at to assess among ourselves whether we were doing the job we hoped to do. There are various phases in the reaching of a product which is expected to meet the promises made in the proposal that led the NSF to give us the grant. The first after the proposal, was to have a detailed written scenario which takes care of the successive steps that will form the visible part of the program when put on the screen. The second is the translation of these scenari into instructions the computer can understand. This translation itself can become a complex human relations affair. The authors of scenari are not asked to be expert computer programmers but the computer programmers must fully understand what they have to work on. Since human affairs are varied and many, a certain amount of time may be needed to reach a good level of cooperation. The establishment of this smooth connection between minds that operate so differently, may make or mar a project. Working as a team, having frequent meetings to look at segments of the translations, being ready to abandon oneâ€™s views and adopting new ones, again and again, can save a project and give it the chances needed. For the team to work well both goodwill and inventiveness are necessary. A readiness to listen and see how one has to move towards the others and how obstacles can be removed; how one can serve as an interpreter to salvage some work done and to move ahead all the time, have been present at the meetings. As a result, at this hour, we have something to show which satisfies most of our criteria, demands, intentions and even hopes. We have all learned a great deal. We may not all be as clear about our gains to be able to articulate them in words; still, some of the words heard at the recent meetings indicate that we also learned for others. When the moment comes this Newsletter will carry the message to our readers. The program will soon be on diskettes and the third phase will start: field testing with the gathering of the evidence and its presentation in a report. We do not expect that this last phase will either be as demanding as the previous one (the translation) or as capable of 25
Are We Not All Handicapped?
changing us as that one did. Of course, we are ready for surprises and for new information revealed in the field tests, but we also have a lot more experience of teaching than we had of programming and that experience will serve us well in avoiding major pitfalls. If our school populations do well with this program it is because we have been able to put in it our knowledge and skill in the subordination of teaching to learning. If they do incomparably better than expected, it will be specifically because of the contribution of the computer which allowed us to synthesize the numerous components of our analysis of the challenges that are contained in addition and subtraction a and that ordinary classroom teaching does not allow because of its format. We now have in our hands the contents of four programs corresponding to the four scenari mentioned earlier. But we can add some remarks that for us represent news. In our Newsletter Volume IX, #5, on “The Computer and Education,” we indicated that we ask the computer to let students know that it will only accept a proper working of any challenge and that if it does not respond or respond fully, to what is inputted by the user, that means: “try again.” In this way, the feedback is: “reflect on what you did and compare it with the problem given you. When you know what you are doing or when you do what belongs to the solution, there is no need to waste time and to congratulate you. The computer will shift to another challenge.” This shift can mean: “Here is another example to confirm your ability to tackle a slightly different problem or a problem within the same domain of challenges.” It can also mean: “Are you on top of the technique presented? Have you found what to do and how? Do you need a long time or little time to assimilate the rules of the game.” Or, “To play enough to reach mastery?” Because our program as a whole is hierarchically structured — so that we make sure that what is learned properly does not need to be presented again and thus lead to a waste of time — we have put into our successive scenari those skills which integrate previous ones and make use of these to forge ahead. Thus we take care of forcing 26
awareness and of providing facility through sufficient but not too much practice. Students decide both and guide the computer through a “next” command. Traditionally, there is no attempt made to present students with the strictest mathematical basis which can lead to mastery of addition and subtraction. In our computer program we do precisely that and provide students with as profound a grasp of the challenge as can be offered. Children will find it accessible and mathematicians adequate. We treat numeration as a linguistic challenge. We realize that there are as many bases of numeration as we like. We bring in counting only as the answer to the question: “How many?” We recognize the ease of extending indefinitely numerals as an ordered sequence using the artifacts which lead to the mastery of the first thousand and then those artifacts which yield millions, billions etc. We find in the actions of folding and unfolding fingers the basis for the generation of complementary subsets that lead to the mastery of this notion and the corresponding notation of pairs of numerals partitioning a set. It becomes possible then to look at triplets — a set and two of its complementary subsets — both as additions and as subtractions. All of this, integrated, gives the correct mathematical basis. To translate it into the traditional notations and the algorithms which lead swiftly and confidently to the third term — when two in the triplets are given — we provide awareness of equivalences and of the transformations which maintain them, i.e. of the algebra behind the arithmetic. The computer at each step forces awareness of what needs to be done and why. Only what can be done, that is equivocally to the initial challenge and compatible with its inner dynamics, is accepted. Then the new form of the initial challenge, if need be, is altered again until
Are We Not All Handicapped?
the form arrived at tells immediately and unequivocally what the sought after term is. The mathematical education of the students, achieved with the help of the computer and this program, is therefore of their sight. Looking at a pair of numbers to be added or subtracted one from the other, will now move the mind to see a set of transformations of the given — which can get telescoped and applied to it so as to see it in such a simplified form, that it suggests on inspection the sought after item. We can therefore say that mathematical education has been provided through this program, since now 6 or 7 year-olds will be functioning as mathematicians do when entertaining those same problems. Since there will not be any need for tricks, like “carrying” units of various orders in the case of addition, or of “borrowing” from higher order units, in the case of subtraction, each problem will challenge students in a unique way and the given challenge will appear as the solving of a problem which can now be properly handled. That this can now be done so early in life, is one of the singular merits of this project. Vol. XI starts next September North America & Mexico
South America & Europe
China, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Korea etc.
(All in U. S. funds)
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 Nov 10, 2009