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Education And The Present World Crisis

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno

Newsletter

vol. XVII no. 2

December 1987


First published in 1987. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1987-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-330-2 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555 www.EducationalSolutions.com


In the past, philosophers could be counted on to take a distant view of what was happening at the moment and to propose ideas which resolved crises theoretically. The crises which dominated then were at the scale of the universes encompassed by the minds of the philosophers. Not until this second half of the twentieth century did this scale become that of the whole planet, made into a reachable unit by science and technology. Philosophers worked on ideas which germinated in their minds and which they transformed into systems related as solutions to the problems they were considering. They had no responsibility beyond that. Today, there is the exigency that the solution actually meets the situation and it is the responsibility of the proposer to see to it that the proposal can be implemented and be successful. All those engaged in it must go all the way and evidence must be gathered that things have worked as forecast. In this issue of the Newsletter the role of education in meeting the meaning of the present world crises is discussed with the light of awareness as the guide. Awareness has been utilized in the Science of Education over the last fifty years and led to a proposal labeled Human Education, outlined once more in one of these articles. Perhaps readers will perceive the difference between a pragmatic approach, like the one offered here, and an a priori philosophic stand believed useless at this juncture. News Items close this issue.


Table of Contents

1 Introduction ...................................................................... 1 2 What Is Human Learning? ................................................ 5 3 Making More Explicit The Present Human Transition ...... 9 4 A Human Education In Outline ........................................17 News Items ......................................................................... 25 1 In Sarasota (Florida) With Elementary School Teacher.............. 25 2 Showing Young Children Powers.................................................29 3 “I Too Can Be Creative”................................................................ 31


1 Introduction

From all quarters we hear that education is the most important ingredient to take us out of so many crises our contemporary societies are experiencing nowadays. Those who speak like this in public, or write about it in the Press, are not teachers generally. It is an overall perception that our modern crises are not divine punishment for our evil deeds but result from our being improperly informed and improperly prepared to meet them. Either we leave to others (governments, leaders, church people, etc.) the task of finding out what there is to do and telling us how we can help, or we let so-called authorities dictate our actions on the basis of their beliefs and opinions. Scientists tell us their job is to study matter until they come to some rational approach to challenges, even if this takes years and years. They only feel secure in drawing conclusions from facts they have gathered if the number of them and their objectivity satisfy a priori criteria belonging to the “scientific method.� On top of the actual crises everybody can see, in those manifestations which become the events of everyday in our societies, that there is another crisis; namely that of not knowing what to do with these crises. No one dares come up with the searchlights which illumine the horizons and dispel some of the darkness we experience. Actually, in our modern economically advanced societies, there does not seem to be a commanding personality recognizable by all as

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competent to come to grips with the complex challenges of the day and whose diagnostic is considered as convincing universally. A great deal of politics colors the loudest pronouncements. Much has been tried out at the empirical level. In particular, increasing the amounts of money spent in education: for teacher salaries; higher pay for all those who are part of the administration of education at the various levels; better work conditions; more colorful textbooks; curricula which do not strain students’ minds; lower level testing material and so on, but to no avail. It even seems that education becomes a tougher challenge every year. Perhaps there would be a chance of meeting the demands of the challenges if we opened our minds to the reality of education in the world of today, and of our stubbornness at wanting an easy answer, even if none exists. Perhaps an answer exists, but not on the tracks followed by those who by their professional circumstances are supposed to make their suggestions authoritatively. Readers can reflect on the fact that it was necessary to change altogether the principles of functioning of airplane engines, which had been from the start the internal combustion engines coupled with propellers providing only maximum speeds of up to 400 mph, in order to open up, with the jet engine, a new era for aviation. Readers can also reflect on the fact that it took a whole generation of scientists and engineers to conceive that electronics, mainly via computers, were capable of opening up the second industrial revolution in the post World War II period and that now millions of people are actively contributing to it. The computer has radically altered the way very many grownups run their professional lives in society. In more subtle, and not as visible, ways, Evolution and Relativity have forced thinkers in the life and social areas, to become more attentive to differences and needs of individuals. Acceptable thinking must integrate the requirement that all statements on human beings specify age, sex, economic conditions and other components like religion, 2


1 Introduction

status, environmental conditions historical affiliations, etc. Man is no longer seen as a metaphysical entity but rather as a complex being that can not be defined once and for all. At the basis of our perception of crises there is the vague feeling that we have to recast all our habits of thinking inherited from the Western civilization since the Renaissance and adopt modes of thought more compatible with our sense of complexity, our sense of nuances, and our sense that variation is more the rule than the exception. *** With all this in mind, let us attempt to put together in as short a writing as we can, all that may be needed to help men and women of good will to see (1) that the present situation is not at all as desperate as it seems, and (2) that we know enough through the Science of Education to improve that situation to a comfortable extent, opening up a much brighter future for mankind. *** Every one of us can immediately ascertain: 1

that every grown-up was a child, a boy or a girl, an adolescent, a young man or woman, at some stage in one’s life before reaching the longer period of being a grown-up or adult, till one dies of old age.

2 that adults look at their world only as adults, and have lost contact with what it was like to be young in their own case and in the case of others. 3 that contemporary adults are comfortable with ideas, and that they prefer to meet challenges when these are expressed in intellectual and social terms. Then they consider these as objective and neutral; but those involving feelings and emotions they consider as subjective and biased.

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4 that for grown-ups, economics in education actually means the cost in money to run the school systems, but not the cost in time and effort of the school population for a yield which can only be assessed by standardized achievement tests. 5 that, although the public wants quick answers, even to difficult problems, no one believes that there are answers to educational challenges which can be worked out in a few years; and they are not aware of this tension in their beliefs. 6 that educational challenges have possible elegant, inexpensive, effective solutions, seems to be beyond the belief of the most optimistic among educators; and if some of these solutions are presented they are met with objections even before they are considered, scrutinized, and given a chance. Since it is the grown-ups who run society and its institutions, a requirement of an open mind on their part is a prerequisite for the possibility that solutions be implemented. This request we make at this point. Readers please! make sure your minds are open to the novel suggestions that follow and take seriously what the Science of Education has established in the last half century on behalf of all those engaged in education: students, parents, educators, administrators and politicians, that is, almost everybody.

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2 What Is Human Learning?

So long as humans were defined as animals with some other attribute, say reason, language, etc., there was some tendency to consider all learning as conditioning, a concept Pavlov had been able to “sell” to almost all social scientists. Most of what went on in schools as teaching was based on this understanding of humans. There was no attempt to know whether humans did learn in a different way than animals, except perhaps by Maria Montessori and some of her friends and followers. Observation, of very young children seemed too complex and demanding and was done through the distorting prism of prejudice as in the case of Piaget, Wallon, and others who were enamored with some a priori conception of early childhood. Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Susan Isaacs, and many generous souls drew attention to the spontaneous behaviors of babies and young children and directed attention to the numerous ways in which the very young was trying to make sense of the environment. Human spontaneous learning can only be understood if we look at humans as endowed with the capacity of becoming aware of their own awareness or awarenesses. Unless we keep at the center of our own awareness this definition of man by himself, we will find ourselves unable to make sense of many of our observations of early childhood. For instance: that no child learns to speak his native language — although it is constantly spoken in his environment and can impinge on his ears — before he is at least nine months old; that all children except a very small percentage (the deaf and the aphasic) learn to speak

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the language of their environment between the ages of one and three; that all children observe themselves while they teach themselves so that they meet the unknown without fuss, do not get flustered by their errors (which seem to them to exist precisely because they are meeting the unknown), and persevere at the tasks challenging them until they have reached mastery; that they know mastery as the criterion for remaining with a task to be conquered and for leaving the earlier activities connected with that task, to engage in new ones; that young children are self directed in most of what they do with themselves for the many first months of their lives, and manage to feel equal to the ordinary challenges they encounter — and that this constitutes the basis of their confidence in how they will meet their future. The understanding of what each of us does so successfully in early childhood and, in all cases when we are not interfered with by the social environment, is the key to any serious proposal for change in education so that we can be successful there too — universally and for good. Human learning is co-extensive with conscious living. Living is the exchange of our time for experience. Time is given to us and goes by by itself. Experience, in contrast, is what is left with us and can be utilized again and again. From the start, babies know this and, as humans, not only can become conscious of the use of the energy they need to place on the durations of their various and successive activities, but they can become conscious of how they do it so as to master learning as a way of being on top of every and all the specific learnings they go through. In other words, humans know directly, and from the beginning, what learning is and do not have to be shown how to learn; certainly they do not do it by some conditioning, as is still believed by most observers of babies and young children who give credit to mothers and family members for children’s progress, but never to the children themselves.

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2 What Is Human Learning?

Human experience, in some special fields is accumulated knowledge from information received, but most of it is not of that kind. Skills are not retained as knowledge but are transformations of oneself so that one becomes capable of displaying them whenever they are needed. Retention of information is called memorization, and when it is done well we say that we have some knowledge. But we know a lot more that we have learned without any memorization, such as all those skills we call vegetative — like swallowing, digesting, assimilating, evacuating, breathing, relaxing, summoning our energies, etc., — and all those skills which are needed to connect us to the environment — like looking, listening, smelling, tasting, touching, connected with seeing, hearing, and feeling impacts — and all those skills which put us on top of the environment such as the mastery of our body movements — like sitting, standing, walking, running, climbing, throwing, swimming, etc. We know if we have doubts or are certain; if we are hungry or satisfied; cold or too hot; hurting or in good health. We learn the existence of such states because we can become aware of their presence in the moment, not because we are led to experience them by others who somehow must have known them otherwise. Although all the above are concerned with knowing they only become knowledge when they are labeled or when labels are given us from outside. Knowing precedes knowledge in direct experiencing. Knowledge can exist without direct experience if we retain what we are told and know we have retained it, even if it does not trigger any precise meaning: for example, knowledge that the cosmos is expanding. In this century we have collectively begun to be sensitive to our inner lives as having contents we must become better aware of, and make into a science. Now new facts have made their appearance; these we call “facts of awareness.” A new lexicon has been put in circulation by phenomenologists, existentialists, personalists, epistemologists, and now scientists of education. Since those subtle “things,” only knowable by awareness, are being labeled, they gain a new status: that of “objects” we can talk about, as we talk of those perceived by the senses which have now become the contents of the sciences of nature. The speed of light, the electromagnetic spectrum, quanta of energy, etc. are

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modern awarenesses of physicists and others and they are handled as objects by our minds. We need to do the same with the still newer awarenesses the Science of Education has been able to single out, in the whole stream of collective and individual lives, and to label for the use of interested people. Human learning is one of the most comprehensive and most important ones. What we had early in this century was Pavlovian conditioning which seemed to agree with an environmental supremacy in which humans had to learn from their elders the information they had been accumulating in all fields of knowledge. But since knowledge becomes obsolete and the environment changes radically through the findings of the millions of investigators at work at the same time on so many challenges — especially in the modern electronic and optic technologies — we can no longer hold these already “ancient” views and successfully solve our problems. We must move swiftly and definitely from a oneway view of the world, where the environment has a privileged existence, to a two-way view of the world where both minds-at-work and realities-perceived by the same minds constantly interact. This is the present aspect of human learning. Humans create objects and can look at them to discover what they are at that moment as well as how they alter when looked at differently — and this goes on and on, generating a human environment intimately linked to human evolution. We are, at this juncture, in a period of transition which we can describe precisely. Because of this, the future gains a meaning hidden to all those who can only conceive of it in terms of the past. Crises can vanish in these new circumstances.

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3 Making More Explicit The Present Human Transition

Although the reality of more than five thousand million human lives defeats any imagination and cannot be known in its concreteness, human evolution to date has taught us to approach complex challenges and to reach some temporally workable solutions. We have taught ourselves to make models which somehow resemble the reality we contemplate. We have taught ourselves to be critical of our models and to attempt to improve on them as soon as they prove wanting in one way or another. Only in this century has our earth shrunk in our consciousness, and some humans can relate to the whole while many more can relate to some parts. By relating to the whole the relations to the parts are altered. Looking with lights proposed by thinkers of the past generations we see a world subdivided in a multiplicity of ways. The appearances being different, we speak of different “cultures,� different languages, different evolutions, etc. and take the appearances for the realities. We get caught in making such realities as monolithic as hard objects in the environment. We also get caught in the belief that there cannot be realities other than those we reach through our senses, and we get stuck in ruts. In particular, we neglect those parts of such realities which are also appearances, like the existence of babies, boys and girls and young people in all societies. Being transient stations, our ages are taken in stride and not used as brakes to force us to look again at everything. The criterion of the longest duration of the adult phase of human lives justifies the neglect. With such a perspective we fail in two 9


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important ways. One, we do not perceive our own preferred biases and two, we do not give ourselves a chance of looking for an instrument capable of handling all ages as equitably, as would be required by a view of our life in time — as if the pre-adult periods were of no importance and had no effect on adults’ visions. During the last fifty years it has been possible to let two perspectives, generated during the last one hundred and fifty years or so, influence our thinking. Evolution as a mode of thought, by giving to time its rightful place, unifies all the contents of history, pre-history and all the durations which precede these. The content of the universe is not arbitrary, random, accidental: the multiple links between the perceptible items our minds can isolate for examination are as perceptible as the items themselves; and we place on the continuum of time the numerous continua constituting the various realms. In particular, we can, looking at our own singular life, be struck by the functionality of the various periods we decided to label — babyhood, infancy, boyhood and girlhood, adolescence and adulthood — because we perceive specific differences between them and in them. Without the light of Evolution we could not reach such functionality. In particular, we could not see how what we do with our time, in each period, has impacts on what we do later; and does so even if all the things we do leave no memory tracks to show that we did them. Forgetting these periods of exchange of time for experience extends into our adulthood, which no longer understands that so many years need to be given to play and to a lack of consciousness of the importance of adult behaviors. The second important perspective is Relativity. This has proved its importance in physics from 1905 on. Essentially it states that the universe is known by observers who are stationed at specific places where they use specific instruments. Whatever they state they have observed is therefore subject to their use of themselves (i.e., their awareness of reality) in their frame of reference and with the equipment in it they can call on. They cannot reach an absolute knowledge of reality.

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Physicists believe there is only one physical reality even if those who speak of it have only access to a partial view of it. Relativity theory is constructed to allocate a rightful place to each observer, relating through mathematics what anyone has found to what anyone else will find. It is the theory that unifies the findings of all these diverse observers. Each of them is entitled to what his careful work brings forth, but it will be collectively acceptable and accepted only if it can be given forms compatible with what other observers have found from their vantage points. When we attempt similarly to produce a General Theory of Relativity, we can transfer wholesale many of the instruments and perspectives contained in the one physicists have adopted. But their belief that there is only one reality cannot be justified in a world where newly-born babies, as well as the deepest thinker, must be given their place. We need first to construct the theory for humans, and then see what it becomes when these humans are physicists. In this way only a limitation on the wider theory is required to generate the well-known physical theory. Our main contention at this moment, is that the set of humans who live at present on earth and those who lived before now, could only reach a workable reality for themselves, if they knew how to place at the center of their awareness a general relativity perspective. Because it has not been done as yet by a sufficient number of people, the malaise of a crisis dwells in almost all of us. But, because it can be done by anyone who manages to discipline him or herself for this, the present crisis could be resolved collectively. The present human situation becomes much clearer if we see that intense involvement is needed to be able to change one’s time into one’s experience. Such a passion for doing things is universal even if it expresses itself very differently by people of various ages and in various environments. Unless we identify fully with what we feel individually as essential for the realization of our life at the moment, we cannot produce the content of our Experience that will stand up well from now on. We do not have to have a view of the future for that; we are not guided by preconceptions when as young people we sense that only

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such and such an experience is open to us now and inspires us to give ourselves to it. We live in the present with what we are, i.e., with what we have made ourselves to be through this process itself. We therefore integrate our past in the present and this opens the doors for the future. Every one of us does it, but it escapes oneself as well as the others, because we are all so taken by what we are engaged in. We must call absolutes such involvements, and we can see that we do stratify our lives in a succession of absolutes which occupy the time it takes to acquire the kind of experience without which it is impossible for us to remain human. It is necessary, universally, for humans who cannot not know or be given to knowing, that after they manage the transition from life in the womb to life in a vaster natural environment (called the vegetative phase and which only lasts a few weeks after birth), they conquer the environment for their own use by knowing it through perception (which takes about five years) and then through direct intervention and through action (which also takes about five years). Thus all humans give themselves, over ten to twelve years, the means which tell them that they have their place under the sun on earth, by being one with nature or with the environment as it has been affected by the impact of others. Such equipment, which forms the instruments of knowing, is found in every one of the humans and goes with the frame of reference which is part of the awareness of the singularity of each of us. We have lived and, generally, not questioned our stand in the community or collectivity that makes our social environment. We were too busy constructing our working frame of reference with its equipment to accept to be distracted by other awarenesses which perhaps were those of older members of the community — awarenesses to which they had given themselves much as we gave ourselves to ours. In so far as they were perceptible we perceived them; in so far as they affected our knowing of ourselves when trying to master action, we reluctantly had to give some time to them. But we did not identify with their inspiration as our older contemporaries were doing. From time immemorial the changes puberty brings to our appearance have been taken as the signal that the individual is on the verge of joining the grown-ups and of being ready to contribute to the

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management of one’s society. This includes keeping the status quo as well as allowing some changes to be part of the collective experiment of that group. In fact, puberty is a manifestation which has one meaning for the individual and one for the onlookers. The fact that it could be delayed till such an age tells us something which is helpful in understanding the identification with an absolute — in this case adolescence — that takes place at the individual level. Humans need to know themselves as free energy, or as that free energy which energizes actions stemming from them and not actions triggered by something in the environment — as has been true during the previous five years or so given to the absolute of action. Adolescence, as the time of our life which permits us to know our will and our spiritual powers, must be entered into before commands are issued to one’s brain to release all the growth hormones manufactured by the pituitary gland — a part of the brain but not of the nervous system. Growth is what the others see and makes them separate us from the class of children in which we dwelt so long. Thus, by opening up the class of grown-ups to us, they endow us with a future; a social future which will take most of the years to come. We do not always receive the key to that opening in a ritualistic ceremony such as that found in the Old Testament or in the unwritten rites of so many tribes all over our earth. But our visible growth, which includes our capacity for procreation, can become the overwhelming indicator that we are shifting absolutes. According to the group we consider, in the chronology of the overall human evolution, this third phase of life is seen either as the slide into adulthood and the identification of one’s absolute with that of the collectivity at that time, or as another absolute through which the individual, singularly, must go in order to give oneself another kind of experience essential for one but not deemed necessary in the eyes of most grown-ups. At this juncture, in the Western civilization, puberty — which biologically makes possible having offspring — is not accepted as the signal that adolescents can be allowed to procreate. Here we have a clear clash of absolutes in which that of the society around attempts to impose itself, considering puberty as distinct from nubility. For the

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latter one must be able to maintain a family; a non-biological and strictly social criterion. Thus the absolute of adolescence came into existence when the collectivity itself had evolved beyond a certain stage and wanted to restrict the function of procreation to those members who were fashioning the lives of the society so as to objectify an outlook on life which evolved from the ways of being of the previous generations as well as containing something new. Adolescence developed as a bridge between childhood and adulthood, and the experience proper in that absolute is the deepening of human affectivity. The new phenomenon which absorbs all one’s spiritual energy is the knowing of one’s inner life. There is time for that since one is no longer engaged in action in the way one was for so many years, and yet one is not yet allowed to be active in what occupies the grown-ups. Human evolution contains this new component, the working of energy as affectivity. It demands that the individual falls on himself; discovers what can be achieved by oneself alone and lonely as well as with one’s peers, who become one’s friends, since they too are walking the same path. With these extra few years given to the third absolute we see human evolution moving decisively towards the discovery of the absolute of the mind, at least in the Western civilization. The crises of the early sixteenth century now takes place ostensibly, and therefore are visible to all in the tensions between religious groups: the Catholics on the defensive, the Protestants of various ilks on the offensive. The solution is not found in the victory of one or the other faction, they are all losers in spite of the appearance of some new protestant church here and there. The winner in the sixteenth century was the human mind discovering the sciences and their technologies, and the beginning of the successful two centuries of transfer of the grown-ups’ interest from salvation of one’s soul to improving the condition of man, the creature, on earth. From it came the first industrial revolution and the stress in men’s thinking on the idea that all the energies must be directed towards a manmade universe. When this crystallized towards the second half of the last century, a new absolute began, called the social

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absolute. Now that men do not need to have all their working time taken for guaranteeing survival — machines are taking that over — they organize themselves to replace individual contributions by collective ones. They discover institutions as power and start filling the world with them. The absolute of the mind, integrated by the social absolute, transforms in less than two hundred years a natural earth into one dominated by man. The manmade world we see around us shows all the marks of the learning, mainly clumsy, of those who need to know but are overwhelmed by how much there is to learn. The present crisis on earth can be seen as the outcome of the clumsiness of that learning which has divided mankind by the subtle division of specialization — seen as inevitable. While in the absolute of the mind, men believed they could take more and more in by making their intellectual models more and more comprehensive, when they covered the world with competing institutions they lost view of the whole and they dreamed of an inflated institution subordinating all others — as was the case with the Third German Reich trying to subjugate all nations. With the instrument of Evolution working through successive absolutes we learned that, though all of them can survive chronologically, the essence of one absolute yields itself to the subsequent one, and that the dominant absolute is the one of the grown-ups in power. Now that the stress between fragmentation — imposed by the necessity of specialization — and the urgent need for the unification of all powers on earth has become so great that almost all people experience it everywhere, we can turn to Relativity and make it the instrument for the birth of a new civilization on earth. What we can transfer from two of our learnings to date — that we use absolutes to deepen experience, and that absolutes can become integrated into subsequent ones — is the awareness that in the present crises of our modern world Man has answers which can become valid and workable, provided as a relativist he becomes aware of the whole and of the parts, and where these dovetail. This means that a general education of all humans must be undertaken which will allow absolutes to do their work, so long as it is dispensable at the level of the individual. At the same time a large group of grown-ups is required to do the work of articulating these absolutes within a general

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understanding of a planetary human society, capable of utilizing every one of the positive lessons that living in the successive absolutes has taught us. Our present crisis, at the scale of the planet, is one of a new civilization substituting for the numerous historic ones. The function of this civilization will be the one dictated by Evolution, where all that which is valid and viable is passed on and that which hampers is made harmless and inoperative at the scale of the whole. Only a Relativistic world society is acceptable as the form which Evolution — up to this day, after three million years — has found as its contemporary expression. All we need to do now is provide it with its means of implementation; that is, we must generate a Human Education which technically can do the work clearly implied by this Relativistic relating of all people on earth — whatever their ages and histories. Humans considering education will propose a Human Education as easily as intellectuals proposed, four hundred years ago, a mental education, and socially-minded humans proposed, one hundred years or so ago, a social education; both surviving among us and both in crisis like the world around us belonging to the past.

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4 A Human Education In Outline

Human Education aims at human beings wherever they are and whoever they are. It aims at maintaining all the benefits of spontaneous human learning that each human displays by virtue of being human, and at extending them to integrate all those learnings needed to find one’s place in one’s social environment, as well as in realizing one’s potential. The relationships of an individual to his group, existing during the extent of one’s life, change with age. We distinguish what each individual does to himself as self-education from what others in the group do to each individual, called formal education. The latter does not start generally until one is at least two years old and officially only when one is five or six. Self-education goes on forever, while the other has an upper limit of between six to sixteen years. We maintain that self-education is needed even if one is subjected to formal education. Self-education becomes the only true education as soon as we see that no one can learn for ourselves, and see how we assimilate other people’s experience through the means they use to relate to us: words, images, actions. But we must acknowledge that societies have taken it upon themselves to affect the course of individual learning in order to shorten the time required for passing on the cultural values, developed in the environment over several or even many generations, to the number of years of compulsory education offered by society. This is done through a scheme called the curriculum, through ways of presenting things called methods of

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teaching, and through ways of ascertaining that the transmission has taken place called examination or testing. A valid Human Education will have room for the demands of society made functional when the powers of the individual are fully taken into account. Then, as a by-product of what everyone does properly in one’s self-education, all the expectations of the people in the environment will be fulfilled. *** In our spontaneous learning, since there is no need to verbalize what we are doing while we are doing it, there is no memory track separated from the structuring of our mind. We know, we know that we know, but we do not know there is any reason to keep track of our learning separately. This we might do many years later in future learnings and find it justified by our relation to ourselves at that stage. We therefore have to discover how we actually learn to master all the skills we do master in early childhood, but discover it also about those other than ourselves. If that is possible, and now we can say that it is, we may come in contact with ways of working we can use for purposes different from those involved in spontaneous learning. For example, we teach ourselves to speak, and this represents a huge task well done, systematically and with discrimination until it really becomes second nature. The learning is what interests us. The acquisition of the mother tongue, for us students of learning, serves only as proof that all the activities generated entirely by the child alone are part of him and can be used, if we know how, to force his awareness that he can get something else for free — something we present to him in a meaningful way because it uses the same powers which served him in mastering the spoken language. For some of the languages of the world, we now know how to make reading a very manageable task which integrates the components of speech in the new format of the written language — called fluency, comprehension, and composition. Spelling poses a slightly different challenge in some languages, such as English or French, and may require more time and ad hoc techniques. Reading 18


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can be coupled with some aspects of writing provided the learners can direct the writing implements. In other words, reading has been made into an offshoot of speaking; and writing, in a number of cases, has been made into an aspect of reading when one or two skills, reachable around five years of age, are integrated in it. Speaking is clearly a gate to reading and writing but it can also be a door to recast the presentation of elementary mathematics, as no one suspected was possible when tightly separating the fields of language and numeracy. Young children use spontaneously a number of structures of mathematics mathematicians had become conscious of during this century. So long as that was neither suspected by the working grownups specializing in mathematics, nor a secret to which children had access, there was no way we could bring within the reach of young children chapters of that science thought of a priori only for much more “developed minds,� i.e., older students. But when we knew those two things (what mathematicians discovered in their own thinking of mathematics and what we discovered in the mental movements of very young children acquiring their native language) we could embark on two creative pedagogical tasks — both concerned with awareness. One consisted in associating the absolute, the one in which the children live spontaneously, with activities which leave as byproducts one or more know-hows mathematicians recognize as belonging to the battery of instruments they use routinely in their work. The other consisted in finding how to create materials and techniques, attractive for learners in the absolute they are living; for very young ones, mainly those with dynamics that are perceptible and on which they can act and, for older ones, those which involve unfolding universes where beautiful images can trigger strings of thoughts already appreciated by mathematicians. Some of this has been done and studied in detail on behalf of the educators for the future. Through such approaches children not only do not lose the powers they brought with themselves since they go on using them, but they find for themselves fields of development which 19


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they can explore as they find they have time and energy to spare for creative work. Everybody will agree that when we acquire the skill of reading, we open up for ourselves the universes explored by humans and deposited in the literatures of the world. We provide ourselves with all that which may never have come our way in the manner we live concretely our days and enlarge our experience by proxy — becoming more ourselves by becoming more human. Thus, to give reading as a working skill, to everyone who can speak and is sighted, is a device of Human Education which makes every individual a more evolved person in that one can transcend one’s limitations and take advantage of that immanent formed of all mankind has lived passionately to date. By giving writing, as a complex skill which permits one to give verbal expression a more permanent form, we open up the gates which permit anyone to contribute to collective evolution by making available to others one’s own experience. By giving everyone the access to a fuller awareness of the universe of relationships and of their dynamics, i.e., by making mathematization available to all those who see it as a spontaneous human way of perceiving an inner world where creativity is everything, we unlock ever expanding universes and provide our mental evolution with dimensions to explore and objectify. Of course, there is no obligation that anyone use one’s time — the substance of life — in prescribed ways to generate structures imposed by outsiders. Human Education provides opportunities people can use if they find them compatible with their intuition of their own evolution. But because of the essential difference between one’s limited individual experience and the far less limited collective experience, something must be done to give the individual experience the impulse which brings to the fore what the collective experience offers beyond spontaneous living. There is room for Human Education in the lives of all humans simply because men are so complex and unique at the same time as they are constantly evolving into more comprehensive persons — persons in whom there is room for those who are not themselves but 20


4 A Human Education In Outline

who have also lived unique and complex lives. Human Education contains, as a fainter aspect of all that which one lives intensely, all that which intellectual and social educators value as paramount, and for whose acquisition thousands of hours in classrooms are considered as justified. The contents of traditional curricula can be counted among those fainter aspects. Now we can make students produce them with ease, if it is required, as shadows of the inner wealth of rich individuals, with no objections to such requests because they are seen as interests of outsiders. Traditionalists will be satisfied with students’ responses which meet with their preferred biases, even if they ignore the enormous differences between deeply rooted experiences and superficial responses asked for by formal tests. The individual powers will be protected while the social openings into the society, which is still based on earlier insights, will remain available. By selecting the so-called 3R’s to illustrate the essential and profound changes Human Education can bring to general education (conceived as that which humans at a certain level of awareness considered indispensable for collective living) we chose areas where traditional education is seen to have failed many students, and to cost so much in terms of students’ time and frustration that there is now public clamor that something should be done. What can be done is clear: do not persist in seeing school populations as they were perceived for so long, as people without knowledge and to whom knowledge must be imparted. Instead see them for what they are: human learners highly endowed with inner powers whose existence they know directly as owned by them because of their human condition. By shifting the stress from product to activity — that is, to awareness, first, of the dynamics in the activities and then to awareness of the product only as a moment of feedback — everyone can remain in contact with the powers which served us so well in the numerous spontaneous learnings of our tender years. Human Education is a solution to our present ills because its form reminds us of how Evolution has worked successfully for so long: what is valid is maintained and what can be altered is altered so as to meet the new demands of the new universes of experience.

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Human Education — because it only requires inner changes in human beings — has a much greater chance of succeeding in its future tasks, since rich and poor nations alike can afford the changes required to give every child the opportunities that a conscious evolution offers. There is a tension between civilizations and cultures which have originated at various stages in the past and the new global civilization which humans are bringing about in haphazard and unconnected ways. This can disappear through our acts of awareness. We are agreeing that in each of us the baby, the boy or girl, and the adolescent are not dead; that we have only not re-established the ties which exist between ourselves today and what we still hold through memory of our own history. Working on bringing all of them back to life will allow us to experience a resurgence of our spiritual powers. The second is to acknowledge that in our early childhood — even if we benefited from some advantages our parents gave us on the material level — we were not that susceptible to the cultural components and were much more centered on ourselves and on the vital experiences our absolutes highlighted for us. This allows us to see all the young people of the world as alter egos — as entitled as we are to a future which depends on their human powers rather than on the contribution of the environment, in the way we have been used to thinking in the past. Such an inversion of our vision on where the powers lie, will force us to look at yields as the economic yardsticks in education and not as holes into which funds are poured by the authorities to help those helpless people who by themselves cannot acquire a social experience valuable for the economics of the environment. When all our youngsters know themselves as people who can do so many things well, in as short a time as is required by the tasks, and in such a way that they serve to conquer new areas of human endeavor, then we shall see responsible populations which will need far less policing than today. And they will know why they can ask that others work well at their tasks since this is a demand they put first on themselves and that has procured for them joy and satisfaction. A characteristic of spontaneous learning is the seriousness of the involvement of the learner in his work. This comes from the feeling

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4 A Human Education In Outline

that discipline is natural and essential and is required all the time without weighing on one’s mind since it is an integral part of oneself aware of what there is to do, that one can do it, and is doing it. Discipline springing from within and functional to the one exercising it, is true spiritual, human discipline — the opposite of the outer one imposed by others who do not care if it appears as not connected to the task at hand. A disciplined individual is a responsible one; one we can count on. Young learners are like that until they are confronted with tasks for which they have no criteria which allow them to proceed spontaneously and thus they can only turn to “authorities” to know whether what they are doing is valid. This is what happens in schools everywhere today. So far in history, those who could give themselves this discipline became the leaders who steered the progress of their community towards some achievement which they saw clearly as belonging to their community’s evolution. Now we can multiply the number of those seers in all walks of life and be responsible both for ourselves and for our communities. Each community can be only one of several nested ones and each can be served appropriately. We can watch that our duties to our relatives, to our playmates or our teammates — at work, in our clubs, and associations, in our local, regional or country governments — are our duties to a world society at peace and engaged in generating wealth. All this is a natural consequence of our awareness of our responsible stand in our life, which is also our life-in-the-world. What had been left to chance in the past, and did happen in the case of a certain number of people in each generation of humans, can now be catered to through Human Education so that it is open to as many contemporaries as possible, wherever they are, who find that their powers can be extended to take in their stride more and more of the world. Human Education is the instrument human evolution has given itself to realize itself in the future, which is becoming the present before it becomes past.

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1 In Sarasota (Florida) With Elementary School Teacher About sixty teachers registered for a weekend course on Gattegno Mathematics not knowing what to expect except perhaps some additional information on how to use algebricks and geoboards. The first four hours of the course were dedicated to discovering what could be done with a “new and expensive instrument” they would find so precious they would never want to part from. When the “instrument” was shown to be the set of fingers of one’s hands, there was a moment of disappointment. But not for long, for it became clear soon, that indeed, much of the content of the elementary math curriculum could become so transparent and attractive when the “manipulative materials” are the manipulators themselves. Through a large number of exercises with the fingers in less than three hours, everyone was reconciled with the fun of doing math. At the same time a number of questions considered difficult by some of the participants in their own teaching gained an aspect which appeared to them as solving their problems. What was striking was to see people (mainly women) who had worked all day in their schools, remain alert and intellectually busy for hours, putting fears aside, participating with joy in exercises which were centered on moving fingers, looking at the patterns they made and

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utter spontaneously statements which came to them from within and feel good for that. During the next day (9:00-5:00) the morning was dedicated to the notion of forcing awareness and why it was important, and the afternoon to a study of lessons with the colored rods of which there are many in the schools of Sarasota. Forcing awareness was new to everyone. The Visible & Tangible Math programs were used to illustrate what it meant in elementary math and on topics, one or the other of the participants had to teach some day. Numeration, place value, the algorithms of multiplication and division were worked on with the participants doing all the work. A new projector attached to the computer allowed the projection on a big screen of the content of the programs so that everyone could see and participate. In the afternoon, everyone had a certain number of rods to work on at one’s table and for three and a half hours the versatility of the rods could be made plain to everyone. Manipulating the rods according to the commands of the teacher, looking at what was done, expressing in words what one saw and then clothing it in the usual notation, took care of what to teach and how, at least in part. By selecting aspects of the curriculum which could be treated at different levels, the two needs of each of those present were taken into account — (1) filling the gaps of their math education and, (2) showing how to use the rods to start a lesson, to carry it out, and to ensure learning with continuous feedback of success and progress in learning. Teachers liked these sessions as most of them had rods in their cupboards but never used them thinking they could do that only after some in-service workshops. Sunday, after a review of what had happened so far, was devoted to a study of division of fractions without any other material than noting on the writing board the notation for, “How many halves go into one?” or and extending this to all reciprocals of integers summarized as and

The answers were obvious to all. Then extension to

seemed obvious and again everyone knew what to say and why.

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Another way of saying that, was then given as “divide mn by a1 ” or “ mn ÷ a1 ” treated by going back to the earlier mastered treatment. So there was no doubt that the answer was ma . n € € € The extension to the final step or quotient of any two fractions required 2 that everyone saw what € happened when the question, “How many 3 go into 1?” was asked. On a clock the thirds were marked and two of them were made into one whose name was 23 of the circle. The last third had to be seen as one half of the rest. Hence there was a need€for a change of language (from thirds to halves) to complete the problem. Learning it on a few examples allowed the class to see the answer to 1) how many go into ?” or 2) “divide mn€by ab ” yields “ mb ”. na

Since we had introduced division of fractions per se without reference € answer € € did not have to be interpreted as to multiplication the above multiplication of the dividend by the reciprocal of the divisor. It had all been done within the problematic of division. The study of the multiplication of fractions is easiest with the rods and the family of equivalent -M fractions. To do the job fully there is need for equivalence -A of fractions, also done very easily and well with the rods. The naming includes M for multiplication and A for addition, although the operations of addition and subtraction of fractions had not yet been mentioned. This was done soon after and took little time, the main point being that when one hears the names of the two fractions to be added one has to know that there are an infinite number of names to choose from according to the problem we are tackling. In the case of addition (hence of subtraction) to be able to carry the operation to an end requires that both fractions have the same name or denominator. This clarifies completely the challenge of adding or subtracting fractions and was most welcome by the numerous teachers present who did these things routinely and by rote without real understanding. A session of 90 minutes was dedicated to the role of the geoboard in teaching geometry in the elementary grades, at the request of a majority of the participants. None of them knew that the inventor of 27


Education And The Present World Crisis

the geoboards was their present teacher. Since they had various geoboards in their closets which they never used, they asked for a lesson which in this case was thorough and varied and caught their imagination. The end of the last day was used for general feedback and a half hour talk by Dr. Gattegno. In the feedback, as usual, everyone said very few words, but because of the number of speakers much of the ground covered was assessed in the mentioning of this point or other, in commenting on how one had been touched and moved, in some reference as to how the learning of this weekend will be transferred to the classroom the next day. Generally all appreciated the experience and gained much more than they had anticipated. The talk Dr. Gattegno gave was directed to people who, without knowing it, had embraced a Skinnerian psychology and had seen learning as being conditioning, and teaching, as transmitting information. That humans differ from animals and are expert learners from the start, was the theme and that only awarenesses was educable was linked to every one of the sessions of the workshop since the awareness of the participants had been concentrated on it from the beginning and all the time. It became clear to them that the main job of teachers is to force awareness and that after that, they must provide time and activities for their students to practice, to the point of mastering every one of these awarenesses. The expansion of the minds, the joy of learning, the progress made in areas which had been closed for years, made the participants acknowledge they were far less tired after the 20 hours of seminar than when they came.

2 Showing young Children Powers Looking at students of 6-7-8 in a Montessori School for the Future (The Center for Education in Bradenton, Florida), the day after the above 28


News Items

workshop, teachers could see what young children are capable of doing in mathematics if the stress is on awareness and with the medium of language. All those witnessing the half-hour or so lessons recognized that the hidden reality of the powers of these children had been totally unsuspected by all grown-ups. Indeed, three lessons had been given at the workshops and the grownups there did not find them as easy as the children. The third one was new to all. The 6-7 group was asked to name rods when measured by other rods. Their previous experience had been that the name resulted from measuring with the white one and now they could distinguish objects (the rods whose names were those of their colors) and relationships which were variables. Thus a white rod was one half (of a red one), one third (of a light green one), one fourth (of a purple one) and so on up to one tenth (of the orange one). The process of naming was exemplified on the yellow rod measured by the red one. Looking at the train made of two red rods and a white one and making sure that that one was seen as measured too by the red one and therefore gained the name “one half,” that train was read as “two and a half” which was acknowledged as a new name for the yellow rod. Practicing this on the black and the blue rods, the children gave the names “three and a half” and “four and a half” for the black and blue respectively. Measuring was then extended to any rod by any rod, the children recognizing that they had to find the name of the large rod to be measured by a smaller one and the name of the smaller rod if one was needed to complete the train to make it equal in length to the large one. This “simple complexity” was perfectly perceived and used systematically in all subsequent examples submitted. When a name was found for a pair (say, seven ninths) by turning it round, the name (nine sevenths) became one they offered spontaneously, never faultering. The word “reciprocal” was presented for the turned fraction and again at once used freely. The iterated expression “the reciprocal of the reciprocal” said with two or with three of the word reciprocal, did not offer any greater difficulty. Children had known that we looked, saw, and said what we saw in the terms put in circulation and recognized to refer to something perceptible. Fractions,

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as they met them were not bits of things but relationships. There was no mention of the numerator and the denominator and that the first must be smaller than the other. Both could be seen as being rods (one of each) and that one gave a name to the other. On two occasions they could even read such a relationship in what is called at school “mixed numbers,” that “ten sevenths” is also “one and three sevenths.” The second lesson was concerned with finding in how many ways one could count a set of fingers starting with three. After working it out carefully they all agreed that there were six. If one finger was added could they find how many ways of counting the set of four? Soon one found twenty four, using the same approach as for the three fingers, and when it was explained to all they applied this finding to a set of five fingers. These seven or eight year old children worked in their heads the number which would apply to six, seven and eight fingers, figuring out the largest part of the products first and adding the rest. There was there an example of “distribution” as the method to get the answer of a multiplication of a number of up to four digits by a one digit number. The third lesson was dedicated to obtaining the algebraic equivalence a2 - b2 = (a + b) x (a - b). It was done by using rods to make two different squares and covering part of the larger one by the smaller one placed at one corner. Then the uncovered rods were rotated to replace their L shape by a rectangle and naming its two dimensions as (a + b) and (a - b). Using the initials of the names of the colors gave a perceptive basis for every statement for the difference of two squares like b2 (for the black square) and y2 (for the yellow square) and b2 - y2 for the difference as the L shape. This became a rectangle by rotating the uncovered rods and it was easy to show that one side was as long as b + y and the other as long as b - y. There are two names for the black area: before turning, it was obviously b2 - y2 and when rotated (b + y) by (b - y). This verbal equivalence was transferred at once to a number of pairs of other rods treated likewise. No child found any of this abstract, hard, or uninteresting. When the teachers met later (three of whom had been at the workshop) they could not deny what they had seen what these children could do, but they could not say that they themselves could conduct a lesson in

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that way. Their minds were not free enough for their previous conditioning to shift from telling to having the children find everything from the little the teacher had to give them, which was that that they could not invent. The smoothness of the lesson, the fact that the learning was left entirely to the students, that no “reinforcement” had been necessary, that the only words used by the teacher were either concerned with forcing awareness of some relationship or concerned with putting technical terms in circulation. This struck them as so different from the way they related to those same children, not trusting their powers and not believing that any one of them could do well and with surety what they saw happen when trust exists and respect for the use of children by themselves, is at work. All we need to add here is that a dozen people could now vouch that lessons can be used to make mathematicians out of a group of young children when mathematics is not seen only as knowledge or information to be passed on, but as the outcome of some mathematization.

3 “I Too Can Be Creative” This was the theme of a weekend seminar in Bristol, England on October 30, 31 and November 1, to which forty-five people came; thirteen from Barcelona, two from Rome, one from Stockholm, and the rest from various parts of the United Kingdom. Most adults believe they are not creative, or very little so. Most make the mistake of wanting to be creative and be accepted by others as such rather than be content with their creations for what they bring to them. In addition we usually compare our creations to those of the greatest in the field and get discouraged by that. To stop making these mistakes may help us be as creative as we can be. As a working definition of creativity the group accepted that which allows anyone to make be whatever was not. Thus the greatest works 31


Education And The Present World Crisis

of art as well as ordinary statements uttered by anyone are said to be the creations of their authors. Moving away from what can not be ascertained on the spot — such as how Michelangelo made his David, say — and involving the participants as they were in the here and now, it becomes possible to do some good work. Humans are creative by definition since they change time into experience all the time from conception on. Time is a given, but experience is unique and singular and everyone at every moment produces his or her expeience, really known only to oneself. The self in each human knows through its awareness, that one has changed or changed something in any product to which one is connected. This leads to the recognition that, if one accepts to be oneself and not someone else, every human is indeed creative, starting by creating one’s soma in one’s mother’s womb out of the mother’s blood and the template of the D.N.A., and then creating all the means which become one’s experiences, and which cover the realms of survival in the environment; the processing of the energy impacts through the sense organs and components of one’s family where siblings are so different, particularly in large families. The same parents and the same environment only suggest some resemblances and some similarities. What is important is to be sure that one sees all humans including oneself as creative, for then one understands much better what has happened to humanity to date and what can happen in the future. For example can we understand babies for what they actually are? Time was spent on that study and all the participants were much surer of the meaning of the exchange of time for experience; of the availability of mastered experience for further explorations and new creations. In a manmade universe there is no end to the work of creativity and, though not much time was spent spelling it out, which openings are made available for a much more functional future for humanity. The shift to creative human beings (or those other than receivers of preexisting knowledge) makes education a very different reality and are totally realizable as it rests on technical transformations of what people bring with them in every circumstance where challenges are to be met. For instance, if languages are no longer conceived as items to be

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remembered and if teachers involve their students in certain specific activities, then languages are made to exist in individuals as byproducts of such involvements in such activities. It follows that acquiring twenty different languages in ten years of schooling is not only feasible, but becomes the birthright of all youngsters at school. This manmade creation produces the creation of a world in which many of the present forbidden tasks become routine. Schools will generate able mathematicians and readers, creative writers, story tellers artists of all kinds, and anything else desired by the population by transmuting it into techniques which meet the creative powers of humans. As said here it seems that easy-to-handle ideals have been mentioned but the realities have been ignored. At the seminar the opposite was the case. The ties, hedges, and boundaries were found to vanish if one is with one’s creativity and applies it to the ordinary tasks proposed by everyday life. The liberating effect of this awareness was mentioned at the final feedback with many of its variations; all very positive experiences resulting from one’s contacts with one’s reality, i.e. one’s creativity.              

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About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’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.

www.EducationalSolutions.com

Education and the present world crisis  
Education and the present world crisis  

Education and the present world crisis

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