03 August 2010

Thingification in Education from Thomas Moore

Here's a good point made by Thomas Moore of Care of The Soul fame:
In a thing-centered culture, we believe that our job is to teach the young what they need to have a job and support themselves. Students are left on their own for learning how to cope with life's existential challenges, how to relate well to others, how to lead maturely in business and government, how to raise children and how to be married. How to develop taste and values and come to grips with human mortality and make a contribution to world culture--these are largely left alone by educators with the hope, apparently, that people will find their way unconsciously. It's a false hope ... .

My comment:

It's one thing to criticize the metaphor, it quite another to replace it with another metaphor that better captures the essential qualities that you value in the educative process.

Part of the challenge is that the thingification urge is not utterly wrong, just inadequate. But our system has swung to an extreme reliance on the thing aspect and the subtler aspects are more difficult to articulate.

My own basic proposal for steering us away from this reification of "things" is to reconceptualize the proper outcome of education as access to optimal states of mind, instead of the delivery of knowledge, skills, and information. This is based on a synthesis of some of the work in positive psychology by Seligman, Csikszentmihlayi, and others. This shifts the task from downloading bits into little heads, to assisting in a process of cognitive mapping of the world in which the students exist. Naturally maps have content but what makes a map useful is not the data points, but the proper depiction of the relationships between data points according the goals of the end users of the map. Thus there is maintained a proper respect for the data (subjects) but the emphasis is shifted towards the relationships that are meaningful for making sense of that data.

Don Berg

Site: http://www.teach-kids-attitude-1st.com
Free E-book: The Attitude Problem in Education

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