Learning, Training and Chaos LO25306

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 09/06/00

Dear Organlearners,

Greetings to you all.

In "Evaluating,Training and Development" (LO25289) I made the following
comment, feeling extremely frustrated when making it:

>I am not fond of the term "training" -- it has too many
>connotations of forcing animals into non-spontaneous
>behaviour for me. But if I have to use it because it is the
>term which others prefer to use, I will do it. Unfortunately,
>this will lead to rather curious descriptions such as
>"spontaneous training" and "double loop training".

The next day when I read through it in the digest, (yes, I even read my
own work trying to think of it as that of somebody else because it was
done in the past and since then I have changed ;-) it strucked me as
arrogant and judgemental because I have not provided a context in which it
could have be comprehended. I apologise and will now try to correct it.

Up to WWII, the word "training" has been used for getting animals,
including humans, to perform specific physical acts. Animals were trained
to stop doing many of the things which they do when free (wild) in nature
and to do some things which they never will do when free in nature. In the
case of humans training involved people like slaves (in the days of
slavery), "blue collar" workers, soldiers and sports people.

Then WWII came and in many ways the world became turned upside down.
Factories had to produce fast and efficient tools (munition) for warfare.
The victors in WWII would not be the side who knows more, but the side
which applied its knowledge best. Manual skills became a critically
important factor. Then WWII ended and people were left with their memories
of what they had to do to win the war. Certain words which were seldom
used before WWII, soon were used frequently to refer to new conceptual
perceptions, words such as "model", "systems sciences (theories)",
"operational research", "information", "creativity", "training" and

ADULTS who worked in factories and businesses often found themselves
unable to cope with the new way of living after WWII. What they have
learned as CHILDREN did not provide them- selves anymore with the capacity
for effective action. Teaching them like children was impossible because
they were working adults and not anymore kids cared for by adults. Those
who focused on the "effective action" to promote it rather than keeping in
mind the whole of "capacity for effective action" began to use the word
"training" rather than "teaching" to refer to their own work. Yes , some
even used wierd names like "androgogics".

But soon not only the trainers (teachers) were using the word "training"
to refer to their own work, but also the trainees (adult learners) were
using it for their responses of "effective action", i.e. manual skills.
Some trainers became aware that the progression in "effective action" to
meet future needs were also important so that they began to use the word
"development" to reflect this awareness. Other became aware that training
forced by various means did not ensure the "development" they were
seeking so that they began to refer to themselves as coaches or
consultants rather than trainers.

Slowly, through the work of leading thinkers such as Peter Drucker, Bob
Mager and Chris Argyris the emphasis in the "world of training" began to
shift from "manual skills" to "knowledge skills".

Meanwhile, in the world of traditional education, some educators were also
becoming aware that they have focussed far too much on teaching rather
than learning and on "explicated knowledge" (printed information
reflecting implicate knowledge) rather than the knowledge within the
learner. Like their colleagues in the world of business, they also began
to seek solutions for the many educational problems they were becoming
aware of. The emphasis on "textbook teaching" (since the Enlightenment a
couple of centuries earlier) began to shift from "textbook recollection"
via "principles application" to "competency driven" learning.
"Intellectual skills" became as important to the world of education as
"knowledge skills" have become to the world of management. The beginning
of the sixties can be considered as the point where shifting of focus in
both streams began in all earnest. It also inited the fire of chaos.

My short description above tells merely about what happened in a part of
the English speaking world, especially the USA. In other parts of the
English speaking world known as the British Commonwealth (BC) more and
more problems were identified unique to the developmental status of a BC
nation. Thus some peopled concerned with the state of education in some of
these BC nations began to develop their own solutions for their unique
problems. Consequently the plethora of terminology increased here too.

When we shift our focus from the English speaking world to the German,
French, Dutch and Spanish speaking worlds, the plethora of terminology in
each of these languages increased too. In some sciences (like chemistry
and biology) the object of interest is free from culture and its many
facets (like nationhood and language) so that international publication of
research results could be done in an international lingua franca like
English or German.

But in education itself the object of interest is the complexity of
culture as it is manifested in a particular nation because nations are
responsible for their own education. Many nations realised that what was
hailed as "internationally accepted educational research" in some "lingua
franca" were applicable at most to nations using that "lingua franca" as
their own official language. So they began to develop terminology in their
own languages suitable for their own cultural context. I am not only
thinking here of Western Europe, but also nations of Eastern Europe, South
America, Africia, South Asia and East Asia, especially since the middle

Furthermore, they began to translate new terms from existing literature on
"learning" (traditional) or "training" (modern) into their own langauges.
When doing it vice versa in "international journals" to obtain higher
academical status, they often skilfully extended the meaning of a term to
fit their own cultures too. These extended meanings often suggested to
those having the "lingua franca" as their own official language how to
extend their own ideas too. As a consequence the explosion in terminology
in the last decade having to do with a "systematic evolution of the mind"
has been astounding, so much so that for me it is now approaching the
"edge of chaos".

On the one hand, as I have depicted above, we have progressive "push outs"
in various streams. But we also have on the other hand conservative "pull
backs" who try to prevent changes because they are well aware of the
increasing chaos otherwise. Because of the seclusion which they find in
their well defined disciplines established on a noncultural (natural)
field of research, they administer only so much "teaching" or "training"
so that they can furnish themselves with a continuous supply of fresh
researchers to keep the discipline going. They carefully avoid all
programmes of "learning" or "training" offered to them so as not to get
involved in what they recognise intuitively as chaos. Sometimes they
succeed in transporting some insight of their discipline into their
"teaching" and "training" too. Invariably some of their students will
"forsake" the discipline and bring this insight to the formerly described
progressive hand too.

It is within this "global village" operating at the "edge of chaos" that
we will have to guide the learning of our children. It will be impossible
for them to escape from the global village because it is "singular in its
compelxity". It will also be impossible for them to act in a humane manner
should this chaos continue or even increase. They pay increasingly the
price with destitution, addiction, abuse and delinquincy.

But it is not only our children who will be suffering. It is also the
increasing percentage of adults of all ages who get "obsolete" as
organisations (public and private) have to reposition themselves in this
growing chaos of a world in change. Some organisations trim themselves
carefully, others inflate and deflate themselves almost recklessly in
rapid cycles while many simply disappear from the stage.

Dear fellow learner, whether you think of yourself as a teacher, mentor,
trainer, coach, facilitator, consultate, knowledge engineer, information
manager, change agent, or one of the many other descriptions too, I beg
you to become aware of this "increasing chaos" in the manifesting "global
village". Humankind itself is labouring towards an unprecedented travail.
I feel deep in my mind, heart and soul the first pangs of a great
tribulation ahead. Perhaps I am projecting our past experiences here in
South Africa too much on the rest of the world, but then it will be up to
you in the scientific spirit to make sure that it is not the case rather
than denying my seemingly ranting speculations.

About a decade before the fall of apartheid the HSRC (Human Sciences
Research Council) undertook an all comprehensive study on the status of
education in South Africa (RSA). The study was headed by prof Pieter de
Lange. They included both "traditional learning" organised by government
(which they called formal education) and "modern training" organised by
the private sector (which they called informal education). That study was
an eye opener which caused pains in the guts of many an educator, even
members of the commission itself.

Some of the shocking findings were:
* The RSA was spending on formal and informal education
  almost twice as much as in the next highest in the other
  walks of nationhood, namely national defence.
* The lack of coordination and effectiveness overshadowed
  the intended accomplishments by many factors.
* The figures and trends for "functional illiterate" school
  leavers and unskilled workers were appaling.
* The writing was on the wall for the end of education as it
  has been practised up to then as well as for apartheid in

Some time before studying that report myself, I had finished studying Adam
Smith's classic "On the Wealth of Nations". (I hope I remember the title
correctly.) Thus, while studying the HSRC report itself, I had far more on
my mind than merely South Africa's political dilemma. I was strangely
thinking of Smith's book, capitalism and the severe ailments of an
educational systems such as South Africa's. I became deeply under the
impression that capitalism would bring no healing. The piece-wise
commercialistion of education was merely hiding the fact that its healing
would have to happen on a much higher level of complexity than what the
open market could offer.

I did not even thought about communism, although in those dark days of
apartheid many thought about communism as its greatest foe. I wish I did
some thinking in that direction too because when communism collapsed, I
became aware that it collapsed because, for me, as the pricipal reason
among many others, it could not heal its own mortally wounded education. I
clearly remember how two dear German friends visiting us were sitting in
our sitting room, watching the fall of the Berlin Wall. They were stunned
becuase of how fast and how sudden the demise of commonism came.

Well, soon afterwards also apartheid hit the dust and the ANC (with its
communistic alliances) replaced the NP as the governing party. The HSRC
report mentioned above was shelved because of judging it to be an
excercise in apartheid rather than checking its data and conclusions as
soon as possible for fast restoring actions. The lesson which we have to
learn here is that even the profoundest of political transformations (from
apartheid to inclusive democracy) cannot cure a mortal ailment in the very
soul of nationhood. Politicians may and usually do high-jack education,
but education involves far more than politics. Education is concerned with
the whole of the culture (possibly many cultures such as in South Africa)
of a nation. Culture is far more complex than politics. Politics ought to
concern itself with the management of culture rather than replacing itself
with the culture of politics.

Why the approaching "edge of chaos"? Why spending so much on education,
far more than on anything else? Have these two questions anything to do
with each other?

Yes, they are so closely related to each other that I can use the metaphor
"they are two sides of the same coin".

The one side of the coin has the curious symbol W printed upon it, rather
the head of some stately person. This symbol W stands for work.

Drucker, for example, was intensely aware of the gradual shift in the
focus of training from manual work to mental work (physical skills to
knowledge work). Deming was intensely aware that the quality of work gave
whatever artifact its value. Even three millenia ago civilisations knew
that "he who works not, shall eat not" and "he who works, shall be paid
fairly". When Adam and Eve had to leave Paradise forever, eventhough a
fable to many people, they had to work to remind them of what they have
lost. This happened six millenia ago.

I think we will all have to accept that for the one side of the coin we
will have to take work and its symbol W. You are free to differ from me,
but I am pretty sure that eventually you will move your differences to the
other side of the coin and accept W for the stately side of the coin.
However, I leave it up to you to scrutinize everything as carefully as
possible, bringing your conclusions to the LO-dialogue for the learning of
each of us.

On the other side of the coin I want to print the composite symbol /_\F.
It stands for "change in free energy". The two words "free energy" is one
(and complex) concept. Likewise the three (four ?) words stand for one
(and even more complex) concept.

You fellow learners may and ought to print whatever suite you better on
this side. I would prefer that each of you speak and print from own
experiences because knowledge begins with experiences/experiments. But
eventually we all will have to compare what we each have printed upon it,
then comprehend all which had been printed and finally emerge into a
higher level of common understanding.

The coin itself I would like to describe by using its two
faces as
        W > /_\F
or any one of its mathematical equivalent expressions
        /_\F - W < 0
So we may picture the symbol ">" itself as the rim of the
coin. In mathematics it is called an "order relation". I prefer
to describe it somewhat closer as the "order relation > of
becoming" -- the most powerful "one-to-many-mapping"
which mathematics can offer us to bash our minds with.

The order relationship
        W > /_\F
is the very source of the intense chaos we often experience
in every walk of life and now also experience in education in
its most inclusive sense. It is is the source of all irreversibility.
But when /_\F becomes positive and very large, it intensifies
the chaos so much that we can speak metaphorically of
"reaching the edge of chaos".

Education, all inclusive, is costing us a lot of money as the HSRC report
discovered once for South Africa. We have to pay (by fees or taxes) for
the work done on the educational system as well as educational resources
imported into the educational system. The work is done by teachers (or
trainers or what-ever-we-may-call-them). The educational resources are
artifacts in which work have been "freezed". In both cases ("work done on
system" and "work imported as artifacts") the sign of the work is
positive, i.e W > 0. The immense costs tells us that W >>>> 0, i.e the
work is positive and extremely large.

So why does the work has to be positive and extremely
large? Because of the coin
        W > /_\F
This coin tells us that for anything to happen, whether freely
or by force, whether so slowly that it seems to be reversible
or so fast that the irreversibility stuns us, the "order relation
> of becoming" in the "one-to-many-mapping"
        W > /_\F
has to be adhered to.

Try as we can with all our physical or spiritual efforts, we cannot undo
this relationship. Why not? Because it is the emerging whole which is more
than the sum of its two wholes, LEC and LEP. I am not going to explain now
again what the acronyms LEC and LEP mean, except to note that we cannot
destroy or circumvent them in the material as well as the mental world. We
have to thank JW Gibbs who more than a century ago wrought this emerging
whole through immense mental toil. Whereas Faraday was the greatest mental
experimentalist ever, Gibbs was perhaps the greatest mental theorist ever.
Maxwell thought so. What now remains for us to do, is to combine theory
and practice into art while retaining the mentality of these two great
persons and many other like them such as Einstein and Smuts.

Now, since W >>>> 0, we have to conclude that
/_\F >>>> 0. By /_\F >>>> 0 I mean /_\F > 0 which has
reached its limit (extreme) at the one end. What does
/_\F > 0 mean? I have told it in many of my contributions for
several years. Perhaps someone will look it up and explain
it to fellow learners better than I. But what does
        W > /_\F
mean for the case W >>>> 0 and /_\F >>>> 0 ?
I will describe it by one little metaphor which might shake
you into awareness, although surely not into understanding.

We are desperately trying to flog a dead horse (spiritually flat system)
to get it alive and working again. That dead horse is education.

To get everybody involved in the flogging, money is flying around like
sparks from a fire. These sparks provide you and me with working
opportunities. I am deeply under the impression taht the great majority of
us are not opportunists or pyrrhomaniacs collecting sparks wherever
possible, but responsible people adhering to a personal mission of healing
and revival. I wish my thanks to all of you for your important work could
have made a difference -- however we need far more than that.

But I am also deeply under the impression of the life of a particular
person, one Albert Speer. Some believe he was one of the most clever liers
ever. He was Hitler's minister for War Supplies during WWII. While some
other Nazi leaders were planning and excuting the Holocaust, he was
working so hard that he did not become aware of the ongoing Holocaust, or
perhaps self-hypnotised through this very work his mind did not react in
any way upon was his eyes saw and ears heard. At the Nuremburg trials he
had to plead: "Now I am aware of the Holocaust, I am jointly responsible
for it, but personally I cannot ever be found guilty of it." His plead,
seeming honestly to some, surprise people from all sides. Why?

He was working INSIDE the Third Reich. Not even once did he shift his mind
to do some taxing mental work OUTSIDE the Third Reich too.

After the fall of apartheid fourty years afterwards, the peoples of South
Africa did a brave thing. They hold their own Truth and Reconcilliation
Commission (TRC) on apartheid so as to learn how not to make the same
error again. I beg each of you fellow learners to read the TRC reports or
some compilation of it.

Most surprisingly, many leaders (mostly white and some black) during
apartheid confessed before the TRC and their victims what Spear once also
had to plead "Now I am aware of the inhumane works of apartheid, I am
jointly responsible for it, but personally I cannot ever be found guilty
of it." Obviously, like during the Nuremburg trials, most people believe
that it is a clever scheme so as not to PAY for what they have WORKED,
getting PAID for it or not.

South Africa is the country where the dramas of the rest
of the world in future are unfolding in the present. In our
case it may have a tragic end because we are the mice
among the elephants working it out too. In any case, I
would strongly recommend that you study the TRC
hearings. A book which exquisitely captures these
hearings, is
. Chronicle of the Tructh Commission --
. A journey of the past and persent into the
. future of South Africa.
Its author is Piet Meiring, one of the commissioners. It is
pusblished by Carpe Diem Books (1999), VanderBijlpark.

The book has 6 chapters. Each is arranged in the metaphor of a journey.
The last section (conclusion) is called: The longest journey -- from
person to person via the heart.

You may order it probably from Amazon.com. But you can
also order it from Nico Stassen, one of my former students
in chemistry. (He had to struggle like all the others with
the expression W > /_\F, but merely in the context of
chemistry. Perhaps this made him give up on chemical
engineering and focus on books ;-) He can also supply
you with many other books on topics which you merely
have to describe to him -- he is a man who now have read
far and wide in all walks of life. His email address is
He and his personnel ship books all over the world, although
they cannot compete with the likes of amazon.com.

What I desperately want to help you fellow learners to avoid, is to admit
likewise somewhere in the future, stunned by the stark reality "Now I am
aware of the inhumane works of explicated education, I am jointly
responsible for it, but personally I cannot ever be found guilty of it."

It is now for several years that I has this feeling of utmost
urgency in me, biting in my chest, clamping my mind into
migraines, driving me to work as I have never imagined could
ever be possible. Perhaps I am just another crazy person.
Even so, I am well aware that for
        W > /_\F
all my efforts are W >>>> 0 so as to accomodate /_\F >>>> 0.
I cannot go much longer on with it. Neither will others who
may follow. The time for any lone ass trotting at front has
come to an end.

We will all have to learn how to transform /_\F >>>> 0 once
again into /_\F < 0 as well as what it will do to
        W > /_\F
as its context. I am more than willing to explain over and over
again this baffling symbolism, taking small steps (or large
strides as in this contribution) what I have learned so that you
can scrutinize it for your own authentic learning.

Perhaps, like an Albert Spear of old we are too buzzy working INSIDE to
step outside and do a little work there too, thus not becoming aware of
what is happening to our children as well as those workless people who
already got kicked out of the system. But I am utterly convinced that
flogging the dead horse or catching sparks given of by the fire of chaos
so as to flog it even more, will bring no healing. Last night while
visiting as an elder a family in great distress, I decided that I cannot
keep quiet anymore.

Are we not in need of the metanoia of the Learning Organisation? Is it
not time to get our house in order once again by making clear what we mean
and trying to share our cleared up meanings? Will we have enough money to
pay for the solution?

For example, I myself get frustrated every time when I have to write
"authentic learning". By doing this I admit that learning can also be not
authentic. I admit even something worse, that learning cannot become
authentic again once it has lost its autheticity so that I have to step in
and speak of "authentic learning".

Now let me use another example to contrast what I have said. There are
hundreds of thousands of species of plants. There are also commerical
plants cultivated through careful selection and breeding. Whatever the
stunning diversity among all the species and cultivars, when I say
"plant", millions of other people, young and old, will immediately know
what I am refering to. I can then refer to thousands of concepts having to
do with the morphology and physiology of plants. Many may not follow me
any more as I delve deeper into botany -- the science of plants. But all
will still know that I am working with plants.

However, the situation may soon alter drastically as a result
of genetical engineering. When anyone afterwards say "plant",
nobody will be sure anymore what this "mixed-up monstrosity"
might be. This genetical engineering is only another outcome
        W > /_\F for the case /_\F > 0
We will then begin to race towards the same "edge of chaos"
as we are now doing in learning. Why? Because of
        W > /_\F for the case /_\F > 0
in what is perhaps described by "knowledge engineering".

Hopefully the day will arrive when anyone of us say "learning", it will
entail learning which is authentic and which restores its authenticity
when lost. In other words, hopefully we wil not have to qualify learning
any more with "authentic learning". Some seasoned practioners of training
also need to qualify training such as "evaluated training", "profitable
training", etc. Some are battling to restore "authenticity" to training
too. I think that they also would long to speak only of training.

However, in the end, how far are we from our goal when I speak of
learning, you of training or something else indicating another action, and
yet we all think of "authentic evolution of the mind"? Peter Senge took a
brave step when he created the name Learning Organisation. He could have
called it Training Organisation or Epistemic Organisation or many other
names reflecting every possible spark flying from the fire of chaos.

I foresee that we will each have to push our mental hands into the white
hot fire of chaos so as to make sure what name we will all use to refer to
one and the same thing despite its overwhelming complexity. Perhaps, as a
measure of our goodwill, we will have to step off our Germanic or Romanic
derived names and select a name from languages indigenous to America,
Africa or Asia -- a name rooted in time immemorial. Perhaps this is the
"creative collapse" required from all of us.

For example, the word "learning" comes from the Anglo-Saxon name
"leornian" which was used for "climbing up the ladder". In my own mother
tongue Afrikaans we have still this Germanic antiquity preserved in the
word "leer". The Afrikaans word "leer" can mean either the verb "learn"
or the noun "ladder". The semantical context of the Afrikaans sentence
rather than its syntaxis will tell which case is meant.

When we translate "training" into Afrikaans, we use the verb
"afrig". The verb "rig" is also rooted in Germanic antiquity. Its
complexity of meanings in modern English can be -- aim, direct,
align, follow, guide, lead, question, line up, make true, address
practice, command and many more. The "af", as I have explained
in "afknou", can have any of the following meanings: off, down,
loss, without, from, hectic as well as, when used as prefix,
qualifying any other reductionistic, destructive or linear act.
Perhaps, when I am thinking of training as "afrig" because I
think principally in my mother tongue, I am thinking too much
of "destructive creativity" and too little of "constructive
In that case you are free from this hideous constraint.

I can only tell you fellow learners what "rig" my own mind. I cannot tell
you what must "rig" your own mind. But as Maturana of old I am pretty sure
that we all will have to climb up the "tree of knowledge" -- to "leer" as
we would say in Afrikaans. We cannot do it alone any more. We will have to
do it with Learning Organisations. It is how humans succeeded for many

Let us "rig" ourselves upon the future and its challenges.

Let us cool of the fire rather than rushing frantically in the sparks
around it.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <Richard@Karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>

"Learning-org" and the format of our message identifiers (LO1234, etc.) are trademarks of Richard Karash.