learning with, or without a goal LO28820

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 07/10/02

Replying to LO28789 --

Dear Organlearners,

Terje Tonsberg <tatonsberg@hotmail.com> writes:

>How does one direct passion to be in balance with spareness?
>I don't have a good anwer to that one, but I do have
>something I believe is part of the answer. One is that
>pre-university school curriculum should be much more
>limited and much more intensive. It should be much
>more intensive in two subjects: Language (1) and Math
>These two languages are the tools of formal knowledge
>and fluency in them is very important to digestive and
>emergent learning. In addition to the above I am tempted
>to add: concept mapping (graphic communication) and
>English at an advanced age.

Greetings dear Terje,

You have surely touched upon something very important to me.

I am convinced that any constructive activity in which the inner mind is
revealed to the external world should be encouraged. Openness (one of the
7Es -- seven essentialities of creativity) means that there is a two-way
traffic between the "world-inside-me" and the "world-outside-me". The
traffic from "world-inside-me" to the "world-outside-me" is rich in
emergences on all levels of knowledge. These emergences sustain a passion
for learning.

The second millennium ended with too much one-way traffic from he
"world-outside-me" into the "world-inside-me". This one-way traffic,
expecially when done in terms of information, strangles the passion for

Goethe had a curious way in dealing with truth in his epic dramas.
Eventually he gave in to the pressure to define truth. He described truth
as the dynamic relationship ("two-way traffic") between the
"world-inside-me" and the "world-outside-me". He could just have kept
quiet because his description satisfied nobody. Today I understand his
answer perfectly. I would go so far as to say that not only truth, but
even all the other facets of character (like the good, right and beauty)
depend on this dynamic relationship between the "world-inside-me" and the

In this sense I would place a high premium on what is taught in langauge
and mathematics and how it is taught. If it does not promote this dynamic
relationship between "world-inside-me" and the "world-outside-me", do not
teach it. In fact, I already feel uneasy to deal with two separate
subjects like language and mathematics. Adding a third and fourth subject
like art and designs shows to me that we are already on the path of
fragmentation rather than wholeness (another one of the 7Es). This would
do us no good.

>From an age of six up to fourteen I took piano lessons. I loved to play
the piano and express my own feelings, but hated to be told how to imitate
others. It is for this reason that I stopped taking lessons.

My language classes at school (Afrikaans, English, Dutch, German, Sotho
and Latin) were a similar love and hate affair. My urge was always to
express myself in each langauge, but the courses dictated me to learn
grammar and phonetics like a parrot before attempting any expressions
self. I also had to pretend that I was well conversed with famous literary
works (Marais, Shakespear, Vondel, Goethe, etc) while these works in fact
rather put my mind in a meandering state, wanting to explore what they
spoke of.

It was the same with mathematics. There was little time or opportunity for
me to explore what interests the various topics arose within me. I had to
do the prosaic excercises because in the end they prepared me for good
examination results.

At university I took the maximum number of courses allowable. No one gave
me more fun than a course which I took as a first year student called
"Descriptive geometry and engineering drawings". Today most of this work
has been programmed into CAD (Computer Assisted Drawing) features. But in
those days South Africa had not even one main frame computer. The book we
worked through was W Abbots' "Practical Geometry and Engineering
Graphics". He posed more than 300 probelms to work through. What became
most remarkable to me is that once I completed a drawing problem, my
experiences gave me a different outlook than that which I had before
tackling the problem.

In the preface to the book the author claims that the drawing problems
have an educational value apart from practical engineering values. Today I
cannot agree with him more. These drawings helped me to explore the
implicit possibilities within each problem, often to see what the hand
produces what the mind knew in advance. Furthermore, they helped me to
imagine clear pictures in my mind by which I could summarise most topics.

Today I would advocate the learning of several langauges and not merely
one as of principal importance. To be able to follow the line of thinking
on a topic in another language is like looking from the topic from a
different viewpoint. In this respect I can offer no better example than my
studies of the New Testament. I am able to follow its original text in
Greek as well as its translations (various ones for each language) into
English, Afrikaans, Dutch and German. What strikes me often is how
translators struggled to translate the Greek text into a vernacular which
would have an acceptable meaning for people having a different language
and culture. A culture independent translation is impossible. But a
culture dependent translation introduce information not contained within
the original text. Sureness ("identity-context") plays an immense role in
making a translation and forming meaning form such a translation.

One of the things which I became aware off, is that in my years of formal,
institutionalised training, the etymology (history of evolution) of words
played no role. Today I am aware that in my mother tongue Afrikaans, the
youngest fully fledged language of the world, a strange process took
place. Through the centuries and the evolution of the Germanic languages
from proto-Aryan (Indo-European) stock, here on African soil by influence
of African languages (Xhoi and Banthu) and Eastern langauges (Malysian and
Indian), many of the evolutionary baggage in words through suffices and
prefixes got burned away. Looking at Afrikaans is often like looking at
history five millenia ago.

The first thirteen states of the US had to decide on what language would
be used between them. The vote 7:6 was in favour to English rather than
the Low German (like that for the Amish people) used in those days. Were
the vote 6:7, the USA would have spoken today a language much closer to
Afrikaans and Dutc ;-)

My mother tongue Afrikaans is not accepted freely as an language having
emerged on African soil. It is rather seen as the language of the
apartheid oppressors. Afrikaans has indeed been used to formulate the
ideology and policy of apartheid for fourty years. But having a blind eye
to the previous 300 years of its bityh and evolution on African soil does
nobody any good. Afrikaans had been the language of those seeking freedom
as well as those being oppressed. Afrikaans had been the language of both
the slaves of the colonial masters as well as the free "burghers"
(European inhabitants) trying to escape from such olonial ruling. For 300
years Afrikaans have become the language of the oppressed trying to free
themselves from the colonial masters. But now it has to pay the price for
40 years of misconduct with it. Why?

A language is crucial to reveal the "world-inside-me" to the
"world-outside-me". Because of this very reason, the langauge is often
thought of as the actual "world-inside-me". It is as if the language gets
a "personality" itself. That "personality" then becomes loved or hated,
depending on what its users did to others using different langauges. By
studying several langauges, one may learn how to respect languages in

>The problem with math and language is that there is a
>great need for drills (sureness), so how does one bring
>passion into drills?

Avoid doing the same thing over and over again. There is also a need for
spareness, otherness, fruitfulness, wholeness, openness and liveness. Work
all the 7Es into the excercises. It is possible and I have done it in my
chemistry courses. Furthermore, it works far better that parrot drills.

With care and best wishes


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

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