Reasons for Learning LO30720

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 10/17/03

Replying to LO30716 --

Dear Organlearners

Philip Keogh <> wrote under the
Subject: Knowledge and Information LO30716

>In response to my earlier response on this matter. The following
>quote from "The Social Life of Information" by Brown and
>Duguid seems apposite.
>"Learning is usually treated as a supply-side matter, thought to
>follow teaching, training, or information delivery. But learning is
>more demand driven. People learn in response to need. When
>people cannot see the need for what's being taught, they ignore
>it, reject it, or fail to assimilate it in any meaningful way.
>Conversely, when they have a need, then, if the resources for
>learning are available, people learn effectively and quickly."

Greetings dear Philip,

Thank you very much for the quote. It made me think once again how crucial
it is to have reasons for learning. Thus i have decided to change the
topic since little of information will figure in it.

I first thought whether reason, motivation and purpose depicts one and the
same thing -- to trigger and sustain the act of learning. Perhaps i am
dull today, but i cannot think of any difference between them when applied
to learning. They tell me that learning seems to be teleological, i.e, it
is concerned with some outcome in the future rather than some cause in the
past. Yet i perceive a cause, namely that knowledge of the person gained
in the past. It is from this INCOMPLETE knowledge that the reason(s)
follows. I cannot even imagine how any reason can follow from ignorance.

Your quote refers to a need, in other words, a shortage of some kind. Are
need/shortages the only reason (the WHY) for learning? Let us look at
a number of possible reasons:-

to prove myself worthy
to survive in a harsh world
to adapt in a changing world
to help me in my job
to advance my career
to develop my intellect
to impress others with my knowledge
to care better for my family
to harmonise with society
to enjoy discovering the world
to learn for learning's sake

In all of them i percieve a need/shortage. Perhaps i am really dull today
because i cannot think of any other reason not related to a need/shortage,
a progress from the less complete to the more complete. I will be very
glad if any fellow learner can suggest reasons which have nothing to do
with any need/shortage.

I have not arranged them in any order. But i am reminded of A Maslov's
Hierarchy of Needs, decreasing in order from top to bottom:-
Self-Actualization (rejuvenation, character, personality, fulfillment)
Esteem ([1] strength, confidence, mastery [2] status, appreciation, dignity)
Affective (belonging, care, friendship, love)
Safety (security, stability, protection, peace)
Bodily (food, clothes, house, health)

The next higher level always emerges from the level below it, provided
that the lower level had been developed sufficiently -- the LRC (Law of
Requisite Complexity). For example, a hungry person need food before
he/she will seek peace, what to speak of love, dignity or fulfillment at
the highest level. We may also disagree with the ordereing because even
Maslov himself rearranged it and added some other levels.

What is the key feature of this hierachy? Irreversible self-organisation
of which the lower level pushes the higher level and the higher level
pulls the lower level! In other words, learning seems to be the person's
recognition and response to the fact that humans are spirtually
irreversible self-organising systems. Irrespective of what the specific
reasons for learning are, they require irreversible self-organisation to
become actualised.

What strikes me is how much of Maslov's can be used to depict the status
of a democracy. In 1994 South Africa became a fully inclusive democracy.
Black people who suffered much during apartheid became the majority in the
new ruling party (ANC). They focussed intensely on the lowest three levels
(bodily, safety and affective needs). But president Nelson Mandela and a
few others had to function as worthy icons for the top two levels. They
understood how the top two levels depended on the lower three levels.

Unfortunately, a gradual disintegration of the top two levels began with
political vices such as character assasination and confidence trickstery.
At first it was only a trickle. However, any politician guilty of such
political vices has no clue of the sustaining role of the lower three
levels. So the first to suffer through their neglegence was the affective
level. Factions began to polarise in the ruling party and their alliances.
Then the safety level began to suffer. Crime, corruption and nepotism
began to increase rapidly. The lowest level is about to suffer with
several politicians caring for their own luxuries rather than the bodily
needs of their voters -- the fat cats taking over.

In the country just north of South Africa, namely Zimbabwe, this
disintegration process is now almost completed. The four upper levels have
vanished. The lowest level is about to perish with a 70% rate in
unemployment, 60% in acute starvation and thousands of refugees fleeing to
Botswana (200 000) and Mozambique (400 000) and millions of them to South
Africa. (Since 2001 some half a million of them have been deported back to
Zimbabwe.) Worst of all as a sinister verification of requiring needs for
learning, almost all learning at all levels in Zimbabwe have grinded to a
standstill. Should any of you fellow learners want to follow daily the
grimm news on Zimbabwe, write to < > and ask to be

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> 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 <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>

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