Teaching Smart vs. not LO13661

Ray Evans Harrell (mcore@IDT.NET)
Sat, 17 May 1997 00:01:55 -0700

Replying to LO13623 --

Ian Saunders wrote:

> It seems to me that we need to find methods of learning that help young
> people to do these basic tasks. Technology might help us and without a
> basic understanding of the principles we do not know if the machine has
> got it right. THe machine only checks what we put in (especially so in the
> case of numbers) and spell checkers give so many options that it would be
> easy to choose the wrong one if we don't have a good grasp of things.


It seems to me that if you want traditional products then you should
consider traditional processes. The 19th century students, who were not
in the factories and being beaten to death under the noise, stress losing
their hands in machines etc. were studying the arts, literature,
languages, philosophy for science and math, the world's religions,
politics, law, what we call the "Liberal Arts". It was the exercise of
these advanced processes that made the simpler processes simple. We
should also remember that along with the revered Greek in class
administered with the cane, there was also the intense language of the
cultural surroundings that encouraged dialogue in all of these educational
areas, and more, in the traditional educational processes.

I was taught that you never really knew anything until it was automatic,
they called it an instantaneous response to symbols, intuitive or
habitually natural. That you never really knew a process unless you could
apply it to a completely different situation on your own successfully. In
the arts they included "with ease" or mastery to that rule.

The first task was not to make a machine that could allow us to be lazy
and dumb, but to make the machine unnecessary initially by training the
brain beginning with the perception of the forms that lie beneath things.
And by training the sensitivity and flexibility of the physical body to
act easily on the processes that the brain was learning, the act of
concentration from a place of physical ease and efficiency. (I've
mentioned the processes earlier so I will just refer to my early posts
this and last week.) Once they mastered these psycho-physical processes
they could decide on an efficient use of the machine as an adjunct to our
lives. Not unlike the earlier discussion on technology when it was said
that those who understood its principles could use it and those who didn't
were wasting their time.

Tonight the composer Tan Tun said that there are two kinds of motion and
he uses both in his new opera "Marco Polo." One is physical movement from
West to East as in Polo's travels and the other is spiritual that moves
from past to future as in the works of the Peking Opera. The issue is,
can you arrive at time from the act of travel or will you arrive at travel
from the contemplation of time? For me it is both. That you must have
both or you have neither.

What I keep hearing is that we must be simple. I agree but only as simple
as to include the whole. If you want the basic education then you must
understand how it is arrived at and what is necessary to sustain it in the
biological and psychological processes of the person using it. Consider
the early behavioral education experiments on the children of the
behavioral theorists. They arrived at stupendous virtuosity and the
children used it to work in menial jobs as they grew older. There is an
order to the development of education and wisdom and it can only go so
fast as it is complete. Obviously there were things missing in the lives
of those young math and science geniuses because their talent never
connected to their lives. The work of the teacher is to develop human
beings who are whole, mature and capable. It is the deciding of what that
means that I feel we are really talking about.

This is fun but I must retire to my family. I always love that question
about Einstein. Did Einstein really practice the violin for fun or was
pleasure a result of the real reason he practiced the violin? And did it
have anything to do with relativity?


Ray Evans Harrell, artistic director
The Magic Circle Chamber Opera of New York


Ray Evans Harrell <mcore@IDT.NET>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>