Teaching Smart vs. not LO13676

Mnr AM de Lange (AMDELANGE@gold.up.ac.za)
Tue, 20 May 1997 13:59:05 GMT+2

Suzanne Deakins wrote on 16 May in LO13648

Dear organlearners,

> Children do get the basics in most schools in the US (basics being
> reading, writing and arithmetic). The big question is are we preparing
> them with thinking skills? Do they know how to think, not just what to
> think?

then discusses the role of language, mathematics, technology, etc in the
curriculum, and finally concluded with

> The challenge with today's work force, is not stupid or lazy people, not
> poorly educated people, but people who have not been taught to think for
> today's world, who have not been taught to view work as play and important
> part of their identity. Those emerging into the workforce, lack
> confidence, understanding of the importance of communication, and an
> understanding of themselves as being ontological in nature. Their (our)
> lives are splintered into a 100 different directions and opportunities,
> with no common denominator. Only understanding ourselves from a "common
> perspective" an ontological point of view, can produce the healthy
> integrated ego system needed to live a fulfilling and sane life. The leap
> into sanity for our society will take more than good knowledge of spelling
> and math.

Suzanne, thank you very much for an informative and passionate
contribution on this topic. You have, in a sense, summarised much of what
has been said on this topic in such a way that we cannot but agree.

However, in my contribution I stressed that it is not only the mechanics
of thinking ("thinking skills") which are important, but also the dynamics
of thinking ("thinking potential") which are important. Somehow, this
distinction failed to draw any discussion. This means that either
everybody understood what I have written and thought it too trivial to
comment upon, or that everybody did not understand a word of it and
assumed all others to have understood it, or that you have become tired of
me and soon will not even tolerate me any more.

Or it might be something infinitely more serious. It may mean that I have
actually demonstrated that all of you have no "thinking potential" any
more with respect to the problem of "no thinking potential". Please.
please, I do not want to patronise or judge any of you. Neither does it
mean that I consider myself superior to any of you. It merely means that I
have become sensitive to something through a chain of discoveries on a
path which I happened to travel upon.

Let me explain this difference between mechanics and dynamics with an
example from everyday life. (My forth-coming book will do it in terms of
two chapters, one for the dynamics and the other for the mechanics.)
Consider a motor car. It has an engine with components such as a crank
shaft, pistons, valves, etc. Each of these components has been engineered
to work perfectly and harmoniously with the rest. The same applies to the
gear box, the electrical system, the fuel system, etc. Now think of all
these components of all these systems which work perfectly and
harmoniously as the "mechanics" of the car. What then is the "dynamics" of
the car?

Suddenly, one day, the car will not get into action. For example, the
starter will not turn, or if it turns, the engine will not run, or if the
engine runs, it has very little power. Yet the mechanical action of each
component is perfect and in harmony with the rest. Eventually it turns out
that either the battery is flat or the fuel tank is empty or the air
filter is clogged up. The car's potential energy has been depleted - no
lead dioxide in the battery, gasoline in the fuel tank, or oxygen in the
carburetter. The possible reasons why the car will not get into action are
now dynamical and not mechanical!

In my original reply to Ben Compton, I stressed the importance of the
dynamics of learning. I decided not to say anything more, except to
mention this important facet. My reason was to get all of you into
discussing the dynamical facet, without me taking the lead. I still
believe this to be a wise decision, otherwise I would have intefered with
the dynamics of the problem. However, I have now to interfere. I will try
to do it as a catalyst. I now beseech all of you to get into a serious
dialogue concerning the dynamics of not only learning, but of all other
threads in the fabrique of our society.

Why did I not want to take the lead? Because I believe that each of you
already have immense TACIT knowledge on the topic. The tacit knowledge of
a person, according to Michael Polyani, is knowledge which that person has
not yet articulated into words. What you thus have to do, is to struggle
to get that knowledge into words!

Allow me to make the following note. Do not take it as a lead. After I
have discovered how important it is to distinguish between the dynamics
and mechanics of 'deep' creativity, I noted a peculiar development in the
history of humankind. Since the invention of the Guthenberg press, humans
became more and more interested in the mechanics of nature and culture
while neglecting more and more the dynamics of both. This mismatch created
a kingdom of problems. Now, at the end of the 20th century, we have
reached the position where our mechanical solutions to our mismatch
problems create dynamical problems on which the viability of our very
future depends!

Allow me to reformulate the last sentence of the last paragraph slightly
by ommiting some things. "Now, at the end of the 20th century, we have
reached the position where our solutions to our problems create problems
on which the viability of our very future depends!" Does this latter
sentence speak to your gut feelings (tacit knowledge)? Did you notice what
I did? By reversing my 'tacification', you will actually experience how to
tap on your tacit knowledge. Keep on with such experiences.

Best wishes


At de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education University of Pretoria Pretoria, South Africa email: amdelange@gold.up.ac.za

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