Creating a Passion for Learning LO17442

Dr. Steve Eskow (
Tue, 17 Mar 1998 09:22:56 -0500

Replying to LO17425 --

Fred Nickols asks about my definition of learning before deciding whether
to challenge my comments about learning as a social act.

I'll resist the invitation to define learning:I'm willing to accept Fred's

[Host's Note: I don't think we've heard Fred's or anyone else's... My
definitions are: knowledge is capacity for effective action; learning is
an increase in knowledge. These follow Senge pretty closely. ...Rick]

All of the research on feral children--the so-called "wolf" children--and
children hidden away but physically cared for demonstrates that there is
no learning outside of the social context: mothers, siblings, neighbors.

My own mentors on minds, self, and society are George Herbert Mead and
Martin Buber, both of whom came at the notion of the "social self" from
very different starting points. Buber's notion of the "I-Thou"
relationship and the "dialogical self" are particularly powerful.

The self that we become, the "individual" that we become, is a reflection,
an internalization of the encounters of dialog with the people and the
culture that surround us.

In literate cultures we learn to learn from books: while we are physically
alone, we are engaged in dialog with absent teachers.

And we learn to "read" the signs and portents and phenomena of the world
around us, using the conceptual and intellectual tools we have been taught
by teachers and books: some think this means we learn alone.

And when we are alone and think that we are learning alone, we are often
engaged in inner dialog with At, or Fred Nickols.

Over the centuries there has been a steady chorus of complaint about the
schools as prisonhouses of instruction: Montaigne spoke of the "funnel"
approach to teaching: learning poured through a funnel into the student's
ear (Freiere recently revived this criticism as the "banking"
approach);Rousseau had his Emile avoid schools until Nature had finished
teaching him; and of course in our time Dewey and the Progressives have
succeeded in substantially transforming the practices of the schools so
that there is much more emphasis on "inquiry" and the "logic of discovery"
in the schools.

And from all of these prisonhouses of education there have emerged a
steady progression of free thinkers and independent learners who have
transformed our planet and are reaching out to others.

Individual and independent learners like us.

Steve Eskow

> Steve Eskow, responding to At de Lange, writes at length, and I'll not dip
> into those waters. However, Steve does make two comments about which I'd
> like some clarification...
> Early on, Steve writes:
> >First: learners can not learn by themselves. They need parents and
> >teachers and colleagues.
> Later, in closing, Steve writes:
> >I know that I can not learn on my own, so I must pick my teachers
> >carefully.
> I'd certainly agree that not all learning occurs without teaching. I'd
> also agree that some learning might not be able to occur at all in the
> absence of teaching. But I don't agree with the statement that "learners
> can not learn by themselves" or that "I can not learn on my own."
> However, the matter could be definitional, so, before taking issue, I'd
> like to ask Steve to share his definition of "learning."


"Dr. Steve Eskow" <>

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