Lectures, learning, leadership, LOs LO19799

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 11:52:43 +0200

Replying to LO19763 --

Dear Organlearners,

Steve Eskow <seskow@durand.com> writes:

>The critique maintains that the lecture and the sermon
>are obsolete forms of communication that do not belong
>in a "learning organization."

Greetings Steve,

Thank you very much for bringing this very important issue into the open.

All of us on this list have listened to lectures and sermons which covers
the whole range of emotinal responses -- some which kept us spell bound
through their entire duration, some which left us so indifferent that we
became sleep bound and some which agonised us so much that we became war

It is not the mode of delivery (lecture or sermon) which cause this range
of responses, but the differences between the mental models of the speaker
and listeners:- forced indoctrination vs spontaneous dialogue, closed
judgements vs open questioning, rigid orthodoxy vs moderate counseling,

>"The sage on stage," the critique goes, should be
>replaced by the "facilitator," the "guide by the side."

The same spread exists here from spell bound through sleep bound to war
bound. Fortunately, more facilitators are aware of the differences in
mental models and their consequences.

>Why do the lecture and the sermon persist?
>The answer as well as the critique are predictable:
>they endure because of. . .
>"Resistance to change."

Yes, this answer is frequently given. But actually we have a diversity of
answers such as resistance, tradition, conservatism and perpetualism.

The word "resistance" has the meaning that although people can change,
they do not want to change. However, what about people who want to change,
but who cannot change. The effect "no change" is the same, but the causes
are clearly different. In the former case it is "resistance to change" and
in the latter case it is "powerless to change".

It is my task to help people to develop within themselves the power to

>Here is another possibility.

>The lecture and the sermon persist because when they
>are properly executed they are powerful tools of instruction
>and learning.


I myself prefer teaching to instructing or training, but that is another
matter which I will not go into now. I have observed world wide and
through many decades that people are slowly losing sight of the essential
role of the teacher in learning. The degradation of teaching causes the
degradation of learning. Our concern about lectures and sermons is
intimately connected to this degradation. I am afraid that books like
"Lord of the Flies" depict the eventual outcome of the degradation of
teaching and learning.

Why is this happening? I will refrain from drawing a rich picture. I will
make only two marks. Generally and fundamentally, it is because of two
interwined paths, the one leading to eternal life and the other to eternal
death. Specifically, it is because the leadership of teachers are slowly

>A "discipline" is a "community of discourse": a way
>of looking at the world through the lens of a specialized
>rhetoric, a vocabulary.

The Romans first used the word "disciplinum" to refer to the method of
drilling people to the obedience and subjection of an appointed ruler to
make them accepting the ruler as leader. The "disciplinum" was one of many
methods which the Romans used in their clever strategy of "rule by
parting"="divisio". They refered to this strategy is the one "belonging to
the gods"="divinus".

A modern description of this process would be "apartheid". The vocabulary
of each discipline concerns only a PART of reality. Reality which has no
division, had been cut APART to rule over it. The ideology of APARTheid is
used to keep these pieces APART. One outcome of this ideology, two
millenia later, was the policy of "racial apartheid" (1948-1992) in South

But there are also many other outcomes which still exist today. One of
them is "academical apartheid".

>A good lecture is a demonstration by a skilled
>practitioner of how the terms of the discourse are
>used to make meaning, to construct a world through
>the language, to solve a problem with the terms.

All descriptions (outside the sender or receiver) are powerless. For
example, all the books in our library cannot even hurt a fly. The power of
any description (even yours above) comes from the meaning which the
receiver (reader or listener) gives to every word used in that description
as well as the interaction of these meanings in the "world inside the
receiver". This process may be called the "change into power", but
actually it has a very old name, namely "learning". The description
remains powerless when the receiver has "resistance" to learn or is
"powerless" to learn.

A lecture, after all, is nothing but a description. A lecture is good when
it contains sufficient information to help the listeners to overcome their
"resistance" or "powerlessness" to learn. A lecture is good when the
lecturer considers all the listeners as beautiful people.

>And the good prof follows with opportunities for his
>apprentices to practice using the language in their
>writing and speaking.

Yes, this is the complementary dual to the lecture. But I have seen many
good lectures and opportunities to practice go to waste because the good
prof is absent during the practices.

>We have here with us almost every day a skilled
>lecturer who weaves long his own vocabulary and
>linguistic constructions and beliefs into long and
>carefully constructed structures.
>At's messages here are long lectures.

I try to avoid all forms of "apartheid", even "academical apartheid"
between disciplines. It is one of my teaching tasks to encourage others to
do the same to avoid blind resistance to change and to enhance their power
to change.

Thus, although it appears as if is use my "own vocabulary", I use many
vocabularies. Because of "academical apartheid", there is little
consistency and coherency between them. Thus I have to make some changes
to get more consistency and coherency between them. I try to make as
little changes as possible.

When I write something irrespective of its length, I carefully go though
it to make sure that I am answerable to every sentence which I have
written. Although the messages may appear to some people to be a
monologue, I am ready for every sentence in them to develop into a
dialogue. I hope sincerely that by my writings I can stimulate our
dialogue on this LOList and our dialogue among humankind.

Why are most of my contributions so long? As soon as we shift away from
"apartheid", we shift into complexity. To describe the essence of
something very complex with a few words requires the gift of the poet. I
am painfully aware that I have to work very hard for this gift.

>And his lectures have won him applause here,
>and a following.
>That is why the lecture outlives its critics.

The word "won" means that there is some sort of competition going on here.
(Do you all still remember that wonderful dialogue we had on the thread
"Competition"?) Yes, I am involved in one and only one competition. It is
the competition between the two interwined paths, the one leading to
eternal life and the other to eternal death.

No, I do not have or want a following. Those on the path to eternal life
have only leader -- the one who walked it first.

Yes, the lecture as with any other method of teaching outlives its critics
when it serves humankind to get and proceed on the path leading to eternal

>I'd appreciate thoughts on this.

I have give my thoughts as careful as possible. This time I will avoid a
"faustian conversation".

Best wishes,


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.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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