Prioritizing Who for Formal Learning LO20537

Linda Wing (
Mon, 01 Feb 1999 10:39:13 -0600

Replying to LO20530 --

To colleagues at Learning-Org:

Thoughts on learning.....

Habermas discusses learning as a framework by describing three types of

o technical learning - is learning which builds our capacity to solve
problems, to become better at something we are doing to solve
problems in our world;

o communicative learning - is learning which is practical in that it
allows us to better exchange ideas and information with one another
in our social world;

o and, emancipatory learning - is learning which frees us from some
previously held notion and which fosters a better understanding of some
contradiction in our world, making our world a more understandable and
a better place in which to live.

Perhaps with this lense on the discussion of defining "what is learning",
it becomes clearer that there are different types of learning which
accomplish different kinds of things. Each of these types of learning are
important in the modern world.

I see people in my acquaintance believing that technical learning is most
important for them, while others seek emancipatory experiences of the
spiritual quest. Many of my acquaintenances seek experiences of learning
in all three types of learning to broaden themselves and create a depth of
experience. Several of my acquaintenances believe that there is only ONE
kind of learning, and that is emancipatory learning and the development of
greater understanding of the contradictions in our world, fostering a
better environment for all people.

I believe it was Paulo Freire who said "learning is never neutral". It
can be used for purposes of control of a population or for emancipation of
a population. All three types of learning described by Habermas can be
used for either purpose. Is learning for empowerment within process
re-engineering empowerment, or another form of control of the individual
working within the process? These rhetorical questions foster deep
insight when I am working with clients who wish to create learning in
their organizations for empowerment. Sometimes we are so deep into our
own paradigms that we can't see that we are manifesting more of the same
type of social experience through attempting to remedy our current way of
doing business.

Still thinking....

Linda S. Wing
Human Systems Design, Inc.
Minneapolis, Minnesota

>In my use of the words, learning is an activity carried out by an
>individual. The result of this activity could be that the employee
>acquires a skill but it could also be that an employee acquires an
>understanding of new legislation, or of traffic problems in a town, or of
>new managerial techniques. I see the first type of learning, ie acquiring
>skills as an HR function which is part of ensuring that a department is
>equipped with appropriatedly skilled staff. I see the second type of
>learning as part of the normal functioning of a department and outside the
>province of HR. Of course, every departmental manager will try to slide
>some departmental learning costs onto HR, it helps their budget.


Linda Wing <>

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