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Global definitions of learning and education (June 4-10, 2012)


This week we explore what it means to learn and be an educated person and how country, community and context impact global definitions of learning and education.

 

Videos:

Please watch the following videos this week:

Munir Fasheh, Occupation of Knowledge (~20 minutes). Note: If you don't see the English subtitles in this video, scroll over the bottom of the video screen, click the "cc" button and click "English".

Joi Ito, Keynote, Hewlett OER Grantees Meeting 2012 (~35 minutes)

Babies - Official Trailer (~2 minutes)

Optional: Ken Robinson, Bring on the Learning Revolution (~20 minutes)

 

Readings(s), Optional:

The following optional readings build upon this week's topic:

 

Discussion Questions:

Please discuss the following questions below. Then throughout the week, try to respond to at least two other comments from your colleagues.

  1. Think back on your own school experiences. What kind of thinking did your schools promote? What kind of thinking was lost as a result of being schooled?
  2. What does it mean to be "an educated person" in your current community? Please make sure to define where and what your current community is. (e.g., In my current community of academics at Oxford University, "an educatred person" is one that...)
  3. What does learning mean to you?
  4. Describe your most profound education/learning experience.
  5. If you had to design an education system that created "the best thinkers, learners and doers for the world," what would you create?
  6. What other ideas or questions came to you while thinking about this week's topic: Global definitions of learning and education?
  7. Please respond to at least 2 other comments from your colleagues this week.

 

Skype Discussion, Optional: 

  • The optional 1-hour Skype discussion this week will be:

    • June 10th (Sunday): 11:30am Eastern Standard Time ("New York" time).

    • To calculate what time this is in your time zone, Google "Time in New York". Then calculate the time difference between New York and your own time zone. For example, 11:30am EST is 7:30pm Dubai time.
  • Please RSVP to this week's Skype call here. It is helpful if you RSVP at least one day in advance of the call. 

  • If you cannot make the optional Skype discussion time, you are welcome to organize and facilitate another group call with your colleagues.

Task Discussion


  • Linda   June 11, 2012, 2:36 a.m.

     

    I just want to start saying that I am a fluent Arabic reader / writer so I understood Munir's speech in its essence and it was great.  Thanks for the link Anna.  I studied Ismal at uni and can further add that "read" was the first word in the Quran and that Prophet Muhammed was illiterate but a merchant who married his first wife Khadija who was 25 years his senior.  Hence, when Munir mentions about religion and how it is being institutionalised it saddens me greatly because it is ar away from the essence of it.  I was in Cairo in Tahrir Square and I too do hope that there is a KNOWLEDGE UPrising  to supplement what is happening.  There are millions of so called un educated youth who are UNable to contribute to society and earn a living with their so called degrees.

    1. Think back on your own school experiences. What kind of thinking did your schools promote? What kind of thinking was lost as a result of being schooled?  I went to Egyptian state and private schools then Christian school in Malta and Public Schools in Australia during my secondary years.  All I remember is that I was a quick learner but then would play up and get 'punished' so I would be made to sit outside the class for extended periods of time!  I would recall information so that I may repeat it appropriately and perfectly in a text of sorts.  I also distinctly remember the difference in our attitude to the teacher - the ALL Knowledgeable but in Australia the teacher was approachable and called them by their first names!
    2. What does it mean to be "an educated person" in your current community? Please make sure to define where and what your current community is. (e.g., In my current community of academics at Oxford University, "an educatred person" is one that...)  I agree with Munir tat an educated person in Australia and in Egypt and UAE is still someone with a degree!!  In fact even if you have some other vocational degree it is ASSUMED that you still aspire to go to uni and get a degree.  If you have an undergraduate then you aim to get a MAsters and then of course Phd.  Is there any other way ?  I believe so but it will take many brave people who actually stand and say I am knowledgeable because of my life experiences and what I have done etc.  There are many sources and unis are ONE source.
    3. What does learning mean to you?  Learning to me is part of being alive - it is psychological, social, challenging, enjoyable, practical and part of my faith.
    4. Describe your most profound education/learning experience. One of my most profound was in the UAE when I got there in 2008 for a 4 year work contract and had MANY assumptions and expectations about the land and the people.  The Emiratis have taught me many invaluable lessons and have shown me true generosity in an everchanging country that is trying to get 'educated'.
    5. If you had to design an education system that created "the best thinkers, learners and doers for the world," what would you create?  I always say 'never say never' but there is no such a thing.  I believe that we should have many parrallel paths that lead to various courses for people to choose from.  I also think that systems need to be flexible and cater to an ever expanding work force.  From 16 to 66 plus years old probably.  In Australia they are increasing the pension age to 67 already because humans are living much longer.  It would be great if after doing some basic schooling we are taught the Maths, English, Sciences , Social Studies etc PLUS how to be accepting, flexible, adaptable and non-judgemental n an ever changing world.
    6. What other ideas or questions came to you while thinking about this week's topic: Global definitions of learning and education?  Whilst we do ive in a global world I really think that global definitions are doomed to a degree because we do not all live in ONE country with same responsibilities, rights, etc.  This is reminding me of EuroZone -they have unified the currency for the countries but their civikisations, mind sets, values, work ethics are SO different that they are having to learn some very hard life lessons.
  • Anna   June 13, 2012, 4:56 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Linda   June 11, 2012, 2:36 a.m.

    Thanks Linda. Glad you enjoyed Munir's talk. My friends Ramzi and Joumana organized TEDxRamallah and they highly recommended it. I was blown away by it - especially the "hen" metaphor. So powerful. Really made me think about how education needs to change from "the stuffing of the mind" to something more organic.

    I have met so many wonderful Emiratis in the past 4 years of living in Dubai. Working with government schools and with Emiratis in other contexts, I sometimes think they should go to teach American schools about commeraderie, family and respecting one's heritage. Why is it that the "West" is always exporing expertise, yet not "importing" expertise as much. Seems imbalanced. 

    I like you idea about creating an education that caters to elder people. We put so much focus on "educating kids" what about continuing education for adults?! What if we had "mandatory" education at all stages of life?!

  • Anna   June 18, 2012, 3:12 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Linda   June 11, 2012, 2:36 a.m.

    Hi Linda. Curious to hear your thoughts on educational borrowing and lending (even if you don't have time to watch the videos). We welcome you to join in the discussion!

    See:

    Cross-country education borrowing and lending (June 11-17, 2012)

  • Linda   June 11, 2012, 1:37 a.m.

    Great detail!  I agree about the indoctorination and treating kids like they are part of a factory.  We actually have to educate ourselves and future generations to be able to work and function in th FUTURE!  

  • Van   June 10, 2012, 9:12 p.m.

     

    1. Think back on your own school experiences. What kind of thinking did your schools promote? What kind of thinking was lost as a result of being schooled?

    The American schools I attended, K-12, promoted the ideas of participatory democracy, critical thinking, and social responsibility, all framed within an international context. The meaning, context, and application of participatory democracy in public education transitioned from allegiance to nationalism to allegiance to internationalism (1970’s-present), global governance, think tanks, industrialist philanthropies, and non-profits. When I was in primary school in the mid-90’s, the push was for environmental responsibility (recycling, proper waste disposal, global warming aka climate change, etc.) framed in a global context, in partnership with various non-governmental organizations and philanthropies. All partnered institutions were global in their social and political agendas. A few key terms used frequently in my K-5 experience were: multiculturalism, diversity, environmentalism, global, community, and change. Our industrial model of schooling was borrowed from the Prussian template

    The goal of 6-12 was to encourage students to attend university where they would learn to refine their skills through professional training while maintaining this underlying philosophy of global governance and economic interdependence. The other option was military service under the United States armed forces in the ‘War on Terror.’ Because the academic path was linear, as mentioned by Sir Ken Robinson (among others included in the video lectures), critical thinking through application was quite the opposite of its propagated intentions. What I later found was omitted from the liberal arts curriculum (K-12 and university) is logic. I should have known, my bachelors program was in the Humanities. Instead of a embarking on a rigorous investigation of the classical languages (Hebrew, Greek, Latin), classical literature, philosophy, and history, the Humanities became a catch-all for courses promoting social responsibility. Lectures were authoritarian, students were silent, and any alternative analysis was thrown under the bus of consensus/group think. In application, social responsibility was the vehicle of identity politics. Regardless if the class was more demanding in study of primary texts, regardless of its claim to promote independent critical thinking; all readings were supplemented with critiques through three socio-political lenses: feminism, Marxism, and social Darwinism. Lectures were steered in desirable directions using social reward and discipline; those with an alternative analysis were alienated from the group, dismissed as quacks.

    Another observation I should note was the firewall implanted in the minds of students. Any time a student or audience member would question a professor on their use of emotive language or provide a contrary analysis, the professor would use their popularity to unleash the masses on the dissenter. A typical reaction from students would be huffing and puffing, muttering insults, or taking the side of the professor in excusing the argument to resume lecturing; nine out of ten times this reaction was a reflection of the obedience to authority and doctrine. Instead of offering their own analysis, students would memorize the connections noted in their textbooks, which were often full of typos, contradictions, and harsh criticisms relevant to promoting social/political agendas of our time. I can go into further depth in later discussions but this was K-12, plus university. I stayed in the liberal arts because I believed (naively) it would broaden my language and understanding, as a methodology to approach subjects I’ve never encountered with confidence and appreciation; this was not so. The first three of the classic seven liberal arts (not taught presently in University) represent the Trivium: grammar, logic, rhetoric; an understanding of the mind. If you think of your brain as a computer, you have grammar/input, logic/processing, rhetoric/output. What good is a computer without a processor

    2. What does it mean to be "an educated person" in your current community? Please make sure to define where and what your current community is. (e.g., In my current community of academics at Oxford University, "an educated person" is one that...)

    If you’re an ‘educated person’ in my community, you are obedient to mainstream social and political trends. Usually, educated people in my community use their degree or certification as a one-up in prestige and social ranking, viewing those who skipped out on college as lesser. In reality, the degree only gave the person a foot in the door for mid-level management positions in small to large corporations (certainly not giant). Because the educated were bestowed the powers of social sciences to manage the working class, the gap between the managers and the workers was distinctly marked by the dehumanizing language of systems logic. Having a college degree became this status of intellectual ranking, along with it came associated social circles, consumer products, lifestyle choices, and languages. As mentioned in the first question, the allegiance was to social and political actions/trends promoting ‘radical change;’ typically environmental and identity politics. The combative political ideologies of the previous generation (fascism/socialism/communism), which Dewey and Thorndike set out to crush, subverted the education system, gradually incorporating the language within the framework of promoting universal/democratic education for peace. No surprise that many of my college professors were openly communist, and many fellow students of my university were active in International Socialist organizations and climate change lobbying groups. When I was at the University of Washington, there was a staunch arrogance in the air surrounding social/political debates. The University held a reputation for being politically active and radical in the late 1960’s. In fact there were many art installations around the campus commemorating these advancements, but the symbol merely stood as an affirmation that ‘someone already did this, therefore you don’t have to.’ The activism on campus was built around catchy slogans, the debates were unorganized, and no party (no matter their prestige) had a program of reform or recovery. Taking these observations into account, an educated person in my community is someone who promotes radical change who can’t articulate their definitions, program, or solutions beyond the limits of opposites.  

    3. What does learning mean to you?

    To me, learning means the acquisition and application of knowledge in a practical sense, the source can be any individual, group, or institution. I’m not arguing a pragmatic definition because I believe the pragmatic approach to education removes the literary tradition, which is essential to understanding the dynamics of language and human nature. I would agree with Munir Fasheh in that institutional learning is ‘ignorant of the knowledge of life experience.’ The definition of learning the institution of American compulsory and university education uses is borrowed from the science of psychology: the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience. The American system of education, borrowed from the Prussian template (industrial efficiency managed using experimental psychology), indoctrinates desirable attitudes and behaviors using social approval and disapproval. Ronald Havelock, author of the Change Agent’s Guide to Innovation in Education, offers an impressive toolkit for identifying and detouring dissenters of consensus. Others like Benjamin Bloom, even Cass Sunstein (author of Nudge), have taken social engineering to new heights, improving on methods pioneered in behavioral psychology. UNESCO uses the exact same methods and is even more dangerous because it stresses UNiformity internationally. Paging through the document provided, I crossed several indicators related to: adaptation to radical change; implanting desirable attitudes and behaviors to achieve social justice in an interdependent economy and society. One of the most important books I encountered at university was UNESCO: It’s Purpose and it’s Philosophy by Julian Huxley (co-founder and first CEO of UNESCO). In this work was contained the outcome and philosophy of international education: a single world culture under evolutionary humanism. So I picked up a book, a collection of essays on Evolutionary Humanism by Julian Huxley, to better understand this guiding philosophy. I’ll let you dive into that one, but keep in mind eugenics had its roots in America and it is deeply imbedded in our education system: learning through osmosis and adaptation. If you can’t reference an expert in your analysis, well then, you must be wrong, says the professor

    4. Describe your most profound education/learning experience.

    The most profound education I’ve acquired did not come from primary, secondary, or university curriculum. I was naturally curious as to why I wasn’t retaining any of the information I was absorbing in my classes and, more so, why debate near extinct. At first I was frustrated but I didn’t have a language to articulate my frustrations. I began supplementing my curriculum in the Humanities with an investigation in the social sciences, in particular, combative ideologies and analysis to popular frameworks (analytical philosophy, critical theory, anti-civilization theory, etc.). When I bridged the Humanities and Social Sciences together, I was able to discover the underlying patterns of language and psychological devices employed to keep students on a linear path of exploration. I graduated from a university on the eastern side of the state that puts out child psychologists and educators in large numbers, therefore their research library contained a wealth of primary source materials in the theory and history of modern education. I pulled average grades in my courses, when I could have aced them, because I was buried in the shelves of this library investigating the evolution of American education from the early 1800’s to present, focusing on the introduction of compulsory education under the Prussian template. I was fortunate enough to run into a book titled The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto, a retired public school teacher turned historian/public speaker. Gatto provided a long list of references to look into, understanding the social and political function of schooling and its juxtaposition to education. I would HIGHLY recommend checking out a few lectures John Taylor Gatto has floating around on YouTube.

    5. If you had to design an education system that created "the best thinkers, learners and doers for the world," what would you create?

    Knowing that institutional education will not be dramatically reformed or re-visualized in my lifetime, I’ve chose to focus on co-opting and subverting the modern education system in creating, what I call, a curriculum of omission. Borrowing from John Taylor Gatto, students will peacefully refuse to take personality profiling surveys and standardized tests, which place them into classifications that stunt their intellectual inquiry and growth. The curriculum of omission is a roadmap to discovering what has been removed, offering sound methodologies of ‘how to learn’ as opposed to adopting methods that yield desirable results in scientific measurement. First, a redefinition of politically clouded terminology must be debated. We must focus on the political and social indoctrination of these institutions to understand their outcomes and their true function; what limits they place on the imagination and investigation of curious minds. Second, alternatives to institutional education (compulsory and ‘elective’) must not be restricted or deemed socially undesirable as they currently are. While many argue free market alternatives, they are not within the financial reach of our majority, and they most certainly don’t have the federal government advertising for their private enterprise as state subsidized schools enjoy. Looking back on America’s intellectual foundations, children became adults at the age of 12-14. Thanks to child-labor laws and the industrial revolution, children are now held in school until their 18; they’re encouraged to attend university until they’re 22-30 (depending on their program). What schooling has introduced is a stage of arrested development. The early years, 12-14, the inquiry and imagination team up to produce incredibly inventive and innovative spirit. It comes as no surprise to read about early American inventors, among other brilliant minds, who found their passion and contribution to their community at this stage in life. We must destroy the factory method of schooling (it doesn’t make sense using an industrial model in a post-industrial, consumer based economy); destroy standardized testing; destroy compulsory education laws; and offer education as a service through any individual, group, or organization. Children don’t need to be cooped up in a school house for 13+ years to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic; provide them a solid foundation of ‘how to learn’ so they can approach unfamiliar avenues with confidence and allow them a freedom of inventiveness and mobility at an age when the gears of the mind are working overtime. Our system compartmentalizes knowledge into disconnected subjects; those who attain professional degrees often understand a highly technical language and skill but have trouble communicating outside their specialty, due to anxieties embedded in their approach  learned from schooling. In short, destroy the institution and free the mind.

    6. What other ideas or questions came to you while thinking about this week's topic: Global definitions of learning and education?

    Why a global context? Why institutional reform and not the abolition of institutional education?

  • Matthew Rachansky   June 11, 2012, 5:52 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Van   June 10, 2012, 9:12 p.m.

    Hey Van! I read your piece about your education. Coming from similar areas (East Coast vs. West Coast liberal) I agree about your issue with institutionalized education.

    A lot of degrees are only used to manage others or to get some kind of salary, and hold one's nose up at people who have less than the degree-holder.

      Unfortunately, and again, I agree with you here-the abolition of instituational education will not change in our lifetimes.

    Also, I think it would be fair to say that while an institution may not be necessary, we *do* need a system, a rubric, a standard of measure with which we can see how one has been taught, learned ,etc.

    Regarding higher eduation - I would count myself fortunate, then, that the professors I had openly allowed for critical analysis of the work given or lecture. If things were phrased properly, the professor was more than willing to engage the student.

    I do agree, also, that one must be curious and willing to learn outside of a formal setting to truly be "educated"

  • Anna   June 13, 2012, 5:08 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Van   June 10, 2012, 9:12 p.m.

    Van - lot's to digest here. I am inspired by your knowledge of the history of American education. I went to public schools grades K-college and it never occured to me at that time to question "where did our education systems and values come from and are they right?" It wasn't until leaving school at age 22 to "explore the world" did I start to question - something you learned early on.

    "If you can’t reference an expert in your analysis, well then, you must be wrong, says the professor"... You do an excellent job at referencing lots of experts above.

    I am curious, what is your "gut response" or answer to: What would the world look like with the abolition of institutional education? What would be the benefits/drawbacks? What education "mini-systems" might pop up in adsense of "the institutions"?

    I feel like the Internet is shifting the world of business from the dominance of mass corporations to a return of the "mom and pop". As Joi mentions, we can now easily educate ourselves and create our own small business/innovation units that operate across international lines. I think this shift works in favor of people that are good at "learning on their own" and figuring things out on their own or with little direct guidance. What about people that just love to learn under more direct instruction methods? What is the perfect anti-institution for people that want a more prescriptive path? 

  • Anna   June 18, 2012, 3:12 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Van   June 10, 2012, 9:12 p.m.

     

    Hi Van. Curious to hear your thoughts on educational borrowing and lending (even if you don't have time to watch the videos). We welcome you to join in the discussion! 

    See task:

    Cross-country education borrowing and lending (June 11-17, 2012)

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 10, 2012, 11:55 a.m.

    Just to add some spice to our "institutionalized vs informal" discourse http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoF_a0-7xVQ

  • Matthew Rachansky   June 9, 2012, 8:12 p.m.
    1. Think back on your own school experiences. What kind of thinking did your schools promote? What kind of thinking was lost as a result of being schooled? I'm a product of NYC public education during the 90s, which was, mostly a good experience. I was in the "Eagle" program which is a form of gifted learning classes here (like CIG and Magnet). Critical thinking and exploration were encouraged. However, as with most Western schools it was severely limiting in our discussion of worldviews and histories of other places. That is to say, discussions in that regard tended to push into the realm of almost-indoctrination of why the U.S. had done such a good job at whatever they'd done. "Rose colored glasses" and so forth.
    2. What does it mean to be "an educated person" in your current community? Please make sure to define where and what your current community is. (e.g., In my current community of academics at Oxford University, "an educatred person" is one that...) I'm currently still in college, so my community is the City University of New York (CUNY) and the area surrounding where I live. Here it means having a college degree of some kind, and perhaps attending graduate school to further one's education in order to get a good job, start a career and so on. It seems, though, that at times people use the words "educated person" and "intellectual" interchangeably. They are not, I feel, the same thing. But that's another matter.
    3. What does learning mean to you? Learning is a dynamic experience. We learn every day of our lives, interpret and extrapolate experiences through our biases and past life events . Learning is fluid, not a fixed idea or capacity.
    4. Describe your most profound education/learning experience. 2 things. The first: My failures. Learning to move past them, to accept them and to incoroporate them into my future endeavors. I have done so many times, and I have learned a great deal (if not through a rather difficult capacity) The second: teaching my children when they ask about things. They have been an incredible learning experience, which I cannot parallel to anything. It reminds me just how much I don't know. And I appreciate that.
    5. If you had to design an education system that created "the best thinkers, learners and doers for the world," what would you create? I would integrate different learning from various fields. Not simply history, math, science. Not just facts, but experiences. Critical thinking. Looking at the philosophical ideals of those who we learn about, why they pursued what they did (or do). Use of social psychology and psychology itself from an early age, to foster understanding of the underlying processes with which we think and understand.
    6. What other ideas or questions came to you while thinking about this week's topic: Global definitions of learning and education? In the U.S. our idea of education is limiting and lacking. Global means exactly that- we must understand what others do, how they learn and teach. To truly have a better global society, we must know one another, and become better for it. My questions were: "Can we do better? What should we change?"

    I'll post comments to my colleague's responses soon.

  • Anna   June 10, 2012, 12:32 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Matthew Rachansky   June 9, 2012, 8:12 p.m.

    "It seems, though, that at times people use the words "educated person" and "intellectual" interchangeably. They are not, I feel, the same thing. But that's another matter."

    I agree 100%! What did you think of the Munir video above on "Occupation of Knowledge"? He speaks much of this!

    My questions were: "Can we do better? What should we change?"

    The more I experience education/political systems outside of the US (mainly UAE and Japan), I question how USA public schools tacitly and not-so-tacitly teach us things like "our government system is best for everyone,"  or "our universities are the best in the world," or "yes, but Americans promote creativity"... I could spend an infinite amount of time talking about the wonderful aspects of American education. But, I agree that our schools need "a wake-up call". Teachers and students need to be exposed to "how education happens" around the world so that we can decide if we can do it better and should we change. I think in both cases the answers will be yes, but the "how" would be vastly different based on "how open minded" people choose to be and where people choose to look for ideas.

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 10, 2012, 11:48 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Matthew Rachansky   June 9, 2012, 8:12 p.m.

    Cheers, Matt

    > That is to say, discussions in that regard tended to push into the realm of almost-indoctrination of why the U.S. had done such a good job at whatever they'd done.

    Is it what Friedman called "cohesion" - a bit of necessary brainwash to make kids feel they belong to the same nation? He also stated that this function of education doesn't need to be pursued in higher ed - adults are free to make their own political decisions. I really didn't feel any ideologial agenda at Columbia, although one of my professors sometimes made his libertarian vs commie remarks - always in a nice way.

  • Van   June 10, 2012, 9:46 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Matthew Rachansky   June 9, 2012, 8:12 p.m.

    Matthew, understanding your failures and contradictions seems to me the most important first step a person can take to developing further potential. This revelation you experienced is something we all must go through to grow into more mature and capable human beings. The fact that you're inciting inquiry in your children, inspiring them to develop their competencies, sharpening their tools of observation and action, is an incredible gift. One of my biggest peeve's is when I hear a child ask their parent a question and the parent replies 'I don't know,' and the response is repeated by the child. What a way to destroy a child's curiosity! It is parents like you who say, 'I may not know the answer but I know of some references we can look into to find out,' who keep the child motivated to investigate and discover on their own. The most critical thing the American education system does to a child is to perpetuate the stage of adolescence by suppressing the inquiry; either by appealing to 'the expert' (who is often unnamed) or settling for confusion, we have too many resources at our fingertips to learn, inspire, and create.

  • Linda   June 11, 2012, 1:41 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Matthew Rachansky   June 9, 2012, 8:12 p.m.

    Hi Matthew, Mr Gifted Class!!  Congrats.  I too agree that learning is fluid and would add further that I believe that it is like happinness - it is a journey not a destination of a life time.  As for children I am amazed that my children teach me constantly about ME which is something one does not get very much of at school.

  • Matthew Rachansky   June 11, 2012, 6 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Linda   June 11, 2012, 1:41 a.m.

    Wow, so many responses! OK,

    Anna - I'm glad you agree. I agreed with Munir, mostly.

    Also, it is a sad state of affairs that the U.S. is more than willing to indoctrinate until an age so far along that most people are unwilling to share their ideas for change. Or question why things are the way they have been and continue to be.

    You flatter me with your comments about gifted classes! I was fortunate to have a parent who was also an educator and wanted me to actively know things, actively wanted me to understand and question. I still do, and I think it surprises her even now.

    The brain is incredibly "plastic" (meaning that it is flexible regarding learning and the like), and this plasticity lends itself well to learning. So long as we understand such fluidity we can do more with it than simply know the constraints and limitations of the physical organ.

     

    Van - thank you. I'm never one to know everything, and I'm the first one to admit that. When my children ask, we have the Internet for answers. If they don't know something, I'm more than willing to admit such things, and tell them "well, we can look it up, and find out." I want them to question, because they are our future. If they don't question things as I have, if they aren't curious, then I feel I have failed them.

    Further, I would learn nothing if I did not accept my failures and learn from those as well. "Those who do not learn from history" and so forth.

     

    Aleksei - that's effectively what I was referring to. I go to CUNY, which is also in NYC and they aren't as strict about our questioning of the status quo (as I responded to Van's post earlier). There are, as you've said, some "hold outs" who still make off-color remarks because they seem to think they can still educated as though they were several decades earlier. But that's not always the case, and is not often the norm.

  • Anna   June 13, 2012, 5:11 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Matthew Rachansky   June 9, 2012, 8:12 p.m.

    Slightly unrelated to this week's topic, but will ask anyway... You mention learning from your children as being profound. As a soon-to-be-mom (1st child will arrive circa November 1 - i.e. I'm about 5 month's pregnant)... 

    What is the most profound lesson your children have taught you? What was the most surprising/unexpected aspect of becoming a parent? :-)

     

  • Anna   June 18, 2012, 3:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Matthew Rachansky   June 9, 2012, 8:12 p.m.

    Hi Matthew.

     

    Curious to hear your thoughts on educational borrowing and lending (even if you don't have time to watch the videos). We welcome you to join in the discussion! 

    See task:

    Cross-country education borrowing and lending (June 11-17, 2012)

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 8, 2012, 11:15 a.m.

    No translation for the 1st video? Mafi malum Arabi :-(

  • Anna   June 8, 2012, 3:48 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Aleksei Malakhov   June 8, 2012, 11:15 a.m.

    The video is subtitled in English. 

    Are the subtitles not available to you?

    Anna

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 8, 2012, 4:19 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Anna   June 8, 2012, 3:48 p.m.

    No, Anna, the only subtitles I have are the guy's name, date and place. But never mind - I seldom do all of my required reading ;-) - mafi mushkila.

  • Anna   June 9, 2012, 12:45 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Aleksei Malakhov   June 8, 2012, 4:19 p.m.

    I think it is the best video of the group. So hope this helps: 

     

    Note: If you don't see the English subtitles in this video, scroll over the bottom of the video screen, click the "cc" button and click "English".

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 9, 2012, 10:11 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Anna   June 9, 2012, 12:45 a.m.

    Oops, silly me! Thanks, Anna, it worked and it's really a wonderful piece.

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 7, 2012, 10:19 a.m.

    1. Think back on your own school experiences. What kind of thinking did your schools promote? What kind of thinking was lost as a result of being schooled?

    I went to a standard Soviet school (4 yrs primary, 4 yrs secondary, 2 yrs optional high school). I'd rather call it brainwashing than education. "Values" promoted - obedience to authority (the teacher knows all, so don't argue), crystallized knowledge (read a textbook approved by MOE, try to memorize as much as possible and retell in class), compliance with the majority (interests of your class are more important than your own), importance of exams (you'll flop your exam and won't get your HSD), heavy emphasis on ideology. All creativity was thoroughly stifled, although sometimes you really needed to stretch your imagination and to somehow link Dostoevsky with Socialist Revolution, but again, a socialist realism critics approved by MOE could help out. One important thing about this kind of schooling - no percepted value of education as such, no desire to learn more. In fact, half of the class couldn't wait to leave after 8th grade and go to vacational school to learn some manual labor and start as part of labor force.

    At Belarusian university it was better - you were treated with respect, self-access studies were encouraged, personal opinion and discussion were promoted by more liberal faculty. There were also those who insisted on talking notes of their lectures to reproduce them in exams. Going further to become a doctoral student wasn't considered by many, only those who saw it like a good opportunity to get a job at university.

    At TC in New York everything was like a direct opposite to Soviet-type education. Professors, while being really knowledgeable and experienced professionals, edcouraged students to challenge their opinions, were interested in students' experiences, promoted creative and critical thinking. There were plenty of opportunities for self-access studies to form your opinion and express it in written work. There were no exams as such, each new class just helped you focus on your ongoing research and excellent grades for your written work were just a logical praise for your effort. The concept of life-long learning was promoted, not only for employment purposes.

    2. What does it mean to be "an educated person" in your current community? Please make sure to define where and what your current community is.

    My most recent academic community was European Humanities Universiy in Vilnius, Lithuania. It's a rather unique school - it was one of the first (and most successful) non-state universities in Belarus aimed at elite education in Humanities and Social Sciences (areas almost neglected in the Soviet tech-industrial higher ed). It was established in Minsk, Belarus but had to move to neighboring Lithuania because of political pressure from Belarusian dictatorship. It still operates mostly for Belarusian students, most of whom take Distance Learning courses.

    Being educated in this community means (ideally) to be a self-motivated, critically and creatively thinking person, genuinely interested in what is going on locally and globally and willing to contribute to a positive social change. Constant learning and research are promoted. There's a strong emphasis on creating a "new European identity" - there's an ambitious project launched by Campus Evropae aimed at creating European elite schooled in at least two EU institutions for BA (three for MA) degree in different EU countries and speaking at least three EU languages, including one with a minority status.

    3. What does learning mean to you?

    A complex combination and interrelation of cognitive, affective and psychomotor processes that enables a person to generate and create competencies to more effectively function in different spheres - personal, interpersonal, professional and everyday life. To see new opportunities and be ready to embrace them. To make life more than just a living. To help others see it.

    4. Describe your most profound education/learning experience.

    The most profound one was doing my MA at TC in New York. Ir revolutionized by concepts of learning and education (although it's an "big institution centrally managed" - Joi Ito). It was there and then that I understood education as part of life (J. Dewey would say it is life) and ongoing life-long process - not just some years aimed at improving human capital. I know that for all, or most of you I'm stating the obvious bit at the time it was a real eye-opener for me. It also showed me that education doesn't only happen in institutions - it may happen everywhere, and I believe that the whole city of New York with its powerful vibe changed my life and made me a person I am now - braver, more independent, more responsible for what I do with my life.

    5. If you had to design an education system that created "the best thinkers, learners and doers for the world," what would you create?

    Oh, that's challenging. I'd move towads abandoning the standardized curriculum and catering for individual abilities and interests from early age - and helping kids identify what their real interests are. Letting students more time to learn from each other in a casual setting. Providing plenty opportunities for hands-on experience. Maintaining link with community. Showing that their learning makes sense. Measuring achieviement by something more than achieving high scores on standardized tests.

  • Anna   June 9, 2012, 12:50 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Aleksei Malakhov   June 7, 2012, 10:19 a.m.

    When the Soviet education system broke down and states had their own control over their education systems, what happened? Were teachers given new curriculum to teach? Who wrote the curriculum? Did the teaching methodologies change? If so, how so?

    GIven your multi-faceted education experiences, what was good about each system?

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing so many details!

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 9, 2012, 10:31 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Anna   June 9, 2012, 12:50 a.m.

    I can't really say for all the 15 countries. As for the Baltic states, they were the first (and most successful) to break ties with the USSR and reform their institutions. An Estonian parlamentarian told me that they had borrowed everything from Finland. I guess something similar happened in Lithuania and Latvia - they joined the Bologna process and reformed their higher ed in accordance with most of European institutions. There are cases of borrowing the whole schools with with curriculum and teaching methodology, like Stockholm Business School from Sweden.

    There's an urge to be closer to Europe in Ukraine - at least on paper. Everywhere else I guess the system has largely remained Soviet, sometimes with local flavor - in Turkmenistan all students used to study the Rukhnama - the book written by the late dictator Niyazov, and in Uzbekistan the same happens with the works of Karimov. Kazakhstan, the most liberal stae in the region, borrows US MBA schools.

    In Belarus there were talks of introducing BA and MA programs instead of the standard 5-year Diploma of Specialist but the initiative has faded. Now higher ed is more like part of ideological machine rather than education system. Sad but true.

    In conclusion I have to say that while in the Baltic states ed systems seem to be effectively developing (I heard a lecture from a Lithuanian lawyer, a recent graduate and was blown away by the amount of expertise and innovation) and incorporating into the all-European family, in the rest of the former USSR they are going thru' a period of stagnation (with a few exceptions, like Moscow State University).

  • Anna   June 10, 2012, 12:44 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Aleksei Malakhov   June 9, 2012, 10:31 a.m.

    Interesting! Thanks for sharing.

    How is a specialist diploma different from an MA? Also, what would be the difference in training between a doctor's training in the USA/Canada versus Russia/Belarus/Ukraine for example?

    Cool that TC/NYC was so transformative for you. Columbia was for me as well, but more from the classes I took at the business school. They kept empahsizing "you are the future leaders, thinkers and doers in the world" now "go make a difference". No teacher (outside of my father) had ever said that to me. It really made me think, "what do I want to do to make this world a better place". I am still working on figuring that bit out, but I am certain that part of my "calling" is around promoting global understanding/openness in education. 

    Do you have an iPad? I am working on a children's book series (The Adventures of BB and Sam, www.BBandSam.com) with my colleagues to teach kids about the world through fictional/factual storylines. If you have an iPad, I'd love to send you a download code and to hear your thoughts as an international educator.

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 10, 2012, 11:36 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Anna   June 10, 2012, 12:44 a.m.

    To get a diploma of specialist you needed (in Belarus, still need) to have a standard 5-year training foar all specialities. When I worked with World Education Services - a cdrdential evaluation agency - we normally would give a BA equivalency for technical specialities and MA for humanities - which is LOL - tech ed in USSR was a priority area, while humanities and social sciences were - and still are - a disaster.

    The CU business school - is it Barnard College? I used their library sometimes but never took a course - Economics of Higher Ed at TC was almost more than I could bear.

    I don't have an iPad and hardly know what it looks like. I have a grammophone instead and I'm quite happy with it - I like to watch my music rotate while it's playing - that makes it so much more real. Nevertherless, I'm open to other channels of communication if they are OK with you and I'll see if and how I could be of any help.

  • Anna   June 10, 2012, 11:38 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Aleksei Malakhov   June 10, 2012, 11:36 a.m.

    CU = Columbia Business School

    No worries - If you get a Kindle or iPad any time soon, let me know and I will send you a copy of the book.

    Thanks for answering my questions :-).

  • Van   June 10, 2012, 9:29 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Aleksei Malakhov   June 7, 2012, 10:19 a.m.

    Aleksei, your Soviet education sounds damn near identical to my American primary and secondary education, in that its primary function was to indoctrinate desirable social/political attitudes and behaviors, not to educate in the sense of liberating the mind. In particular, the obedience to institutional authority and consensus/group think ideology was central. Sounds to me like your university experience was a bit more liberating, especially at TC. For me, this observation (from the American perspective) can be summed up in a quote by Woodrow Wilson in 1909: 'We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education.' The more prestigeous universities in America would put out a managerial class while the state colleges would put out the middle-to-low level management and labor force; keeping in mind that both parties would be working for some one else as opposed to creating an independent livlihood.

  • Linda   June 11, 2012, 1:47 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Aleksei Malakhov   June 7, 2012, 10:19 a.m.

    Spot on Alex, I am with you that learning happens everywhere.  My last experience that really was unexpected was in the gulf when I found myself learning from my Emirati adult students LOT more than English and Project mangement that I was teaching them.  They are a young nation and they are tribal and they cherish their culture but their style of learning is hands on and "for a purpose" which is not aligned to many of the university degrees that they are pushed into.  By the way, I love your NY experience - very heart felt.  Cheers!

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 11, 2012, 10:47 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Van   June 10, 2012, 9:29 p.m.

    Hey Van, sorry for a rhetorical question but when did the state want its citizens to be happy and free?

    After European Humanities University (the place I dedicated a part of my life to) was closed in Belarus with the pathetic excuse that the lease was over and the city had other plans for that building, the state authorities in the end voiced the same criticism - you're peparing "elite" and "leaders" - and we're preparing their "slaves"? But hey guys, who keeps you from adopting a more liberal education model? Stupid question - obviously, it's not their intention.

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 11, 2012, 10:55 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Linda   June 11, 2012, 1:47 a.m.

    Merhaba, Linda. In KSA I had a very wide range of students' attitudes to their cultural heritage. When I asked them what they would miss about Saudi if they had to leave it for a period of time, some "thobe and shmaq" guys said they'd never leave it, even for Kuwait or Bahrain, while some "jeans and t-shirt" guys said they can't wait to leave it forever and wouldn't miss anything. One of the students who had visited England said it's OK "but too much dogs, teacher" :-)

  • Anna   June 7, 2012, 6:46 a.m.

     

    Think back on your own school experiences. What kind of thinking did your schools promote? What kind of thinking was lost as a result of being schooled?

    Background: I went to Montessori School in Texas, K-12 in Virginia Public Schools and University at Indiana University (1 year viola performance), College of William and Mary (2.5 years BA Economics), Oxford University (study abroad Politics, Philosophy, Economics), Columbia University Teachers College (MA International and Comparative Education), Coaches Training Institute - CTI (Intermediate "life coaching" series").

    Thinking promoted: Outside of CTI and the courses I took at the Columbia Business School while at Teachers College, my education emphasized logic (if a than b, if b than c), planning, assessment, "the curriculum," the United States and following the rules. CTI and the Business School (social enterprise courses) emphasized listening, connecting with others, feeling, awareness of how I/others are being, doing, no fear, making an impact, dreaming big.

    Thinking lost: Using my hands/body to interact with the world (I learned that outside of school, but not in school), connecting with nature, feeling and acting as part of a system (humanity, the earth).

    What does it mean to be "an educated person" in your current community? Please make sure to define where and what your current community is. (e.g., In my current community of academics at Oxford University, "an educatred person" is one that...)

    My current community: Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As a small business founder (www.boneducation.com) and avid yoga lover I tend to interact with 1) other SME founders, 2) government schools in the UAE, 3) corporates that contract us to work with government schools in the Gulf, 4) other avid yoga lovers in Dubai.

    To be educated in the SME founder community: To be able to figure things out quickly when you were never taught them, to rally resources quickly, to be agile, to have deep cross-cultural understanding (needed in a place that is 80% expat), to build a business that has impact and that makes money.

    To be educated in the government school community: To have knowledge of Gulf culture and customs, to understand the curriculum and "what teachers, students and principals" are going through at a practical and psychological level.

    To be educated in the corporate community as an education service provider to them: to understand and respect their corporate cultures, protocols, etc. To know who to talk to, to quickly identify decision makers, to make their life easy (i.e. the people paying us to create educational programs need to know that our services are "ticking their box"), to provide knowledge where they don't have expertise (i.e. to be "the education people" around "the technology and business people"), to understand when a deal is going to happen and when its not worth going after any more.

    To be an educated person in the yoga community: To practice yoga regularly, to breathe, to meditate, to recognize and be able to do the asanas, to understand the philosophy underpinning various forms of yoga, to not judge, to just be.

    What does learning mean to you?

    Many things, but at its heart "being able to learn" means:

    Knowing how and being confident/motivated to... 

    1. set goals/aspirations (personal/professional/spiritual/etc)
    2. seek help from others and teach oneself
    3. go after those goals/aspirations

    Describe your most profound education/learning experience.

    Becoming an "adult" in Japan. After graduating from college I decided to move to Japan (a country I knew little about... didn't even know how to say "arigatou"), find a job (teaching-which I had no prep for), live with my boyfriend, and generally figure out how to be an independent adult.

    Learning how to "work," "live," "live with someone," and "be financially independent" in a foreign place with with few English signs/services to rely on taught me 1) patience, 2) to trust myself, 3) to listen to my intuition, 4) to rely on signs other than language for figuring out how to do/get somewhere, and 5) to trust people. I became much more self aware, much more daring and much more awake to my environment.

    If you had to design an education system that created "the best thinkers, learners and doers for the world," what would you create?

    A system that rewarded dreaming, listening, compassion, experimenting, failing, trying again... The system would take different shapes and forms depending on location and would be highly decentralized and multi-cultural/multi-economic, etc.

    What other ideas or questions came to you while thinking about this week's topic: Global definitions of learning and education?

    The videos this week really got me thinking a lot about institutional vs. organic/community/distributed education.

    While on the one hand schools in "developed countries" are becoming more and more "data-driven" and "assessment-driven,"... It seems to me that to "thrive" 1) in a world that is changing rapidly and becoming more and more connected and 2) in a human relationships, we need people that can feel, see and doing things that may be hard to measure or difficult to asses.

    I question the blanket exportation of "developed" education systems/curriculum to the "developing" world (yet I see value in the exposure to other ideas). A few years ago I spent some time on an ashram in the Bahamas, the things I encountered there would have been so helpful to me as a child. Why are things like spirituality, meditation, extrepreneurship, magic, etc. largely absent from "modern" education systems? Can such things be "institutionalized"?

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 9, 2012, 2:26 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Anna   June 7, 2012, 6:46 a.m.

    6. What other ideas or questions came to you while thinking about this week's topic: Global definitions of learning and education?

    > The videos this week really got me thinking a lot about institutional vs. organic/community/distributed education.

    Same with me. I used to regard the former as prerequisite for training and developing labor force, whilst the latter for personal growth and more meaningful life. Joi's example shows that it's not necessarily so. However, we live in a tough world with a competitive job market and for most employers formal credentials are the primary criteria of your professional worth (Munir mentioned this). However, i believe that these people's experiences and ideas must be incorporated into academia and I think that it could be done thru' NGOs.

    7. Please respond to at least 2 other comments from your colleagues this week.

    > I question the blanket exportation of "developed" education systems/curriculum to the "developing" world

    There were attempts by the British colonial ed systems to endorse "adapted" education based on local values and job market demands. Those were criticized by some scholars as trying to further enslave indigenous peoples by pigeonholing them into the needs of the metropolia and preventing them from developing further. Yes, the "developing" want the same things for themselves as the "developed", often overlooking those good things that they have.

  • Anna   June 10, 2012, 12:46 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Aleksei Malakhov   June 9, 2012, 2:26 p.m.

    Funny - I think workplaces would be so much more productive if focused on helping individuals and teams find meaning in their life and work. The "soft stuff" is so critically important!

  • Aleksei Malakhov   June 10, 2012, 11:26 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Anna   June 10, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

    > The "soft stuff" is so critically important!

    But almost universally neglected :-(

  • Van   June 10, 2012, 9:38 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Anna   June 7, 2012, 6:46 a.m.

    Anna, your 'most profound education/learning experience' is exactly what has been removed from the American system! In your experience, you developed skills and confidence in attaining an independent livlihood, a competence early American tradition embraced as the ultimate goal of education. You came to know yourself and your environment! Bravo! It was only when you stepped outside the walls of the institution, willingly traveling to a land foreign in geography, language, and customs, that you were able to use your skills to adapt while remaining uniquely yourself; an autodidact, not an automaton.

  • Anna   June 13, 2012, 5:12 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Van   June 10, 2012, 9:38 p.m.

    Thx!