By Dr. Jennifer M. Gidley
[This short blog is an entrée to Chapter 9: “Pedagogical Life: A Sustaining Force” in Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures. Available at: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319290683]
There is only one subject-matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations. Alfred North Whitehead (1916)
We live in a world with a globalising culture that does not value life in its many dimensions: the environment, the health and vitality of its children and young people, or the wellbeing of socio-cultural life in general. Since the publication of La Mettrie’s L’Homme Machine (Man, the Machine) in 1748 mechanistic metaphors of human and nature have dominated science and philosophy.
In just a few years, public warnings about the increasing likelihood of severe effects of climate crisis have become much more insistent. While it is hard to imagine the environmental impact of the current sea level rise predictions, the social, cultural and especially psychological impacts will be far greater. We have altered the biosphere to the extent that our planetary homeland may in the foreseeable future become inhospitable for human habitation. How can children and young people be expected to contend with catastrophic futures?
If a more caring, life-enhancing consciousness could assist the restoration of our fragile planetary ecosystem how might educators achieve this?
In Chapter 9 of Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures, I introduce readers to the most life-supporting educational approaches today, followed by examples from my teaching experience and that of other alive and vital educators. I finish with some personal reflections on the importance of pedagogical life – a core value in my postformal education philosophy.
This chapter explores the creative use of the imagination in education as a way of enlivening thinking and breaking with outdated models from the past. I introduce several contemporary educational approaches that facilitate the enlivening of education. The first to be explored is “imaginative education” such as that developed by Canadian educator Kieran Egan, and Bernie Neville and Thomas Nielsen from Australia, to name a few.
Secondly, ecological, environmental and sustainability education are all playing an important role in developing in young people what David Jardine calls “ecological imagination”. Thirdly, futures studies and foresight education, with their links to sustainability and citizenship education, play a vital role in education. They help develop a sense of responsibility for long-term futures of life on our planet, the survival of our companion species and life itself. Futures studies education involves imagining possible, alternative and desirable futures. Philosopher of education Gert Biesta (2014) puts it this way:
“Philosophy of education must always make place for that which cannot be foreseen as a possibility, that which transcends the realm of the possible.”
In addition to cultivating the child’s imagination, we can encourage life-enhancing values in education and affirm and increase vitality and wellbeing through promoting pedagogical life in simple practical ways, such as gardening (as shown in the photo above).
All of these theories and practices are introduced and discussed in Chapter 9: “Pedagogical Life: A Sustaining Force” in Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures (Springer, Netherlands) published August 2016.Both eBook and Hardback are available to purchase from 9th August 2016.
See also my Amazon Author page: www.amazon.com/author/jennifergidley
Photo Credit: Image from the Golden Bridges Farm School in San Francisco, from article published in Inhabitat (2 June 2016).
My book ‘Postformal Education’ was published in August 2016 by Springer International.
Now available to purchase: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319290683#
TABLE OF CONTENTS (12 chapters)
The book I offer you is about radical change. It explains why the current education model, which was developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of industrial expansion, is obsolete. It points to the need for a new approach to education designed to prepare young people for global uncertainty, accelerating change and unprecedented complexity. Readers will become aware of the limitations of formal reasoning in addressing complex, systemic challenges. They will begin to appreciate the more complex, nuanced and paradoxical features of postformal reasoning and how such reasoning will help us to meet future planetary challenges with courage, imagination, wisdom, rather than relying on techno-fixes. A key question: “If higher order, more complex forms of cognition do exist then how can we better educate children and young people so that more mature forms of reasoning appear at the appropriate life stage?”
PART I: An Evolutionary Approach to Education
Cultural Evolution: Past, Present and Futures
In this chapter a big picture overview of cultural history provides a context for understanding our present situation in relation to education. After introducing the concept of evolution of consciousness and discussing the research challenges, I take a transdisciplinary approach to evolution, to overcome some of the limitations of Darwinian biological evolution. Three theorists of cultural evolution are chosen—Rudolf Steiner, Jean Gebser and Ken Wilber—with the structural framework being provided by Gebser’s model. An overview of five major transitions of culture and consciousness are presented, the most recent being integral, which is emerging today. The purpose of the chapter is to lay the groundwork for creating conceptual bridges between cultural evolution and education as the book unfolds.
Psychological Development: Child and Adolescent
This chapter focuses on the psychological, particularly cognitive, dimension of the evolution of consciousness. After introducing the concept of psychological development, I discuss some of the challenges in researching the evolution of consciousness from the psychological standpoint and point to the need for a transdisciplinary approach. I present an overview of child and adolescent cognitive development pointing to the limitations of Piaget’s model, and then introduce some evidence of widespread changes in thinking occurring across the knowledge spectrum over the last hundred years: megatrends of the mind. The purpose of the chapter is to create conceptual bridges between psychological development and the futures of education.
Evolving Education: Pre-formal and Formal
In the first part of this chapter I make an ambitious attempt to present an overview of what education-as-enculturation might have been like thousands of years before we had formal schooling—even for the elite. I trace fragments of the evolutionary narrative that have been critically underappreciated—the apparent aesthetic sensibilities of some early hominins and humans. I then discuss the early introduction of formal elite schooling in Europe and a handful of other civilisation centres. I show that formal, publicly funded, universal school education began little more than two hundred years ago in Europe and was holistic, idealistic and evolutionary. Only after the Industrial Revolution did schooling begin to resemble factories. The purpose of this chapter is primarily to contextualise the futures of education within the broad macro-historical development from pre-formal, to formal to postformal education.
PART II: Postformal Psychology and Education: A Dialogue
Postformal in Psychology: Beyond Piaget’s Formal Operations
I expect that this chapter will be the most challenging for readers with limited prior knowledge of adult developmental psychology. It has certainly been the most challenging to write—largely because there is so much material on higher stages of reasoning, yet so little coherence of it to date. In this chapter we explore a range of adult development theories created by psychologists who saw beyond the limits of Piaget’s cognitive model. I introduce the main researchers who have identified and described postformal reasoning qualities and reiterate the shift from formal to postformal reasoning. The postformal reasoning features they identify are listed, and from these I theorise and discuss twelve distinct postformal reasoning qualities. By the end you will have a coherent picture of how postformal reasoning is conceptually aligned with four themes distilled from the evolution of consciousness research.
Postformal in Education: Beyond the Formal Factory Model
I first introduce three evolutionary waves of educational initiatives that have occurred over the last hundred years. Before identifying numerous postformal pedagogies—and showing how they align to postformal reasoning qualities—I discuss the educational theory of “postformalism” developed by Joe Kincheloe and Shirley Steinberg. I then introduce other leading educational innovators who are developing evolutionary approaches. Finally, I offer a more complex mapping of the relationships among the four evolutionary themes, the postformal qualities that relate to them and the diversity of postformal educational discourses. A major aim of the chapter is to map these different approaches, explore relationships among them and reflect this out into the broader education discourse
A Boundary-Crossing Dialogue of Postformal Futures
This chapter offers a series of dialogues beginning with interconnections—and distinctions—between cultural evolutionary approaches and developmental psychology approaches. The second set of dialogues identifies and maps the convergences and divergences between postformal reasoning and postformal pedagogies, including an analysis of the extent to which Kincheloe and Steinberg’s core postformal characteristics align with my theorised postformal reasoning qualities. I then begin a more complex mapping of all of the above relationships to explore how the postformal reasoning qualities and postformal pedagogies intersect with the four evolutionary themes discussed in Chapter 5. Finally, I distil four core pedagogical values: love, life, wisdom and voice—the heart of my postformal education philosophy, which supports the development of higher stages of reasoning.
PART III: An Evolving Postformal Education Philosophy
Pedagogical Love: An Evolutionary Force
See also Blog Piece “What’s Love got to do with Education”
In a world of high-stakes testing, league tables for primary schools as well as universities, funding cuts, teacher shortages, mass shootings in school campuses and rising rates of depression and suicide among students who miss out on university entrance, how do we decide what should be the core values in education? Because I believe it is the most important value that is largely missing from education today, I begin with pedagogical love. I discuss the philosophical background as to why love should be at centre stage in education. I follow this with an introduction to the contemporary educational approaches that support a caring pedagogy and some experiences and examples from my own and others’ practice, ending with some personal reflections on the theme.
Pedagogical Life: A Sustaining Force
We live in a world with a globalising culture that does not value life in its many dimensions: the environment, the health and vitality of its children and young people, or the wellbeing of socio-cultural life in general. This chapter begins by reiterating the important evolutionary theme that would shift our thinking from static mechanistic metaphors to life-enhancing ones. I refresh the reader on the postformal qualities and pedagogies that support this shift before discussing the philosophical underpinnings of a life-promoting education. An introduction to the most life-supporting educational approaches today is followed by examples from my teaching experience and that of other alive and vital educators. I finish with some personal reflections on the importance of pedagogical life.
Pedagogical Wisdom: A Creative Force
The dominant 21st-century worldview is replete with stupid rather than wise values, signified by corporate greed, climate crises, environmental degradation and huge economic disparity. Is this what we want for our children and their grandchildren? What do we aspire towards? After a brief diagnostic, I reiterate the evolution of consciousness theme, the postformal qualities and the postformal pedagogies that I conceptually weave into my tapestry of wisdom. The main sections of this chapter explore the philosophical importance of wisdom, educational approaches that encourage and support it, many practical examples from educators of how to cultivate wisdom and some personal reflections on how I have worked creatively, complexly and multi-modally in my educational endeavours.
Pedagogical Voice: An Empowering Force
No matter where we live in the world today, the human voice is mediated by technology. Children born in the last fifteen to twenty years in affluent countries have never known a world without communication technologies of all kinds. And yet Marshall McLuhan claimed decades ago that every advance in technology dulls a former human capacity. What human capacities are we in danger of losing in the age of screens? I propose in this chapter that even an education that is caring, lively and wise will fail in the long run if young people are not empowered to find their voices. I reiterate the evolutionary theme and related postformal reasoning qualities and pedagogies before the philosophical discussion. I then discuss the educational approaches that awaken voice and language awareness and share some examples from my own and others’ teaching experience, finishing with personal reflections.
I offer some concluding reflections here but not a lockstep short cut to what I have already said. Let me be clear. There are no short cuts to evolving education. Unless we resolve to rehumanise education so its core purpose becomes once again to develop whole human beings who care, who have and respect life, who exercise wisdom, and who have the courage to voice their truths to those who would corrupt our futures, then we should forget about the whole idea of education altogether. Nothing less will suffice, if our young people are to become whole enough to navigate the complex futures they will ineluctably inherit.
By Dr. Jennifer M. Gidley
[This short blog is an entrée to Chapter 8: “Pedagogical Love: An Evolutionary Force” in Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures. Available at: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319290683]
In a world of high-stakes testing, league tables for primary schools as well as universities, funding cuts, teacher shortages, mass shootings in school campuses, and rising rates of depression and suicide among students who miss out on university entrance, how do we decide what should be the core values in education?
I believe the most important value that is largely missing from education today is what I call pedagogical love. In Chapter 8 I explain why love should be at centre-stage in education. I introduce contemporary educational approaches that support a caring pedagogy, and some experiences and examples from my own and others’ practice, ending with some personal reflections on the theme.
Why do we want to educate with and for love? We live in a cynical global world with a dominant culture that does not value care and empathy. We live under the blanket of a dominant worldview that promotes values that are clearly damaging to human and environmental wellbeing. In many ways our world, with its dominance of economic values over practically all other concerns, is a world of callous values.
Canadian holistic educator, John Miller points to the subjugation of words like love in contemporary educational literature in the following quote from his 2000 book Education and the Soul: Towards a Spiritual Curriculum:
“The word ‘love’ is rarely mentioned in educational circles. The word seems out of place in a world of outcomes, accountability, and standardised tests.”
British educational researcher, Maggie MacLure speaks about the obsession with quantitative language in education in the UK: “objectives, outcomes, standards, high-stakes testing, competition, performance and accountability.” She argues that the resistance to the complexity and diversity of qualitative research that is found in the evidence-based agendas of the audit culture is linked to “deep-seated fears and anxieties about language and desire to control it.” In such a context, it is not hard to imagine that words like love are likely to create what MacLure calls ontological panic among the educational audit-police.
In spite of these challenges several educational theorists and practitioners emphasise the importance of love—and the role of the heart—in educational settings. If young people are to thrive in educational settings, new spaces need to be opened up for softer terms, such as love, nurture, respect, reverence, awe, wonder, wellbeing, vulnerability, care, tenderness, openness, trust.
Arthur Zajonc has developed an educational and contemplative process that he calls an “epistemology of love.” Mexican holistic education philosopher, Ramon Gallegos Nava, refers to holistic education as a “pedagogy of universal love.” Other important contributions to bringing pedagogical love into education include Nel Noddings extensive writings on “an ethics of care”, Parker Palmer’s “heart of a teacher” and Tobin Hart’s deep empathy.”
All of these theorists and more are introduced and discussed in Chapter 8: “Pedagogical Love: An Evolutionary Force” in Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures (Springer, Netherlands). Both eBook and Hardback will be available to purchase in August 2016.
See also Jennifer Gidley Amazon Author page