13 June 2010

Making a Habit of Blowing One's Monkey Mind

Most humans never rise above "First Order Thinking" -- basic goal oriented behaviours, reading, computing, memorising, and fitting acquired comprehensions within a pre-existing, culturally inherited mental frame. At the most, a typical human will achieve "Metacognition," where he monitors his progress in first order thinking, and grades his progress. It is the unusual human who breaks through to "Transformative Learning."

The capacity for transformative learning develops in middle to late adolescence, although few persons truly experience it, and fewer still achieve mastery of the transformative process. Transformational learning involves breaking through cultural and paradigmatic constraints, to richer conceptual fields beyond.

The academic theory of transformative learning is almost entirely restricted to the field of "adult learning", because that is the field of learning where the theory originated and developed, for the most part. And perhaps those who teach adolescents and young adults in conventional institutions of education are just a bit too happy and complacent with the way things are in conventional education.

Transformational learning is not easy or comfortable -- for either teacher or student. But it is necessary, and those who care about the fate of humans in this part of the galaxy will begin to take it seriously.
Personal transformations often follow  the following phases:
  1. Experiencing a disorientating dilemma, paradox, enigma or anomaly
  2. Feelings of fear, anger, guilt, or shame
  3. Questioning one's assumptions
  4. Recognising the need for personal transformation
  5. Exploring new roles, relationships and actions
  6. Planning a course of action
  7. Acquiring new knowledge and skills
  8. Provisional trying of new roles
  9. Building confidence in new roles and relationships
  10. A re-integration of a new perspective into one's life

Ref. Mezirow, Jack et al. (2000) Learning as Transformation

Most people do not take kindly to being "disoriented." Feelings of "guilt, shame, anger" etc. are not the half of it, for most ordinary monkey-minds. The full play of emotions can enter the dynamic process of transformative learning. Not exactly how you remember school? Join the club.
When a fundamentally disconfirming experience or a disorienting dilemma challenges our frame of reference, we are presented with the opportunity to dive to the deepest level of learning in an effort to make meaning of the catastrophic experience. So powerful is this kind of learning that Mezirow described it as "emancipation from libidinal, linguistic, epistemic, institutional or environmental forces that limit our options and our rational control over our lives, but have been taken for granted or seen as beyond human control." This experience can cause us to critically reflect on our beliefs and presuppositions, resulting in either a transformed way of pattern recognition, or, at the deepest level, a totally transformed framework. _ Learning to Think Strategically
Emancipation? Yes, and much more. Release from constraints plus the motive power to go beyond previous limitations.

Many animals can be trained to remain within a limited perimeter of physical or behavioural space. Then, when the real constraints are surreptitiously removed without the animal's awareness, the animal continues to limit itself as if the constraints remained. Monkey men are just like those animals. Transformative learning wakes them up.
For learners to change their "meaning schemes (specific beliefs, attitudes, and emotional reactions)," they must engage in critical reflection on their experiences, which in turn leads to a perspective transformation (Mezirow 1991, p. 167). "Perspective transformation is the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand, and feel about our world; changing these structures of habitual expectation to make possible a more inclusive, discriminating, and integrating perspective; and, finally, making choices or otherwise acting upon these new understandings" (ibid.).

...Transformative learning has two layers that at times seem to be in conflict: the cognitive, rational, and objective and the intuitive, imaginative, and subjective (Grabov 1997). Both the rational and the affective play a role in transformative learning. Although the emphasis has been on transformative learning as a rational process, teachers need to consider how they can help students connect the rational and the affective by using feelings and emotions both in critical reflection and as a means of reflection (Taylor 1998). _ericdigests
Very few theorists have come to understand the centrality of grief to the process of learning and growing. Manfred Clynes is one such researcher. Robert Boyd is another. To understand why meaningful learning and transformation should involve grief, is to begin to appreciate how profoundly important being a human (as opposed to being a monkey) truly is.
There is an innate drive in all humans to understand and make meaning of their experiences. It is through established belief systems that adults construct meaning of what happens in their lives...Developing more reliable beliefs about the world, exploring and validating their dependability, and making decisions based upon an informed basis, is central to the adult learning process. _PraegerHandbookVol2
Most pseudo-intellectuals in academia, media, law, politics, and environmentalism are perfectly content to forego the exhausting work of transformation. Their time is filled with a daily routine of monkey games, which is as satisfying as they seem to require.

But those who wish to step beyond the ordinary shite fight and mudslinging of monkey play, into the larger universe of human, trans-human, and "posthuman" possibilities, it's going to take a lot of work, pain, and grief. Over and over, as long as you continue wanting to go farther.

Good little self-satisfied monkeys would never tolerate anything like that.

This is important: The crucially important and helpful techniques of transformative learning can be twisted -- are being twisted every day -- by professors, workshop leaders, propagandists, politicians, and others who shape the minds of others for their own benefit, rather than helping the person shape his own mind for purposes of personal and professional growth. This perversion of the transformative process is called brainwashing, or sometimes "consciousness raising." The goal of brainwashing is to confine the mind -- the opposite of liberation or emancipation.

Anyone who has experienced genuinely liberating and empowering transformation will detect the attempt at false and perverted "transformation" fairly easily. And it will make him very, very angry to see it.

More on this topic later.

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Blogger SwampWoman said...

Yep. Most people live inside a cage of their own making. If you try to free them from it, they will get angry and return to it.

Sunday, 13 June, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

Isn't this what boot camp attempts to do particularly with hell week? Tech did something similar to most of the people that went there, most of the people I know that went to Tech have had at least one experience that led to a panic attack followed by days of not sleeping, eating, and drinking only red bull or power-aid. If you want something bad enough you will make sacrifices to get it, including sleep, friends, and sometimes your health. Unfortunately most people intentionally hold back when perusing a goal, part of it is strategy and part of it is defense. Holding back so if you need more to give in short bursts you'll have something to give, and the other part is a defense mechanism, "I failed because I didn't really try, I could have done it if I had given it my all, oh well I know better for next time." Other people do give it their all, still fail, and don't know how to pick up the pieces and walk away, at which point they commit suicide. Trying to push people to the next level can be dangerous, especially if you push too much to quickly. Hence the freshman forgiveness at MIT and other such institutions as an attempt to allow young 18 year-olds the chance to learn from their mistakes rather than flunking them out and them committing suicide, or blemishing their student record because they thought they were studying only to find out they had no idea what the term sacrifice truly meant.

Sunday, 13 June, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes. I wonder why Art Robinson's 6 children were all doing college level math and science by around age 15, from Cal Tech textbooks? They all got doctorates in various applied fields of science or medicine at an early age.

The problem with limiting transformational learning to "adult learning" situations, is that by the time these kids' bodies are adult, their minds are still 13 or 14 years old.

The lessons of transformation have to be incorporated into child raising, or suicide rates are likely to go up as the problems we have to face are multiplied by debt, demographics, and thoroughly incompetent leadership.

Monday, 14 June, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

My point was that college freshman are away from their mothers for the first time, a test unto its self. For the first time they will have to feed themselves, do the laundry, check the mail, wake up on time, not stay up too late, go to class, study, and try to make friends. That is a lot to learn how to do all at once. Another problem that a lot of kids run into is the fact that they are not be the smartest person in the room anymore. That can be hard on an 18 year old, then when you couple that with the fact that their profession of choice isn't what they thought it was. They failed and find it hard to tell the truth to their well meaning but pushy parents and what is best described a frenamies, the friends that just can't wait for you to fail. Sometimes it isn't that a person cannot pick themselves up it is that they can't do it while be kicked and stared at.

Monday, 14 June, 2010  
Blogger George said...

I wish our education system would teach people how to think instead of teaching them knowledge.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing but when you encounter something new.

You need to be able to think when you bump into the unknown.

Monday, 14 June, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

gtg723y: Parents these days rarely raise their own children. They farm that responsibility out to institutions, peer groups, and electronic devices. Consequently, when they send their kids off to college they have no idea what to expect.

Art Robinson homeschooled 6 children after his wife died. He arranged for them to get half their college credits while still at home, working on the ranch. When he did send them off to finish 2 years of college on campus, they were like guided missiles, intent on their own future -- and Robinson knew that. As a result, all six excelled and succeeded through the scientific and professional doctorate level.

george: It would be nice, but they won't, and parents need to know that so that they can make up the deficit themselves. Otherwise, why even have kids if you're going to let society turn them into nothing more than useless and incompetent consumers?

Monday, 14 June, 2010  
Blogger George said...

We never home schooled but when little 'Milk Breath' was watching TV it was National Geographic on Sunday nights.

He learned so much eating ice cream and watching this wonder full program it gave him a step up against his peers.

Monday, 14 June, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

We watch ScyFy, the science channel, and Fox News/ FBN. For some goofy reason TLC and the discovery channel went the way of hgtv.

Tuesday, 15 June, 2010  

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