Re: Emergent Learning LO2028

Michael McMaster (
Mon, 10 Jul 1995 23:22:14 +0000

Replying to LO1983 --

Michael Ayers says

> I think that Kenneth Boulding's comments in "Beyond Economics"
> pertain here:
> "Thus education is a process by which what somebody knows or knew
> is transmitted to others.

I think we need to distinguish information, learning, knowledge and
education in these dialogues.

This reminds me of a story ....... My sister is a concert pianist (of
only local renown) who was struggling to master a particularly
difficult passage. I volunteered to coach her. Knowing that I know
nothing about music and less about playing the piano - but loving me
- she accepted my offer. I stood behind her as she attempted the
difficult passage and touched her back at various spots and had her
notice the bodily sensations at that point as she played. She soon
mastered the passage.

Did she increase here knowledge? Did she learn? Did I teach or
educate? (I use the word coaching - in this instance largely

I didn't transmit anything that I knew. I used something that I
knew. But what she got was not what I was using. Nothing was
transmitted. Knowledge is not about transmission. Neither is good
education primarily about that.

> Knowledge is also lost in transmission, which is a
> kind of negative research, through noise and misunderstanding
> which incidentally points up the great importance of dialogue
> and two-way transmission if the body of knowledge is not to
> deteriorate in transmission."

I doubt that knowledge is ever "lost in transmission". Sometimes
nothing happens "over there". Sometimes (always?) it gets
transformed. Noise is a necessary part of communication, learning,
innovation, knowledge and anything related that I can think of.
Ambiguity is a key element in anything that calls for intelligence.

> People invest (I almost wrote 'spend') far too little time in
> attempting to say just what they mean, resorting to cliches,
> buzzwords, and other linguistic short-cuts.

I agree about the cliches and buzzwords (and think that they are
largely the mechanisms of metanarratives) but not with the idea that
we should spend time to say "just what we mean". It's impossible to
do. What is wanted is to have what you mean communicated. That may
not involve saying just what you mean. It will involve dialogue.
What I consider worth doing is generating a dialogue that goes beyond
what any one of us means to what meaning we can develop together that
we didn't have individually before.

Michael McMaster <>