State of General Education LO6808

Marion Brady (
Fri, 19 Apr 1996 13:11:02 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO6650 --

After my post yesterday, the one triggered by Rol's comment about
his conversation with Maine's Senator Mitchell, it occurred to me that
some might feel that my reference to Kuhn and the structure of scientific
revolutions wasn't particularly appropriate in a discussion of educational
change, that scientific revolutions stem from one great, paradigm-altering
insight, whereas the variety of disciplines which together comprise
general education make change stemming from a single insight impossible.
I cite Kuhn because I believe that there is, in fact, one great,
paradigm-altering idea which would revolutionize education--understanding
and accepting the idea that the fundamental purpose of general education
is not to familiarize students with various fields of study, but to help
them make their implicit models of reality explicit. That done, they
would then be able to (2) evaluate the appropriateness of those models,
(3) compare those models with the generally shared model of reality of the
society within which they've been socialized, (4) compare the models with
those of individuals and societies with which they interact, (5)
familiarize themselves with models illustrating the range of possibilities
of such models, and (6) play with the relationships between the elements
of their models so as to become dynamic creators of knowledge rather than
mere static receptacles of it. (This is essential if we're to survive.
The future is unknowable. We can't provide solutions to its problems, can
only help students acquire the means for dealing with them.)
This may sound pretty esoteric. It really isn't. Every kid
already has the basic tool already in mind--a comprehensive, coherent,
systemically integrated conceptual framework by means of which reality is
perceived. It's just a matter, as I said, of making that implicitly held
framework explicit. With a little guidance, any average adolescent can do
this. In fact, in my experience, adolescents have far, far less
difficulty with the task than do most of their teachers, who have long ago
chosen (been forced to choose) a narrow disciplinary window for viewing
reality and have great difficulty moving away from that window to one that
takes in everything.
The traditional disciplines are useful and important. But there's
no way that they can be combined to provide that which is critical to an
the examination of self and the human situation--a systemically
integrated, holistic view of reality.
The needed paradigm shift--the one which if it ever happens will
move student performance in and beyond the disciplines to levels of
sophistication presently undreamed of--involves moving from looking at
reality via fragmented disciplines, to looking at the self looking at
reality as a systemically integrated whole.
It was appropriate to cite Kuhn.

Marion Brady


Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>