The Unlearning Organisation LO9652
Sun, 1 Sep 1996 07:48:55 +1200

Replying to LO9646 --

Wow! This thread has done a lot since I last saw it!!

Michael McMaster wrote:

" I consider that we are creating languages or ways of communicating
and that life occurs within these practices. All of social life and,
therefor, a great deal of personal life occurs in practices of
language, in my approach. Deconstructionism, postmodernism and
hermeneutics - referred to by Don Lavoie as interpretive philosophy -
are a fundamental part of my approach.

It is from this perpsective that I do not like "unlearning". I can't
create the distinctions of learning that I want with any meaningful
use of unlearning."

I entirely agree. In my view the language proposed clouds understanding in
this case.

Michael also said a few days ago:

"Is all learning embedded in as well as transformed by current experience?"

My answer is 'yes'. My understanding of the process of transformation (and
therefore my concern about the use of the term 'unlearning') is best
illustrated by three aviation accidents - a United Airlines 747 near Honolulu,
an Aloha 737 at Honolulu, and a United DC 10 at Sioux City. In all three cases
the aircraft suffered extreme structural damage which made them virtually
unflyable, yet the crew managed to keep the planes flying and saved most (or
in the case of Sioux City, some) lives.

In all cases their achievement was based on rejecting their manuals and
procedures - their patterned rule-based responses - and discerning new
patterns required to maintain the aircraft flying. Did they behave
'intuitively' and 'unlearn' what they already knew? No - in my view they
accessed deeper level cognitive functioning and considered their knowledge of
the principles of flight which underpinned their existing rules of performance
in order to find new responses to a novel problem.

My belief is what some here call 'unlearning' is in fact this process of
accessing deeper level understandings in order to produce new solutions to
novel situations. It cannot be done (except by the 'monkey typing Shakespeare'
sort of chance) unless that deeper level understanding is there. To the person
without that knowledge it appears that existing rule based performance has
been randomly 'violated', but it isn't so. I do believe it is 'intuitive'
because I believe that is what intuition means. When we wonder at an intuitive
person we are actually admiring their deep level understanding of systemic
processes and their capacity to translate it into conscious action.

Afterwards, of course, such episodes feed back into the collective and
individual store of knowledge about pre-existing patterns and rules, and
improvements and adjustments are made to the whole constellation of
operational knowledge. Such is the way of expansive learning (nothing is
forgotten or unlearnt - terms which, in my view, debase the profoundness of
the process),

Phillip Capper
Centre for Research on Work, Education and Business
New Zealand


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