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Barriers to the development of the mind (within the mind) come in two primary forms: Egocentric and sociocentric thought
These two sets of tendencies, when explicitly understood by students, provide concrete strategies for intervening in and disciplining the mind.
What is egocentric thought? • Working in pairs, silently read p. 21 in the Concepts and Tools guide. • For each of the egocentric “standards” listed on this page, write out 2-3 examples of student beliefs that fall into these categories. • Silently read and then discuss the section on egocentricity on p. 13 of the Human Mind guide.
Human egocentrism: the natural human tendency “to view everything within the world in relationship to oneself, to be self-centered” (Webster’s New World Dictionary); and
Categorize these typical student beliefs, using the “standards” on p. 21. • Learning should be fun. • Learning should be easy. • If I do what the teacher says, that’s all that matters. • All I need to do is the absolute minimum to get an A. • Learning means doing what the teacher says. • I shouldn’t have to waste my time learning anything I can’t use. • Whatever our culture believes is important is important. • Cheating to get by is fine because all I need is the piece of paper (the college degree) to get a job anyway. • I believe that learning biology is a waste of my time. • I believe in creationist theory.
The Logic of Student Thinking varies from student to student but with certain identifiable patterns
More student beliefs/habits that affect learning • It’s true if the teacher says it is true. • It is true if my friend’s believe it. • It is true if it agrees with what I already think. • If I am not learning it is the teacher’s fault. • I am too stupid to learn this. • If I have to ask a question in class, I am dumb. • I am the only person with a question, so I must be the only dumb person here. • If I finish my work first, I am smarter than everyone else.
If the teacher calls on me more that the other students, it shows I am smarter than them. • If the teacher calls on me more that the other students, it shows I am dumber than them. • The only things worth learning are those that will be on the test. • The only things worth learning are the things that will increase my job-earning potential. • All I should do is the minimum to get by. • Since I am smarter than everyone else in the class, I have nothing to learn from them. • I shouldn’t have to waste my time teaching other students since it isn’t my problem if they are “slow.”
The teacher will explain everything I need to know. • If other students think I am dumb, I am dumb. • If other students think I am smart, I am smart. • I am too stupid to learn complicated things.
Students need to face these assumptions and habits of mind and deal with them. They need intervention strategies that they create and regularly use, to change these habits.
What is sociocentric thought? • Working in pairs, silently read p. 22 in the Concepts and Tools guide. • Then go through each bulleted point, briefly discussing each one and exemplifying implications for student thought and behavior. • How might we use the concept of sociocentric thinking to help students gain better command of their minds?
Sociocentric thought is the native human tendency to see the world from a narrow and biased group-centered perspective, to operate within the world through subjective and partial group beliefs, group influences, group rules, group think, group interests. Sociocentric Thought is intricately connected with egocentric thought, the native tendency to see the world from a narrow, self-centered perspective.
Beginning at a very young age humans begin to internalize the mores and folkways of the groups to which they belong. They begin “fitting in” to groups, from no choice of their own, but out of instinct and in order to survive. Due to an innate need to be accepted and esteemed by others, to be validated, humans operate largely as members of various groups through the whole of their lives.
At the same time, humans do not naturally develop skills of group critique – the ability to determine group practices that make sense to accept, those that need modification, and those that should be wholeheartedly rejected. Due to the credulity of the uncultivated mind, from a very young age, humans largely uncritically accept the beliefs of family, school, religion, peers, government, clubs and organizations, indeed any group in which they become members.
And then they largely defend and build on those views they have uncritically accepted. Most of these group-held beliefs lie at the unconscious level of thought, not explicitly recognized by the mind, nevertheless guiding much of our behavior.
Native sociocentric thought is at the root of many human problems and countless injustices. Only when each of us takes command of this hidden part of our nature, can we begin to extricate ourselves from dogmatic and dangerous group ideologies, from group rules, taboos and conventions arbitrarily formed and strictly imposed, from unwarranted group righteousness that leads to untold pain and suffering, from group agendas and actions that undermine the cultivation of critical societies.
Sociocentric Thinking is Linked with Egocentric Thinking Consider these definitions: • Human egocentrism, the natural human tendency “to view everything within the world in relationship to oneself, to be self-centered” (Webster’s New World Dictionary); and • Human sociocentrism, most simply conceptualized as group egocentricity. To define sociocentricity, we might take Webster’s definition of egocentricity (above), substituting group for self. Thus, sociocentric thinking is the natural human tendency to view everything within the world in relationship to one’s group, to be group-centered.
In every human group, there are three existing realities: • Things you must do (requirements). • Things you cannot do (taboos). • Things you are permitted to do but are not required to do. This conception is the heart of sociological thinking.
Consider your country as “group,” for example. Working in groups, make a list of the following: • Things you must do (requirements) in your country. • Things you cannot do (taboos) in your country. • Things you are permitted to do but are not required to do.
How do the “rules” of society impede the cultivation of the intellect? Discuss how the rules, conventions, taboos of the culture impede our ability to foster intellectual development.
How do conventions within schools, colleges and universities impede the cultivation of the intellect? • Answer this question, focusing on your institution. • What are some implications for student thinking?
Questions… • What self-handicapping behaviors do your students engage in? • What does it mean to self-handicap? • To what extent is self-handicapping behavior learned, and to what extent does it have a biological base? • Are there identifiable patterns for self-handicapping behavior? • Do students tend to use one, a few, or many forms of self-handicapping behaviors?
Suggesting a way into self-handicapping behavior focusing on the opposites of intellectual traits • Working in pairs. • Go through each intellectual virtue on p. 14-15 using this process: • Silently read the description for each trait. • Spend a few minutes writing out an explanation of its opposite. • Share your explanations. Then formulate examples of how this “anti-intellectual” trait impedes student learning.
Two organizing roots of self-handicapping behavior: • Inferiority Complex: “I’m too stupid to learn this, so why bother trying?” 2. Arrogance Complex: “I already know everything I need to know about this (subject, problem, situation).”
Understanding pathological dispositions of the human mind p. 21, Human Mind guide, working in pairs • read each disposition • give examples from student thought and behavior of the disposition • discuss how you might correct for each one, if you were so motivated. • Then read our suggestions for correcting for each disposition on pp. 22-23. Discuss implications for teaching and learning.
Understanding pathological sociocentric dispositions of the human mind p. 21, Human Mind guide, working in pairs • Transform each disposition into a sociocentric disposition, • give examples from student thought and behavior of the disposition • discuss how you might help students correct for each one. Discuss any additional implications for teaching and learning.
Requiring an intellectual journal • Read idea #9 on p. 14 of the How to Improve Student Learning guide. • Discuss whether you might want to use this structure in your classes.
Discuss • How can we design instruction so that students begin to overcome the barriers to their development as thinkers? • How can we design instruction so that most students can be successful, and all students are encouraged to work at the highest level of functioning? • How can we help students effectively deal with the egocentric and sociocentric tendencies native to all of us?