Conscious LearningandLearning to be Conscious(Greg Nixon) How aggressive global education based in rational good will, the needs of the planet, intolerance of intolerance, and a transcultural ethic of conscious growth could save the world.
It is well known that we humans are the greatest threat to ourselves and other life on this lonely planet.
Yet we seem to remain locked in a struggle to the death across political, religious, tribal, ethnic, family & even individual lines.
Efforts to create global stability through the political process have been limited, at best. Efforts to create more economic equity have failed dismally.
Alternatively, the postmodern push for radical multiculturalism – a world in which both difference & acceptance are embraced – is a consummation devoutly to be wished. It is “radical” because it seems to accept all cultural values equally, no matter how contrary.
It’s an enticing image, isn’t it? – the global community living in peaceful co-existence, each country, religion, tribe, ethnicity, whatever allowed its own truths & values, not to mention its own way of educating those truths & values.
Problems with postmodern multiculturalism:1. does not oppose isolated absolutism2. no shared ethics/values/vision3. no global village – no spaceship Earth
1. isolated absolutism – intolerance/fear of the other:•negation of MC, yet allowed•absolutism is the commitment to the absolute truth of a group’s beliefs & codes – thus fervently opposing other beliefs & codes.
Possible to be freed from the totalitarian mindset that, based in fear & ignorance, believes unquestioningly in the ultimate reality of what it has been taught?
The howls of protest from the postmodern multiculturalists should begin right here. After all, isn’t a global education in some way totalizing or absolutist? Doesn’t it threaten home-grown truths?
In fact, many across the eastern & southern world view global education as Americanization in disguise.
Which brings us to the second tenet of radical MC: 2. no shared ethics/values/vision – no value is culture-free; therefore, all morals & values are relative; therefore, global education must have bias; therefore, it is anti-MC.For three good reasons:
Kant’s categorical imperative is difficult to rationally dispute:"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”(However, fanatics always wish their extreme values to become universal.)
Perhaps a new universal moral imperative is called for:1. Does this action promote the betterment of all life on Earth?
2. Living Multiculturalism itself demands certain universal values:a) tolerance for and interest in other cultures & perspectivesb) universal human rightsc) intolerance for intolerance
3. Educated people the world over often share a communion that, if not overcoming cultural differences, at least allows them to be temporarily put aside.
e.g., Robert Kegan’s “Evolving Self”: Kegan divides developmental learning into five stages, beginning when subject & object are one. In each stage, what is presumed to be subjective is creatively objectified & understood, until one’s own self-concept is seen as yet another construction and one is freed from it. Conscious volition increases at each level.
Kegan’s Creative Learning Stages • Stage 0: Incorporative stage • Subject: reflexes / Object: nothing • Stage 1: Impulsive stage • Subject: impulses, perceptions / Object: reflexes • Stage 2: Imperial stage • Subject: needs, interests, desires / Object: impulses perceptions • Stage 3: Interpersonal stage • Subject: interpersonal relationships, mutuality / Object: needs, interests, desires • Stage 4: Institutional stage • Subject: authorship, identity, ideology / Object: interpersonal relationships, mutuality • Stage 5: Inter-individual stage • Subject: silent creative core self / Object: authorship, identity, ideology
The idea is that through learning and creative endeavour, we may grow more consciously free – transcending our particular cultural construction and the dream of self within it.
Conscious learning and learning to be conscious of oneself as a culturally constructed entity will threaten many of the world’s so-called cultural authorities. How can we save the world with such values & global education when fanaticism, corporate fascism, & militarism seem to rule?
My suggestion: The network of global educators must a find a way to infiltrate intolerant regions and save the world peacefully from the bottom up.
I suggest it is time to rise above the pretense that all cultures are ethically equal & cease kissing the postmodern ass of absolute cultural difference.