Well Adapted

Limited                  -                    Unlimited
Solid                      -                    Liquid

Adaptation to what? To society? To a world gone mad?

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.55

We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brain-washing their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks. Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high I.Q.s if possible.

From the moment of birth, when the stone-age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father have been, and their parents and their parents before them.  

These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities.

This enterprise is on the whole successful. By the time the new human being is fifteen or so, we are left with a being like ourselves. A half-crazed creature, more or less adjusted to a mad world. This is normality in our present age.

We act on our experience at the behest of others, just as we learn how to behave in compliance to them. We are taught what to experience and what not to experience, as we are taught what movements to make and what sounds to emit. A child of two is already a moral mover and moral talker and moral experiencer. He already moves the 'right' way, makes the 'right' noises, and knows what he should feel and what he should not feel.

As he is taught to move in specific ways, out of the whole range of possible movements, so he is taught to experience, out of the whole range of possible experience.

The Family's function is to repress Eros: to induce a false consciousness of security: to dent death by avoiding life : to cut off transcendence: to believe in God, not to experience the Void: to create, in short, one-dimensional man: to promote respect, conformity, obedience: to con children out of play: to induce fear of failure: to promote a respect for work: to promote a respect for 'respectibility'.

The family is, in the first place, the usual instrument for what is called socialization, that is, getting each new recruit to the human race to behave and experience in substantially the same way as those who have already got here.

Children do not give up their innate imagination, curiosity, dreaminess easily. You have to love them to get them to do that. Love is the path through permissiveness to discipline: and through discipline, only too often, to betrayal of self.

[In adjusting to society we have been] tricked and [have] tricked ourselves out of our minds, that is to say, out of our own personal world of experience, out of that unique meaning with which potentially we may endow the external world ...

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.49, 50, 51, 55, 57, 60, 61

What do children learn at school?

They go varying distances in their studies, but at any rate they learn to read, to write and to add - i.e. a number of techniques, and a number of other things as well, including elements (which may be rudimentary or on the contrary thoroughgoing) of 'scientific’ or 'literary culture’, which are directly useful in the different jobs in production (one instruction for manual workers, another for technicians, a third for engineers, a final one for higher management, etc.).

Thus they learn 'know-how’.

But besides these techniques and knowledges, and in learning them, children at school also learn the 'rules’ of good behavior, i.e. the attitude that should be observed by every agent in the division of labour, according to the job he is 'destined’ for: rules of morality, civic and professional conscience, which actually means rules of respect for the socio-technical division of labour and ultimately the rules of the order established by class domination.

They also learn to 'speak proper French’, to 'handle’ the workers correctly, i.e. actually (for the future capitalists and their servants) to 'order them about’ properly, i.e. (ideally) to 'speak to them’ in the right way, etc.

In other words, the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches 'know-how’, but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its 'practice’.

All the agents of production, exploitation and repression, not to speak of the 'professionals of ideology' (Marx), must in one way or another be 'steeped' in this ideology in order to perform their tasks 'conscientiously' -

the tasks of the exploited (proletarians),
of the exploiters (the capitalists),
of the exploiters' auxiliaries (the managers),
or of the high priests of the ruling ideology (its 'functionaries'),etc.

[Louis Althusser]
'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus', excerpted in The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism, p.1485

If we conflate the psychological and cultural models of Kegan and Gebser, we can construct a picture of the kind of schooling which was appropriate for a pre-scientific society and which still persists where psychological development is fixed at third order thinking and the mythical structure dominates in the culture.

Third order schooling

Teachers in such a context (third order, mythical structure) assume that schooling should be aimed at engendering dependence and conformity in students.

Teaching focuses on transmitting to students what is already known in the community. Learning need not be passive, but it is essentially receptive rather than creative. The function of the school (or university) is to enculturation the next generation into the values, ethics, knowledge and customs of the family, tribe, church or nation. The child needs to learn and accept what is acknowledged as truth by the community and to learn also how to behave in a manner which the community approves. The school exists within a narrative where certain values and purposes and truths are taken for entirely for granted.

Education in such a society is essentialist. The curriculum is content-centered. Those in authority know exactly what should be taught and learned.

Fourth order schooling

On the other hand, if schooling is constructed by the mental consciousness of a modern-scientific society, it assumes a capacity for fourth order thinking.

Such a schooling aims to produce students who are autonomous individuals, who take responsibility for their own behaviour, who take nothing for granted but critically examine their own society and the truths it presents to them. 

Teachers believe that the best learning is self-directed and active, rather than receptive and conformist. There is an underlying assumption that human beings are able to discover the truth about the universe if they observe it carefully enough and think about it hard enough.

Such an education looks critically at the principles which guide its own and other societies, in a search for universal principles for human behaviour. It is non-essentialist because we cannot yet confidently state the truth. It is student-centered because the individual student is the best judge of what he or she needs to learn right now in order to deal with the world as he or she finds it.

I suggest that in Australia there are schools which can be categorized one way or the other, that in most schools and universities there are both “third order” classrooms and “fourth order” classrooms, and that in any classroom there may be “third order” teachers and “fourth order” teachers.

Fifth order schooling

Where third order schooling aims at dependence and fourth order thinking aims at independence, fifth order thinking aims at interdependence.

Where third order schooling focuses on transmitted knowledge and fourth order education focuses on discovering the truth, fifth order schooling seeks a plurality of understandings. Where third order learning is passive and receptive and fourth order thinking is critical and active, fifth order learning is creative and constructive. Where third order curriculum emphasizes received truth and fourth order curriculum seeks to discover universal principles, fifth order curriculum celebrates a diversity of incomplete (and even contradictory) truths.

Where third order education is founded on historically based assumptions about race, gender, class and cultural difference, and fourth order education maintains a socially critical perspective, fifth order education seeks to be aperspectival, or at least multi-perspectival. Even the socially critical perspective is relatives as one perspective among many.

Where third order education is grounded in a way of imagining the world and fourth order education is grounded in thinking about it, fifth order education integrates first order body, second order emotion, third order image and fourth order thought in an holistic experience and expression of what it means to be human in this world.

Where third order schooling is community-centric and fourth order schooling is ego-centric, fifth order schooling is eco-centric and transpersonal. It is sustained by an emerging ability to perceive not only “my truth and “your truth” as each incomplete without the other, but even “me” and “you” as each incomplete without the other.

[Bernie Neville]
Out of Our Depth and Treading Water: Reflections on Consciousness, Culture and New Learning Technologies'

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