Limits to Growth OR Limits to Learning?

I would like to play god for a few minutes and in those few minutes I would globally find and replace the word teacher with student facilitator from the soft tissue memory banks of all humans and then go to sleep with the satisfaction of having done a good day’s work. The collective amnesia would make sure that the word is not revived from the storage devices, be it the computer hard disk or the hard copies of books and documents.

I wish teachers stop being teachers and bring back learning to the centre stage.  I thank the teachers who did it for me. I also thank those who drove me to write this piece. But for them I wouldn’t have. When I look out, I can see the Bangalore campus of the National Dairy Research Institute, which was once the Imperial Dairy Research Institute, started in 1923 by the British.   Mahatma Gandhi had been there, a student for a week. That was much before my time (1971-73). What he learnt in one week, I wouldn’t have learnt in two years. He would have foreseen the white revolution that would sweep over post independent India. The first learning point, the most important turning point in my life happened here. I discovered the fun of learning which had gone out during my formal education.  Having got disillusioned with the world of work I came back to Bangalore as a B-school student for another two years, 1981-83. What was then the outskirts of the city is almost the heart of the city now. I am once again in Bangalore, my third time. Where I live, the National Games Village used to be a marshy swamp. The locality around, Koramangala, is more than home to the techies in Bangalore.  In between, the IT revolution took off and reached its peak paving way for the next revolution in the making. I visualize Bangalore driving that revolution, emergence of a learning community which renews itself continually where work, learning and leisure come together as one so that work becomes its own reward. (Goodbye to incentives and stock options?)

Every time I am back in Bangalore, I get a fresh lease of life and at 60, it is happening once again

There is a campaign going on in Bangalore – ‘Teach India’. I wish they call it “Learn India Learn”. We put on our teacher’s hat all too often, at home, at work, on the road and even in our dreams

Often we kill the joy of learning when we set out to teach, more the teachers less the learning. (For me learning is purposive. It should lead to improvement. Otherwise it is not learning). The best of my teachers did the least teaching. They created the conditions for us to learn.  We had a wonderful pair, in B-School, who did the least teaching. We called them Laurel and Hardy. They allowed us to put on the teaching hats and listened to us. I was hooked to system thinking (not systems thinking) which was another learning /turning point in my learning curve. Habits seldom die. It took me three years of teaching to say goodbye to my ‘teaching career’- in 1984. I found myself unfit for the job, fished out my learner’s hat and got wedded to LLL, lifelong learning. When we do that growing old is something to look forward to. Julia Roberts, the pretty woman actress echoes it.

http://en.ce.cn/entertainment/gossip/200809/08/t20080908_16738880.shtml Growing old is becoming free. Development as Freedom (Amartya Sen) is true in this context also but it is dependence for those who do not, stuck at the learning plateaus.

I remember the learning plateaus during my formal education, adolescence, at work and after work. I am not one of those Rushdie’s midnight’s children. I was conceived and born in a free India (1949) a baby boomer. Like most baby boomers I too grew up/down as a confused child. My early reading only added to that confusion.  Those writers have now grown old and changed their positions many times over. Not many returned like the prodigal son to be connected to the roots. Most remain still confused and they go on confusing others.  The revolutions died very young leaving many casualties in the process. The orthodox Christian religious atmosphere, at home, school and all around also contributed to the making of the prodigal son. I was lucky to break out of that stifling world to rediscover the fun of learning, to get unstuck and move ahead from the plateaus of learning that came over the years at intervals.

The process is not always very pleasant. Bangalore is also the suicide capital of the country and the incidence is the highest among those in the age group 15-44.There is pain and suffering while we are stuck and the joy and freedom of getting unstuck from the plateaus are abundant compensation for the pain. Having gone through the process, it was a logical next step to take position as a student/facilitator of learning. One can certainly make the process easier for those interested in transcending the barriers to learning.

We started with facilitating children in schools and moved up the levels to the ‘top of the pyramid’ with our facilitation tools. Our prevalent notions of intelligence encourage and support the notion that a few are exceptionally gifted and fit to survive. For those who fail to be recognized as such the school can be a torture machine which kills the joy of learning, creating the first learning plateau. It is also the stage when adolescents are assumed to turn adults.   When the species in general does not encourage adult behaviour and maturity, transformation to the adult is a near impossibility.  The emphasis on teaching as against learning arises from the position that majority cannot learn and they need to be taught. It is self-fulfilling and the adult is less likely to take birth. The first and basic distortion of the meaning drive is already seeded which gives rise to the primary learning plateau

When we moved to the world of work with the facilitation process we found that the first plateau is instrumental in creating other barriers in the world of work. The formal educational system seldom meets the expectations of the employer. The employer has to create the conditions for continual learning, more so in the context of a ‘knowledge society’ in emergence. Work is seldom perceived as learning or expression of one’s self with the result that most get burnt out in the process. Once again it is only a minority who manage to break through the glass ceiling. For the majority another plateau is in the making. Meanwhile our young man/woman has become a parent and bogged down by more responsibilities and expectations at work and home. The context is ripe for the classic symptoms of the mid-life crisis to surface. Some transcend the plateau and continue to be productive beyond their fifties. The individual and society suffer from the consequences. In large hierarchical governance systems, it is tragic to see young bright outstanding individuals progressively grow out of touch with reality creating more plateaus /barriers to the collective journey of improvement and renewal.  The circle is complete

One can go on ad nauseum (the teacher is still alive). I would like to sum up

We have created a Giant wheel. A few drive the wheel.  They promise better and better rides. A few refuse to be taken for a ride.

Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent (William James-1890)

Our suggestion is simple. Limits to growth = Limits to learning

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One thought on “Limits to Growth OR Limits to Learning?

  1. Pingback: Meta: The post on posts | First Discipline

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