Could Teachers Be the Secret Weapon of Cultural Evolution? What Can We Do To Help?

As a parent, and not a teacher, I have come to admire the dedication, guidance, and relationships my kid’s teachers have given, at great personal cost, but with deep commitment and love, to my kids. In my experience, teachers are people who really care for kids and what becomes of them in their lives. They have studied human development, usually by age groups, but more importantly, through experience, they come to intuit my kids across many dimensions - and - as growing people. Much acculturation and socialization, in fact most, is done during this time. But I do not think they are exposed to Integral Approaches, unless they are interested themselves. At best, Integral Theory, is on the edge and not mainstream. I was pleasantly surprised last year when a “Spiral Dynamics” practitioner/coach was brought into my daughter’s school for staff development. But that is in a luck and lottery-based public charter school where they experiment a bit. I think this is not the norm for most schools. Becoming and staying a “teacher” is a heart-felt, passion-driven avocation. It is the teachers, who will understand, and it is schools where “Integral” could make the biggest bang for the cultural shift buck by bringing integral principles to bear on and with the kids.

I think education, that is, professional level courses for teachers, personal level for parents, and flexible, mastery-level-based, curriculum for kids is a good way to provide a map for kids to grow up and participate in life. Teachers I believe would embrace and adopt, “transcend and include”, the underlying theory if they were targeted with an education campaign. By targeting the practitioners and the institutions and cultures of education, changes can be made in the hearts and minds of people -> a citizenry. And that is needed.

Using the “Climate Reality Project” led by Al Gore, as a good example, I think Integral Theory, could be brought to educators as a clear path to better lives for our own kids. I like their approach, providing free weekend level training in different parts of the country, that physically brings people together, forming wide networked relationships and support. And then following on with a commitment to do 10 things in their own community to further the broader understanding.

While I think Integral Life and the seminars and conferences the Integral Community does are valuable, it simply targets the really committed and/or affluent enough Integralist. Most can’t afford it. Culture change led by that community needs to be much more accessible and cheap to make the impact needed. As a community, we are rich with thinkers. Do we have the longer term will, the “Q2-We” practitioners, and the skill to guide cultural change in an integral direction? Is that desirable? How could that be funded?

What do you think? And what could it look like?

Inspired by:
Imagining the Tipping Point: How will Integral memes show up in popular culture - started here but did not fit the topic

Asa9’s Reply to "What single issue do you think could most benefit from an Integral approach? - tangent off this one.

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Without yet spending a lot of time reflecting on all that’s been said here, I wanted to reply with a few “off the top of my head” remarks. I think your post, Integral Explorer, reflects what many of us feel–the desire for a speedier entrance of the Integral approach into mainstream culture. I myself go back and forth as to the benefits of allowing Integral to unfold in a somewhat organic fashion as it’s doing, and wanting us to, as you say, “guide cultural change in an integral direction” in a more direct and intentional way.

I think it’s important to remember the immense productivity and generosity of spirit of Ken Wilber and Integral Life and spin-offs. There is a lot of free material online for people without resources, and while it may not take the place of in-depth conferences or integral-oriented higher education, there’s definitely enough there for anyone with adequate initiative to learn, and learn a lot. I also feel uplifted when I’m reminded, as I was a few weeks ago during a Ken Show conversation with Corey, that the integral approach has already been applied to 63 different disciplines. That’s no small feat.

I also think Integral theory is probably being used in places unbeknownst to most of us. I remember a few years ago, a neighbor girl in the town where I used to live asking me for help with a project she was working on in one of her college courses. When I looked at what she had been assigned to do, I was surprised to see it was the Integral 4-quadrants in which she had to frame her project. Yes, she was attending an alternative college, which is more progressive than usual, but still, that was delightful.

In some of the groups connected to my own work over the years, I’ve introduced the integral framework and people love it, particularly the stages of development. They get to “point the finger” and identify people in their lives at that stage; of course, this is natural, looking at other’s altitude, but I’m confident they “bring it back home” to themselves as well. I remember one course focusing on Ego, Shadow, and Spirituality. There were a couple of high school teachers in that group, who loved the 3-2-1 process for addressing shadow; they saw it as a useful tool not only in their personal lives, but in dealing with their “difficult” students as well. Go figure.

Point being, and I remind myself of this as much as I do anyone else, I think integral is infiltrating culture in ways in which we’re not aware. And I think there’s always more we can do. I receive newsletters from a 600-member local chapter of a national politically progressive organization. I don’t attend their meetings or march/protest (not my thing), but I do insert myself into their conversation at appropriate junctures. For instance, they occasionally have a books/media section, offering suggestions to their membership for education. They “vet” all suggestions that come from the membership before including any idea. I was able to get them to list The Daily Evolver as a resource, and am still hoping they’ll list Terry Patten’s book “A New Republic…” but their focus right now is on voter education/registration, so it may be a while. Point being here, there are many small things we each can do to keep spreading the word in our individual communities.

When I saw the sequel last year to Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth,” the Climate Reality Project was highlighted in the film. I thought at the time, this is a great idea. But I did not think of it in terms of the approach being used by Integral, as you’re mentioning here.

Addressing educators in some ways seems like a no-brainer, given that Integral theory itself relies upon its practitioners being educated in the model. While most of us love the books, I think the average person finds the material too dense, too sophisticated, and too intellectually challenging, so while they may (and in my experience, do) relate whole-heartedly when being taught the basics of the framework face-to-face, they’re not motivated to study on their own. I think that’s what the Climate Reality Project does, is train and encourage their volunteers to present the information in the most basic way, and to be able to say “I don’t know” to questions that arise for which they truly don’t know.

I’m sure there’s more that we don’t know about what’s being done around the topic of integral theory and education. But in general, I had a positive response to your suggestion, again, without having yet reflected in-depth on it. Thanks for putting the subject forward.


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I’m an educator. I completed the undergraduate coursework and internship for secondary education and then, being unable to find a local job in my field (the positions were occupied), I began work at the local community college as “Instructional Support/Tech”, where I used a large portion of my time to continue pursuing my personal inquiry in how to provide comprehensive education to all people in order to facilitate continued cultural evolution.

From my experience, teachers are required to study human development along the line of cognition. The important lines of development of: consciousness, self-identity, values, etc. are often ignored. There is a bit of diversity here, because of academic freedom and the chance that an instructor at the college level is really keeping up to date with the latest research.

I’d agree that is not the norm.

During my internship, almost all of the teachers I encountered communicated to me something along the lines of: “You’re too optimistic and hopeful about how things can change. You’ll lose that as soon as you gain any experience.”
I’m not sure staying a teacher in the current system is a sign of heart-felt passion, as much as a submission to the limitations of the current system. Lots of great teachers try to do their best within these constraints, but if you innovate too much and your classroom test scores go down, then you get removed or reassigned in order to maintain funding.

As far as institutions which already exist, I’d have to agree. However, there are so many barriers to the initial adoption of Integral approaches into education (especially political), that relying solely on the educational institutions will be slow.

I agree for the most part. I would point out that competency level and mastery level are different and it’s important to be aware of the differences. It’s especially important to require competency across subjects and skills as part of the K20 system and offer but not require mastery, unless you intend to dilute the term “mastery” to mean something other than “ability to independently contribute additional high-quality research/analysis in the mastered field”. Competency is the level at which a person’s skills and knowledge are adequate to function as an adult in a variety of environments and situations (or as you say, grow up and participate in life). One of the main purposes mastery and competency levels would serve is to help everyone understand that growth and learning are lifelong endeavors.

Our current normative grade system supplies a false sense of mastery and competency to kids who experience limited challenge due to the normative focus of classes. In the lecture format (most school buildings are still arranged for this format as the primary means of learning), the lecturer can only move as fast as the slowest audience member. To move faster is to leave that student behind, whereas it’s possible to give faster students additional challenges to work independently as they await the continuance of the lecture. The lecture is a very outdated and ineffective form of learning, but it’s still how most schools are set up. Why are the schools so reluctant (have failed) to apply educational research?

I think this could definitely have an impact, but speaking from personal experience, those who really want to see significant changes in education (like myself), tend to be pushed out of educational spheres of influence with mocking and dismissal of innovative ideas as impractical and naive, even when research indicates high potential for effectiveness. A lot of the folks who’ve managed to stay in the education system for a long time do so by accepting powerlessness to make significant changes and devoting energy to other facets of their lives. So only a portion of educators would be open to attending and learning from these workshops, especially if the workshops indicate a high need for systemic adjustment, like moving past the lecture format of instruction.

There are a lot of resources available without having to become a member of Integral Life. Most of the human development research (Loevinger, Cook-Geuter, Graves, Beck, Cowan, Piaget, Pavlov, Skinner, Mezirow, Boyd, Erikson, Gardner, Kegan, Kohlberg, Maslow, etc.) which is included in the AQAL map is available online (via wikipedia and blogs or partially available via google books preview) and/or locally (public libraries and university libraries) for free. I found Integral Life at the beginning of this year as part of my personal inquiry (of the last 6 years) into how to provide comprehensive (Integral) education to all persons so that culture could continue to evolve.

As LaWanna said:

This community forum provides an additional resource for free by providing the opportunity for feedback and discussion.

As to longer term will… I’m going to continue working on my project and I hope that I can continue to gain insight (and in the future feedback) through participating in this integral community.

I don’t quite understand what it means to be a Q2 practitioner. I have always had to study Q2 in order to make sense of social interactions and become better at predicting patterns, but it is quite possible that I’m biologically disadvantaged in this quadrant.

Oh so many skills are needed. I’m sure, collectively, we have them… and they’re probably already being applied, at least somewhat.

It’s certainly my desire to do so. It has been my mission (more or less) for the last 6-8 years and will remain my mission until it has been achieved or I am no longer able to work towards it.

Funding is a tricky one, as many people don’t value learning or growth and even those who do on a cognitive level, will often stubbornly refuse to see the opportunity for growth when it comes to self-identity or consciousness. My thoughts on this (and currently pursuing this strategy) are to incept folks with the value of growth and in continuing to grow their selves and consciousness without necessarily telling them that’s what they are doing. Specifically through structures and incentives which provide a variety of rewards and reinforcers for the pursuit of growth until the cultural tipping point where education and growth are valued enough for folks to want to directly invest in it regardless of political views.

I’m looking forward to reading what others bring to this important conversation. Thanks for posting it!

I think that teachers could most definitely be the Secret Weapon of Cultural Evolution! My son is 5 years old and getting ready to start kindergarten in a few weeks. He’s been in a public special needs pre-school for the past two years and the dedication, kindness, creativity, compassion, and patience of his teachers has renewed my faith in humanity. Teaching isn’t a job or even a career, it’s a calling. I think the condition of our public schools and the treatment of our kids’ teachers is a sad reflection of our cultural values. I would love to see the annual salaries for public school teachers and professional athletes swapped!

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Could teachers be the secret weapon for cultural evolution? Yes… maybe.

What is the purpose of a school education?
Ultimately its about 3 things:

  1. occupational preparation
  2. the cultivation of citizenship
  3. self-development

School heavily maintains/influences our society, culture and beliefs about self.

HOW we go about educating is influenced by our values, or roughly speaking our stage of development.


Well, each stage has a different idea about the world, and therefore different beliefs about how to best prepare you for it.
How should children & adolescence spend their time?
Look to school to see the lived answer our society offers.

Could teachers be the secret weapon? Perhaps, but the problem is the impact of a teacher doesn’t “scale” well.
Could changes to our curriculums, educational practices, educational environments, educational norms be a secret weapon? I believe so, alongside a tipping point of incredible “integrally operating” teachers.

If you want to influence the workforce, citizenry or the beliefs of self, you have an opportunity to do so in school.

In this podcast I go into depth about what blue, orange, green and yellow versions of school look like. I’m offering it to listen to instead of me typing an essay here, but I’d be happy to carry on the discussion here if anyone wants to contend with the ideas in it.

(Thanks LaWanna for encouraging me to post here)


rmacleodb, I’ve listened to the first hour or so of the RE/EP8 podcast (you’re just starting with the Development value), and while I’m not an educator in schools, and therefore perhaps not a good judge, it actually strikes me as very good, and really thorough, right down to how classrooms are set up, what’s on the walls and such. Can you give a little of the backstory as to these podcasts? Why they were made, to whom they’re directed, etc. Along with doing some other reading, I’m getting a good education about education. Your DJ-like voice and crisp enunciation makes them easy to listen to. Thanks.

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I’m so interested in where you are going with this podcast!

I would agree that the podcast describes pretty accurately this interplay between value forces, environments, and methods applied to education. I’m greatly looking forward to the future podcasts and hope they will help inform the development of my educational game application, which focuses on transformative development of the user, to maximize its effectiveness.

I’m a little impatient with the discussion format of the podcast, possibly due to my preference to systemize information. I think I would have preferred a format where consistent comparisons were made (providing examples for each value instead of reacting to a keyword with a single value and then moving on to the next -
I totally get that part of that was done to keep it at a manageable time). I’d appreciate the future discussions regardless of how structured they are, but I suspect I’d glean more out of them with more structure and consistency.

I think you really hit the nail on the head when you said that the ambition value is holding our schools hostage, which was part of what I was trying to point to in my previous post on this thread and another thread asking about education (though I was speaking more about the mechanisms which allow such hostage taking and its effects on teacher morale in this thread).

I’m sure you’re aware of this already (and perhaps have a different way of viewing it), but it wasn’t mentioned explicitly in the podcast, so I thought I’d offer this reiteration of the mechanism for this thread:

Part of the reason the ambition value is able to hold the education system hostage (as mentioned in the podcast) has to do with the way schools are funded (FTEs in the US) and the unhealthy expression of ambition (orange) value dominance in our cultures. A mechanism (weapon) of arresting the potential for changes is politics. School politics often lean a bit more towards progress, but politics still have schools on a short lease with funding, so they can never really get too far from the dominant or local culture. There is some stability in this mechanism, but it also prevents quick adaptation to changes in the environments (physical and cultural).

I’m greatly looking forward to the next podcast release next week. Thanks for producing these discussions, they are so useful!

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