It’s obvious to me now that I am in great need of collaboration with other integral educators.
As a way of collaborating, I have taken time here to reflect on Feldman’s article. I will probably go through each of these essays that Corey has provided us and do the same. I am dogged, if nothing else.
Amen to what Feldman offers here amazingly 15 years ago and I am recognizing how these ideas are just starting to trickle down. In 2007, I did not have these clearly articulated goals for my classroom, although, I think I intuitively conducted my classes to explicitly include exercises which forced a recognition of the subjective experience. I think it is my discipline of Language Arts which mandated this, because I was teaching writing and recognition of the inner voice is imperative. But somehow I have come to many of Feldman’s same conclusions since then, seemingly on my own. Particularly the reflection on how the Age of Enlightenment wrestled hegemony from the church and how this determination shaped the disciplines and our thinking about reality. The other conclusion with which we agree is the identification of this contemporary time being a Second Axial age.
I love the identification of how we came up with our curricular models based on the different scientific disciplines and what kind of data is collected. Every teacher needs to know this. My concern is that teachers/people aren’t even aware of the origin of the disciplines and the kind of cognitive habits they inculcate. These disciplines are presenting an assumption (by default) that reality may be transcribed by observable measureables. And most of us are unaware of these implications and consequences.
What I read here in Feldman’s essay, is an individual teacher’s account of successful classroom practices. From this account, there can be no doubt that Ms. Feldman is one of those teachers who makes a difference in her students’ lives. The problem is, without some coherence in the rest of the student’s educational experience not only do these skills get lost in a sea of positivist approaches, the lack of coherence may even cause some further confusion, if not interference. What we need to do, it seems to me, is to start working on how the Four Quadrants may actually be the basis of our curricular models. I am still not sure exactly how to do that in this moment, but I think that is the ultimate goal.
I provide an example of this interference with Feldman’s opening question to the class:
“On that first day, I inquire of these young adults what they are most hoping will be the end result of their ten months with me.” This question does remind me of prompts I have used many times in my classes before. The problem with these kinds of questions is, if students have been already conditioned to think that the goal of schooling is to get a good grade, they cannot authentically answer this quest. The “measureable” outcomes (our transcripts) of schooling will always take precedence over the discreet experiences with individual teachers. A kind of “the medium is the message”, if you will. I have been thinking a lot about outcomes as well and have discovered an interesting proposal which: “opportunity freedoms”. I link a paradigm shifting idea by Pierre Bourdieu and Amartya Sen here for those who are curious. Although I realize, being able to grapple with qualitative outcomes as these is even further off.
Feldman offers many excellent class activities. Maybe we could set out to centrally compile these? It might be useful to create a cache of “Integral in the Classroom” lesson plans. We, teachers, love excellent lessons plans that inspire us and our students.
As we organize our knowledge here in the West, I can’t help wondering how our preoccupation on the trajectory of Western civilization might also be limiting. Feldman notes how Interior empiricism goes back to Plato. In addition, I would offer Lu Ji’s “On Literature”, a foundational text in Chinese literary criticism that actually explains this skill in an experiential way. When are we going to integrate the Western worldview with the Eastern? As a side note, I think Bruce Lee had embodied this East-West integration way before his time and somehow, it was not a dichotomy that could be reconciled in the 1970s.
While I may even disagree with some of the characterizations of exactly where Marx, Piaget, Freud, Jung, etc. fit in the quadrants, given my own vantage and how I am perceiving the texts, (For instance, while Marx-Lenin ideologies did favor the exterior-collective, in my interpretation, this preference would in turn improve the individual experience, if the argument were extended.) Regardless, it’s the processes of thinking and the meta-cognition that engagement with the Four Quadrants elicits that is truly the goal now, ie: skills not content.
Borrowing a perhaps tired metaphor, as drops of water in the sea, none of us alone are going to make the difference we need to change the educational tides. You all identify as Integral Educators, so I know I am not just speaking into the wind which is the way I feel in mainstream schools now. Unfortunately, it seems that no one, not even the great Ken Wilber, will be able to do this for us. If our educational systems remain the same, I honestly can’t imagine a viable future. Schools have to fundamentally change and not be subject to what Feldman calls and what we have all experienced as “program of the month”. Piecemeal individual approaches simply don’t work.
When can we get together to talk about our next steps?