The Process of Being Human in
classroom dimensions of the SunWALK model of holistic education
This paper was originally prepared for the International Conference on Process Thinking, Integrated Education and Higher Education Reform
Yancheng, Jiangsu Province. China, April 6 – 10, 2005
Dr Roger Prentice
Director, Holistic Education Institute
email: rogerprenticeATbigfoot.com (substitute @ for AT)
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” Marcel Proust
The SunWALK model of education is based on a process view of being human – the flow of the life-force or ‘chi’.
The model sees the key challenge for education as establishing the spiritual-moral and the creative-subjective as co-equal modes of being with the mode that currently dominates; the reasoning-objective.
The human spirit is seen as the three intrapersonal dimensions or ‘voices’ with which we engage with reality – Caring, Creativity and Criticality.
The fourth ‘C’, Community’ includes the interpersonal-social and the cultural.
Teaching and learning, inspired by principles evident in contemporary worldviews, as well as perennial philosophy, are presented as the development of consciousness, and abilities in, these four ‘Cs’.
Development is seen as being brought about via processes of dialogue, service to the community and the creation and deconstruction of ‘texts’. The texts are seen as being chosen as ‘higher-order expressions’ from within the arts, humanities and sciences.
The arts, humanities and sciences are seen as the cultural co-respondents of the three ‘I, WE and IT voices’ in which (after Ken Wilber) we engage with reality, seeking subjective, moral and objective forms of truth.
It is through socialization, in the family, community and school that we internalize the I, WE and IT modes of discourse, drawing on whatever, arts, humanities and sciences that prevail in our society.
In SunWALK we study texts, including the text of self, in a ‘nest’ of contexts. That nest of contexts includes family, classroom, community and the ultimate context of the Whole.
NB Diagram 1 and the accompanying text indicate some of the core elements and meanings in the SunWALK model of education. The diagram/logo and summary have been placed here so that the reader may refer back as s/he reads the article.
The Process of Being Human in Educational Discourse –
a dimension of the SunWALK model of holistic education
In truly useful models education is seen as process. It is the flow of the human spirit in the dialogic interactions between teachers and students, and between students and the texts that are chosen for study. However to ove- emphasize process is to ignore the complementary importance of that which is relatively fixed – that is to say any river flows down a river bed.
In education structures serve the function of fixity (i.e. of being fixed). The river bed is fixed, (apparently, relatively), in order that the river might flow unfixedly. The river bed enables the river to flow and in education it is ‘educational structures’ that facilitate, or hinder, the spirit of education to flow.
Many things constitute education’s river bed. These include, national legislation, school policy, tradition, cultural forms. The true spirit of education however is the human spirit of the teachers, and of the pupils. If we are lucky we can also add the spirit of the parents and community members – that is of all the stake-holders in the education of the children.
As in arts and crafts we have spirit and form. By process I mean the flow of the spirit of education which is the flow of the spirit of those who have a stake in what a school does. By form I mean all of the laws, customs and procedures that shape that process.
I believe that society in the West is in crisis. In part it is in crisis because of the crisis in education. That crisis is simply that almost all attention is paid to structural matters and almost no value, attention and resources are invested in coming to know better the flow of the spirit.
My SunWALK model seeks to redress the imbalance between form and spirit and it also seeks to provide a different way to think of form and of how form shapes spirit, just as in the potter the hands, together with the clay, embody the spirit.
An idea that seems to have had value in both East and West is that ultimately all is one – but most of the time that doesn’t cook any rice – or as a saying in England goes, like kind words it doesn’t butter many parsnips! We need to bring back into the centre of education the perennial wisdom of the East and the West. An important part of the wisdom is to re-cognize education. In particular we need to put process back centre stage and we need to re-cognize the process-structure, spirit-form relationships.
If you share this vision I am willing to learn, and help.
NB Readers might want to skip through the introduction.
Part I – Introduction
I am a stranger come amongst you! In aspiring to be an expert generalist I find myself something of a stranger in many places – usually a welcome stranger – as I feel with you ‘process’ scholars. To be a student of Holistic Education as I am is to inevitably cast your net widely. So for both these reasons I ask you to listen for the music between the lines and not to judge too harshly someone who has stumbled into your Whiteheadian camp!
John E Cobb (2004:6) has my gratitude for his broad and general definition of your ‘stamping ground’. He tells me that process thought is any style of thought that sees events and processes as more fundamental than self-contained entities such as the physical objects we see and touch. I hope I will qualify for temporary membership on that score even if I may not be a dyed-in-the-wool Whiteheadian! Dibben and Kelly (2004) in their analysis of the state of the ‘process nation’ tell me that much of what Whitehead says can be articulated without the complex language he uses. You have no idea of the sense of relief I felt when I read this – though I am not certain as to whether the task of non—complicated articulation of process philosophy has yet been completed? They also say that the further progress of process thought rests on resolving problems that are a) recognized as important and b) have hitherto been found recalcitrant. Encouraged by the welcome I’ve had extended to me I hope that you will recognize the problems I set up here and that you might also see my proposed solution as at least a worthwhile contribution – and a process one. Might I suggest that in addition to the relevance of process thought in the analytic tradition there is also the need for healthy two-way traffic between process theory and process at the coal-face, or in my chosen field the ‘chalk-face’. What does it look, feel, sound, taste and smell like if you are a process-oriented teacher – in the swim of it? Hence my title The Process of Being Human in Educational Discourse and hence the classroom video material to go with an associated workshop. I also have in mind a second kind of two-way traffic, in this case between what broadly we might call the (traditional) ‘Eastern’ and (post-Enlightenment, so-called) Western worldviews. Huston Smith (1989:199-204) addresses this ethnocentricity in the West by writing about what he calls the Modern Western Mindset (MWM). The MWM Smith argues is characterized by focus on one domain as being reality per se. As Sloan says (1983:10) that domain concerns the quantitative, the material and the procedures of scientific method. All other ways of knowing in the MWM are deemed un-real, non-existent, and insufficiently valuable or are simply de-legitimized through neglect. The MWM cannot deal with higher-order values (except by counting instances), ‘why’ and ‘ultimate’ questions and most of the concerns that really matter in being human.
In the last decade’s development of the SunWALK model I have sought to include that which is Western but to do so in a wider context that can also include the ‘Eastern’. I am sure I will in my visit to China get some help in developing further the little knowledge I have to date of what might be referred to as ‘Eastern’.
My title The Process of Being Human in Educational Discourse: classroom dimensions of the SunWALK model of holistic education clearly has at least four elements; the SunWALK model which includes a view of being human and of educational discourse and some wider issues of process. I will present a summary of the SunWALK model, including its view of what it is to be human and its use of educational discourse and in doing so discuss what I see as some of the process implications. I will try to bring out the model’s rootedness in the classroom as the workshop video shows.
Utilizing two metaphors I start with a definition:
The process of teaching in SunWALK is centred in the consciousness of the teacher as s/he conducts the discourse that we call education. But to teach is to stand in a flow that doesn’t emanate from the teacher. To stand in that flow is like standing in a river and the flow is the life-force that flows through the children. That life-force, and the teacher’s consciousness in relation to that life-force, is the raw energy, the raw material, of teaching and learning. With healthy, bright children I have also compared the process to driving behind a husky team, especially in the exhilaration of higher-order dialogue – you might (just) have control over the general direction but the energy and a lot of the rest springs from them. The children are a flow of life force. Teachers and parents can make interventions, preferably wise interventions into that life-force but they cannot appropriate it.
The poet Khalil Gibran expresses the limitation that one generation has in relationship with upcoming generations. In his poem The Prophet Gibran says:
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.” And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
If we subscribe to such a process, holistic and ‘Eastern’ view of education we have to choose a model and a set of tools that will equip the teacher to do his or her job appropriately. The SunWALK model provides a frame-work and set of tools that are characterized by being process-orientated, holistic and ‘Eastern’ as well as ‘Western’. SunWALK as a new model of education is designed to reflect the paradigm shift represented by such movements as the development of process philosophy, the ‘new physics’ and other such paradigmatic movements. Whether these are best seen as a single shift or as several (the reader must decide but either way) there is the need for a ‘new education’ one that responds to the changes that have occurred. Even more importantly we need to teach for the probabilities of tomorrow – consequently we need an education that squares up to those changes and challenges that are likely to occur over the next decade or two.
The need I suggest is for a degree of radicality that society will not readily rise to – as with climate change the comfortable and privileged present as enjoyed by ‘those that have’ presents us with a very powerful degree of inertia. In education the shift need is not less than the changes needed to reverse C02 emissions and the melting of polar ice caps.
The SunWALK model wasn’t developed from a strictly ecological perspective. I was in teaching and I wanted to understand what instinctively and intuitively it was that I was doing. The model grew out of my teaching, and out of my consciousness and subjectivity as a teacher. The model is radical in that it paradigmatically shifts the main focus of education toward a range of ‘new’ dimensions or at least toward a more balanced position on such dimensions. For example;
from the individual as a unit of future productivity to that of being wholly human
from the material to the spiritual,
from a concern with fragments to a concern with the Whole and its parts
from knowledge as trading in ‘stuff out there’ to knowledge as being and
becoming via multi-level dialogue.
from the competitive acquisition of ‘having’ to self-realization – through
being and acting in service
from teaching as ‘instructing’ and ‘training’ to education as nurturing and
from repetition and reproduction to the raising of consciousness and the
solving of problems
from merely technical learning to technical learning within the context of being
and becoming human – in the world with others.
However such shifts are secondary to the most simple but challenging shift, which is the shift to education as the nurturing of the flow of the human spirit – as a river flows, as life-energy or ‘chi’ flows (the reader might like to look immediately at the ‘nub’ of the model section below SEE Part 1). This of course echoes the idea that we are spiritual beings having an embodied experience – spiritual in the broad sense, not allied to any particular belief system.
SunWALK was developed in my doctoral thesis. It was chiefly forged out of the daily teaching of English with, mainly, 12 to 13 year olds in a Roman Catholic middle school plus work with youth groups and adults. The thesis was entitled Spiritualizing Pedagogy: education as the art of working with the human spirit and it sees being human as process and discourse as the heart of educational process. However to over emphasize process is to ignore the complementary importance of that which is relatively fixed – the river flows down a river bed. We know that the river-bed is ultimately process just as the river is process. But temporarily it serves the function of being fixed – of being the form for the river as the clay is the form for the spirit of the potter. It may be the ultimate truth that all is one – but most of the time that doesn’t cook any rice – or as a saying in England goes, it doesn’t butter many parsnips! We live in a contingent world in which duality not oneness is the means by which we develop intellectually and spiritually. However to remain in duality with no awareness of the oneness beyond is equally undesirably to asserting that all is process. We need process and (semi) permanent structures; we need form as well as spirit.
Our mainstream education is notoriously conservative and is, so I will argue, unnecessarily complicated. SunWALK is a radical way to simplify educational modelling without losing the best of contemporary thinking, and, indeed, the best of the wisdom of the past. This broad concept of wisdom also means that we can respect, and draw upon, the total treasure-house of our planet’s many and varied cultures. Celebrating diversity, and the oneness that is at the centre of reality, can provide the guiding principles – for education as well as for the unification of the family of humankind. The alternative seems to be that we more agonizingly get forged into greater unity through such catastrophic events as the recent Tsunami disaster. Such events and the worldwide compassionate response to them belie the postmodernist claim that there is no grand narrative. In the SunWALK model of education the eternal grand narrative is the ‘story of stories’ – of being and becoming human in the world – with others. Story is one of the major means for making of the parts a whole. It is the chief means by which we make sense of our life experiences.
With regard to ‘story’ the thesis developed what has been called a new form of methodology, named ‘applied autoethnography’. Autoethnography is an established, but still emergent, form of qualitative research. Described by Ellis and Bochner (2000) it is:
an autobiographical genre of writing and research that displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultural. Back and forth autoethnographer’s gaze, first through an ethnographic wide-angle lens, focussing outward on social and cultural aspects of their personal experience; then they look inward, exposing a vulnerable self that is moved by and may move through, refract, and resist cultural interpretations – see Deck, (1990); Neuman, (1996); Reed-Danahay, (1997). As they zoom backward and forward, inward and outward, distinctions between the personal and cultural become blurred, sometimes beyond distinct recognition. Usually written in first-person voice, autoethnographic texts appear in a variety of forms – short stories, poetry, fiction, novels, photographic essays, personal essays, journals, fragmented and layered writing and social science prose. In these texts, concrete action, dialogue, emotion embodiment, spirituality, and self-consciousness are featured, appearing as relational and institutional stories affected by history, social structure, and culture, which themselves are dialectically revealed through action, feeling, thought and language. (RP’s underlining and italics)
In the underlined elements, and the italicised passage, in the above quotation perhaps there are important connections with principles in process philosophy.
The notion then of auto-ethnography applied to specific objectives, such as developing a new model, aims specifically at utilizing the creativity that lies within individual life experience. It is a method particularly relevant to the creative and moral spheres just as scientific methodology is appropriate for the investigation of objective reality via science. The present writer takes the view that included in the purpose of the education is the subjective manifestation of potential in response to tasks using tasks that utilize the cultural – cultural being all of the artefacts, beliefs and procedures within what we call the arts, the sciences and the humanities. Conversely there is a dis-empowering of the individual when there is the belief that knowledge is only ‘stuff out there’ (cultural content) and that it is to be handed down from on high by those few that know. This work’s against development[i][i]. – and the conditions for growth and development.
Three conditions often mentioned in this context are freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech. Now I want to make it clear here that I am making a pedagogical statement, not a political one[ii]. Western education seems to me to fail in the goal of developing the best balance between the subjective voice of the individual and the learning of the culture being passed on.
The conscience-thought-speech conditions of course have to be tempered with the rights of the group for security and general policy. However I suggest that the conditions are not luxurious and self-indulgent ‘rights’ in an extreme liberal society. They are nothing less than key dynamics for the whole (educational) system to work – if we are to have (holistic) development and growth. The conditions, I suggest, form the dialogic basis for education.
Perhaps these dialogical and dialectical principles go even deeper.
All created things, whether tangible or intangible, come into being as a result of the intercourse between two elements which assume the functions of male and female. This pattern is followed throughout the whole of creation…
Dialogue engages and nourishes subjective potential in the way that rain, soil and sun nurture the potential of the seed. In the West the rights of the individual, without the development of a mature sense of responsibilities toward the group or society, have been taken to excess. But dialogue, and the dialectical, gives the means to correct this imbalance.
Perhaps here we have the seed idea for bringing together dialectal and dialogical ideas.
Such methodology as autoethnography clearly owes something to the post-modern viewpoint[iii][ii]. What may be novel in ‘applied autoethnography’ is its applied use – applied in this case to developing a paradigmatic model of education out of deep reflection on experience – in ‘dialogue’ with a wide range of public theory.
In the thesis some twenty-five major problems were identified, to which the model seeks to provide answers. Here I present a few of the main challenges, and my suggested solutions, indicating process ideas that ‘speak’ to the particular issues. The paper is in two more parts. Part II – presents some general, foundational, concerns and Part III asks, and briefly answers, five core questions in relation to holistic education that is process-orientated and inspired by higher-order values.
Part II – SunWALK as a model for holistic education – some general, foundational, concerns
Will and vital energy are similar. Where the will goes, the vital energy follows.
Hong Yuan in Cleary 1991:29
When true knowledge flows, then knowledge and action advance side by side.
Hong Yuan in Cleary 1991:31
One cannot obtain the full force of the sunlight when it is cast on a flat mirror, but once the sun shineth upon a concave mirror, or on a lens that is convex, all its heat will be concentrated on a single point, and that one point will burn the hottest. Thus is it necessary to focus one’s thinking on a single point so that it will become an effective force. SAB: 10-11
What’s in a name – the nub of the model?
SunWALK as a name, and mnemonic, has two elements. Sun stands for whatever source of values the individual, or group, draws upon with which to illumine her/his ‘walking’ of the path of life. This light and inspiration is also seen as the source of the will to act – morally (or creatively or critically). WALK stands for the generalized goal of development in Willing Wise Action through Loving and Knowing. Will, Action, Love and Knowledge also correspond to the ‘Four Valleys’ as described by Julio Savi in his essay[iv][iii] entitled Will, Knowledge and love as explained in Bahá’u'lláh’s Four Valleys. This is the ‘what’ of the model, but what is the ’how’ of the model?
The ’how’ of the model is seen as the balanced, challenging and nurturing of the dimensions of the human spirit. The human spirit is seen as dynamic – always being expression in one of three voices: the ‘I’ voice of Creativity, the ‘WE’ voice of Caring and the ‘IT’ voice of Criticality (see Wilber 1998: 74). These three are interpersonally, that is socially and culturally, the arts, humanities and sciences but the focus in SunWALK is as corresponding modes, from within the individual’s spirit – through which we engage with reality.
Sooner or later the question arises as to what we should do with evil. Evil, or at least harm, comes from the absence of positives or from imbalance between the 3Cs – and their illumination by higher-order values or ‘virtues’.
To the three intrapersonal Cs in the model we must add the fourth C which is termed ’Community’. Community consists of a) the interpersonal and social dimension of all of our relationships – our being in the world with others – and b) the cultural from which we take all of the various stimuli, via socialization, through which to develop the three voices. Perhaps we might even say that naturally we develop the ‘I’ voice from what broadly we call the arts, the ‘WE’ voice from the Humanities and the ‘IT’ voice from science and philosophy. This starts in the (reasonably healthy) family, local community and earliest schooling. Our individualized version of the three voices, and our command, more or less, of reading the cultural milieu are shaped by the beliefs and values of the culture in which we find ourselves – as well as our personal beliefs and values.
Education, and civilization as a whole, needs the best possible balance between the personal and the group. Failure to enable the release of individual potential is harmful as is excess licence or group domination.
The need to stay connected to the perennial values of truth, beauty, goodness, justice and, transcending all, love
My educational studies in addition to their ‘higher-order values’ inspiration have had ‘perennial philosophy’, as the wider community co-equivalent source of inspiration for ‘holistic education’. Holistic education as a form of education is to be distinguished from other ‘labels’ such as ‘integrated education’ or the broader ‘alternative education’ because it puts the ‘Whole’ as greater than us, greater than any bits that we can fit together, greater than the sum of the parts. That is to say there is a mystical dimension intrinsic to the term ‘holistic education’ even though holistic education is not ‘faith-specific’. It is, most often centred on the eternal truths of ‘perennial philosophy’. Such eternal truths are of course to be found in many different world-views or wisdom traditions. The mystical connection is necessary to holistic education in that it is one of its defining characteristics. We may or may not have a religious belief but either way we are confronted with the fact that there is a Whole that is greater than us or our imaginations. This has ontological and situational consequences. Such being and relatedness is also described as the Whole, or, in Paul Tillich’s terms, the ground of all being, or Being-Itself.[v][iv]
The mystical connection to the Whole might enable us to maintain an open and prayerful stance toward our theory-making and our practice development and might consequently help us maintain a touch of humility in how we view educational challenges and our tentative solutions. Such a position is far from the ‘lust for certainty’ which is how the writer Karen Armstrong describes fundamentalism. Fundamentalism of course closes down the possibilities of true growth. Love on the other hand nurtures diversity as well as unity. Concerning love `Abdu’l-Baha’ says:
Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man,
the vital bond inherent,
in accordance with the divine creation,
in the realities of things……
Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries
latent in the universe. SAB: 27-28
The challenges of developing a new model of education are many. The range of concerns from which questions might be posed, is nothing less than vast. Here as in many challenges we have to set aside the important in favour of the most important but what is the most important concern when setting out to develop a new model of education? Over a number of years the most important question was sought – on which to construct a model of education. The question which was settled on was, ‘what is it to be human, positively and fully?’ This I suggest is the question to which all other educational questions need to relate.
The SunWALK model then focuses on a view of what it is to be human – in order to provide a clear model of education – a simple, but profound, way to reflect on educational practice and theory.
Toward a definition of holistic education – as used in SunWALK
What is Holistic Education? This is my working definition:
• Holistic Education is learning and teaching based on balancing all positive aspects of being, & becoming fully human – via the realization of interconnectedness & wholeness.
• Holistic Education seeks to provide for balanced engagement, expression and relatedness of the whole person: the physical, mental, affective, & spiritual – intrapersonally & interpersonally.
• Holistic Education seeks to balance content & process. It seeks to maintain balance between the intrapersonal dimensions of the human spirit – here termed the Caring, the Creative and the Critical. It also seeks to maintain a dynamic balance between personal and interpersonal-group concerns. The interpersonal, along with the cultural, political and legal dimensions of society are collectively referred to as ‘Community’.
Holistic Education using the SunWALK approach is seen as an answer to some of the key problems/challenges in education – its fragmentariness, obviously, but also the need for moral education to be integral throughout a model as opposed to being a bolt-on’ extra.
What kind of a mess is education in?
The state of education is an expression of the state of the wider society. In America many experts see their current situation as nothing less than a crisis. In the Hardwired to Connect report the experts say;
What’s the Crisis?
THE CRISIS COMES in two parts.
The first part is the deteriorating mental and behavioral health of U.S. children. We are witnessing high and rising rates of depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders,
thoughts of suicide, and other serious mental, emotional, and behavioral problems among
U.S. children and adolescents.
The second part is how we as a society are thinking about this deterioration. We are using
medications and psychotherapies. We are designing more and more special programs for
“at risk” children. These approaches are necessary. But they are not enough. Why? Because
programs of individual risk-assessment and treatment seldom encourage us, and can even
prevent us, from recognizing as a society the broad environmental conditions that are contributing to growing numbers of suffering children.
Inadequate parenting, or exploitation of children, is not the only forces that negatively impact on children and their teachers in the West. Political interference & manipulation, de-professionalization, prevalence of materialistic philosophies, a mechanistic world view, sheer poverty, poor teacher education etc. are just some of the issues that shape, or distort, education. So are all the world’s general ills, terrorism being the most recently brought to the foreground. We could list many such problems.
For me the chief negative characteristic of mainstream education is its fragmentariness, its lack of wholeness. Children are usually whole (unless suffering from extreme neglect or abuse) but the system progressively atrophies connections and connectedness. Should a process view see education as (necessarily) holistic?
For me religion is not important except in so far as it might provide two things. The first is the inspiration to be virtuous. Secondly the providing of insights – into useful ways to construe human nature and into learning to live harmoniously and cooperatively. Even given the horrendous history of the corruption and abuse of religions, and by religious groups, still it is a major source of these two benefits.
A range of statements concerning connectedness are to be found in one inspirational set of process writings. Examples are;
“…all parts of the creational world are of one whole.”, BWF p.364
“God contains all….The whole is greater than its parts…” PT pp. 23 27
“All that exists is God….” (AB in London p. 22)
“Every created thing in the whole universe is but a door leading into His knowledge,”
(GL p. 190)
“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment & is itself also deeply affected by it The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.” From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi 1933
Together these suggest both a view of reality and a way of proceeding. If all is God then all is sacred, all is connected, all potentially leads from and to Him. We need to proceed ever-conscious of two things; a) our connectedness and the need for the learner’s realization of, and in, connectedness and b) the infinitely Unknowable that lies behind the little we know and can know. In our humanness lies potentially all of the names and attributes of God. In humanity;
are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and attributes are applicable to him. Even as He hath said: ‘Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.’” Gl. p. 177
Yet beyond even the fullest expression of those names and attributes lies mystery – both immanent and transcendent. Mystery is the ever-present reality (and conditioner) as we look within ourselves and also as we look at all that is ‘other’ and ‘beyond’. A sense of Mystery and of the Whole should be ever present as we nurture thought, feeling and action in education. The writings of A. J Heschel (1965), in addition to other process writings, are a great inspiration in exploring awe, wonder and the ineffable as well as what it is to be fully human. Heschel sums up the limitations of reasoning and reminds us of the ultimate context of our knowing – the mystery of the whole – in this wonderfully prosaic way – “Concepts are delicious snacks with which we try to alleviate our amazement.” – A. J. Heschel, Man Is Not Alone p.7
The chief negative consequence of fragmentariness is here seen as alienation. Alienation breeds anti-social behaviour and possibly ill-health, and dis-ease. At the heart of alienation is meaninglessness. Meaninglessness saps the spirit and weakens any sense of identity and purpose. The solution to the negative effects of fragmentariness is meaning-full-ness. The creation of meaning-full-ness is both a personal and a community responsibility. In SunWALK rich meaning-making comes from 4Cs engagement and interaction with, and within, chosen higher-order texts experienced within higher-order contexts. Essentially higher-order texts celebrate the positive in being human. Essentially higher-order contexts concern virtues in service of others and the common good.
The chief positive consequence of wholeness, through connectedness, is seen as a sense of belonging and a sense of place and a sense of identity and, consequently, a sense of purpose. Thereby our ‘name is named’ as in,
“O son of man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.” AHW 4
which is seen as a process, not as a single completed act. Experientially this is the realization of a high degree of autonomy and authenticity – i.e. to have become one’s own (wo)man.
The concerns already discussed including identity, purpose, deep engagement, service are wholly relevant to the crisis that children and youth are experiencing in the Western world – and perhaps the world generally. The Hardwired to Connect[vi][v] report at enables us to see both a graphic portrait of the ills of our children and youth and also a way to help bring healing. The notion of the panel of thirty odd scientists who contributed to the report is to create ‘authoritative communities’. These can provide and challenge the development of identity, purpose, deep engagement, service so as to be healing. ‘Authoritative communities’ can also of course embody support in answering the age-old existential questions of philosophy including ‘who am I?’, ‘why am I here?’, ‘what is real?’, what is the purpose of my life?
The teacher’s viewpoint and simplifying the teacher’s job
The SunWALK model, and its application to holistic education, is presented from a teacher’s-eye-view of the teaching process. Its perspective focuses on her/his consciousness, decision-making, discourse-management, balancing of inner and outer concerns, environment management etc. as s/he conducts the actual process of nurturing others learning.
To illustrate the need for simplification I point to the UK National Curriculum which originally required primary school teachers to teach more than 200 ‘Attainment Targets’ for each and every child. This within no acknowledged philosophical or pedagogical framework – nor even an image of what it is that we are doing, or to whom or why it is being done. One of the consequences of the curse of ‘managerialization’ in education is the replacement of horticultural metaphors with war metaphors. Somewhere in the middle of delivering ‘bullets’ at 200 hundred targets were those humans, the teacher, the child and his or her friends and family.
In SunWALK, on the other hand, I suggest that (in the West, at least,) teachers need only ever teach the development of abilities within the dimensions of the 4Cs, three being intrapersonal, the other the interpersonal:
• Caring – abilities in other-focusedness – moral acts in service of others
• Creativity – abilities in construing reality via subjective expression
• Criticality – abilities in ‘reading’ reality via objective description
• - in Community – abilities in being and functioning with other individuals and groups – i.e. includes teamwork and citizenship
– all the rest is forms of information and processing
In SunWALK the emphasis is on more than information or skills, especially information and skills that are isolated from each other in relation to 200 targets. Contexts are as vital as texts and they both can be seen as processes. The supreme text is being and becoming human. The supreme context lies in being and becoming human in the world with others – and in the light of higher order values drawn from our ‘Sun’[vii][vi]. Within this overall text and context each item of information can resonate with meanings when the finest 4Cs processes are used. Writing curricula is a matter of refining these broad principles according to age-appropriate personal and social needs. All year groups need development and refinement in the broad concerns of the 4Cs – subjective expression via the arts in the case of Creativity, analysing, conceptualizing and making distinctions in the case of Criticality, concern for and service of others in the case of Caring – but the details, and specific content can be arranged according to maturational levels/year groupings. Interestingly even mainstream institutions are now starting to question the stranglehold of specialist subjects SEE the RSA’s ‘How Special are Subjects ?’ at http://www.rsa.org.uk/projects/publications.asp
Information on its own is inert. It becomes knowledge, or even wisdom, when it is placed in a context, particularly in a values context (assuming a modicum of raised consciousness in the person). Lower-order contexts tend to debase human activity. Here I am arguing for placing information, and all that we do in education in higher-order contexts. Lower-order contexts tend to provide for the greed of the individual, or group. Higher-order contexts tend to be concerned with the good of the whole. We need to stay consciousness of the contexts, whilst teaching ‘texts’[viii][vii]. In SunWALK the teaching of the technical is always seen as within the context of being and becoming more fully human. The ultimate context is of course the Whole, which is inevitably also Mystery. A sense of contexts, Wilber calls them a nest of holons (1998b: 61), is what provides richness and depth in significance and meaning. On the other hand lower-order contexts make narrower and shallower opportunities in significance and meaning.
The focuses of unbridled materialism, for example, robs children of the chance to grow into their wholeness. Materialism narrows the meaning that is made and the sense we have of what it is to be human and hence removes the true basis for happiness. The antidote to materialism is the spiritual, particularly in the sense of richness and depth of meaning made – as inspiration for service action. For this we need a sense of community, a sense of what it is to be human and a sense of our various histories.
Perhaps this is what the UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs had in mind when he said (BBC 1 12.9.04) that the future is built on memories. He spoke about how today’s children will become the guardians of memory, so that what we invest in them today will determine the legacy for tomorrow. Memory is what maintains our knowing of who we are – but we need the collective memories of humankind as well our personal memories. Together contexts and texts, dynamically interactive, they can provoke our development.
Rabbi Sachs said that children are the big time losers in our consumer–society because what we give them is material affluence and spiritual poverty. “Children grow to fill the space we give them,” the Chief Rabbi said. The space I suggest is determined by nest of contexts or holons with which we create the worldview within which we do our teaching. We need to keep hold of eternal values to resist the onslaught of exploitative materialism, and the dark side of the postmodernist world-view. In countries that are developing very rapidly materialization is a two-edged sword. So massively de-stabilizing is that onslaught that it would not be excessive to describe it as a spiritual tsunami. The only antidote or cure to de-humanization is re-humanization – which is why humanization is placed at the centre of the SunWALK model. Materialization needs to be balanced with a counterbalancing of spiritualization. Love of material transformation needs to be counterbalanced with spiritual transformation. For me I don’t care what a person’s belief system is – what matters is do they live their life with truth, beauty goodness and justice and the other higher-order values/virtues. Belief-systems are secondary to the expression of love for others, which is the common denominator of all virtues.
We similarly need balance between concern for the Whole and concern for parts. Wilber (1997:1) puts it like this:
“To understand the whole it is necessary to understand the parts. To understand the parts, it is necessary to understand the whole. Such is the circle of understanding.
We move from part to whole and back again, and in that dance of comprehension, in that amazing circle of understanding we come alive to meaning, to value, and to vision: the very circle of understanding guides our way, weaving together the pieces, healing the fractures, mending the torn and fractured fragments, lighting the way ahead – this extraordinary movement from part to whole and back again, with healing the hallmark of every step, and grace the tender reward.”
It is a bitter-sweet irony that we can only study holistic education fragmentedly. But we can live with a sense of the Whole – providing that we recognize that we have no ability to comprehend the Whole. Above all we do well to acknowledge the infinity of what we don’t know.
“Concepts are delicious snacks with which
we try to alleviate our amazement.”
– A. J. Heschel, Man Is Not Alone p.7
In applying my thesis and model here I needed to summarize (some aspects of) 12 years work. What did I get when I reduced more than 2000 books and papers, and many years of classroom ‘experience and reflection and study’ to a one sentence version of the model – consisting of approx 50 words?
The 50 word ‘one-sentence’ version of SunWALK?
The one sentence version of The SunWALK model of spiritualizing pedagogy (learning & teaching) sees human education as the:-
storied development of meaning, constructed, and de-constructed, physically, mentally & spiritually, through Wise & Willing Action, via Loving and Knowing – developed in Community through Dialectical Spiritualization processes (in all 4Cs) – all undertaken in the light of the ‘Sun’ of (chosen) higher-order values and beliefs, using the best available, appropriate, content.
These are the key elements, sifted from a total list of more than four hundred important concepts, and placed in a single, albeit, complex, sentence.
Presented as a list of elements the same one sentence version of The SunWALK model of spiritualizing pedagogy looks like this:-
1 the storied development of
3 constructed, and
5 mentally and
7 through Wise &
9 Action via
10 Loving and
11 Knowing developed in
12 Community through
13 Dialectical Spiritualization processes all undertaken in the light of
14 the ‘Sun’ of (chosen) higher-order values and beliefs
Each of these is a study in its own right, and will constitute chapters or sections in a forthcoming book version of the model, but there is no space here to do that, however in Part II I present a little more about five of the SunWALK model’s major themes.
Part III – Five Core questions, & issues, from the SunWALK model –
in relation to process–inspired education
The five themes, as questions are:
1) What is the central idea around which to build education?
2) Given that being and becoming human is the central idea how should
we structure education?
3) How is knowing and knowledge viewed?
4) What is the key process?
5) How should we develop the curriculum and its contexts?
1) Unity and the central idea around which to build education?
I suggest that the best answer to the question, ‘What is the central idea around which to build education?’ is the idea, briefly mentioned above, of ‘Being and becoming human, in the world with others, in the light of higher order values/virtues’. A ‘co-question’, ‘In what can we unite?’ also springs to mind’. I suggest that the answer to both is that we can unite in deeper and deeper understanding of what it is to be human – positively and fully – as guided by the best contemporary thought, coupled with ancient wisdom[ix][viii].
As a representative image of this human-centred modelling perhaps we can take the beauty of the human face. Beyond the beauty of the human face, in what then can we unite and in what can we co-operate? My answer is – in the universality of being human. We are human, here in the world, and our needs centre on the same realities. A student on a course on which I was teaching said, in answer to the question, ‘Where do human rights come from?’, ‘Human rights arise from human needs’. As is well known the psychologist Abraham Maslow described these needs and realities as being at eight levels.
Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs:
• 1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.;
• 2) Safety/security: out of danger;
• 3) Belonginess and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted; and
• 4) Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition.
• 5) Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore;
• 6) Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty;
• 7) Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one’s potential; &
• 8) Self-transcendence: to connect to something beyond the ego or to help
others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.
Human needs, and the rights and responsibilities attached to them, indicate the shared experience we have, and are as such grounded in such essential fellow-feelings as empathy and compassion. But this taxonomy of needs doesn’t tell us what medium it is with which the teacher works, in the way that the sculptor works with stone, or the painter with paint and canvas, or the dancer with body and space.
With what medium does the teacher-as-artist work – in the sense that the sculptor works with stone, or the dancer with her body in space?
My answer is the human spirit – her own and her pupils. How might we construe that spirit? My answer is as the flow of ‘spirit-as-the-life-force’ (chi?)
One analogy for the ‘flow of spirit-as-the-life-force’ is water flowing. Another analogy lies in the flow of energy as dancer dances. Another metaphor for ‘the flow of spirit-as-the-life-force’ is that of white light. These metaphors are the opposite of the mechanistic ‘human-as-computers’ or the older ‘humans-as-machines’ metaphors.
Since I see teachers as ‘developers of consciousness’[x][ix] I here am focusing on the idea of the life-force, in a normal person, culminating in (raised) consciousness. I also use the term interiority to refer to consciousness. By interiority I mean ‘affective awareness’ and ‘moral awareness’ as well as ‘cognitive awareness’ – hence my preference for ‘heart-mind’ as a term for interiority.
I am grateful to Professor Martin Cortazzi for pointing out that a unitive presentation of heart-mind has a long history. He tells me that heart-mind corresponds to ‘xin’ in Chinese, (sometimes transcribed as ‘hsin’). (Professor Peter Harvey of the University of Sunderland also points out that ‘citta’ in Sanskrit, as used in Indian Buddhism, has the same meaning)
Hansen (1989 p. 97) explains that ‘We use ‘heart-mind’ to translate xin. This is because the philosophical psychology of ancient China did not use a cognitive/affective contrast in their talk of well-honed human performance…’
He also points out (1992 p. 20) that ‘The common translation of xin as heart-mind reflects the blending of belief and desire (thought and feeling, ideas and emotions) into a single complex dispositional potential.’
Tu ( 1985 p. 32) provides further evidence in saying:
…the Confucian hsin [xin] must be glossed as ‘heart-mind’ because it involves both cognitive and affective dimensions of human relations. This ‘fruitful ambiguity’ is perhaps the result of a deliberate refusal rather than an unintended failure to make a sharp distinction between conscience and consciousness. To Yang-Ming [Wang Yang-Ming, neo-Confucian philosopher 1477-1529] consciousness as cognition and conscience as affection are not two separable functions of the mind. Rather, they are integral aspects of a dynamic process whereby man becomes aware of himself as a moral being. Indeed, the source of morality depends on their inseparability in a pre-reflective faculty.
Thoughts lead to feelings and vice versa. In the, post-Enlightenment West, the heart and feelings have been presented as an opposite to the ‘real thing’ i.e. to reason. As with the elimination of the secondary status of women, peace-building for the human family needs a re-balancing of heart and head and a re-legitimization of other ways of knowing!
Metaphorically undifferentiated consciousness I suggest can be viewed as white light. When the light is differentiated I suggest we be concerned not with a full spectrum but with just the ‘primary colours’. The primary colours of the human, the life-force in its spiritual form (i.e. all that is not-biological) can be seen as the red of the warmth of caring, the blue of cold reason, and the yellow of expressing creativity. (See logo diagram at the top of this article)
Seen as the three ‘primary colours’, Caring, Creativity and Criticality are not primarily ways of cognition, certainly not simply ways of thinking about. They are socially derived ways, (possibly coupled with ‘hard-wired’ ways) of being and of engaging with and acting in the world. Of course the brain is involved in all three modes – but not in the sense of reasoning. The 3Cs as presented here are modes of being and doing. It is true that caring draws upon both the creative, for example via imagination in empathy, and criticality, for example via estimating the seriousness of an act, but being moved by something and then moving is a different mode to thinking about issues[xi][x].
In the West it seems to me that ‘other ways of being’ are mistaken for simply different kinds of cognition or ‘thinking about’. Perhaps this is relevant to, for example, the feminist objection to the Kohlbergian developmental model of moral development (see Gilligan 1998). The evolution of moral maturity is not experienced by women as a step of improvement in reasoning. In general men, who hold the majority of the positions of power, are challenged by the idea that their way of being may not be the only valid way (much like some powerful nations whose ethnocentricity makes it difficult to understand that there are other worldviews.) Acknowledging other ways of knowing is vital for the paradigm shift, especially for a redress toward justice and peace – both require the establishment of the equality of women on the world’s stage. The 3Cs are spiritual in the sense of the ongoing manifestation of the human spirit, but they are not of themselves the Spiritual[xii][xi]. The Spiritual in the divine sense is seen as the voice of God that speaks via the Revelations of the Manifestations (but also to all, relatively, developed human consciousness) via God immanent; Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting (AHW: 13).
In the SunWALK model a quiet contemplative state of consciousness is metaphorically, the ‘white light’ state – the state when our spirit is dis-engaged from engagement via any one of the 3Cs. But from the contemplative we can ‘fire up’ into engagement – that is into Caring or Creative or Critical modes. We can move between modes in milliseconds e.g. through an ‘adrenaline rush’ through perceived danger.
Our psycho-spiritual life consists of events, which are interactions that come through Caring, Creative, Critical and Communal engagement. To ground these let me say this – Criticality is the mode we (writer and reader) are in now – but with the other two ‘ticking over’ in the background. Caring would be the mode of engagement if out of compassion we jumped up to care for someone who had fallen down. Creativity would be your mode of engagement if you took an idea and danced it as a dance, or developed a series of filmic images, or represented it in paint, or as a sculpture. My sense is that we are only ever in one mode – but the other two are in the ‘background’ – i.e. each is ‘supported’ by the others. We can ‘hover’ between two modes – but I suspect this means switching back and forth rapidly between two modes. The left hemisphere of the brain seems to have a particular role in what I call Criticality and the right hemisphere with Creativity. Caring and the moral dimensions calls upon both hemispheres. The moral dimension is an interiorization of moral voices in our families and cultures but requires Criticality e.g. for analysis and Creativity e.g. for imagination-empathy. Whatever brain science continues to reveal will be interesting – but not vital. The 4Cs as a way of approaching education do not stand or fall on brain research since they reflect much that is beyond such evidence: arts-sciences and humanities as academic cultural bodies; truth, beauty, goodness and justice as cardinal virtues; subjective, objective and moral knowing etc. The 4Cs structure enables us to work, practically and theoretically, with the eliciting, developing and refining of ‘raw’ spirit into appropriate and relevant abilities. The 4Cs is a framework to ensure that education is whole, and education that is whole can be instrumental toward the healing of our ailing world.
In SunWALK the teacher’s job is to develop abilities from within the framework and dynamics of Caring, Creativity, Criticality in Community – in the light of the ‘Sun’ of virtues/higher-order values. The rest is information, and ‘information processing’ utilized for the development of abilities in the 4Cs. Examples of such abilities are the ability to analyse, differentiate, classify etc in the case of Criticality. In the case of Creativity the abilities relate to the use of the various arts media to express viewpoints subjectively. In the case of Caring abilities include the capacity to empathise and act with compassion so as to help others. The model also relates to several of the Ancient Greeks’ cardinal virtues; truth (Criticality), beauty (Creativity) and goodness (Caring). Justice is the over-riding virtue in the social realm but is equally the virtue in interiority that enables us to see reality via each of the 3Cs. It enables us to develop both autonomy and authenticity. Justice is seen as the chief ‘conditioning’ influence in all of the four Cs.
Each mode or voice needs an exemplary way or process to enable its development in learners. For Criticality my exemplary process is Professor Matthew Lipman’s philosophical inquiry programme called Philosophy for Children. For Caring it is PROCESS teachings and, from a wider community perspective, perennial philosophy. For Creativity it is – ‘artistic’ expression in any of its forms.
The 3Cs relate to three domains; the moral, the artistic and the scientific. Epistemologically the 3Cs provide three forms of knowing – internalized via socialization – from their various forms of social and cultural embodiment – such embodiment being everything from family members, to the media and galleries and museums.
As teachers it is our use of task setting and questioning that provides the opportunities for challenging and nurturing abilities in all of the 4Cs. The questions & tasks we give to children help socialize development within the distinct modes of Caring, Creativity & Criticality and in working in Community. With very young children the task setting and questioning might be as simple as:
• “Please offer the grapes to everyone.” (Caring – Goodness)
• “Draw me a picture,’ or ‘Dance me a dance.” (Creativity – Beauty)
• “Is the green doll larger or smaller?” (Criticality – Truth)
Enlightened, responsible, parents of course get these processes started from the child’s earliest years and create a good foundation for the teacher to build on.
2) Given that being and becoming human is the central idea how should we structure education?
In SunWALK the 4Cs, become the overall structure for developing theory and practice. What does this mean? Theoretical developments are looked at in terms of their value for supporting further work via the 4Cs framework. We all have frameworks, we all construe [xiii][xii], but they are not always explicit or shared, not always articulated so that we know them.
In practice series of lessons need to be looked at in terms of enabling balanced development between the four Cs. The move to intensify one area might become apparent following reflection on the work pupils have achieved over the preceding weeks. Most important is the ‘juxtaposing of work’ especially the use of work from the criticality mode being used as a creative challenge, followed by the opposite i.e. creative work being used as the text for the next piece of philosophical inquiry. In my experience this ‘dialectic’ can become the most powerful form of pedagogy, and take the teacher and class into high-order ‘crossover’ experiences between the critical and the creative-meditative.
3) How is knowing and knowledge viewed?
Epistemologically two major shifts are seen as needed in education. The first is a shift from the mechanistic, atomistic view of knowledge as ‘stuff out there’ to knowing as a state of being and a process of engaging with the world. Education is still largely in a ‘transmissive’, ‘Newtonian’, mechanistic mode. The shift is more than a greater emphasis on experientiality or ‘learning through the mastery of doing’ – but it includes these re-emphases. It is even more an emphasis on being, and being in relationship with others, as opposed to individualistic, regurgitation of information that is largely meaningless to the learner, except for its instrumental value. The learner has to find meaning in forms of collective experience as well as in the personal. As Parker Palmer (1998) says in his book Courage to Teach;
“It is not enough to get the big story inside the student but we also have to get the student inside the big story.”
To escape from the dominance of ‘transmission’ a number of things have to be changed, most notably reliance on teaching that which can be tested in narrow, regurgitative ways. The answer here lies in a combination of self, teacher and peer evaluation that is cross-moderated right up to national level. Standards currently result in homogenization, which is the opposite of what is needed. We need standards but standards that are achieved via the principle of ‘harmony in diversity’, as opposed to standards that create homogenization.
The second shift is away from the ‘god’ of rationality into recognition of a range of ways of knowing. These can be seen as including women’s ways of knowing, indigenous people’s ways of knowing etc., but in SunWALK I am proposing that education needs to legitimize four ways of knowing that correspond to the 4Cs in the model and these are not gender specific or culture specific;
The subjective knowing that comes via the imagistic and other arts media -Creativity
The knowing that comes from focusing on others needs – Caring
The objective knowing that comes from observing, measuring, repeatability etc – Criticality
The interpersonal knowing that comes from being and working with others – Community
The first three forms of knowing correspond with the voices of ‘I’, ‘WE’ and ‘IT’ as described by Ken Wilber in several of his books(1998a, 1998b, 2000) .
In suggesting, as I do, greater emphasis on the other Cs I am not making an argument to diminish the rational. Far from it, since reasoning is taught abysmally in many schools. The exemplary process for criticality in SunWALK, philosophical inquiry, (Lipman’s Philosophy for Children[xiv][xiii]), shows us how to raise standards in reasoning – and reasonableness.
4) Q. What is the key process?
The key process for SunWALK is dialogue. It is dialogue that causes development that is worth having. Dialogue presupposes at least an element of innate knowing in human reality. Professor of Mathematics education Gene Maier emphases the vital difference between education and training;
“Educate” stems from educere, to lead out, a Latin word that lives in Modern English as “educe”. “Train” is from the French traîner, to drag behind one, as in “bridal train.” Thus, we have two disparate metaphors for teaching: leading out or dragging behind.[xv][xiv]
The chief purpose of dialogue, and philosophical inquiry, as in Lipman’s Philosophy for Children, is to educe, to lead out – as in Bahá’u’lláh’s
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom. (Baha’u'llah: Gleanings, Page: 260
I extend the notion of dialogue into four forms to correspond with the four Cs and four ways of knowing;
1 Caring = d. with and in the heart & with & in relationships – d. in other-centredness
2 Creativity = d. with and in and through the materials of the chosen medium – focused on expression of the subjective worldview (in the meditative) voice – to generate insight subjectively
3 Criticality = d. with and in texts (math., philosophical, critical) focused on expression of the
objective voice – to generate insight objectively
4 Community = d. in and with people (or artefacts) that are part of the cultural, legal, social & political milieu – this form of d. includes the purpose of maintaining & developing the social/cultural milieu
The Western separation of affect and cognition can be a curse. Heart and mind, (heart-mind) are involved, more or less, in all three modes of engagement. Moral development, for example, as understood in SunWALK draws upon all forms of engagement and both affect and cognition. Cognition is sometimes defined as the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning. But knowing and being in relationship do not require constant ‘perception-and-learning-and reasoning’. A mother and baby for example can ‘talk’ to each other via touch whilst cognitive involvement can be elsewhere. Diagram 2
Head – cognition
Heart – affect
indicates a straightforward way to model the three Cs in relation to affect and cognition – criticality being more cognitively charged, and less affectively charged etc. However I still hold to the idea that ultimately interiority is best seen most simply as heart-mind, the flow of the life-force experienced as interiority or consciousness which switches (sometimes very rapidly) between the 3 modes, or ‘colours’, of Creativity, Caring and Criticality. Similarly heart-mind enables us to see interiority as singleness in which there is switching back and for between degrees of ‘high cognitive charge – low affective charge’ and the opposite.
The nature of the process and methodology is vital to all aspects, and users, of the SunWALK model. The researcher and the teacher, and the teacher-as-researcher, need, as the Americans say, to ‘walk the talk’. This relates to two general points. Firstly civilized living is seen as a function of how well a society brings together the private, subjective sphere, with the public sphere, i.e. the concerns of the group as a whole. (What passes for democracy in the West may or may not do better than other forms of government, at least on such issues as care of children, or of the vulnerable – but its associated freedoms are vital to the manifestation of potential). The second general point concerns the conditions for maximizing the development of potential. Chief amongst the necessary conditions is the freedom of expression and the use of dialogue. However dialogue here is seen as more than the exchange of speech. I include creative expression and meditation and consultation in my broadly-based definition of ‘multi-level dialogue’, as described earlier, since all of these provide the stimulus for a person, and the groups to which s/he belongs to manifest potential.
The revelation of abilities through the stimulus of dialogic challenge
Highly relevant to the concern of subjectivity and of maximizing the development of peoples’ potential are the writings of Charles Taylor, especially his book The Ethics of Authenticity (1991, p. 61) where he says;
The notion that each one of us has an original way of being human entails that each of us has to discover what it is to be ourselves. But the discovery can’t be made by consulting pre-existing models, by hypothesis. So it can be made only by articulating it afresh. We discover what we ‘have it in us to be’ by becoming that mode of life, by giving expression in our speech and action to what is original in us. The notion that revelation comes through expression is what I want to capture….. (RP’s italics)
The chief means for eliciting potentials is seen then as dialogue, dialogue in the broadest sense, as described in the multi-level sub-model of dialogue. Taylor’s revelation through expression is to my mind more than a definition of ‘acceptable authentic individuality’ compared to ‘unacceptable individualism’. It is the identification of an essential principle for learning and development. That principle lies, as I described above, in having the creative and the rational yoked in dynamic relationship. It also provides an inter-faith (or pan-religious) way to understand the intuitive voice, the spiritual and the transcendent form of experience. One pathway to try to build common ground between the religious and the non-religious views of the spiritual is via art especially if we are willing to entertain the closeness of the subjectivity of art and the subjectivity of religious experience.
5) How should we develop the curriculum and its contexts?
One of the key notions in SunWALK is that we enable the moral and spiritual to be present throughout the whole process of education. One essential way of doing this is to place all technical learning, from basic reading through to advanced engineering, in the context of being and becoming positively and fully human in the world with others. Maslow’s[xvi][xv] hierarchy of human needs if ‘inverted’ gives us the transcendent as the outermost context with which to embrace all ‘lesser’ focuses.
• 8) Self-transcendence: to connect to something beyond the ego or to
• help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.
• 7) Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one’s potential; &
• 6) Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty;
• 5) Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore;
• 4) Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition.
• 3) Belonginess and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted; and
• 2) Safety/security: out of danger;
• 1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.;
(Source: William Huitt at http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/regsys/maslow.html)
When inverted Maslow’s hierarchy can be seen as a hierarchy of contexts, rather like Ken Wilber’s nests of holons. In SunWALK the spiritual is seen as the source of the will to act morally. The spiritual for me includes two simple ideas a) all that is not biological is spiritual and b) spirituality is living for others[xvii][xvi]. Personally I don’t care what a person’s belief system is so long as s/he is committed to truth, beauty, goodness and justice. Consider the absurdity, and horror, of humans being the only ‘animals’ that will kill each other because they hold to different ideas. “I know that Christ is king, and I’m prepared to kill you as a consequence.” “I know that Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets, and I’m prepared to kill you as a consequence.” “I know that all religion is the opium of the people and I’m prepared to kill you as a consequence.” No lower ‘animal’ behaves like this. Whatever our worldview that which can be cherished, that which can unite us is acknowledging virtues – and in SunWALK I have chosen as cardinal the virtues of truth, beauty, goodness and justice.
Consequently development in education is seen as the ability to frame the curriculum within higher and higher developmental stages. In using Maslow’s hierarchy ‘inverted’ the suggestion is that we try framing the more material or biological within the higher order context of transcendence. The transcendent (potentially) is here taken at its simplest to mean being able to live primarily in the light of higher order values, or ‘virtues’, and to be able to stay focused on the needs of others. ‘Others’ here is seen as ranging from ones own partner or family through to the human family as a whole. However the transcendent can mean more, most importantly it is experiences in which there is loss of ego boundaries, i.e. the subject and object become one. It is possible that in this ‘the deeply spiritual experience’ and the ‘creative experience’, or the ‘aesthetic experience’, are all the same – the unifying factor being the movement from subject-object to an experience of oneness, expressed subsequently as a gain in ‘deep feeling’ or ‘deep insight’. To include these, the deepest levels of human experience, requires sensitive, inspired teaching of considerable ability. SunWALK provides the framework for this kind of development and international cooperation of the holistic kind can help us create not just a vision, but working models and proven practice.
Curricula models – is there a fourth level?
John P Miller (1996:5-8) suggests three forms/levels of educational orientation, the Transmissive, the Transactional and the Transformational – but is there a fourth? It seems to me that there is a case to be made for a fourth namely; the Transcendental. The transcendent I tentatively suggest might lie in such a deep engagement, via any one of the four Cs, that there follows an experience of oneness between subject and object, (preferably) followed by new insight and new understanding. Unitive experience is what Wilber calls boundarylessness, or a (temporary) loss of the ego boundaries[xviii][xvii]. Unitive experience of itself is not, of course, a guarantee of virtue. It is the contexts chosen that enable, or denies, virtues.
We can’t teach transcendence but we can teach to maximize the possibilities of transcendent experience (but that will have to be the subject for another paper).
The approach used in SunWALK makes the model a vital new way to develop initial teacher education, as well as in-service teacher development. I will write about SunWALK’s application to initial and in-service teacher education elsewhere but suffice it say that the model applied to teacher education will involve the same dimensions that are introduced here. This is to say that I believe that the way to organize teacher education, as well as the teaching of children, is via the 4Cs, multi-level dialogue etc.
This paper has provided a brief description of process aspects of the SunWALK model of holistic education’. It is concerned particularly with holism in respect of interiority and in respect of balances between the four modes of engagement with reality, which in the light of higher-order values, make us human, and which, I suggest, form a basis for true civilization.
Professionally as teachers we could structure our work on the three voices found in (Western) civilization the ‘WE’ voice (Caring), the ‘I’ voice (Creativity) and the ‘IT’ voice (Criticality) – in Community – with the rest of the process being refinement via use of various kinds of information and processing of that information. SunWALK by placing all technical learning in a context of being and becoming human – in the light of higher-order values[xix][xviii] is a way of proceeding that has the capacity to contribute to the establishment of justice and peace.
East and West have an abundance of riches to bring to the task of developing process-inspired holistic education. With the 3 modes corresponding to 3 ‘voices’ and corresponding to more diverse ways of knowing we have a way to take education into the future – providing they are linked to the cardinal values of goodness, beauty and truth, along with justice as the measure and conditioner of all. That way is a holistic maintaining of glorious diversity – harmonized by our recognition that we are all in the process of being and becoming more fully human as, with others, we spend our brief span in this world.
Future developments and partnership cooperation with other centres and further uses of the SunWALK model
We are currently working at developing courses at various levels including an MA. We are interested to find ‘partner’ centres who would like to work with us at developing the model further – or at applying the model in schools or in teacher education. If you are interested please contact us at: rogerprenticeATbigfoot.com
If you would simply like to discuss these ideas or receive a book list of key texts please contact me at rogerprenticeATbigfoot.com (substitute @ for AT)
Much information about Holistic Education is available at www.sunwalk.org.uk
Copyright Roger Prentice 2005 SiteMap
Bibliography (to be completed)
Brown D. Mackensie (1965) Ultimate Concern – Tillich in Dialogue, New York: Harper & Row (or Canterbury: SCM)
Cobb, John B., Jr. “The Potential Contribution of Process Thought” in Concrescence, Vol. 5, 2004, pp.6-12
Ellis, Carolyn and Bochner Arthur P. (2000) Autoethnography, Personal Narrative, Reflexivity: Researcher as Subject.
In Denzin Norman K. & Lincoln Yvonna S. (Eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 199-258).
Fisher, Robert (1998) Teaching Thinking – Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom, London: Cassell
Gilligan, Carol, (1998) In a Different Voice – Psychological Theory & Women’s Development, Cambridge, Ma, USA: Harvard Uni Press
Heschel, Abraham Joshua (1965) Who is Man, Stanford, California : Stanford University Press
Heschel, Abraham Joshua (1971) Man is Not Alone, New York: Octagon Books
Lipman, Matthew 1991b) Thinking in Education, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press
Miller, John P. (1996) The Holistic Curriculum, Ontario, Canada: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Palmer, Parker J. (1998) The Courage to Teach, San Francisco, USA: Jossy-Bass Publishers
Smith, Huston, (1989 2nd ed.), Beyond the Postmodern Mind, Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books
Wilber, Ken (1985) No Boundary, Boston & London: Shambhala
Wilber, Ken, (1998a) The Marriage of Sense and Soul, New York, USA: Random House
Wilber, Ken (1997) Eye of Spirit; an integral vsiion for a world gone slightly mad, Boston and London: Shambhala
Wilber, Ken, (1998b) The Essential Ken Wilber, Boston and London: Shambhala
Wilber, Ken (2000) Integral Psychology, Boston & London: Shambhala
[i][i] Here I have in mind corrupt organizations in which people mis-represent knowledge in order to maintain power or achieve improper ends.
[ii] Certainly the ideal in Chinese socialism has much to commend it and Western liberal society is much less open, free and just than its high-sounding rhetoric suggests.
[iii][ii] We mustn’t because of contemporary chaos think that the postmodern is all bad. An excellent sorting out of the benefits as well as the demerits of postmodernism is to be found in Wilber (1998 Chap 9)
[iv][iii] Savi says To summarize the first three Valleys: in the first Valley, the self, with its aspiration to realize its hidden potentialities and to become similar to the Self of God, requires the capacity of willing, intended as willingness to turn towards the True Beloved, willingness to choose a course of action, to determine which thoughts, feelings, words, deeds to manifest in this earthly life so that the self may be transformed into a divine, angelic identity. In the second Valley, reason, in its yearning to acquire knowledge of outer and inner reality, requires the guidance of a divine universal mind that will “teach it the science of the love of God” (Valleys 52). The acceptance of this guidance is the secret to acquiring a real and sound knowledge. The full paper can be found at www.bahai-studies.ca/archives/jbs/jbs.6-1.savi.html (accessed 29th January 2005)
[v][iv] The whole of the Harper and Row 1965 book Ultimate Concern – Tillich in Dialogue by D. Mackenzie Brown is online at http://www.religion-online.org/showbook.asp?title=538 (accessed 29th Jan 2005)
[vii][vi] The model is designed to enable us to work spiritually with others without distorting relationships through feeling the need to convert; that is it is designed to respect other worldviews within the idea that each of us has a ‘Sun’ – a source of inspiration to animate our morality.
[viii][vii] ‘Texts’ includes experience of dance, video, theatre etc. – and especially the text of self.
[ix][viii] The current interest in ‘restorative justice’ for victims, and between them and perpetrators of crime, is essentially a process of re-humanization of the perpetrators. Of course it is also for some of the victims a releasing from the negatives that can destroy.
[x][ix] I have in mind the passage: There are certain pillars which have been established as the unshakable supports of the Faith of God. The mightiest of these is learning and the use of the mind, the expansion of consciousness, and insight into the realities of the universe and the hidden mysteries of Almighty God. To promote knowledge is thus an inescapable duty imposed on every one of the friends of God. SAB p. 126-7
[xi][x] I continually repeat this point because many people seem to find it difficult to understand the difference between cognition and being in the creative mode (essentially the same as the mystical) or the caring mode. My impression is that something of the order of 90% of male academics, for example, just don’t ‘get it’ – they literately cannot get out of their heads. Some women academics and politicians seem to have essentially adopted a male-like persona in order to succeed. (Possibly their only option.)
[xii][xi] I have chosen to capitalize Spiritual to indicate the idea of transcendental influence.
[xiv][xiii] There are many books by Lipman and about Philosophy for Children. A good classroom based introduction is Bob Fisher’s 1998 book Teaching Thinking – Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom. Lipmans opus magnum is Thinking in Education.
[xvi][xv] For an introduction to Maslow’s ideas in an educational context see Dr William Huitt’s website at http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/regsys/maslow.html (accessed 29th Jan 2005)
[xviii][xvii] This is a major theme in one of Wilber’s earliest books No Boundary, (1985)
[xix][xviii] The teacher, the school, the community needs to decide on those virtues that are to form the ‘human context’ for a school’s teaching – I have argued for truth, beauty, goodness and justice to be cardinal but compassion and empathy as well imagination and other key qualities must be developed. The authority of the school needs to be derived from periodic consultations between representatives of all stakeholders.
Having been developing the 4Cs idea I find that some major thinkers are now coming round to this way of thing. In curriculum theory William Doll…. In educational theory Gardner …….
Core values of truth, beauty, goodness and justice……………..respect for belief systems – if they ‘walk the talk’ of virtues
Religion – virtues