It is fashionable now to talk about knowing-doing gap, but this emanates from the underlying assumption that knowing and doing are two different things, to be undertaken differently (See my earlier post, Knowing and Doing - Are They Different?). This dualism, which separates thought from action, ideas from deeds, and reflection from activities, is institutionalised in our universities, which is perhaps creating the knowing-doing gap by design. Notwithstanding the popularity of capstone projects, study tours and work placements, which, by design, remain off-curriculum and almost reluctantly indulged, the idea of the university promotes itself as a safe space to do the thinking outside the challenges of our daily lives, accentuating the dualism rather than seeking to reconcile it.
It has become, more by default than design, my occupation to seek to bring learning and work closer together. This prompts me to think and to question, as I am attempting now, the model of the learning at the university, and particularly this deliberate disconnection from the messy world of everyday life. And, it is not just the knowing-doing gap that we get from this monastic ideal of education. The idealised paradigm of pure theory often dictate our social policies, professions and even ideas of life, and all too often, our failure to understand the world and respond to ground realities lead to bad policies, aloof professions and broken lives.
However, my proposition that we must seek to bring knowing and doing closer together is usually met with three distinct objections. The first is that learning from experience is slow, and one may not, without the benefit of theory, understand the deeper causes and implications of success and failure. The second is that such learning from experience is risky, and to learn, one must have risk-free experience which is an oxymoron. And, the third is that learning from experience, while it may establish skills and abilities, may fall short of enabling values, which must be learnt at a higher level, because values must be consistent regardless of experience.
Indeed, such objections are based on a certain idea of experience itself that may need to be interrogated. First, the learning from experience alone can be slow if experiencing is an unthinking act free of preparation and reflection. This assumption, that experience and reflection and learning are separate acts and the latter is to be indulged in when one is learning and not otherwise, is essentially flawed. An experience is not just an activity, but the full spectrum of physical and mental engagements that precede, occur during and follow an event, either deliberate or accidental. And, because of such engagements, while an event may be limited in time, experience is a continuous thing encompassing all aspects of our being, because it never actually ends - just gets stimulated by external events from time to time. Being conscious of our engagement with events and ourselves is not a slow process of learning, it is the only viable way. Any other way, such as classroom learning, by definition, assign certain things as learning at the expense of everything else, and if accepted (though, I would argue, such a thing is not possible), would make us unable to learn from our lives - making learning impossible in effect.
Second, while experience can not be risk-free, neither is learning. Effective learning involves questioning assumptions about self and everything around us, and one could not get away from the risk it entails. That universities are safe spaces to think is an incomplete ideal. In fact, it is too patronising - and dismissive of the human capability of independent thought. Instead, we should aspire to have people who are free to think, no matter where they are. And, such an ideal can not be achieved without connecting into experience.
Finally, a Value is a way of living, not some received wisdom. Value education can not be about putting sacred books on Powerpoint. Value education is an iterative process, which shapes experience and indeed gets shaped by it. While values may be required to hold regardless of experience - that is why it would be called a Value - it is not to be disconnected from experience. Being ethical inside the Church but devious outside it would not be considered the best advertisement of Value Education. And, it may also be argued that the only value we may impart through Higher Education, without overestimating the role of the college in the life of the learner and without attempting to play God, is the spirit of conscious and sympathetic inquiry, which is closely connected to experience.
I shall return to the subject of learning from experience at a subsequent post, attempting to view it from the point of other constituents, particularly those who are involved in the Doing side of the equation. In fact, they also tend to accept that Knowing is a separate process, and they are equally wrong - but this is the subject of another discussion.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.