link: shift  

          

                FUNDAMENTAL SHIFT FROM 'REDUCTIONISM' TO 'HOLISTIC SCIENCE':                                                    IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION

 

theme: There is a fundamental shift in the philosophical paradigm of education. A new paradigm is emerging which is based on the concern for the learning process or 'cognition'. The 'cognitive' or 'holistic' paradigm emphasizes the interrelationships between parts and wholes as in the science of 'wholeness' or 'connectedness' i.e. 'holistic science'.

"A fundamental shift is taking place in the philosophical paradigm of education...  New perspectives are emerging from scientific philosophy which suggest the new worldview required for a new way of thinking... The attention of educators is being drawn away from the paradigm of the behavioral sciences and towards the new paradigm of the systems approach." (Sam Crowell, "A New Way of Thinking: The Challenge of the Future", Educational Leadership, vol. 47 no.1 Sept 1989, 60.)

 Traditional paradigm and pragmatic function of education...

 The behavioural paradigm emphasizes acquisition of 'objective knowledge' The traditional teaching paradigm equates education with task-oriented education or 'schooling'. The goals of education are shaped by the worldview of 'reductionist science' or 'reductionism'. According to the reductionist paradigm, perception of reality without participation of the observer results in 'objectivity'. Objectivity as the product of observer detachment is assumed to be a valid basis for the methodology of scientific activity i.e. 'scientific method'. The subjectivity or 'inner life' of the observer is not recognized as contributing valid evidence of a scientific nature. Even the reality of being human is defined in terms of 'classical science' or 'scientism'. With its bias towards completely objective knowledge, scientism has had a direct impact on educational philosophy and the science of teaching or 'pedagogy'. The traditional perception of pedagogy is shaped by scientific empiricism and its application to the science of human behaviour i.e. 'behavioural science' or 'behaviourism'. According to behaviourism learning is a matter of 'conditioned behaviour' or 'conditioning'. The notion of learning as conditioning has had a direct influence on educational policy. Goals of learning are formulated in terms of shaping overt human behaviour in the form of specific 'learning outcomes'.

 Learning outcomes are defined in terms of so-called 'objective knowledge' assumed to be finite and unchanging and valued in terms of its usefulness.

The teacher's function is to devise 'teaching techniques' In the behavioural paradigm the teacher's function is formalized in terms of a monopoly of objective knowledge and justified by learner ignorance. Procedures and strategies are formulated in terms of learning which does not engage personality development i.e. 'passive learning' and the authority of the teacher by virtue of their power to transmit knowledge i.e. 'authoritarian teaching'. According to the 'student-teacher contradiction' of 'banking education' the 'teacher' has the power to transmit  knowledge which they 'possess' to the 'student' who is ignorant of the same knowledge and is conditioned to memorise or 'learn by rote'. Rote learning implies that learning is detached from subjective experience. Emphasis is on factual data and isolated information of a fragmented curriculum which has little connection with problem solving life experience. The function of the teacher is to devise the right 'teaching techniques' for motivating students to work towards completion of tasks and achievement of good scores or 'grades'. The authoritarian teacher unwittingly ends up defending their status, protecting their institutions and neglecting student concerns for personal development  - intellectual, emotional, psychological i.e. 'moral development'. Lack of interest in student concerns results in declining motivation.

Loss of sense of wholeness or 'holistic perception' In the scientific tradition the notion of observer detachment and objectivity produced the concepts of individuality and individual freedom but at a price. The concept of objectivity has produced a sense of alienation from the natural world and a loss of the sense of 'oneness' or 'wholeness' with the universe i.e. global or  'holistic perception'. In its extreme form, the effect of alienation causes the individual to relate to others in terms of their usefulness and to treat them like objects. Under these conditions so-called 'education' becomes little more than a process of human engineering for specifically desired purposes. Failed education is ultimately due to the basic mistrust of human potential and the 'human personality' i.e. 'human nature'.

Alienation of education from human nature deprives the learner of the psychological value of creativity and productiveness i.e. 'work'.   

The 'problem of motivation' which is the root cause of the so-called 'educational crisis' which is the reason that the traditional paradigm is seriously questioned today.

 "There is a new 'paradigm' - a change in consciousness from seeing the world in a mechanical way (Newtonian paradigm of regularity, order, precisipon, and predicatability). The new dialectic between 'phenomenon and perception' - puts more emphasis on human response and subjectivity. In this new paradigm, our understanding of the world - reality - is mediated by language, beliefs, values, and ways of being... Our perception and images of the world affect our experience of the world." (David Purpel, 1989. The Moral and Spiritual Crisis in Education: A Curriculum for Justice and Compassion in Education. Masschusetts, Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Inc. 133)

"...for half a century we have been in the midst of a ... conceptual revolution that is once again changing the scientist's conception of space, matter, force, and the structure of the universe." (Kuhn T. "The Copernican Revolution" Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1957)

 Institutionalized education with its emphasis on conditioning and behavioral outcomes is no longer relevant in the times of mass communications and the 'global village'. As well as the sequential printed word, information is derived from multisensory sources of various forms and intensities. The complexity of information requires the brain to process simultaneously multitudinous stimuli - sights, sounds, images, ideas and others. For the purpose of survival, the brain must be able to derive meaning from a complex environment. The educational paradigm of industrialsism and behaviorism has become too limited. The educational experience for growing children is no longer a matter of simple preparation for a future workiong life. The educational experience must enable them to adapt to a changing environment and changing circumstances. It must prpeare them for personal fulfillment and a life of change. It must engage their full capacity for learning, and for learning to learn. For a future of change and a global perspective in the global village, their subjective life must become of paramount concern in education. It is no longer possible to ignore their inner experience.

The shift of emphasis from teaching of 'content' to the 'process of learning'  There is a fundamental shift in the philosophical paradigm of education as a result of recent findings in brain research or 'neuroscience'. Educators are shifting their attention from the techniques of teaching to the process of  learning. The formulation of effective teaching methodologies is based on principles of learning as a natural function of the 'brain'. The brain's natural function is to consider bits of information in terms their relationships to other bits. It is the connections between bits of information which constitutes their 'significance'. Information is significant if it relates to other information. The human capacity for making connections between pieces of information and then extending the associations is the process of acquiring knowledge or 'learning' i.e. 'brain-based learning'.

 Brain-based learning is a process of 'knowing' or 'cognition'.

The cognitive or 'holistic' paradigm 'cognitive paradigm' of education is concerned with the formulation of policies in terms of interrelationships between the 'process' of learning and the information which is learned or 'content'. It emphasizes the complex process of applying content to the individual's  understanding of themselves and their world thus 'complex learning'. Complex learning involves the brain's natural ability to grasp the links and make connections in the experiences of life. Complex learning is meaningful learning. because it engages intrinsic motives for learning 'intrinsic motivation' by  'human needs'... Intrinsically motivated learning involves personal development i.e. 'holistic education'. Holistic education is concerned with development of the whole person - emotional, psychological, intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual or 'moral development'. Moral development is a function of development of 'moral consciousness' or 'conscience'.  Developed conscience is prerequisite to adaptation to the responsibilities of 'freedom' i.e. 'social intelligence'.

Social intelligence allows for holistic perception necessary for resolution of social problems.    

Education for social intelligence: the teacher's role  Considering the poitical, economic and social changes of today, it is no longer possible to provide for an education for change while ignoring the needs for personal growth and development i.e. the 'inner life'. Education for the inner life is required for adaptation to rapidly changing social conditions i.e. 'adaptability'. Adaptability depends on social intelligence. Complex learning for social intelligence depends on teaching methodologies which provide an education for growth and responsible freedom i.e. 'libratory pedagogy'. Libratory pedagogy provides an educational experience which prepares the learner for a life of change and a life of personal fulfilment or 'self-actualisation'. Self-actualisation depends on an education which facilitates brain-based learning or natural 'experiential learning'. As a pedagogy for responsible freedom, libratory pedagogy is the practice of criticism or 'critical practice'. The function of the teacher is to provide a learning environment of responsible freedom in which children engage their full capacity for complex learning i.e. optimalearning'. Optimalearning involves not only the learning of content but the learning of 'how to learn' or 'metacognition'.

 In the holistic paradigm the teacher's role is defined as 'facilitator of learning'.

Implications for education... trend toward trust in human development and construction of moral consciousness or 'conscience'... 'brain-based learning'. 

"The implications for education are far reaching. The shift from the reductionist worldview to the wholistic worldview in teaching methodology is noticeable in three characteristic trends: first, the trend away from fragmentation, competition and separateness and towards the emphasis on oneness and wholeness; second, the trend away from faith in external authority, such as religion, science and 'experts' and towards the inner authority of the conscience; third, the trend away from the need to control and towards the need to trust the human spirit." (Capra The Turning Point)

"The discoveries of Rudolf Steiner concerning the interrelationships of body, soul and spirit represent a new educational paradigm which ... can provide a secure theoretical and practical foundation for a holistic education that directs itself to educate the whole person for the whole of life." (Gerald Karnow 'Educating the Whole Person for the Whole of Life' Holistic Education Review, Spring, 1992)

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 notes:

 Justification for the traditional pragmatic function of education was found in the principles of behavioral psychology and its emphasis on conditioned learning.

Educational aims were formulated in the mechanical framework of industrialism and the objective framework of behaviorism... expressed in terms of desirable behavior patterns for social and political purposes.

Research methods of the behavioral sciences were applied to the study of the learning process.

 Institutionalized education with its emphasis on conditioning and behavioral outcomes is no longer relevant in the times of mass comunications and the 'global village.'

'Education' designed for the nineteenth century industrial society does not address the needs of today's children. The educational experience for growing children is no longer a matter of simple preparation for a future working life. The educational experience must enable them to adapt to a changing environment and changing circumstances. It must prepare them for personal fulfillment and a life of change. It must engage their full capacity for learning, and learning how to learn. For a future of change and a global perspective in the global village, their subjective life must become of paramount concern in education. It is no longer possible to ignore their inner experience. The young generations inherit troubled cultures and a threatened planet.

At present there is another shift ( scientific revolution) in the dominant worldview which has profound implications for education. Throughout the industrialized world, particularly in the English speaking part and in northern Europe, there is an fundamental change in the worldview. The change is a result of the shift in scientific paradigm from reductionist science to wholistic science. 

A scientific study of a wholistic reality emphasizes the 'whole-system perspective'. This approach requires an understanding of the interrelationships between the parts of the whole system. As an example, the evolution of organisms and the environment can best be understood within the context of a whole system in which the parts develop and evolve together.

 There are indications that the basic assumptions of the reductionist worldview are being reexamined and a fundamental change is taking place. In the English speaking part of the industrialized world and in Northern Europe there is a shift in the scientific paradigm from reductionist science to wholistic science. This change consists of new trends away from linear perspectives and towards whole-system perspectives; away from cause-effect relationships and towards interrelationships; away from reductionism and towards wholism. At the turn of the century, the mechanistic view of the physical world was challenged by Einstein's theory of relativity and quantum theory. Since then, new laws of integrated wholes have been postulatedthe laws of natural systems of organized complexity such as the universe, the galaxy, the solar system, the terrestrial biosphere, man's societies, man's environment, and man himself. A scientific study of reality which is wholistic emphasizes the 'whole-system perspective.' This approach requires an understanding of the interrelationships between the parts of the whole system. In a wide variety of systems - biological, social, cosmological and others - the natural tendency for the evolution of ever larger and more complex wholes cannot be fully comprehended by analysing the constituent parts. Whether one considers a cell, a human being, a nation, or a world of nations, the whole is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Within the framework of the wholistic paradigm, the observer focuses on the order, harmony and synchrony inherent in complex systems. Known as the 'systems approach,' the wholistic perspective views the interrelationships and unifying patterns within the complexities of natural systems.

The goals of education are being shaped by the new wholistic science which forms the basis for a wholistic education. The new scientific methodology of wholistic science is based on the assumption that the observer participates in the process of observation. Reflecting the same basic assumption, a new educational methodology recognizes and validates the participation of the learner in the learning process.

The new wholistic science includes more 'participatory methodology' based on the subjective experiences of the observer in experimental situations. Based on the assumption of oneness and wholeness, it validates the inner subjective experience as well as objective physical sense data. It is not possible to have a truly meaningful education for the 'humanization' of society without the scientific recognition of the intrinsic nature and value of what it is to be human. The worldview of wholistic science does recognize the intrinsic nature and value of the human inner life. It is therefore possible to have a truly meaningful wholistic education if it is based on the wholistic paradigm and the scientific recognition of the human inner life. A wholistic education is possible within the context of the worldview of a wholistic science. With the scientific recognition of the inner life, the wholistic worldview permits a global view of the human being as a 'totality of body, soul and spirit.' Scientific discoveries of the interrelations of body, soul and spirit are reflected in a new educational paradigm. The new pedagogical methodology recognizes that the child's learning experiences and learning difficulties are global in nature. The global view of the child and the learning process "can provide a secure theoretical and practical foundation for a holistic education that directs itself to educate the whole person for the whole of life." (Gerald Karnow, "Educat ...

There is a shift from the reductionist worldview to the wholistic worldview in teaching methodology - noticeable in three characteristic trends: first, the trend away from fragmentation, competition and separateness and towards the emphasis on oneness and wholeness; second, the trend away from faith in external authority, such as religion, science and 'experts' and towards the inner authority of the conscience; third, the trend away from the need to control and towards the need to trust the human spirit. The goals of education are being shaped by the new wholistic science which forms the basis for a wholistic education. The new scientific methodology of wholistic science is based on the assumption that the observer participates in the process of observation. Reflecting the same basic assumption, a new educational methodology recognizes and validates the participation of the learner in the learning process. The new wholistic science includes more 'participatory methodology' based on the subjective experiences of the observer in experimental situations.

The scientifc community is strongly under the influence of the faith in the ability of reductionist science to explain everything. However, it is being discovered that as a worldview for human affairs, the materialist, reductionist scientific paradigm is insufficient. There are indications that a fundamental change is taking place in the scientific paradigm. This change consits of new trends away from reductionist science and towards wholistic science; away from linear perspectives and towards whole-system perspectives; away from cause-effect relationships and towards interrelationships. The new wholistic science will include more 'participatory methodology' based on the subjective experiences of the observer in experimental situations. Based on the assumption of oneness, and wholeness, it will validate inner subjective experience as well as physical sense data.

There are indications that the basic assumptions of the reductionist worldview are being reexamined and a fundamental change or 'shift' is taking place in the scientific paradigm.

 In the English speaking part of the industrialized world and in Northern Europe there is a shift in the scientific paradigm from reductionist science to wholistic science. This change consits of new trends ... away from linear perspectives and towards whole-system perspectives; away from cause-effect relationships and towards interrelationships; away from reductionism and towards wholism...away from reductionist science and towards wholistic science.  The new wholistic science is based on the assumption of oneness, and wholeness... it will include more 'participatory methodology' based on the subjective experiences of the observer in experiential situations. It will validate inner subjective experience as well as physical sense data.

 It is being discovered that not only is the reductionist scientific paradigm insufficient for the study of the physical world; it is insufficient for the study of human affairs as well. This shift in the dominant scientific paradigm and world view has profound far reaching implications for education.                               

 "The fact that we are shifting from a Cartesian view of the universe, in which the accent has been on parts and elements, to a configuration view, with emphasis on wholes and patterns, challenges every single dividing line between areas of study and knowledge." (Peter Drucker "The Age of Discontinuity" New York: Harper and Row 1969)