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Brain, Education, and Inquiry - Fall, 2010: Session 3

Paul Grobstein's picture

Brain, Education, and Inquiry

Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2010

Session 3


Class is itself an experiment in a particular form of education: co-constructive inquiry

Learning by interacting, sharing observations and understandings to create, individually and collectively, new understandings and new questions that motivate new observations

Depends on co-constructive dialogue, being comfortable sharing existing understandings, both conscious and unconscious, in order to use them to construct new ones.  Need diversity of understandings, need to be able to both speak and listen without fear of judgment.  Need to see both self and others as always in process, always evolving.

Starting where we are: from last weeks forum

For a class in which there are so many diverging views, and so much nuance to sort through, I am continually impressed at how much I agree with what so many people say. What I mean by that is simply, someone makes a comment, I make a note on how I feel about that comment, and then somebody else says what I was thinking. It really is quite a pleasure to feel that you have come up with an original, thoughtful insight and then have somebody think the same. It leads me to believe that this class will continually and collectively go to higher levels of conversation and I am psyched about it ... I do not believe that education needs justification, it is a beautiful thing in its own right, but when something is justified it somehow is viewed differently and becomes more negative somehow ... FinnWing

I think I like structure, or am I just used to it? On the basis of clarifying, to me, structure means a certain organization or direction. Maybe each of our minds have been sculpted by our early molders (primary/secondary education) to respond to structure in certain ways... that's why some of us thrive on it, and others steer away from it.  Perhaps the way to enhance the mosaic is to have less structure. Or maybe its better to say that from the beginning of one's formal education (in the form of going to school at the age of 5 or so), there should be a greater emphasis to tap into individual creativity and passion for different things. Our "system" should emphasize the importance of exploration, inquiry, excavation of something that may be buried or of something that has not even been found yet... Transforming current ideas and developing new ones.  This should begin from the earliest years, and it seems as if a child's mind is the most curious anyway. Let's enhance it. Let's congratulate them for asking questions, encourage it, reward it ... But how to transfer this idea from childhood to adulthood? Is that a valid idea when we are students of life no matter which age? Can there be a combination of structure and creativity? Can one exist within the other? ... eledford

I find myself, as you can see from my last post, wanting to defend the formal education system, not in all it's forms and, certainly, failings, but as in institution that aims to do the right thing and sometimes succeeds ... The article we read on "How people learn" helped me focus some of my thoughts by drawing my attention to two separate, sometimes seemingly competing, but actually interconnected types of knowledge taught in school- tools and facts ... It's a kind of learning that happens slowly and gradually even when properly taught, such that you could seemingly argue that you're getting nothing out of having to write a paper analyzing a character's growth in the Odyssey ... Maybe not on its own, no, but repetition is valuable for any kind of training, in this case the training to organize your thoughts, draw conclusions, express them deftly. I believe that we're all better off now for being taught that, even if at the time it was not considered fun ... there's a certain kind of discipline required that is inherently less fun than if you were able to just do what you wanted ... Abby Em

Although I agree that giving students “creative freedom” in their education can produce interesting results, I also feel like its is unfair to assume that all students want creative freedom or dislike structure. For me personally, I rigid guidelines for what I am expected to do. Take this class, for example, we were told that everyone would get a decent grade if we did everything we were told to do and to do better than that we would have to do something different, surprise ourselves. I wonder why just doing as you’re told isn’t enough, if you do it well? ... Armeneh

I certainly agree that asking creativity in school, and then in some way qualifying or assessing it, is a sticky realm ... When a authority figure tells a child that their painting is good, nice, or well-done, they naturally try to re-create that response, playing to our aesthetics as opposed to their own, and recreating old work as opposed to being truly and spontaneously creative ... simonec

While her example perfectly demonstrates how seemingly innocent compliments can actually negatively affect the growth of a student's creativity, similar influences can hinder student growth in what are classically considered less artistic areas of academics. It may seems innocent to tell a student that he or she is smart, intuitive, etc., suggesting that there is an innate ability. However, such suggestions lead students to believe that their academic ability is not in their control and that they either can or can't, regardless of who their teacher is or what effort they put in ... Evren

How do you know that the person telling you what to do has your (or anyone's) best interests at heart? ... jessicarizzo

I am not sure there is anything wrong with grades. I think what is wrong is the way in which we use it ... What is wrong is when we expect grades to be the only marker of what is happening. I don't think grades are supposed to measure temperament, or individual skill, or individual creativity. It is we/employers/the system who have forgotten that grades are only supposed to be a marker for how well a concept is grasped ... Kwarlizzie

If you want to quickly learn a language, an immersion class is extremely effective.  If you read often to a child, they may pick up on the skills without ever being formally taught.  Would this kind of immersion/social setting work in other subject areas?  If you took an “immersion science course,” would it be possible to learn the basics of chemistry just by observing others doing problems are being put in a situation where you have to work with others to figure out problems with some of the students never having formally learned the material? ... epeck

in middle school and 9th grade, we had been taught the linear science rule of thumb which we then used in our labs. In 11th and 12th grade, however, we were taught the seriously loopy version of science, but not in a direct manner. Our teacher  ...  told us something along the lines of "when you are typing up your labs reports, make sure that in your conclusions you don't say that the results prove or disprove your hypothesis. Instead, make sure to say that the results support or do not support your hypothesis." That was all that she said on that matter ... Near the end of 12th grade Bio a student asked why we were supposed to phrase it in such a way and my teacher initially responded "because that's the way that IB tells us to" and then paused for a few moments before launching into a description of seriously loopy science. I find it strange that my teacher had the opportunity to show us the "crack" that exists in science but chose not to until the end of our 2 years in her class ... Looking back on this, it makes me think that my teacher's choice created a class that was somewhat of a contradiction. On the one hand, we had the idea drilled into our heads that hypotheses couldn't be proven. On the other hand, this idea was not used to challenge the structure of traditional science classes, rather it became part of this structure because a our teacher did not really incorporate it into our learning. At the same time in this class, we were being taught material that was specific knowledge that was deemed to be true by IB and our teacher. In that way, the encounter with seriously loopy science really only became a part of a linear science method of teaching ... ln0691

I am a fan of loopy science ... Linear science is about discovering "what is." Loopy science would argue, I think, that we can't ever be sure about what is ... I think education is divided along these lines as well. I know that I had a more linear approach to learning in high school; the teacher was the authority and you did not, unless the teacher was secretly "loopy," question them or their authority. You went through your observations, your exploration of a topic, you drew a conclusion and it was either the right one or a wrong one. There was always a "right" answer and, often, only one. If your English teacher didn't think that your paper agreed with what they said in class, you didn't do well. It was less about learning for yourself than playing into what you knew the teacher wanted. And that's not really learning ... kgould

I like seriously loopy science.  I like it's dynamism.  I prefer circles to straight lines.  I think they feel more appropriate in an age/society/culture that's basically left teleological/theological thinking behind.  And I'm glad that we've ditched/are ditching those ways of making sense of the world ... Do we end up with a new kind of dualism?  Does weightless, creative, inquisitive thought spin off into some parallel reality, an anarchic space where the goal is an endless circle of cognitive self-pleasuring?  ... How does transforming thought, or even education, become the "transformation of the world."  Should this new spirit of unfettered, purely creative thought feel remotely responsible for dealing with/helping out the existing life-world, or can the world only be a drag on it?  Or is some yet to be articulated vision of "education" that potential point of convergence?

what are some of the consequences you run into when you study something you're a part of? this is question remained with me, mainly because of the answer someone provided for it - when you study something from the inside out, you gather observations and information from the outside, drag them back in, work with them and through them, and you realise that you can change things. why is this important? because it gets rid of the feeling of helplessness ... by taking this class, we're already changing our approach to education, we're already questioning things and dissecting concepts, to find a ground we are comfortable with. we're changing the way we educate ourselves ...  i cant help but wonder what it would turn out like if we integrated culture and exxperience into the four walls of a classroom ... skindeep


What is/should be the objective of education?
Can thinking about inquiry and the brain help?

Re inquiry (from last session):


"Knowledge," in the sense of empirically based understanding, is summaries of past observations with expectations for future observations, a starting point rather than a final word.  Knowledge is always subject to revision, either based on new observations or on new stories or both.  And always has an element of uncertainty to it.  Acknowledging uncertainty in existing knowledge gives everybody the the ability to play a role in creating new knowledge.

Re education: objective is not to acquire knowledge but to acquire the means to create it?  to "discover how to participate in the transformation of the world"?

Are studies of the brain relevant?  If so, how? (see also course resources and Chapters 1,2 of How People Learn)

Cautionary notes

  • tentativeness of knowledge
  • looking for what one wants to see
  • expecting easy answers
  • gap between neurons and behavior


The potentiality

  • Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
  • Francis Crick, 1995: The Astonishing Hypothesis: "a person's mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells ... and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them".
  • V.S.Ramachandran, 2003: " it never ceases to amaze me that all the richness of our mental life - all our feelings, our emotions, our thoughts, our ambitions, our love life, our religious sentiments and even what each of us regards as his own intimate private self - is simply the activity of these little specks of jelly in your head, in your brain. There is nothing else"


All knowledge/understanding is a product of the brain, a construction by it, a "story" that could be otherwise?

Ambiguous figures

"The truth about stories is that's all we are ... If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives" (Thomas King, The Truth About Stories) ... and our educational systems?

Education is a changing the brain, according to one or another particular story about how/why it should be changed, so knowing something about the brain must be relevant for education?

Moving on ... Is the brain an empirical inquirer? (see How Babies Think).  A story teller?  How do the two relate?  

The brain as empirical inquirer


The sphaghetti (switchboard, "reflex") box model


  • Box
  • Input/output relations
  • Historical opening to "rigor"
Problems (if "brain=behavior")
  • stereotopy
  • nodes as relays - why need them?
  • ?

Problems of reflex model

Harvard Law of Animal Behavior

"Under carefully controlled experimental circumstances, an animal will behave as it damned well pleases"

Divergence and convergence


Sphaghetti (switchboard, "reflex") plus box model


  • Box
  • Input/output relations
  • Nodes as integrators rather than relays
Problems (if "brain=behavior")
  • more variation, but still stereotopy
  • "stimulus", "response" starting to look a little less clear
  • ?

A rethinking - boxes in boxes


The sphaghetti (switchboard, "reflex") box model


  • Input/output box
  • Parts sort of like whole, themselves input/output boxes, follow similar rules?
Problems (if "brain=behavior")
  • stereotypy, still "stimulus" dependent
  • poor definition of "stimulus", "response"
  • ?
  • Is the nervous system a "box"? boundaries?
  • Does it have boxes inside it?
  • How do boxes "integrate"?
  • What's inside THOSE boxes? (boxes all the way down?)

Facing up to the stereotopy, stimulus-response problem ... freeing the box from the outside world, adding autonomy


The boxes inside boxes (with "autonomy") model


  • Input/output box made up of input/output boxes
  • Gets rid of "stimulus", "response", replaces with "input", "output"


    Stimulus (input) = something happening OUTSIDE the nervous system


  • Fixes stereotopy problems, permits "autonomy"


    Nervous system may be active, change its activity, even in the absence of changing inputs Stop thinking of nervous system as stimulus/response device


Problems (if "brain=behavior")

Notice loop, comparison of expectation and input, as per loopy science/inquiry

Your continuing thoughts about inquiry/brain/inquiry/knowledge construction in the forum below ....





LizJ's picture

structure and teachers

We've been talking about structure, structure, structure and still haven't come close to a consensus. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it normal and natural? Or is it awkward and forced? We can debate until the end of time and we'll still never really know any of those answers. It's the chicken and the egg, but instead it's the structure and the education. What I'm more interested in looking at is how we can teach the future teachers of the world to deal with structure in a way that doesn't cut off the creativity of their students. We haven't really talked about the affect of teachers, the actual people, on a persons education. We find teachers everywhere from the classroom, to the field, to the home. It is what teachers then choose to do with structure (or lack there of) that has the real impact on the student. And it's always obvious when a teacher cares and when a teacher could care less, and though caring doesn't necessarily make a good teacher, it helps students feel better about what they're learning. We can only hope that those who are teachers want to be and are invested in the education and future of their students. We can only hope that they find their own way of looking at structure and dishing it out in a constructive fashion because more than anything, we need good teachers.

Abby Em's picture

Professor, you suggested last

Professor, you suggested last week that structure, rather than just something society imposed on education, was maybe something that was itself a product of the education system. That its the structured education that conditions us to want or need a society and consequently an education system dominated by order and boundaries. I strongly disagree that the desire for structure and boundaries comes from the design of the modern education system; it is simply so much older than that. Part of my thesis project, actually (in English) has to do with religion, ancient and modern, is designed with this desire in the forefront. The opening chapters of the Bible depict the incident in the Garden of Eden, in which the punishment for disobedience is the removal of the protective walls, a loss of the boundaries meant to keep the good in and the bad out. This is itself a certain kind of societal teaching, imprinting on people at an early age the importance of obedience and the perils of losing the structure you started with. Though a different kind of education, in this case religious, perpetuates structure, the motivations behind such stories come, I believe, from an innate desire to have something to contain the chaos. A world without rules is something we resist from our very core, both from fear and because, as inherently finite, limited beings, we want our world to be more like us so that we have a place in it. (I am taking such religious texts as the product of devout societies, not the literal word of God- if this is something you disagree with, ignore this argument). 


If you look at structure as we've been discussing it as boundaries, it starts to look even more like something we seek and in some ways need just as human beings, not as products of a system that tells us we do. Parenting advice always talks about how both your toddlers and your teenagers ( ;) ) will aim to "push the limits" to "figure out where the boundaries are." As a child, you defy your parents *wanting* them sometimes to say no, to clarify where your place is in the world. We don't want to be floating in infinity with no ground beneath us.

FinnWing's picture

Hmmm.....Please Bear With Me

All week I have been thinking on what to post, and yet good, creative insight is not flowing. It’s funny how the brain seems to operate. Like one week you can think so freely and creatively, you devour novels, and your linguistic skills feel top notch, and then, all of a sudden, boom!! You start doing physics and if the problem can’t be fitted onto a Cartesian coordinate system it just does not seem worth working on (which is odd for two reasons: the Cartesian system was developed by Descartes and physicists seem to be generally very cool, creative people). 

Anyway, these are the times when I know it’s time for a beer, a trip to a friends’ couch, and a long conversation about the human condition. Fortunately, in many ways, class on Monday evenings serves the cathartic purpose of allowing us to reengage in a thoughtful, creative element that really helps one to think throughout the week. That it is done without beer is either for the better, or an unfortunate side-effect of the structure that we have so many opinions on.

Speaking of the class loop, I like the practice. I am receiving a lot of interesting insight from across the board. Reading through the posts this week, there is clearly some deep thought going on about education, structure and pedagogy. My addition to the loop this week, in contrast, feels minimal. Minimal in the way that spending the day in your slippers reading a novel is minimal. Not like it’s a bad thing, but more just a cathartic balance when things get really serious.  


Paul Grobstein's picture

Active brains and ... active brains?

There's actually lots going on in the brain even when you don't think there is.  See, for example, A default mode of brain activity.

Evren's picture

How to change our brains

I have a sister five years younger than me, and when we were little kids, we would bicker and fight like most siblings do. My father would come to me because I'm the older one, and being a man of science he would say, "I know that biologically you are wired to bicker with your sister because your instincts see her as a threat and competition. However, you have to overcome those instincts and treat her more nicely." While I have matured enough to stop bickering childishly with my sister, in hindsight my father's words raise a lot of questions and points, some of which may appear to be contradictory. If my brain is physically wired in a certain way, with certain chemical reactions causing me to bicker with my sister, what can I do to change that? Did I stop bickering with my sister because I took my father's words to heart and was able to overcome my natural instinct, or did my brain simply develop as I got older in a manner that was completely out of my control? Did I simply learn that my parents wouldn't get mad at me if I treated my sister more nicely?


I believe that a lot of these questions apply to developing students into learners. How do kids learn concepts? Does the brain work almost like a muscle where repetition leads to muscle memory? Is there an ideal time in a child's development to teach them certain topics so they best retain them? Is learning even about retention, or is it more about creation?

Paul Grobstein's picture

Learning as "retention" or "creation"?

For one approach to such questions, see How Babies Think

L Cubed's picture

Retention and Creation

I have pondered your question: "Is learning even about retention, or is it more about creation?" for I dont know how long. I think that the earlier stages of learning are focused on retention and regurgitation and that as we approach higher levels of learning and development the goal shifts to creation. But I wonder, can retention deter or hinder creation?  I can imagine that the constant feeding of information and the rate at which one can retain it affects their ability or even their desire to create.

mmc's picture


The ambiguous figures exercise for me was very thought provoking. Sensory input, experience and previously constructed associations help craft ones constructions of objects, people and the world at large.

Not only sensory input but other associations your brain makes with that specific input and how it carries that input association to another level will give you even more information and potential understanding/ knowledge/something learned. The more associations you make allows you to take that construction and extend it across the spectrum to include a lot more thoughts and ideas.

If you limit yourself to just the input or one association then it would be limited as compared to allowing yourself or your brain to make multiple associations and extend it even higher then the picture itself gets bigger and you see more. If a person’s brain is able to make multiple associations or constructions within a given period of time when viewing a particular figure, object, does that translate to the person being more tolerant and flexible with perceiving, listening, understanding and even seeing other peoples viewpoint or perspectives on constructions of the like?

Perhaps it is most likely so, because if you are blinded or narrow in scope your focus is limited. You don’t see what is in the periphery beyond a given construction. However if you include a whole panoramic view, you may see other things that are influencing the construction, perhaps even things that you didn’t see included initially.

As you recruit more things in a construction, you get a more complete picture and the more concepts you have for what is out there. Therefore you would be able to incorporate that into your thoughts, reaction and behavior towards that given construction.

Society and culture tends to be homogenous and provides us with previously constructed stories and ideas based on certain collective perspectives utilized during a specific time period. As time progresses these ideas may remain concrete, become mended, improved, changed all together and developed.

Is it impossible to know what reality is if our understandings are constantly changing and new constructions are evolving?

What unconscious understandings are interacting with our conscious constructions which ultimately shapes our view of the world? Can you train your unconscious? (Would that be a good thing?)

LinKai_Jiang's picture

The variety of topics here

The variety of topics here overwhelms me and frustrates me. I do not feel like we are getting deep into any topic. I do like the lively conversation going on in this class but that does not necessarily mean synergy. Our discussion is not focused enough to build toward something. There are a lot of ideas on the table but they do not seem to go anywhere. I like to have a focused theme and spend all my energy on it. I rather study one small book on education for the whole semester. A systematic thinking gives me the assurance that I actually do understand something at the end of the day. I was warned that "we don't know where we're gonna end up." But I did not know how much this method goes against how my mind works. Perhaps I've been too ingrained in my formal thinking. I enjoy intellectual wandering in class less than I used to. In travel, the virtue of losing oneself in a foreign city is often praised and romanticized. One discovers things that might otherwise be unknown to the travelers of well-beaten road. But that's when you don't have to attend a class, go to work, or find the right shop. While I enjoy the romanticism of not having a destination in mind, I still feel the logical imperative to construct a coherent narrative of the "romanticism", of the sense of "lost". I'm finding it hard to articulate all the ideas here into some kind of coherence. Maybe my brain will work it out somehow...         










L Cubed's picture


I also find discussion often overwhelming. I find myself trying to process the comments on various topics, compare them to my own, and reconstruct all while trying to keep up with the discussion itself. For me, this is a very extensive and frustrating process, but has been one that I have had to deal with throughout my learning career and stages of development. It reminds me of the concept of metacognition- having knowledge of ones own ability to learn and the factors that influence or affect their learning. This class is reinforcing my own ideals of what kind of learner I am and yet I continue to struggle to adjust and produce. Am I learning? Can metacognition be a crutch(in both senses of the word)? 


ellenv's picture

the brain and creativity

 "If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes" Pablo Picasso

The above quote presents what seems to be a common belief that there is a disconnect between the brain and creativity. In fact, the brain is often made out to be a hinderance to the creative process. The brain has come to represent logic and reason whereas the heart has come to represent emotion and creativity and generally, people are not willing to acknowledge any overlap between the two.  After our discussion last class, however, it seems like this perception has some faults. If everything is a construction of the brain, then doesnt creativity depend entirely on the logic and reason of the brain? Sure, creativity doesnt always involve things that are associated with logic and reason, but I think that creativity certainly has a very firm basis in logic/reasoning. Seriously loopy science requires creativity in the sense that many perspectives lead to a greater understanding of a question and when one perspective leads nowhere, it is important to look at the problem from another perspective. This is the basis for all creativity, I think. What is creativity if not diverse perspectives? 


Angela DiGioia's picture

Imagine if…

Imagine if all classes were structured in the same way as this class. At first, this made me slightly uncomfortable and nervous because I am someone who secretly likes knowing exactly what’s expected of me in a class and a specific rubric for what I have to do to get a good grade. As much as I theoretically oppose structure, I actually desire it (like a safety blanket). Even though this class does not have a rigid structure, there are still expectations for the level of interaction and self-exploration on which we will be ultimately graded. Turns out, there is a fairly specific structure to this class. The difference is, the structure is not oppressively exhausting. The professor acts as a facilitator, gently steering the conversation and asking thought-provoking questions, rather than merely transferring information to us to memorize and then testing us on the material that was never actually put into practice or absorbed. In this transfer model of teaching, the key step in the learning process is missing. How could the students be expected to use the material that they are being taught in real life if they never learn how to apply it? The role of the teacher is key to the experience of the student and, ultimately, how they are able to retain and apply what they learn to contribute to society. Imagine if the teacher were an extension of their student; he/she could play many roles in the classroom-- motivator, challenger, critic, brainstormer, manager, and leader—in order to facilitate learning for longevity and application rather than regurgitation.


Paul Grobstein's picture

a looping structure

"Turns out, there is a fairly specific structure to this class. The difference is, the structure is not oppressively exhausting. The professor acts as a facilitator, gently steering the conversation and asking thought-provoking questions, rather than merely transferring information to us to memorize and then testing us on the material that was never actually put into practice or absorbed ... The role of the teacher is key to the experience of the student"

And, to re-emphasize the "loop," the "role of the student is key to the experience of the teacher."  As per comments interspersed below, a "not oppressively exhausting" sort of structure makes things more interesting/instructive for the teacher as well.  "Imagine if the teacher were an extension of the student" and the student an extension of the teacher?  Might that make education more engaging/productive for all concerned? 

eledford's picture

I'm liking the "loop" -

I'm liking the "loop" - There's something to say about using formative assessments as feedback loops. The teacher should be learning from the student (learning from their reactions to a way of teaching) as much as the student from the teacher. Not only should the students embrace their creativity but so should the teacher. Should the teacher be the coach, or a member of the team? Both?

Ameneh's picture

A slightly different take...

We are all taking this class because we think education matters; so we’re talking about.  A lot is being said about education and the system - its issues, recommendations for its improvement, structure versus no-structure, etc. However, I feel like we’re going in circles. We are saying things that without a doubt, make a whole lot of sense, but it’s all been said before. Yes, some structure is important, but yes, too much structure can be suffocating. Yes, different students learn in different ways, and yes, that is impractical to implement. I feel like a lot of the times we get so caught up in the ‘modern’ that we forget that a great part of the world has moved on to the ‘postmodern’. We already identified in class that there are no objective truths but doesn’t that contradict precisely what we’re trying to in this class - find an overarching, so-to-speak, ideal/perfect system of education? It is human nature to try and find answers and solutions but I see two main issues what that: first, we can go on talking about it but all we’re saying has been said before, so does what we’re doing really even matter at all? Will any of us actually do anything to change the education system? Can we? Someone in class said it isn’t just the education system that needs reformation, its all of society. Can we bring about such a massive change? Yes, society has progressed, but a lot of the core values and way of society is still the same. What or who is it going to take to shake that up? Will any of us try? This ties into my second issue: what is the change that we want to bring about? Maybe its just my interest in postmodernism that’s making me say this, but the world is so diverse and each individual has such a different way of thinking, how will be ever be able to agree upon what society should be like? But, on the other hand, if we don’t identify what the change we want is, how will we ever get around to bringing about that change? The question, then is, where does that leave us? I for one, am not too sure.

LinKai_Jiang's picture

I think you made a good

I think you made a good point: what's the point of saying things that have been said before? Aren't we just wasting time? Recreating the wheel is not what we want to do yet it is hard to say something that has not been said already (perhaps with much more eloquence). It seems like it would be more productive to familiar oneself with the writings in a particular focused topic then see if the understanding of those writings take you to a new height. Newton stood on the shoulder of Giants and saw farther than he otherwise can. 

Some might argue that the process of working out previous thinkings is valuable in itself. The individual ownership of the knowledge is more important than the collective accumulation of knowledge.



Paul Grobstein's picture

aspiration and possibility in education in a post-modern world

"we get so caught up in the ‘modern’ that we forget that a great part of the world has moved on to the ‘postmodern’. We already identified in class that there are no objective truths but doesn’t that contradict precisely what we’re trying to in this class - find an overarching, so-to-speak, ideal/perfect system of education?"

Lots of interesting thoughts here, the above included.   What DOES follow from "no objective truths" in re life in general, and education in particular?  And if "it isn’t just the education system that needs reformation, its all of society," what role should education, including both students and teachers play in that and how?  And has it "all been said before"?  My own sense, both from our class sessions in general, and the forum conversation here in particular, is that there are in fact new ways of thinking emerging, both about education per se and its bidirectional interaction with society.  And that the "no objective truths" notion has a lot to do with that.  Are we in search of "an overarching ... ideal/perfect system of education"?  That would indeed be inconsistent with the "postmodern."  But maybe we can get it less wrong?  Identify particular problems in the present, suggest/act on ways to fix those?  And accept, maybe even learn to enjoy, the localness and finitude of that process? 

L Cubed's picture


There were several comments made and thoughts shared in class that left me thinking…We were discussing different learning styles and the practicality (or impracticality) of a teacher being able to cater to those styles found within its students. In my opinion, not only is it practical, but necessary. I would even dare to say that if a teacher fails to acknowledge the diversity of their students than they fail to teach [effectively]. The teacher should base their role on how they need to challenge their students and increase the skills their students need to be successful learners. A part of learning is accepting or should I say, acknowledging difference. It is essential for students to be aware of this difference and see a variety of perspectives or approaches to learning. Yes, it is a difficult and often overwhelming task for teachers, but not an impossible one. Figuring out how to achieve this in the classroom is a learning experience in itself and after all, teaching is learning.


The statement was made that “different kinds of things need to be learned in different contexts”. (I agree!) I think that this speaks to approach that has dominated the education system since forever and its failure to step beyond the confines of the classroom. In a way, this relates to and gives some validity to the comment made my skindeep’s teacher, “the system of education we are following [is] redundant.” In thinking about this, I looked up the word “teach” and one of the definitions given was that teaching is “bringing understand to something or somebody, especially through an experience”. The emphasis that this definition places on experience is key because I think that experience provides us with those different contexts for learning. No one experience is exactly the same.


An interesting question posed was, “Is there only one way to survive?” I think that society likes to make us think that the concept of survival or the means by which we survive is universal, but is it? I don’t think so. I mean, I think that knowledge is essential for survival, not necessarily the knowledge obtained from school, but knowledge of who you are and what you believe or value which is different from person to person.


Paul Grobstein's picture

survival and diversity in classrooms

“Is there only one way to survive?”

I too think there are lots of ways to survive.  And that in turn seems to me to bear on the "problem" of classroom diversity.  It is indeed an "overwhelming task for teachers" to convey to a very diverse group of students any particular way to survive.  My guess is it would be easier if we allowed different students to develop their own distinctive survival strategies, and easier still if we encouraged students to share their works in progress with and learn from each other.   

D2B's picture

This post does not talk about structure within education...

As part of my Praxis III Independent Study course, I have been working with high school seniors mainly trying to draw a feeding link between creative thinking/writing and academic spaces utilizing academic prompts and writing assignments (if that makes any sense, sorry about the wording). For example, these high school seniors are mandated to do a senior project on their topic of choice. They are given free reign over what they want to write about and research but there are still requirements to be met, field work to be done and presentations to be held that tend to, the students believe, become less fun and more mandatory useless work necessary to graduate. Currently they are working on their theses for their senior projects and creating arguments for them. It became very clear that, for many, the development of a thesis and/or arguments was easier said than done.

Many students chose to write about very obvious topics and didn't see why anyone should question the topic or ask them to back it up with facts or evidence. This brought me to think about the exercise we did in class when Prof. Grobstein showed us images within images. Almost everyone at first glance, individually saw one thing and with further concentration and scrutiny brought themselves to see a different image. I wanted to draw upon this and create a similar dynamic with my group of students to help them see not only what an argument was but also the value of arguing for your perception of something.

Using pictures of murals, I got the students  to engage in the material and think outside of the box. They all received a mural and interpreted it the way they saw it and then the mural was handed off to another student whom, whether they initially agreed with the original argument or not, had to really scrutinize the mural and use their brains to really see something else in the image and present a counter-argument. Anyway, I was really happy to actually see the students tapping into this idea we discussed in class, the diversity of understandings of concepts, images and texts. What is obvious to some is a lot less obvious to another and it requires, in some cases, assistance and mental manipulation for an individual to see something the way another can instantly see it. I think this can mean a lot if we go further into the talk about teaching, whether teaching generally for material retention or teaching to different learning styles.

Paul Grobstein's picture

seeing things differently as foundation and method in education

"Almost everyone at first glance, individually saw one thing and with further concentration and scrutiny brought themselves to see a different image. I wanted to draw upon this and create a similar dynamic with my group of students to help them see not only what an argument was but also the value of arguing for your perception of something."

Very glad to hear about this.  Maybe you could tell us more about your experience with it as one of the open conversations later in the semester? 

My experience too is that students, at all levels, is that they tend "to write about very obvious topics and didn't see why anyone should question the topic" and find that "the development of a thesis and/or arguments was easier said than done."  To put it differently, students tend to accept the "obvious" (to themselves and/or as it is described by other people) and repeat it rather than looking for the less obvious, an alternative, and developing that themselves.  I like a lot the idea of explicitly encouraging students to create/develop their own "realities" (cf Evolution of science education as story telling and story revising; a "course objective" is "To achieve new, previously unconceived understandings for oneself and contribute to others doing so.").  And I like your use of "images within images," making explicit the different ways different people see the same thing, as both encouragement and grist for the process. 

simonec's picture


 skindeep :

i believe that functioning in a system that we think to be flawed CAN  be congruent with changing it. "Insiders" have to change the face of the educational system, as opposed to give into some type of anarchy. There are member of school boards, teachers, and administrators all over the world who know that what they enforce is not necessarily the most effective, yet they do it anyways, trying to make as much change as they can. No matter how much we muse about upheaval and change, there are systems of change as well... and ignoring them causes chaos and disfunction.


I once attended a writing workshop that was attempting to teach us about perspective and diversity, where a large black dot was put on the board and we were asked what it could be. responses ranged from buttons, door knobs, bullet holes, bottoms of beer bottles.. it was very interesting/ telling.


I think many of us probably justify being at these schools by internally configuring the experience by putting faith in ourselves to navigate these spaces well, but not necessarily the structure of the school on its own to serve our best interests.  are we succumbing to some sort of societal pressure? probably. but that does not, in my opinion, make it a bad choice/experience. 

Paul Grobstein's picture

getting it less wrong in education

"i believe that functioning in a system that we think to be flawed CAN  be congruent with changing it. "Insiders" have to change the face of the educational system, as opposed to give into some type of anarchy."

I'm with you.  One can identify problems with something without rejecting it in its entirety.  And one can work to correct problems while surviving within systems that have problems. 

bennett's picture

Education and Knowledge

Paul wrote this above and I thought it was pretty compelling:


Education is a changing the brain, according to one or another particular story about how/why it should be changed, so knowing something about the brain must be relevant for education?


There is certainly something intuitive about this: the more we know about the brain and the better we understand the ways that it works, the more we can tailor the way we teach to the contingencies of our anatomy. But it also presupposes a certain structure of knowledge and education: what does it mean to "know something" about the brain? It seems reasonable to assume that we need education to discover anything about the brain, so we must first have education to know things about the brain. And the things we know about the brain are, in turn, shaped by the frameworks we have acquired through our education. So the relationship, it seems, is potentially more complex than subjective knowledge about an object ("the brain") -- a scheme which only operates in one direction. We can only know things about the brain that we are prepared and capable to know, in one way or another, which presupposes some kind of education. Or do I have it wrong? 

epeck's picture

This sort of reminds me of

This sort of reminds me of the idea of "stereotype threat" - basically that we will behave as we think other people think we will.  So learning about the brain changes the brain in the sense that if someone studies the brain and concludes that men have more inborn mathematical abilities - this "discovery" in itself will hinder women's mathematical abilities if women know they are "supposed" to perform lower.  I think this is why some people are hesitant to make conclusions based on studies of the brain - because once people hear about them, they trust the source (studies on the brain) so much that they believe it must be true and behave accordingly.  Also, there have definitely been examples of people only finding what they look for in science.  If society and education says something is true, somebody can probably justify it from looking at the brain - this seems like a really dangerous power.  This might have been a bit off of what you were asking...

Paul Grobstein's picture

"knowing something" as embodied process

Yep, what we know now influences what we know next.  That doesn't though mean either that we all have to have the same preparation ("education") to derive some benefit from hearing other peoples' experiences/understandings about the brain or that peoples' existing understandings, wherever they come from, are irrelevant to further understanding of the brain. Yep, the "the relationship ... is more complex than ... a scheme that operates in only one direction."  Its a loop: that which is being influenced is also influencing (as per finding sense in a whirlpool).  And so different people may take from our course different things, as well as contribute different things to further thinking about the brain.  Maybe that's a good thing rather than a probem?  Maybe that's a characteristic, a desireable one,  of knowledge in general?  One that should be more clearly acknowledged in education?  To "know something" isn't independent either of  particular knowers or of the process of creating knowledge?     

bennett's picture

I absolutely agree with the

I absolutely agree with the last few things you note here Paul -- I think diversity of viewpoints presents an essential opportunity to make our worlds bigger (and consequently, more "real"). I think that the point I was initially trying to make, and what Elana was suggesting as well, was that everything we know about the brain is based, fundamentally, on a passive construction (we invent concepts and terms to explain the perceived workings of an organ). And every piece of knowledge that we add to our repertoire threatens to push us farther away from the material reality of our brains, and consequently closer to an abstraction. It's based, I guess, on thinking about "paradigms" in science, and how the way that knowledge claims we make about the world are already at least partially determined by the lens(es) we use to examine it.

One way of rephrasing my concern would be to ask very seriously, "What does our knowledge of the brain consist in? What are the kinds of things we know, and how do we know them?"

kgould's picture

 I though our discussion

 I though our discussion about structure and how structure within schools changes over time, was rather interesting. The set-up was thus:

  • Elementary School: little structure
  • Middle school: little/more structure
  • High school: lots of structure

But I think that also depends on what kind of structure we're talking about. Certainly, there is less structure when it comes to activities and assignments for younger elementary students, but their daily schedule is highly regimented, perhaps as much as older students in middle and high school. They have a morning class period, recess, midday class, lunch, and afternoon classes. I know that, for my elementary school, we had the same subjects at the same time everyday, the same recess groups, the same lunch periods, the same library days... 

And someone posited the issue of whether students going into school for the first time need structure, look for structure, or desire structure. If they do, or if they don't, why? Is it pre-school education that shaped them that way? The kinds of schedules they had at home? The anatomy or physiology of their brains? What would kids look like, in school, if we didn't give them as much structure when they were younger?

Or what would we look like, now, if we had started off with a lot of structure and moved toward less through our secondary school career?

Is what Paul said, lining up our transition from undergraduate school, graduate school, and "life" analogous to the latter part? If life is less structured (or perhaps, depending on what you do and how you do it, unstructured) is a highly structured education preparing us at all?

I don't want to make any assumptions and I'm trying very hard to remain neutral, but like I said in class (I think, fallible memory), I'm not a huge structure person. I do better when I'm given room to try out my own ideas and choose my own path to my own goal. That's one of the reasons why I've enjoyed college so much, I think. I get to choose my courses and, thereby, my coursework, my destination, my path...

And, likewise, I think there are people who thrive in structured systems. It needs to be said, and loudly I think, that neither highly structured nor loosely structured systems of education are good or bad or better than the other, it all depends on the student and how they learn best.  

Arguing one way or the other only really speaks to one's personal preference rather than what is "best for everyone."

Here is a link to a test some of you might like to take; it's based off of Multiple Intelligences theory and I think it's pertinent to what we've been talking about in class. 

Lastly, I want to brush on the instance of "seeing a chair as a chair." Yes, we can all look at that office chair and identify it as such. Yes, as it was said, someone who has had no experiences or observations concerning chairs might not be able to identify it for what it is. But are we all seeing the same chair, exactly as the next? Does it matter if we do, or don't? How could we know if we are? You say the chair is red, but how do we know we see the same color "red?" Your red could be my blue, but we would never know. If education is a means of teaching us how to perceive, or TRY to perceive, the same things as other people, to come to a consensus, is that useful? Should we be reaching for a consensus? Is it useful in some cases and not in others?

Question mark. I do not know. What do you all think? :O

Paul Grobstein's picture

structure, consensus, AND ...

I very much agree with both you and epeck that one doesn't want to eliminate "structure," that it plays and will always play an important role in both education and life.  And in the brain, as we'll come to in a bit.  The issue is instead, it seems to me, the degree of reliance one places on structure, the extent to which one takes it as a value in its own right, an end to be achieved rather than a tool or device for continuing inquiry.  The same, I think, goes for consensus.   See an interplay between individual and shared subjectivites below.  I agree with you as well that different degrees of structure are preferred/optimal for different people.  At the same time, I'd argue that everyone has the capability to both appreciate structure and go beyond it, and so education shouldn't be entirely a matter of "personal preference" but rather of enhancing everyone's capability to make use of/develop structure as well as go beyond it.     

epeck's picture

I would argue that life

I would argue that life itself is very much structured - the only difference is that we structure it ourselves.  Usually, people try to adhere to schedules and principles they've determined will suit them well.  In college, one of the things people usually find most difficult is structuring their time effectively.  Is this because we were handed so much structure in high school etc. that we are unable to create if for ourselves?  Or has that high school structure given us some tools in being able to create our own structure?  Daily life beyond college might have less structure depending on what career path one takes, but without the imposed system of structure, people often try and create their own schedules and rules to follow (although this could be because they've become so accustomed to it) - is it the same sort of structure it it's self-imposed?

skindeep's picture

looking over the wall

one concept that came up in class condradicted everything that i have always believed. it was when paul said 'what's being asserted is that there's no mind and brain as seperate entities. the mind is the brain'

now, i know that the mind is often construed as just another word for the soul. and im not religious at all, but i like to believe that there is a part of us that isnt constructed and directed by biology. that we arent made up of only chemicals. that we need more than a pill to fix a mental problem. that there is a part of us that is connected to and works with the rest of the universe. and this doesnt necessarily have to be the mind, or the soul, or any other word scientists are uncomfortable using, but i do believe that there's something more than biology keeping us alive. in fact, it could even be the brain. if we are then comfortable asserting that all of the brain isnt just chemicals. because we havent completely unravelled the brain, and we're still searching for answers.

something else that came up was education as brain surgery, with educators who manipulate the brain, causing it to fucntion in a certain way. now, at first, i agreed with this completely, and at the same time, wondered what we were doing in a system of education that was trying to teach us how to be. but after thinking about it for a while, i realised that yes, education does have a very large impact on the way we percieve the world, but here we are, questioning that system and structure itself. obviously it's still given us room for iur thoughts and contradictions to develop. and honestly, the entire society we live in is based of structure - in your family, at school, at work, in your neighbourhood, the way you interact with people -- all of it has some structure. and you need that, in order to know how to function. in order to make functioning easier.

compartmentalising things is a natural function of our brains, we put everthing into little boxes so that we can process information faster. and maybe, compartmentalising isnt the problem at all. its the labels we add to the compartments that cause problems. its like what we spoke about in a Gender Studies class i once took, the words 'male' and 'female' or pronouns 'he' and 'she' dont cause the problems, in fact we need those in daily conversation or thought, it's the stereotypes and lables we attach to them that make things uncomfortable and suffocating. so maybe its the same with structure. maybe structure isnt bad. but structured structure - the holding on and incessant need for structure is what causes claustrophobia. if structure existed and loose boundaries, maybe we'd be alright.  


Paul Grobstein's picture

brains, minds, and labels/categories

For the sake of the record, and because I've been writing about this recently in a different context, I hope I didn't say "the mind is the brain."  What I hope I said, and certainly meant to say, is "there's no mind and brain as separate entities. the mind is a part of the brain." 

On another note, I like/want to flag "maybe structure isnt bad. but structured structure - the holding on and incessant need for structure is what causes claustrophobia. if structure existed and loose boundaries, maybe we'd be alright."  For my own way of saying something along these lines, see Deconstructing and reconstructing cultures and individuals.   Its something we'll return to in thinking about the brain.  

jessicarizzo's picture


But how does the notion of homogeneity as the enemy of real learning coexist with that of individual subjectivities always being "richer" than collective ones?  It sounds like you're saying that intersubjectivity (or co-constructed reality) is always a compromise, whereby we neccesarily sacrifice some of the depth/nuance/idiosyncracy of our personal way of perceiving the world... but that's just the price we have to pay in order to exist in communities.  We're comfortable agreeing to tradeoffs like this as they apply to a bunch of other areas of our lives... Freud says we'll just always have to be a little sexually repressed because, if we let loose, civilization as we know it would collapse in a chaotic libidinal frenzy... Hobbes says we agree to hand some of our freedom over to the state because the alternative to living in regulated communities is a life that is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short," life in the state of nature.  I see a similiar tradeoff implied in this piece of writing, but that seems to be at odds with the dreamy new image of "education" I had suspected we were on our way to, an image that involves a creative, rather than limiting, convergence of potentially conflicting wills/minds. 

Based on what we've seen so far... It makes sense that if there is no empirical reality, our brains are most fit, best equipped for survival if they're really comfortable with fluidity, plurality, if they're nimble rather than bloated with overconsumption. The old ideal of an educated person with his head packed to capacity with facts becomes ludicrous when there are no facts.  Does any crystallized knowledge, in fact, become a liability?  Just weighing you down?  I worried in my post last week about the impotent, self-pleasuring solipsism of "creative" thought that has no relationship to or capacity to impact the life-world.  For these adventures in thought/creation to be anything else, the key has to lie in communication, intersubjectivity... different ways of saying education?  Isn't education going to be about exposing ourselves to diversity?  Diversifying ourselves, our own consciousnesses... trying to get more, different brains talking to each other, so that each individual brain becomes more flexible, elastic, more comfortable holding together conflicting perspectives and maybe unresolvable tensions.  This seems "richer" to me.. a single brain that's more like a generous and socially adroit host entertaining its eclectic group of friends in the parlor of the mind.

Also, I agree that structure is not "bad." "Structure," as such, is neutral.  And it's absolutely neccesary.  Still, imposing structure is, I think, always going to involve a tradeoff like those mentioned above.  Because the other, totally neutral half of reality is chaos... and we have to find a way of allowing this in, rather than always assuming that we have to tame or subdue the "destructive" powers of chaos by strangling it with structure.  Since if there is no empirical reality, our impulse to impose the structure that will allow us to feel like we've got it all figured out, like we really are the "masters and possesors of nature," should in fact be viewed as the destructive or hindering impulse at work here.  An attempt to indulge our control-freak anxieties... when the only way to palliate them is to let that "need" for control go.

Paul Grobstein's picture

an interplay between individual and shared subjectivities

"I had suspected we were on our way to, an image that involves a creative, rather than limiting, convergence of potentially conflicting wills/minds. " 

Indeed, I hope we are.  The intended bottom line of Deconstructing and reconstructing individuals and cultures (which may well be less clear there) is not at all the Hobbesian or Freudian argument that "shared subjectivity" is "the price we have to pay in order to exist in communities."  It is instead much closer to your "trying to get more, different brains talking to each other, so that each individual brain becomes more flexible, elastic."  Yes, "shared subjectivity" helps us to work together on particular tasks but, even more important, efforts to achieve "shared subjectivity" expose us to different individual subjectivities and provide new take-off points from which to conceive new ways of thinking about things, both individual and shared (see The "objectivity"/"subjectivity" spectrum: having one's cake and eating it too).

The hazard, I think, is not "shared subjectivity" in and of itself, that's useful.  I think the hazard, as you suggest, is the inclination to reify either "shared subjectivity" or individual subjectivity, "our impulse to impose the structure that will allow us to feel like we've got it all figured out, like we really are the "masters and possesors of nature."  The antidote is not to deny the significance of either "structure" or "shared subjectivity" but rather, as you say, to stop indulging "our control-freak anxieties ... to let that "need" for control go."  

skindeep's picture


im sorry, you most definitely did say 'the same entity', i think i scribbled down different wording in my notes in a hurry. 

D2B's picture

what do you see?

 image - what do you see?Sorry guys I had to...Because of discussion of the constructions of the brain and differences in visualization and perception really, to say the least, bothered yet intrigued me so I am interested in what some people see...Please Respond!! No explanation necessary...

LinKai_Jiang's picture



FinnWing's picture

A large red dot....

.....which just so happens to catch my attention every every time I look away from the screen

Angela DiGioia's picture

I see a red clown nose

I see a red clown nose

Ameneh's picture

A red sticker

A red sticker

Evren's picture

A big red circle. I suppose

A big red circle. I suppose I'm not especially creative.

skindeep's picture

big red button

a button that i would like to push.

to set of a rocket ship. or an idea.

Paul Grobstein's picture

The fact of the matter is its ...

A stop light

(or a tomato, a setting sun, an unusually large red dot, ...)

eledford's picture

Quotes from class followed by some questions.

Not all students learn the same way. Well what shapes these learning we have been taught? It's similar to the pictures we were viewing at the end of class - what guides our sight? How do we pick out what we see in the images over something else?

Should the objective of education be to bring everyone to the desired outcome? Or should it be to allow everyone to progress their own outcomes? This made me think of competition. I've always thought that a little competition was a good thing. If different goals are set to provide different outcomes, do we lose competition? Is competition a result of structure? Does having an objective limit you?

Not all constructions are the same. Do we construct what we want to see? Is it harmful to do so? Also, it is important to take into consideration the distance from things of which we construct. Examining things from far away may allow us to construct things differently than up close. Is one way "better"? Sometimes you need the perspective. Sometimes you need the little details.

Input is always ambiguous. Then how does the brain choose which construction?



We also talked a lot about thinking inside or out of the box; perhaps thinking out of the box takes more time and forces one to evaluate his/her own self (creativity) that may or may not be concrete to the individual at that point in time. 

Finally, who creates the education system? Does $ drive it? Is it political (e.g. funding received for high marks or goals met)?


epeck's picture

unstructured thoughts.

Since we seem to have classified this course as “somewhat unstructured,” I’m questioning why I’ve been writing these responses in such a structured way, when my thoughts after class are anything but.  Am I just trying to add structure?  So – at least for this post I think it will be more useful to write out my thoughts in bullet form (although that in itself is a form of structure).

-Sometimes I feel like I must be the only person in this course who has had a formative or personality-building experience within the bounds of formal education.  When I think back about the classes I’ve taken and what I’ve learned, I actually do recall moments of true education and fun.  We’ve talked about how much of learning takes place outside of the classroom – but I’ve definitely had character-building experiences within the classroom.  Am I the only one who has had such positive experiences within a school setting? 

-The above point makes me think that there is very little distinction between “rewarding” and “fun,” and both are valid reasons to do something.  Fun may even encompass “rewarding” in its purest form.  However, sometimes people label things that they feel the need to justify as “rewarding” simply because they hope it will be in the future.  Often when people say something is rewarding, it’s a way to feel like they’re properly appreciating an opportunity.

-Someone made the comment, “structure doesn’t exist – I exist” when we were discussing how one can (if one can) know whether orders and structure are for a good purpose.  If we can trust ourselves to be able to think independently – why isn’t that enough of a check on structure to know when it is seriously inhibiting our well-being and education?  Also, other people create structure and the society we live in.  Since all of these things are human invention, why can’t we put trust or faith into these constructions?  If we can’t trust structure and society to help us, is this because these things have gained a momentum of their own and are no longer within human control – or do we just not trust those who have the power to set structure? 


eledford's picture

In response to your last point...

In response to your last point...

Aren't we putting a little faith into the structure merely by choosing to attend (or teach at) Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore, and what not? We must all be somewhat trusting, right?

epeck's picture

I think that we all put faith

I think that we all put faith in the "system" by living within it, and I think I'm one of the people in this course who, like Abby said last week, for some reason tries to defend the educational system - or at least its positive aspects.  Many people in this class have stated that there is something very wrong with the system or society in general and I wanted to try and pinpoint where that distrust comes from.

skindeep's picture

does living in the system

does living in the system mean we have faith in it?

like i said in class, i tried to fight the system for years, and it didnt really get me anywhere. i mean, noones really going to listen to a 9th grade kid who says things need to be different. or noone was willing to do much about it. i remember one conversation with my english teacher, she said she agreed with me, that the system of education we were following was redundant. but that's the way it was and we just had to make do with it. so as far as written work in the class was concerned, she let me be creative and try different writing styles, but the minute i had to give a board (ICSE) examination, she told me it had to be a dry, traditional paper.

and i wonder, had she been living in the system for too long? was she a product of what the system taught us all to be? would i turn out like that 20 years from now? i decided i didnt want to. but maybe my approach and self indulged stubborn attitude wasnt the right way to go about it. yes, we llive in a system. i doubt all of us have faith in it. but everyday that we spend living within it, we give it more strength. we need to start pushing at its boundaries. and who knows? maybe this rigid system could turn into one with permeable wallls.

epeck's picture

that didn't work as well as I had intended.

In trying to take away a little structure, I only ended up working within the bounds of a different kind.

Paul Grobstein's picture

changing but not escaping structure

Maybe that's telling us something interesting/important about the brain, and how it interacts with ... whatever is out there?

eledford's picture

Dark Matter

 Aren't our brains highly structured...anatomically?

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