Semester ¾, ma-multilearn, development across boundaries, Professor Charles Max
Student: jean-marie nau, January 2011
Task: Sketch out a meaningful experience upon development across boundaries you want to discuss and analyse further within this course!
Reflect upon what kind of boundaries did you experience? What are the characteristics of these boundaries? How are these boundaries related to your development? Had there been any crossing or even breaking away/out in play? Had there any learning taking place? What tensions had been in play? HOW and WHY did it happen?
“… to cross borders, there must be borders to cross. A question then emerges of what hierarchies of value are at play and who exercises power in such situations and how.” (Edwards 2005: 5) (part of the slides by Prof. Max, seminar 3, boundary crossing).
The master programme Learning & Development in multilingual & multicultural contexts at the University of Luxembourg is a rich place for discovery of various boundaries in the scientific landscape. The danger for me has been to get lost in the forest, being concentrated on the various aspects of the trees, their shape, height and smell. Finding a way out of the forest, crossing the border, being able to view the forest from a distance has helped a lot to put things into a balanced perspective.
Here, I briefly outline a few boundaries that I believe need to be crossed:
– Religion & science
– Interconnectedness of all things (view on theory & reality)
– Vision & Understanding / unity in diversity
– Science & morality
An evolving conceptual framework is proposed that allows for a coherent approach to social action.
1. Two sources of knowledge: science & religion
The task of sketching out a meaningful experience in development across boundaries is exactly the challenge needed. Over the last weeks and months, two sources of knowledge, science & religion, have taken up space in my thinking area.
Proposing an evolving conceptual framework for social action may provide a third space enabling boundary crossing between the two sources of knowledge. In some ways, such a project is being prepared by a group of ma-multilearn students, bringing together students and members of the Bahá’í community. The interaction space thus created may provide a basis for learning and development. Engestroem (1999) proposes two interacting activity systems as minimal model for third generation of activity theory.
The elements of a conceptual framework for social action may be divided into 4 categories: Annexe 1 provides some further details about these elements.
· Beliefs about fundamental issues of existence
· Views on the role knowledge plays both in the life of the individual and in the development of society
· Principles that govern our life
· Approaches and methods we are likely to adopt for our actions
This is of course a project with an immense ambition, but it provides a valuable starting point. The inspiration for the conceptual framework is found in a course entitled: specialisation in education for development; constructing a conceptual framework. It is currently offered by the Rural University of FUNDAEC (Foundation for the Application and Teaching of Sciences) in Columbia (http://www.fundaec.org/en/programs/cubr/index.htm), and as an online programme by Lazoslearning (http://www.lazoslearning.org/en/offerings.html).
There have of course been tensions between these two boundaries. Looking at the two sources of knowledge, science & religion, I would like to make it clear that I’m only at the very beginning of familiarising myself with some initial aspects of scientific knowledge. As for religion, I would be most familiar with the texts of the Bahá’í Faith and will mainly make reference to this body of knowledge when referring to religion.
Considering religion & science as two sources of knowledge enables the possibility of an attempt to capture reality, or at least our current understanding of it.
2. The interconnectedness of all things
Bringing together science & religion allows for the exploration of reality in a holistic way. Another set of boundaries can be seen the way we look at reality, the way we describe minute aspects of a reality we think we have defined. It seems important to cross the boundary between researching various aspects of reality as we are able to and seeing the broader picture, having an encompassing overview, seeing the interconnectedness of all things.
Paul Lample refers to David Bohm, well-known physicist and philosopher:
The problem actually runs deeper. As David Bohm, the well-known physicist and philosopher, has pointed out, the way most intellectual disciplines treat theory today is intimately connected with the fragmentation of thought that is prevalent in society. At the most fundamental level, this fragmentation arises, he argues, from our insistence that our theories correspond to “reality as it is” rather than being manageable models of limited sets of phenomena occurring within an objective reality that is infinitely complex. Since our theories are necessarily fragmented, by considering them replicas of “reality as it is,” we end up assuming that reality itself is fragmented. And so we miss the interconnectedness of all things. . . .(Lample, 2009, p. 137)
3. Vision & Understanding and unity in diversity
I’m not sure if there are boundaries between gaining a vision and understanding an aspect of reality. But Bahá’í texts suggest that:
In this Day whatsoever serveth to reduce blindness and to increase vision is worthy of consideration. This vision acteth as the agent and guide for true knowledge. Indeed in the estimation of men of wisdom keenness of understanding is due to keenness of vision (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 35).
This concept may make sense when combined with the concept of ‘unity in diversity’. One way of seeing this, is that people from different backgrounds come together to work on a common project. Does it mean that they could have a common a vision and that their diversity contributes to a better understanding? Evelin Gerda Lindner, a transdisciplinary scholar in social Sciences and humanities talks about the importance of unity in diversity. http://www.sv.uio.no/tjenester/kunnskap/podkast/psyc3203-14-1-09.html. This resonates very much with Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from (http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_johnson_where_good_ideas_come_from.html).
4. Science & Morality
Ten collected papers, edited by Graham Walker in 2007, derived from a conference in 2002 at the Royal College of Physicians of London in 2009. It brought together researchers from different disciplines whose brief was to consider the question of a scientific basis for morality and so provide common ground for diverse moral opinions (Walker, 2007)
The discussions in The Science of Morality move from the brain and its extraordinary product of consciousness to psychological and sociological insights, and they examine from the breadth of these perspectives the possibilities for increased understanding of the social and moral capacities of human beings. There can scarcely be a more important set of enquires. (From the Foreword to the book by AC Grayling MA DPhil(Oxon) FRSA).
A quick overview on the internet provides a number of interesting initiatives that address the topic of science & religion in an academic way.
The Role and Significance of Religion and Science in Creating an Integrated Holistic Educational System and Global Civilization, by Alex Habib Riazati
A Holistic Perspective: Today’s problems are of a complex nature requiring resolution that’s both integrative and comprehensive. Religion and science occupy the central role in all aspects of spiritual, intellectual, and the material developments of humankind. Hence, no solution to any problem can be comprehensively effective and sustainable without giving balanced consideration to the roles and the significance of religion and science in creating an ever-advancing civilization. http://lass.calumet.purdue.edu/cca/jgcg/2010/jgcg-2010-riazati.htm
Science and religion explored, 2 September 2005 , CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, United States — The relationship between science and religion was explored at the 29th annual Association for Baha’i Studies conference. Attended by some 1,300 people, the conference explored everything from the role of inspiration in scientific discovery to the value of prayer in healing. Presentations ranged over the gamut of natural and social sciences, from neuroscience to quantum mechanics, from philosophy to psychology. http://news.bahai.org/story/387
Some further explanations regarding the 4 categories that constitute an evolving conceptual framework:
1. Our beliefs about fundamental issues of existence will constitute one category of elements of our framework. The nature of man, the nature of society, the purpose of life, the way God guides history and the evolution of humanity are examples of such beliefs.
2. Closely related to the above are our views on the role knowledge plays both in the life of the individual and in the development of society. Examples of elements in this category are: our view on science and religion and their contributions to human progress; our outlook on education; our criteria for determining the validity of the constant stream of information we receive from varied sources; the degree of objectivity we seek in ascertaining facts; our attitude towards technology; and the way we go about familiarizing ourselves with new technologies and making decisions about their use.
3. The principles that govern our life constitute another component of the framework of our endeavours. A similar category consists of our values. What we consider most important to seek in life – comfort, money, adventure, tranquillity, a good family life, knowledge, opportunities to serve others, prestige, power, excellence; the value we place on such attributes as justice, love, generosity, and sincerity; the importance we give to friendship; the degree to which service to humanity motivates our life – these are just a few examples of a large set of beliefs and attitudes that form our system of values, a significant aspect of the framework that guides our actions.
4. A more subtle aspect of the framework within which we act has to do with the approaches and methods we are likely to adopt for our actions. Whether we seek to be the center of all activities in which we participate or devote our energies to facilitating harmonious group action; whether we work alone or tend to collaborate with others; whether we need to be in control of everything or are willing to bow to group decisions; whether we create around us an atmosphere of competition or foster cooperation; whether we set rigid goals and drive ourselves to achieve them or allow our actions to benefit from constant and systematic reflection; whether we keep repeating the same mistakes or learn from experience – these are important factors that not only determine how effective we are in what we do, but also affect the very nature of the initiatives we are willing to undertake in life.
Lample, P. (2009). Revelation & Social Reality. USA: Palabra Publications. Retrieved from available as download: http://www.palabrapublications.com/downloads
Walker, G. (2007). The Science of Morality. Royal College of Physicians of London.