Re: [unrev-II] Profound Thinking (but of questionable relevance to present DKR project)

From: Henry van Eyken (
Date: Wed Feb 23 2000 - 05:53:42 PST

From: Henry van Eyken <>

I wouldn't write these things if I were to believe they are irrelevant.
But I realize that they may not be quite in order at this point of the
initial DKR development work. I must let others, especially the
hard-working team leaders, be the judges.

My personal, principal reasons for having contributed the three "Letters
to my Colleagues" items are:

1. Look at the educational establishment as an organization badly in
need of bootstrapping along with a personal-experience view where the
nub of that bootstrapping process ought to be. Let me add something that
should not be overlooked. The way I have written about education,
including the direct reference to one particular institution, is not
exactly socially acceptable. Thus I tend to bring out issues that many
like to hide from public view and/or pooh-pooh. It is an approach, and
an attitude from my side, that is not going to get the kind of
co-operation that is the hallmark of the Session 6A presentations by Pie
and Spohrer. In contrast, by writing my "letters," I was serving pretty
hot potatoes and you can imagine what institutional reactions I had to
be prepared for and which actually occurred. A fair number of people
agreed in direct encounters, but hardly anyone publicly. In the end, I
think (not "like to think," but truly think) that people tacitly agreed,
but without perceptible effect.

2. To address the point about self-learning. I don't wish to bring
myself in the picture too much, but I have been very much an independent
(and haphazard) learner as a consequence of the home environment in
which I was raised, the Nazi occupation during my teenage years, and the
"hunger winter" of 1944-45, to be followed within a few years by being
drafted in the army. I simply did not have "normal" educational
opportunities. I have enjoyed successes that have stood me in good stead
and, looking back, I can also perceive, although not all that clearly,
shortcomings. In short, I approach the subject of self-learning with
caution, but without wishing to take a stance intolerant of other
people's thoughts.

3. To provide an example of what I believe, rightly or wrongly, to be a
pretty pure and highly important example of bootstrapping. Accomodative
learning, typically, is the acquisition of broader concepts that allow
the acquisition of knowledge that would otherwise be impossible. It may
require the destruction of fairly deeply held beliefs (and associated
social habits), which can be an emotionally painful experience and
threatening to self-esteem. It may upset in the learner a sense of
comfort. School may conflict with home. Taking this thing to the
extreme, we are looking, I believe, at things like religious conversions
and turning creationists into evolutionists to say nothing of broad
social phenomena like women's emancipation and accomodating (I mean:
respecting, not merely assimilative accepting) the multihued society.
The more common occurrences are the "we have always done it this way"
and "if it was good enough for" syndromes. The acquired broader view,
the expanded horizon, is one's very personal equivalent of "C." Or so I
tend to think. And like sample "C" activities discussed, it requires
co-operation where an outsider (or some special circumstance) shocks the
learner into C-behavior. A C-change would normaly be a socially induced
occurrence. (Thought: aren't the most dramatic books, plays, and movies
B -> C conversions? Seeing the light? Epiphanies?) I very much welcome
any deserved critical lambasting here because we are here at the heart
of lifelong, 50-some-years personal education in a time of accelerating

3a. Personal bootstrapping may easily put one out of touch or in direct
conflict with one's immediate environment, i.o.w. one risks a social
cost and, consequently, an emotional cost. "Misfit" is a common word
used in this connection. Especially harmful in family and child-rearing

3b. In a class by itself, it seems, is the apparent barrier to mental
accomodation of natural phenomenon that have been surmized by
calculations such as, for starters, particle-wave dualism. [Interesting
anecdote: J.J. Thomson received a 1906 Nobel prize for elucidating
properties of the particle known as electron (1906), properties that
cannot be conceived as belonging to anything but a particle; his son,
G.P. Thomson, received a 1937 Nobel prize for demonstrating the thingie
is under certain circumstances best conceived as a wave phenomenon. A
sad thing about some officially imposed curriculum is that there is
hardly time nor the needed mental substrate to do full justice to the
marvel of it all! It all gets reduced to the basest of assimilation in
preparing for such moronic, plug-them-in exam question like "calculate
the wavelength of an electron traveling at x% of the speed of light."
Maybe the efforts reported by Pie and Spohrer have changed some of


P.S. I wonder how notes like the above would best find a suitable fit in
a DKR. They do not represent such concrete knowledge as the properties
of a screw that holds a tail to an airplane. They are not information
anyone would be searching for in a knowledge container. How are they to
be placed such that they do not contribute to info-overload for those
consulting the DKR and still will come to the fore to be acted on (or
replaced) at an appropriate instance? I still have to catch up with the
Discussions, but isn't this the kind of issue our "DKR leaders" are now
wrestling with?

Fleabyte -- -- is
an evolving, experimental web-publication
devoted to public computency, which, like
common literacy, is regarded as essential
to an environmentally healthy, democratic

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