Saturday, September 4, 2010

'Transformational Education'

I was recently asked about the growing field of ‘transformational education’. This post relates that topic with 'Education' from the I Ching and Transformation from Chuang Tzu.

In “Original Confucianism: An Introduction to the Superior Person” I discuss Confucius and his disciples commentary on the Classic Book of Change, the I Ching. Their commentary hits on each of the 64 situation of changes described in the I Ching, including the fourth hexagram, the situation of ‘Education’, Meng:

"H-4, Meng, Education
A spring pools up at the foot of the mountain:
Thus the superior people foster action
and nourish virtue.

A spring that pools up at the foot of a mountain has collected silt and become cloudy, obscured, after leaving its originally fresh, clear source. Confucius shows that in order to clear the spring again, superior people reestablish a connection to ‘the source’ bringing clarity to their action and thus nourishing virtue. The superior person fosters virtue with clarity, making a decision promptly, sincerely, from their originally good thought, from the source to deal with this situation. Fed from the originally clear source, the stream accumulates, energy, becomes clear again and can proceed to its intended destination, just as a person who has become muddled can wait, contemplate Heaven, accumulating its energy and clarity before proceeding on their proper way.
Superior people work to nourish action from this original clarity in themselves and from this purer mindset can contemplate others with a purer perspective. Doing this, superior people can practice the way of the educator. The educator sees the highest purest principle in their students and seeks to open the Way for them to understand it in themselves. Superior people recognize that knowledge should give a higher meaning to life and action. They realize that knowledge should nourish virtue, not just give students a means by which to scheme for profit."

This understanding of education is foundational to truly beneficial social and emotional learning, learning that balances and complements the acquisition of technical skill. Learning the way of humanity is also the foundation for lifelong faithfulness to one’s self and empathy with others. Education based on humanity is truly transformative.
Transformation is a key idea in the Chuang Tzu. Yi Wu describes it in his “Chinese Philosophical Terms” thus as having three meanings; transformation of time, such as birth and death, transformation in the cycles of nature, and:
“The way of transformation through effort:
The effort is that of cultivation or discipline of the mind. As one strives to achieve the highest state of spirit or true self, one’s nature will be sublimated to enter the essence of the Way. One transcends the changes of the physical body and transforms oneself with nature. ‘Forget both sides (relative ideas) and transform into the Way.’ (Chuang Tzu, Ch.6)
…This discipline or ‘cultivation’ is what Chuang Tzu called Sitting-Forgetting, which we would consider a form of meditation. It is the ‘forgetting’ of the world of temporal activity that is the gateway to ‘hua’ (transformation)” (Yi Wu, Chinese Philosophical Terms, p.23)

Understanding ourselves at the highest level, beyond time and ego, we understand our true selves. This true self is the essence of humanity. When we understand the essence of humanity, our relationship to knowledge is transformed. Our perspective on learning and of others is heightened. This is truly transformational education.
This sort of transformation education is essential for establishing vibrant ethics and spirituality today.

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