Educators Have A Chance To Experience Their Profession From A New Perspective

Educators Have A Chance To Experience Their Profession From A New Perspective

“If you want to be a great leader,

you must learn to follow the Tao.

Stop trying to control.

Let go of fixed plans and concepts,

and the world will govern itself.”


-Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching (ca. 500 BC China)



“The nature of the sky is originally clear,

But by gazing and gazing the sight becomes obscured.”


-Saraha (8th century China)



“A society is a number of people held together because they are

working along common lines, in a common spirit, and with reference

to common aims. The common needs and aims demand a growing

interchange of thought and growing unity of sympathetic feeling.”


-John Dewey, The School and Social Progress (1915)



“Our theories determine what we measure.”


-Albert Einstein



“To be responsible inventors and discoverers…we need the courage to let go of the old world.”


-Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science (1994)




How often in the journey of teaching and learning do we as educators get a chance to experience feelings of wonder? How often do we feel like Columbus and Armstrong, boldly exploring new territory previously uncharted in human experience?


For most in education, new, simply means recycled. It is clich√© in education, that if one’s career lasts long enough, one will encounter ideas leaving the profession that were in place when one began. This pendulum swing of faddism and searches for educational silver bullets is even more pronounced today, largely fueled by high stakes standardized testing.


Perhaps the boredom and frustration so many feel as educators is at least partially caused by the test-devotees’ absurdist notion that a child’s education is as quantifiable as her shoe size. Certainly, their educational theories, rooted in an increasingly discredited Newtonian world-view, have smothered much that is great and good about us and our students. It is not so much that we are a Nation at Risk of losing some global knowledge war; rather, it is that we are Schools at Risk of losing our souls.


However, as Bob Dylan once sang, “the times they are changing” and a 2,500 year old “new” idea provides an educational model that reawakens our test-dulled souls.


The pioneering work of quantum physicists like Niels Bohr and the recent writings of Margaret Wheatley, K.C. Cole, Fritjof Capra, and Daniel Quinn, among others, open new doors. As a result, educators have a chance to experience their profession from a new perspective, inviting explorations into new relationships and possibilities within the context of a new model of how the world and all that it contains really works.


According to Cole in “The Conundrum of Cause and Effect,” Newtonian Physics, developed in the 17th century, featured the idea that the universe was a machine, and that “causes and effects followed one another in neatly linked chains” and that “every effect could be cleanly traced to the action that caused it. According to this view, the future unfolded from the past in a predictable pattern; everything that happened was determined by what had happened before.” Cole goes on to state that “Though Newton’s theories have been supplanted on the frontiers of science, most of us remain closet Newtonians; it’s more comfortable that way.”


This need for simplistic models runs deep. Yet this is the very mindset Eastern mystics have warned of for at least three millennia. Consider the words of Ashvagosha in ancient India.


“When the oneness of the totality of things is not recognized, then ignorance as well as particularization arises, and all phases of the defiled mind are thus developed…All phenomena in the world are nothing but the illusory manifestation of the mind and have no reality of their own.”


For three centuries Cartesian logic and Newtonian physics promised a world of rational predictability. Schools, like the rest of society, were expected to focus on cause-and-effect until our “sight became obscured.” We became robotic, and our students became data.


However, even as we have been forced ever deeper into the Newtonian morass, his mechanistic ideas have been challenged on the frontiers of science by Quantum Physics. Writers such as Wheatley and Capra have made these scientific breakthroughs accessible to laymen. Equally important, they also extend the ramifications of these discoveries beyond nanoscience to our everyday world.


In Simpler Way, Wheatley and Kellnor-Rogers present the following ideas connected with Wheatley’s earlier writing in Leadership and The New Science.


“The universe is a living, creative, experimenting experience of discovering what’s possible at all levels of scale, from microbe to cosmos.

Life’s natural tendency is to organize. Life organizes into greater levels of complexity to support more diversity and greater sustainability.

Life organizes around a self. Organizing is always an act of creating an identity.

Life self organizes. Networks, patterns, and structures emerge without external imposition or direction.

Organization wants to happen.

People are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing and meaning seeking.

Organizations are living systems. They too are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing and meaning seeking.”


Think of the possibilities and potential with this new construct in how we perceive teaching and learning, not to mention assessment, standards, goals, objectives and accountability in education. No longer chained to outdated Newtonian ideas of cause and effect and a mechanistic view of the universe and how it works, we, as educators stand on the precipice of connecting to something real, challenging and totally new. We have the opportunity for new discoveries, new connections and new experiences. We too, as educators, have a chance to join Armstrong in soul and spirit as he walked on the moon and proclaimed, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.


As trainers, it has been our privilege and joy to bring these new ideas to teachers and administrators. The excitement they display as new thinking emerges is palpable. The educators are beginning to realize that this challenge is not just part of an endless frustrating cycle, but rather, a chance at a new beginning. We too, have a chance to experience the majesty of collective thoughtfulness unfolding before us.


Much of this majesty is explained by Daniel Quinn in Ishmael. He offers the following definitions:


“A story is a scenario interrelating man, the world and the gods.

To enact a story is to live as to make the story become a reality…to strive to make it come true.

A culture is a people enacting a story”.


How wonderful to discover that our story is unfinished, that the power to redefine our culture resides within each one of us as we seek to connect, and that, in this new community of learners, we have the opportunity to continuously experience becoming. Perhaps the greatest gift of all is that as educators, we will be empowered to share this experience with the students!


Are there obstacles? Of course.


To those who see education as an endless search for “the bottom line,” students and teachers are simply commodities to “fill” with quantifiable bits of information. Standardized tests are little more than factory-level quality control procedures. Winners and losers are numerically determined, and woe to those who lag behind. Yet, in our hearts, we know this is ridiculous and does not fit the world we and our students inhabit. Those same corporate nabobs who force testing down our throats bemoan our high school graduates’ lack of critical thinking, communication, and socialization skills. As with all the humorless in Dante’s hell, the irony is completely lost on them.


Karl Marx warned in Das Kapital against “the intellectual desolation, artificially produced by converting immature human beings into mere machines.” The Berlin Wall is down, Communism is archaic, yet we push on toward “intellectual desolation.” That we do so when our hearts know it is wrong is the measure of our sin.


In short, we urge teachers to break out of the mechanistic mindsets smothering our classrooms and schools. Take courage from ancient wisdom and modern physics. Create classrooms based on what Lincoln would have called “the better angels of our nature.”


If this seems impossible, listen to the words of Lao Tzu written 25 centuries ago:


“Some say that my teaching is nonsense.

Others call it lofty but impractical.

But to those who have looked inside themselves,

this nonsense makes perfect sense.

And to those who put it into practice,

this loftiness has roots that go deep.

I have just three things to teach:

simplicity, patience, compassion.

These three are your greatest treasures.

Simple in actions and in thoughts,

you return to the source of being.

Patient with both friends and enemies,

you accord with the way things are.

Compassionate toward yourself,

you reconcile all beings in the world”.



Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.



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