Re: to Bill Burns' s question

Subject: Re: to Bill Burns' s question
From: Phil Hey <hey -at- BRIAR-CLIFF -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 19 Apr 1996 09:41:17 -0600

Bill, you wrote

> If you refer to education without any
> external influences, I'd have to accept your idea (darn near impossible, I'd
> say). If you mean that it's easier for people to be taught than to pursue
> knowledge on their own, I'd say that a few members of this list are exceptions
> to your rule (myself included). Could you clarify your meaning?

Bill, I think we're more in agreement than it seems. I take training to be
the gathering
(assembling, synthesizing, using) of pieces of information to achieve
generally foreknown
ends -- an algorithm, if you will. Education, by contrast, has much to do
with the
environment in which those pieces of information become significant, and in how
that environment and significance might change -- a heuristic. Increasingly,
education has to do with orienting students within the epistemology of a
discipline
or skill as well as its specific practices. It is possible to be
self-educated if you look
beyond a simple action-result paradigm, and look for some underlying
principles that
guide why a certain outcome may be better than others in a given situation.

The Autodidact will provide an example here; twenty years ago I started teaching
business writing out of curiosity and an incipient market demand. Learning how
to write for those purposes was nearly effortless (my background is poetry,
with
lots of work in forms); but learning WHY is an ongoing outreach that has led me
to all sorts of business publications, organizational behavior, management
theory,
ethics, even sociology (which I hated in college). Granted, my students
won't get
it just because I have it -- but I try to bring a coherent background to
bear on their
specific assignments so that they can see there's more than just writing at
stake.
Amazingly, a large majority of them do seem to get it, and they carry out their
assignments with creativity and humanity, at an acceptably high level of
mechanical execution.

Of course we can educate ourselves. . . if we but would.

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