Saturday, December 10, 2005
Revolutionary Multiculturalism: Pedagogies of Dissent for the New Millennium Peter McLaren, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997. pp. 306 Azly Rahman, Columbia University New York, New York. Reading Peter McLaren’s passionate and insightful analysis of the current state of educational praxis one cannot escape from images of postmodernity as a backdrop of anomalies in the world we are in as the new millenium approaches. The domino-like collapses of the financial markets of the world beginning in Thailand in July 1997, nuclear tests in India and Pakistan, the revolution which brought Indonesian President Suharto down after 32 years of rule, hunger and starvation in North Korea, and the continuing intensified debates on race matters in America--- all these represent the chaos in the global economic order McLaren’s critical pedagogy can be relevant to those wishing to contextualize their understanding of political economy of education. McLaren’s Revolutionary Multiculturalism: Pedagogies of Dissent for the New Millineum, albeit with its analytical flaws, is a passionate piece of work highly-charged with honesty in the manner McLaren positions his ideological standpoint throughout. For a relatively slender volume of work on educational theorizing, Revolutionary Multiculturalism contains the essential ingredients of educational and social analysis which dissect capitalism from its transnational operating table right through the ideology of consumerism which pervades the hip hop culture and the issue of whiteness in American race relations. Including its introductory and epilogue sections, the book is divided into 10 chapters with several of them written in cooperation with critical theorist such as Henry Giroux , Zeus Leornado, and Kris Gutierrez. In chapter 7, an interview with McLaren provides the reader with a valuable understanding of the ideological standpoint the author bases his work on; one in which McLaren narrates his development as a critical pedagogue and differentiates his commitment for struggle with those from the camp of postmodernism. If his passionate language ala’ Allen Ginsburg’s in the classic Sixties Beat-generation poems of “Howl” and “The Velocity of Money” and his unwavering rhetoric in the Freirian tradition throughout are not enough in demonstrating his honest alignment with Latin American Marxist discourse, McLaren laced his book with, among others a picture of him delivering a speech in honor of Che Guevara against a huge poster of the Cuban revolutionary leader as backdrop (p. 107). McLaren’s Revolutionary Multiculturalism is a continuing legacy of the work of educators trained and committed to the cause of liberatory struggle against the dehumanizing tendencies of transcultural capitalism with its ideological state apparatuses such as the schooling system, the media and the politics of multiculturalism. McLaren’s is essentially a continuation of the dialogue of Paulo Freire, thrusted in its analytical context into the world of global capitalism and its interlocking web of domination the world over and within the United States. The critical educator’s ideological standpoint is made evident at the beginning part of the book in which McLaren situates his work within the larger framework of socialism and aligning it with theorists within that paradigm: Critical pedagogy, in this sense, remains committed to the practical realization of self-determination and creativity on a collective social scale. When I think of critical pedagogy as a practice of liberation, I think not only of Paulo Freire, Augustus Boal, Rosa Luxemburg, Judi Borri, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X, for example, but also of Emilio Zapata… Like Zapata, critical educators need to wage nothing less than war in the interest of the sacredness of human life, collective dignity for the wretched of the earth, and the right to live in peace and harmony (p. 13). It is within those standpoint and the honesty of linking his work with leaders and theorists of the Freirian tradition that McLaren’s work is worthy of attention. What is impressive about McLaren’s Revolutionary Multiculturalism is its fresh call for educators to redefine the term “multiculturalism.” It questions the fundamental pedagogical belief by educators, particularly those from North America, in looking at America as a “melting pot” unto which schooling and the curriculum must address and celebrate of its cultural differences without being aware of the political economic nature of schooling in America. McLaren believes that such multiculturalist thinking is not only reductionistic and avoids the issue of class struggle but also dangerous to the critical pedagogist’s struggle to dismantle political, economic, and social structures which are anathema to the true meaning of human liberation. Only through the engaging in dialogue which demystify power and language of the power elite, deconstructing our understanding of race relations into one which includes class, race and gender, and reconstructing our hope and struggles for a transformation of the transnational and local capitalist order, can we realize the true meaning of praxis in the revolutionary sense of the word. McLaren attacks neo-liberalism of American democracy as “a hidden service of capital accumulation, often [reconfirming] the racist stereotypes already prescribed by Euro-American nationalist myths of supremacy … (p.8). Thus, chapter after chapter, McLaren provides the context of objectivity, which needed to be subjectivized and a newer understanding to emerge. Some highlights from McLaren’s work need to be mentioned. In Chapter 1 entitled “Writing from the Margins: Geographies of Identity, Pedagogy, and Power,” written with critical theorist Henry Giroux, the authors draw attention to the kind of language needed for educator-activists to analyze power and domination in order that existing realities be understood and transformed. They claimed that “most educational theorists have been so caught up in describing the reality of existing schools that they have failed to take up the question of what it is that schools should be.” (p.19). Not only educators, they write, need to be equipped with the language of critical pedagogy which contains moral, ethical, and visioning frame of reference in their struggle for liberation but students need also be provided with such linguistic tools to “assume a critical distance from their more familiar subject distance.” (p.37). Only through the grasping of such analytical skills can both educators and students in the Freirian tradition, understand what oppression means and how they can work collectively across cultures towards a just and equitable educational, political, economic, and cultural transformation. In Chapter 2, “Liberatory Politics and Higher Education: A Freirian Perspective,” which read like an essay in honor of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, McLaren provides a postmodern analysis of capitalism as it relates to the need for educators in higher education to pay attention to the Freirian perspective of critical pedagogy. McLaren notes that in the Freirian sense, “the university is invited to become truly plural and dialogical, a place where students are not only taught not only to read texts but to understand contexts.” (p.69). It is through the Freirian approach, McLaren asserts that the meaning of individuals as makers of history can be realized to counter the dehumanizing effect of capitalism in its attempt to relegate individuals as objects of history, particularly in “U.S. culture in which history has been effectively expelled from the formation of meaning and hope.” (p.73) In Chapter 3, “The Ethnographer as Postmodern Flaneur: Critical Reflexivity and Posthybridity as Narrative Engagement,” McLaren described the difficulty of the urban ethnographer’s situating of his/her existence; as one attempting to critically analyze society in a postmodern setting he/she is also inescapably in. The postmodern flaneur as one whom has to mediate the tension between being a detached observer and one drowned in the sea of images, signs, and symbols within what is to be observed, must become a critical theorist in order to effectively do reflective sociology. Drawing heavily upon Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of reflective sociology and illustrating the chapter with excerpts from his flaneuriel notes, McLaren called upon the need for the urban ethnographer to recognize the importance of emancipatory possibilities in one’s nature of work. “Ethnography as postmodern flanerie need to be conjugated with the contingency of historical struggle in terms of establishing a posthybrid dialogism.” (p.94). Throughout other chapters in Revolutionary Multiculturalism, the reader can expect McLaren and his co-authors’ analysis of language, power, and pedagogy in issues such as media control over the postmodern mind, hip-hop music and global politics. In each, the ideology to be scrutinized is described in language of postmodernity, as though McLaren is illustrating that the illusionary world of postmodernism must be demystified via explanations of its inner linguistic logic, using its own language---all these done in order for the claim for the superiority of Freirian critical pedagogy be made loud and clear. Thus, when talking about gangsta pedagogy in “Gangsta Pedagogy and Ghettocentricity: The Hip Hop Nation as Counter Public Sphere,” for example, McLaren writes like an insider well-versed in the development of this brand of popular culture, only in the end, to demystify its creativeness as another attempt by capitalism to capitalize on the expression of oppression among the African-American and Latino community. Illustrative of McLaren’s consistency in providing a final analysis, he writes of the emerging and proliferating genre of music: Gangsta rap’s relation to the corporate marketplace, its potential for expropriation, and its reproduction of ideologies historically necessary to commodity exchange – such as patriarchal ones – is an important issue that needs to be addressed. In other words, gangsta rap needs to be viewed not only as an ideological formation, cultural signifier, or performative spectacle, but also as a product of historical and social relations. (p.179) Within such a framework of critical analysis, the author skillfully uses language of sophistication characteristic of many writing in the postmodern genre only to eventually return to a call far action insistently based upon the neo-Marxist framework. The power and the vigor of his oftentimes-long sentences are interspersed with first person narratives of his experiences, which he relates to the subject matter analyzed. It is within this stream of consciousness point of view and the chanting effect of his expose that Peter McLaren’s perspective is made constantly fresh in the reader’s mind and his arguments difficult to counter. One can almost see Freire alive in these powerful chapters and given doses of vitality by this popular Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based professor of Education and Information Studies at University of California, Los Angeles. But it is an irony that one needs to read McLaren back to back, dialogue with him in-between the pages, and let the images of dissent and call to a revolution be skillfully made alive through the written word, in order to locate counter-arguments to his claims. To the critical reader, McLaren’s Revolutionary Multiculturalism’s strength can also be its weakness. Particularly significant is his overstated ideological standpoint, which sees the sorry state of society and education purely within his neo-Marxist bird’s-eye view. He attempts to mesmerize readers into believing that there are no significant effort made by grassroot movements, social activist groups, educators for social consciousness or even the struggling day to day teachers who are making significant changes, albeit incremental perhaps, to make the lives of citizens and school children alike happier, more creative, and critical. McLaren’s analysis is purely sociological hovering within the realm of theory attempting to grab the attention of policy makers in the social, educational and political spheres. He locates himself from the beginning, strategically from a new-Marxist paradigm, analyzes society and policies within this narrow perspectives and offer solutions which are ideologically apt to the framework he uses. McLaren, towards the end of the book, advocates “for the development of the ethical self as a way of living within and challenging the historical capitalism” (p. 284) From what spiritual-metaphysical or ethical platform which can unite multiculturalists is not exactly clear in McLaren’s advocacy. McLaren repeatedly made the call as such in calling upon us to “unthink whiteness.” His call is even louder when his advocacy is laced with language of postmodernism epitomized perhaps in a passage as such: What I am advocating, dear sisters and brothers in struggle, is a postcolonial multiculturalism that moves beyond the ludic, metrocentric focus on identities as hybrid and hypernated assemblages of subjectivity that exist alongside or outside of the larger social totality (p. 287) What these terms mean, seemingly circular in their usage, and how one can comprehend a situation wherein society can levitate beyond such a condition are not entirely clear. Perhaps this can be possible in a scenario wherein society can be freeze-framed and the ethical segment of it extracted out of the ludic-metrocentric identitied habitat. Clear to McLaren’s understanding as a sociologist presumably, this is not entirely probable given the fact that society is a complex, intriguing and ever-changing amalgam of peoples with values shifting, pragmatism and relativism reigning, and feeling and emotions dictating. As such, the only permanent thing is change and the most applicable theory thusfar to analyze society is perhaps via Complexity or Chaos theory! Thus, McLaren’s writing, as well as those who he collaborated with is somewhat weakened by the very framework he hoped to strengthen his sweeping analysis with; a framework weaved out of the fragile, ideologically-laden, and textualized semantic glitters of postmodern language. Though the author’s critical analysis is brilliant throughout, his is short of providing a scenario wherein a society of revolutionary multiculturalist has triumphed in destroying the old republic and what emerged out of the despotic is, one ethical and moral and constantly aware of another wave of transnational capitalistic world order. What would a society of the next millenium look like? The providing of such a scenario is what makes Revolutionary Multiculturalism yet another well-trumpeted rhetoric of post-Marxism attempting to subvert post-modernism. Another fundamental anti-climax of McLaren’s grandiose staging up of such a frame of social analysis is perhaps, the absence of political dimension in his writing. Though his calls for action are indeed political as it relates to the subverting of grand narrative such as neo-liberal whiteness in social psyche and the use of multiculturalists-of-the-world-unite-and-revolt slogan, he failed to link his advocacy to political or non-governmental organizations progressive enough to carry the banner of revolution to its final victory in Washington. One may ask of the value of such revolutionary trumpeting without a concerted effort to harness the voices of the revolutionary multiculturalists into political grandiose carries forth by political parties. Virtually non-existent is this aspect of McLaren’s campaign. To rally against an elusive oppressor such as transnational capitalism and to create a new order in America is virtually problematic, unlike perhaps in the case of revolutionary multiculturalist rallying against the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somozo in the late 1970s. In the former, the enemy is invisible yet pervasive, whereas in the latter, it is visible and exclusive! Perhaps McLaren conveniently applied the scenario of Latin American politics to that in North America, paradigmed his revolutionary analysis as such, and ended up making an overglossing of solutions to the problems he found. Herein Complexity theory can be of value in framing the issue of multiculturalism in the manner McLaren sees it. Aside from the contradictions in the analytical framework presented in McLaren’s work, Revolutionary Multiculturalism must still be read in its entirety and the powerful strands of the author’s argument to be put to use. Although the idea of multiculturalism’s revolutionary streaks is not revolutionary at all as they are inherent in each culture and need not necessarily be yanked out of the masses, the freshness of the Freirian tradition McLaren attempt to maintain must be applauded. What is novel and of commendable sociological analytical value is the postmodernist aspect of McLaren’s neo-Marxism. Like many philosophical, metaphysical, and ethical systems in every culture which has responded to changes brought about by maturing of the capitalist ethos, the neo-Marxism according to Peter McLaren and his band of critical pedagogues has also responded brilliantly to such maturity. It is a jazz ensemble in a orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein, an Indonesian gamelan troupe playing in a Viennese concert hall, and a hip hop group performing at the steps of the Lincoln Performing Arts Center in New York. And in these, the voices of the subaltern growing louder, with spectators and onlookers beginning to appreciate the beauty of the message conveyed. In corporate transnational America, the tune played by Freire and his band continue to become more refined, sophisticated and gradually permeated into the system of thoughts of multiculturalists; and Peter McLaren’s Revolutionary Multiculturalism, in the next millenium, may become a magnum opus for critical pedagogists all the more ready to sing tunes of dissent. As the author writes in the epilogue: … there is a spirit in the making that refuses to succumb to the lure of nationalism, a spirit that is rising up like a serpent of fire. It is a spirit that refuses to die. The world has seen this spirit before. And capitalism’s pinstripe gangsters would do well to tremble before its humble grander… (p. 301) And it is that spirit Peter McLaren believes the next millenium will dwell in! ************
Posted by Dr. AZLY RAHMAN at 12/10/2005 02:53:00 PM
Friday, December 09, 2005
“Learning as a ‘Ping Pong’ Game: Narratives on Schooling in Albania using the Clinical Interview Method” by Azly Rahman Coumbia University Goal of the Interview Drawing partly from the research framework presented by Collingforth on the purpose of schooling in Cullingford (1991) and largely from Herbert Ginsburg’s framework for clinical interview for understanding cognitive development, the goal of the interview for this project is as follow:i) to collect qualitative data, i.e. in the form of interview responses on the most important thing learned in school that prepared the respondent with the work she has done and currently doingii) to collect data on how the respondent retrospectively perceived schooling and the skills taught in Albania, only several years ago transited from a communist political rule to one based upon democratic principleiii) to gain experience in conducting a clinical interview and writing up the report. Specifically the major questions asked in this interview are as follow: i) What is the most important thing you learned in school that prepared you for the work you do? ii) Are there important things you feel you should have learned in school, that you were not taught? iii) Are there important things in school that you wished you paid more attention to use for your future work? Background Information on Subject K is a Fulbright Masters student in the Teaching of English to speakers of Other Language Program (TESOL) at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. She is 29 years old (born 1969) and was born in Tirana, the capital city of Albania. Her father is a qualified electrician (called a “worker” in the Communist system) and received his education only up to Grade 8. Her mother is an office worker and received her education up to a baccalaureate (2-year) level at one of the Albanian universities. K graduated from an Albanian University with a degree in TESOL and then worked as an English teacher for seven years and at different ages: from five year-olds to fifty-year-olds. She has also worked as an independent interpreter or translator with The Institute for Pedagogical Research in Tirana and has also co-trained with other researchers in the teaching of English. She secured a Fulbright scholarship to study at Teachers College, Columbia University and is currently a second semester student in the program. Testing Condition and Subject’s Response The one-hour interview was conducted on Saturday April 11th. 1998 at 6:30 p.m. in the Ground Floor Lobby of the Main Hall at Teachers College. We were seated on the leather sofa and since it was a weekend there were not many people using the facility. The testing condition was thus a comfortable and conversational one because of the acquaintance I have established with the respondent.We talked about academic life in general before I started switching on the SONY microcassette place on a small table in between us. Mirela was relaxed and took the session as a dialogue between friends. The interview protocol I had prepared was on the table and throughout the interview I managed to ask the key questions in the most natural manner since I have had quite a wide experience in conducting open ended interviews and that the questions to be asked were relatively few. K responded to the question very well since the questions leading to the key ones gave her the necessary sensitization to the dependent variables being tested for. In other words, she had enough time and opportunities to talk about her schooling from the elementary to the post-secondary level. Her answers were rich and in-depth, given in good narrative forms with minimum interruptions from me. She spoke in a relaxed, confident and clearly understood manner occasionally laughing at some of her experiences in her Albanian school.The recording session ran for an hour but the conversation continued another hour, as I would say that K had more to talk about how schooling and working in a Communist state was. We talked about the condition of work, teacher pay and the problems associated with Albania’s transition to democratic political governance. Preliminary Protocol The nature of questions asked in the one-hour structured open-ended interview is as follow: i) How’s your semester (at TC) been? ii) Can you tell me a bit about your background; your early education, you parents’ education, and your schooling experience before coming to TC? iii) What did you do after you graduated from college in Albania? iv) What is the most important thing you learned in school that prepared you for the work you do? v) Are there important things you feel you should have learned in school that you were not taught? vi) Are there important things that you wished you paid more attention to use for you future work? Findings and Interpretations K's responses to the first major question ‘What is the most important thing that you learned in school that prepared you for the work you do?’ revealed that being ‘systematic’ or consistent in her studying as well as being very good in the English language which gave her the advantage over her peers in the very selective, demanding and meritocratic schooling system in Albania. To quote her response on being systematic: .. uhm as a person perhaps I.. something I learned.. if you were not.. you could not be successful unless you were systematic and working hard… it was as a ‘morale’.. in terms of my academic education perhaps.. I’d say that.. uh… like English worked for me because it was my major in both high school and university. Being systematic and good in the English language, for the respondent is a pre requisite for gaining a place in the university and success in life is measured by one getting a college education. She talked about friends who were “not consistent” and those who cheat in exams: … studying on a regular basis… say, everyday consistently perhaps… this is what I mean by systematic… uh… I remember friends of mine who would even cheatShe continued to narrate the consequence of not being consistent in studying with not being able to “make it in life” by getting a university education. Quoting the case of her friends: .. say if they got a grade one time [through cheating].. next time they would not [ ] they would not study for the next lesson.. and they were… coz’ there were no consistency in their.. uh.. studying and reading.. which of course created sort of gap in their knowledge and it was even difficult for them to make up for that thing in their future… if you want to go to university after graduation you have sort of “face the life” [made it in life]… because you’ve find a job which was.. well paid… and well paid would be about 6.50 dollars.. no, not 650 not six hundred fifty cents a months.. uh.. that’s what teachers are.. uh [paid].. in a month. Thus it can be interpreted that for K, her consistency and her good command of the English language worked well for her in the sense that they prepared her to become a university graduate, an English teacher, an interpreter and consequently secured her the prestigious Fulbright scholarship for graduate study at TC, Columbia.Her response to the question ‘Are there important things that you feel you should have learned in school, that you were not taught?’ revealed interesting information about the interconnectedness of learning is approached in her Albanian schooling experience. K first talked about how ‘reading for understanding’ is not in the pedagogical vocabulary and that rote-memorization or “parroting” is the dominant methodological approach. This training created difficulties for her at Teachers College: I remember when I first came to TC how much I struggled… uh.. and still remembered from our papers [laugh].. but anyway.. uh.. with my readings and writings.. and these are the things actually that I’m not taught, in my.. in our education system.. with reading I mean comprehensive reading [reading for understanding].. uh.. because we do not write papers.. or reflections.. or responses to what we read.. uhm… this is sort of uh… uh… not exactly parroting perhaps but sort of much of uh… memorization. As a consequence of her thinking that readings are to be memorized, she related how during her first semester at TC she almost had a nervous breakdown: I remember the first time I was trying to.. I would [ ] to stop and then I said ‘well… how can I memorize everything in here?” I’m going to forget everything… because there was like.. a minimum could be seventy pages a day.. so… how would I finish everything we read and then also memorize them?Mirela used an interesting expression to describe what she went through in learning as a ‘memorizing enterprise’:.. this is how school is in Albania.. like learn and memorize.. I’ve used a very funny expression.. It’s just like playing ping pong… like… the teacher says something.. the student receives it and tells it back… so it’s really like a ping pong [game]. Another aspect of learning she felt she should have learned was the interconnectedness of reading, writing and relating both to one’s personal experience. .. so these are the things [relating reading, writing to personal experience] that I really will… have appreciated if I have learned.. or I have felt more comfortable or find it more easier when I came to the United States… so doing comprehension reading or stretching beyond what you read, thinking metaphorically.. or… uh… critiquing.. and something which I didn’t learn at school was putting personal experience and feelings to.. everyone has his own understanding of the reading he or she does.. so it makes meaning when it relates to that person some way or another… Thus, K felt that she should have been taught how reading and writing relate to personal experience instead of the pedagogical approach being one which is predominantly of rote-memorization and disconnectedness of what is read to real-life experiences. As to the third question ‘Are there important things in school that you wished you paid more attention to use for your future work?,K could not find ways to answer it as she insisted that she has paid attention to them. She explained that she was a good student and considered one who studied hare enough to be able to graduate from high school, college, gotten a good job and then secured herself the Fulbright scholarship for a Masters program in TESOL. Discussion To a large extent this clinical interview achieved its objectives in that data generated gave me the insight into the main research questions. It also helps achieve the following: i) It helps me understand the value of the clinical interview as a powerful research methodology in ‘entering a person’s mind’ as importantly guided by Ginsburg (1997) as well as relate Piagetan approach to understanding cognitive development. The hour-long interview with Mirela has furthered my interest into researching not only what happened in the schooling of a child of a Communist system but also into looking at potential research areas such as the meaningfulness of schooling in capitalist America, Islamic republic of Iran, Iraq, Israel or any Third World countries released from the shackles of colonialism. Not only one can look at what went on in the process of indoctrination but also the relationship between school, curricular content, and their relationship with political and economic socialization – all these can be potentially fertile areas of investigation. ii) K’s retrospective insight into what went on in her schooling can be further understood by conducting more interviews which would generate data on other areas such as the ‘paradigmatic shift’ in her thinking after having been exposed to ideologies different from Communism.iii) Albania at present continues to be in turmoil with the recent massacre of ethnic Albanians in Kosova. My respondent would perhaps be a valuable source of information on what education and nation building mean in a nation-state undergoing a difficult transition. Self Criticism I have chosen to a less challenging subject for this clinical interview exercise as compared to for example an Albanian child. K’s fluency in the English language and well-articulated answers to my main research question has made this exercise an exciting and valuable one. Since I have had a valuable enough exposure to open-ended interviewing, especially in my study of 30 top Malaysian Chief Executive Officers conducted to find out about their Management Philosophy (Research done 1992-94) and one as recent as in November 1997 on narratives on schooling for creative and critical consciousness, my session with the Albanian respondent was largely a success. I followed closely Ginsburg’s (1997) guidelines to ensure that the respondent’s narratives would flow smoothly. Criticisms if any would be that more should be probed on specific teaching strategies used in a Communist state. In short, ‘in what ways are thinking encouraged? In what ways they are not?’ would be a good question to be explored, should time had permitted. Nonetheless, throughout the interview, the respondent perhaps spoke 90% of the time thus giving me enough information needed for the few main questions. Conclusion In this brief but valuable exercise, important insights on one’s schooling related retrospectively have been gathered. In this case it is the experience of one schooled in a once Communist state. The clinical interview method proved to be a valuable tool for my understanding of such experience. It has provided me the interest to explore further in depth similar fertile areas of research in the field of schooling, and learning, and indoctrination. Bibliography Cullingford, C. (1991). The inner world of the school: Children’s ideas about school.London:Cassell. Chapters 8 and 10. Ginsburg, H.P. (1997). Entering the child’s mind: The clinical interview in psychological research and practice. New York:Cambridge University Press
Posted by Dr. AZLY RAHMAN at 12/09/2005 02:32:00 PM
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
MEMORANDUM ON MALAYSIAN “SMART SCHOOLS” To: The Malaysian Minister of Education From: Azly Abdul Rahman Center for Digital Democracy New York, New York . Date: November 23, 1998 Subject: On Malaysia’s “Smart Schools” Initiative and the Question of Digital Divide: Some Policy Recommendations Rationale Writing from the perspective of the Chief Investigator of the Center for Digital Democracy, the purpose of this brief news is to make some key policy recommendations on the Malaysian Ministry of Education’s megatransformation efforts in creating “Smart Schools” out of the 10,000 Malaysian public secondary schools by the year 2010. This memo will focus on the following areas: i. within the perspective of philosophical and pedagogical considerations in providing ‘basic quality education in the domain of digital literacy’, it will discuss areas the Ministry should skillfully address in providing equity and universal access to such education to the poor and the disadvantaged in Malaysia’s move towards such second order changes involving initiatives to democratize technological learning and teaching., ii. within the perspective of policy implementation, deriving from the Ministry’s blueprint for the Smart School initiative, this memo will highlight the dimensions and directions of procedural changes which needs to be undertaken in order for the crucial question will mean the closing of the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in Malaysia’s plunge into the Information Age. Lessons learned from programs of participatory action in basic quality education from developed and developing countries will be included as anecdotes of best practice in democratized learning initiatives in Malaysia’s plan for such a quantum leap in educating its citizenry for the Information Age. Introduction The Center for Digital Democracy find it admirable that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Vision 2020 and Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor Project present a grand designed for the nation’s more towards a social transformation based upon the premise that the nation will continue to progress via full scale initiation, implementation, and institutionalization of cybertechnology in virtually all spheres of living – commerce, administration, health, and education. As one of the flagship applications of the MSC project, Smart Schools will be a feature of the initiative attempted in Malaysia program to socially reproduced its citizenry. In our analysis, the idea of “wiring” up of the Malaysian schools can be summarized by the Ministry’s communique which states: By the year 2010, all the approximately ten thousand schools will be Smart Schools. In these schools, learning will be self-directed, individually-paced, continuous and reflective. This will be made possible through the provision of multimedia technology and world-wide networking. (p.1) The plan for such a purposeful change is thus to utilize computer-mediated learning technologies particularly the Internet and the World-Wide web so that the national agenda of creating a “cyber society” will be realized by a targeted metaphorical date of 2020. Echoing Sarason (1996) on the need to look at changes in the school system as derived from inside and outside the schools (p.12), Fullan and Steigelbauer’s notion of politically and educationally- motivated innovation (p.27), the case of the initiated “smart school concept can be said to be derived not only out of “first order analysis”, but particularly apparent and dominant out of “second order” dictates --- out of political economic perception of what constitutes progress and how education must respond to them. As the “smart school” concept relates to this second order changes, the Ministry of Education (1997) notes that: Malaysia needs to make the critical transition from an industrial economy to a leader in the Information Age. In order to make this vision a reality, Malaysia needs to make a fundamental shift towards a more technologically literate, thinking workforce, able to perform in a global work environment and use the tools available in the Information Age. To make this shift, the education system must undergo a radical transformation (p.1) The Miinistry of Education announced that the first Smart School is being built with a cost of Malaysian Ringgit 144.5 million of which, aside from it being “wired”. Will also be equipped with a hostel for 800 students, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a hockey pitch, a hall and other facilities (Business Times, 1996, p.3). It is also said that the school will start operating in January 1999 and eventually all Malaysian schools will be operating based upon this concept. Having stated the philosophical, pedagogical and policy domains of Malaysia’s “Smart Schools” project, we now provide some of our research insights into the question of equity and universal access. Capacity building and the Role of the Ministry We believe that the Ministry as a “top-down” reformer can best play the role of capacity builder not only in generating the awareness of the teachers, students and parents of the importance of making technological access universal but also in making aware the idea that constructivist learning and technology can be a powerful perspective in providing inroads to basic quality education. At the heart of this preposition is the question of the degree of decentralization involved. We analyzed some best practice case studies in this context. Close to home, the Thai experience provides insights into how that state can mediate potential conflicts in its policies to initiate capacity building and resource allocation in its education reform at the primary education level. Schwille and Wheeler’s (1992) study of the variable role of the state in education suggest that state initiative must be let to develop as a multi-level strategic initiatives within the centralized-decentralized man. In Malaysia, whilst the Ministry has provided that blueprint for such a purposeful change, it must now generate a debate and brainstorming sessions of various levels of implementation so that capacity building can be generated at the grassroots level. Related to the lesson of the Thai experience, we share Mc Ginn’s (1994) idea that whilst the state has done the job of outlining the mission, vision and operating principles of reform, democracy then entails multilevel participatory efforts in translating such strategic plan. Malaysia’s Smart Schools, we suggest, must be owned by those who will translate the vision into a reality wherein the wired-up schools must first and foremost and primarily benefit the poor and the disadvantaged. The Center for Digital Democracy in this recommendation for such equity and universal access dimension of reform, cannot compromise in its principles of suggesting for such policy directions. Models of progressive movements striving towards providing such egalitarian awareness are growing albeit their work not specifically deal with “wiring up” educational systems. We suggest the Ministry to look closely at and to understudy initiatives such as Professor Henry Levin’s the Accelerated Schools Project based in Stanford, Coalition or Essential Schools based in New York, The Swadhaya Movement in South Asia, and perhaps, The World Bank “renewed initiatives” in providing funds for developing countries to improve its basic education. These models can become documents of best practice management in liberatory education for Malaysia’s dealing with the question of digital divide. Be they directly related to progressive movements at the school level or to broad-based policies of grassroots capacity building in general, they can provide insights into the philosophical and pedagogical dimensions of how democratic changes in school reform ought to take place. The Center of Digital Divide thus believes that the Malaysian Smart School Initiative should not merely showcase an RM 144.5 million “children of the elite” populated wired up school but must, in its planning, showcase how schools in the most impoverished areas must be made to benefit. Some Recommendations Malaysia is borrowing the discourse from educational reform currently sweeping the United States. President William Clinton’s Goals 2000: Developing America’s Talent highlights, among others the creation of a technologically literate society. The Telecommunications Act of ---- provides the so-called “e-Rate” in which corporations and state boards of education must work hand in hand in realizing the meaning of universal access to technology in the classroom. This entails that upto 90 percent of funding for wiring up schools must go to the poorest of schools computed by the percentage of those receiving free lunch. We believe that Malaysia’s Smart School Initiative can adopt the following framework of egalitarian intitiatives in that: i. corporations collaborate with state departments of education to initiate grassroots reform in providing training to teachers and students , hardware and software to school districts in accordance with the level of socio-economic levels of the children attending., ii. the Ministry creates state-level volunteer groups consisting of professional from the private and public sector which will work as agents of change in digital democracy for the purpose of speeding up reform efforts outlined by the Smart Schools project., iii. the Ministry moves aggressively in securing funding from international agencies such as The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and other philanthrophic foundations, to be channeled to districts for smart schools projects., iv. faculties of education must orient their research towards exploring the meaning of “appropriate technology, available resources” in the use of educational technology so that the hype embedded in the rhetoric of technological change and determinism cannot easily translate into policies which will further divide the “digital haves and the have-nots”. v. scholars and researchers in the field of technological change in education ought to heighten their research efforts and undertaking towards institutionalizing models of culturally-relevant, dependency-free, and grassroots-approached reform so that ultimately Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor can become a model of cybernational framework of strategic planning able to achieve its autonomy as an independent cybernation liberated from the shackles of post-colonial dominations. Conclusion By way of concluding, The Center for Digital Democracy in its analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to the Smart Schools project attempt to offer insight into the question who ought to benefit. Since this mega project involving billions of ringgit of public investment is still at its early implementation stage, it is hoped that such issues urgent to the discussion s on social change – equity, democratic learning and decision-making, economic and social justice, etc. – must be brought into the big picture. A nation ruled by technocrats in which its citizenry is in the process of being socially, economically, and politically reproduced to be integrated in the “professional and corporate-like” machinery of the international technological-based capitalist system must stop to ponder and reflect upon its policies concerning universal access and distributive justice at critical junctures. In relation to above, the task ahead for the Ministry is certainly a daunting one. This memo signifies certainly the beginning of a dialogue between the Center for Digital Democracy and The Malaysian Ministry of Education to further explore the philosophical, pedagogical, economic, and management dimension of the reform movement initiated via The Smart Schools Project. The discussions ahead will leave a great deal of space for all those involved to explore creatively, critically, ethically, and futuristically what can be possibly implemented to avoid the pitfalls of nations undergoing what we call “cybernetic revolutions”. The United States as an example of an advanced capitalist society struggling with the isssue of digital haves and have-nots can certainly provide us with an example of “contested reform” Malaysia must certainly analyze. The Center for Digital Democracy believes that if technology and the new media must liberate us from mundaneness, issues such as democratization, universal access, and humanistic approach to its use must be made profound. We look forward to further fruitful dialogues.
Posted by Dr. AZLY RAHMAN at 12/07/2005 11:14:00 AM
Education, Human Capital Revolution and Some Thoughts on the Postmodernity of National Educational Development by Azly Rahman Columbia University Introduction In this brief essay, I shall attempt to answer questions pertaining to the relationship between education an economic development within the context of international education development. This complex task will be aided by the following analytical foci: i) within a historical context and paradigm, what does the literature summarizes as the key themes in the neo-classical/structural/functionalist point of view on education for economic development?, ii) what literature summarizes the contending viewpoints to such a view paradigmed within the neo-Marxist/conflict perspective?, iii) what literature illustrate a shift beyond looking at the structural functionalist and conflict paradigms which has arisen out of postmodernist/contemporary perspectives? Whilst the three subcategories of the main question will attempt to form the first part, my own experience and knowledge regarding education and economic development will form the second and concluding part of this brief essay. Education, Economic Development and Structural Functionalism Whilst, within a historical context, economic development and education as corollaries to social reproduction may have its roots in the Utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, the body of literature which has evolved particularly in the middle of this century can best be termed as ‘structural functionalism.’ In it, the role of the State is key to economic growth in that the issues of economic growth with equity is central. Economic development of a nation is contingent upon investment in human capital (Schultz, 1971) in that the more a nation invests in human beings through educating its populace, the more productive it will become when a positive growth will entail higher earnings for those educated and contribute to a competitive labor market. Pscharapolous (1994) for example researched on the rate of return in investment through education in which a nation will benefit both through private investment to the individual as well as social investment. Lewis (1965) attempted to answer the question of the desirability of economic growth and concluded that excesses of modernization and individualism aside, there are intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of growth, which must be pursued albeit a nation’s undergoing of painful transitionary stages. One may recall Rostow’s (1973) transition stages in the form of the five stages of growth by which any society undergoing ‘progress’ must pass through. Economic development within the neo classical/structural functionalist perspective attempts to address the issue of equity and distributive justice though education as a means of social reproduction and as such, measurements to validate its effectiveness, according to Seers (1972) must then address questions of poverty reduction, unemployment, and inequality. Thurow (1997) writing in light of post-Cold War scenario of economic growth, added the dimension of international economic development as arena of competition for sites and human resources in the age of ‘brain-power industries’ in which knowledge, information and highly specialized skills become capital to be moved around this borderless world. Thus briefly, key to neo-classical/structural functionalist perspective is the idea of education as basis for national development so that economic growth in linear progression true to its utilitarianistic and scientific-rationalistic ideological path. Herein lie the internal and external critiques of this mode of thinking when one considers the point of view of Conflict theorists. Particularly those who emerge from the neo-Marxists, Dependency and World Order/World Systems theorists who not only question the fundamental axiom of neo-classical economics but looks at the question of international distributive justice in international economic development. Education, Economic Development, and Conflict Paradigm Illustrative of the internal critique of the view that more education results in productivity can be found in Tsang and Levin’s (1985) excellent analysis of the economics of overeducation in that the authors challenged the view of neo-classicalists that a firm’s productivity can in fact be negative if the labor force is over-educated. Tsang and Levin drew their conclusion from data gathered from industrial psychology, literature using contemporary labor-market models of industrial productivity. Whilst Tsang and Levin’s (1985) critique goes into the innerworkings of the modern capitalist mode of production as it relates to human capital investment in education, literature abound on the external critique of the structural-functionalist perspective. The work of Andre Gunder Frank (1966), Phillip McMichael (1996) and Poonah Wignaraja (1993) are among those illustrative. Conflict theorists look at the internal and external contradiction in capitalist formation and see education particularly as a means of social reproduction in a world wherein economic development is colored with structural violence via distributive injustices. Gunder Frank (1966) for example, analyzed the development of underdevelopment of the so-called developed and underdeveloped countries within a Center-periphery matrix of capitalist formation drawing from case studies of nation-states in Latin America. His is illustrative of the genre of writing within the Dependency perspective, which looks at the Metropole-Satellite uneven capitalist development. One may find a plethora of writings as such which has come from others such as Wallerstein (1981), Carnoy (1984), and Amin (1993). Thirty years after Frank’s (1966) analysis, one can benefit from such an external critique of economic development with the work of McMichael (1996) who analyzed not only dependency as a theme, but extend such analysis to late capitalist, post-Cold War period of borderless economics characterized by global production systems, transnational banks and corporations and the precariousness of sophisticated and advanced elite formations. McMichael’s (1996) work is and extensive critique not only of colonialism and post-colonialism but indirectly, an exposé of how international dimension of the human capital revolution has taken shape. Whilst the aforementioned writers espoused on the internal and external critique of neo-classicalism/structural functionalist view of education and economic development, Wignaraja’s (1993) enlightening view on the subject brought into the discussion an alternative paradigm of economic development which has emerged out of progressive grassroots movements in the South; particularly from the Indian subcontinent. Illustrating the case of Swardhaya as a liberating dimension of the Praxis and Participatory Action, Research Wignaraja concluded that neither neo-classical nor Marxist perspectives on economic development could explain what education should mean. In PAR lies the spiritual dimension of education which champions basic needs more than “created wants”, participatory democracy more than protectionism, voices of conscience more than the rhetoric of developmentalism, and poets of meaningful reforms than grand designs in education for economic development. After Swardhaya: Education or Liberation? My professional experiences and the amount of information, knowledge, and understanding I have thusfar gathered concerning the issue of education and economic development has brought me to continue to visit and revisit the meaning of education and the possibilities of liberation. I have had ten years of teaching experience in Malaysia; five years at a gifted and talented high school and five years at a Management university in the northern part. My undergraduate background in English education and my double Masters in Education and International Relations have given me the theoretical perspectives on what education can imaginatively be. For ten years, my praxis have been essentially Deweyian, Freirian, and derived from the work of metaphysical thinkers addressing education for spiritual development. I have in my teaching, employed perspectives which attempt to bring about critical, creative, spiritual, and futuristic dimensions in the education of those I have been entrusted to share knowledge with. My five years of teaching at the university as a lecturer in Thinking Skills, Ethics, Language, and Foreign Policy have allowed me to be in contact with those training to become corporate leaders ready to become managers of change and for many of them, aspiring to become millionaires before the age of forty! Malaysia as a developing nation was ready to offer thousands of my students with such avenues. The Southeast Asian financial crisis of 1997 which continues to devastate the capitalist world and which has currently brought Malaysia to the brink of economic, social, and political quagmire never before seen since its independence has forced me to revisit the meaning of education. I now find the questions even more perplexing, particularly those concerning the role of the State with its ideological apparatus within the international capitalist context. Materials on human capital investment, Dependency and World Systems theories, and grassroots efforts in education have made me ponder if national development is at all meaningful if measured primarily via gains in economic well being and political stability. How much formal education should one receive? How pervasive should consumerist ideology be made to prevail in a particular nation? How can an individual be educated to prioritize metaphysical/spiritual capital over material capital? Perhaps my experience of having been brought up in poverty, having then tasted wealth, having been with those living “below the poverty line”, and having understood that national development can also mean the licensing of a few people to acquire as much national wealth leaving national crumbs to trickle down to the masses – all these have made me sought the avenue leading to the word “liberation”. The international system is chaotic. Arms and hunger proliferate. Trade wars continue to be fought. Trade blocks created. National governments educate citizens via seduction so that perhaps one percent of the world’s most powerful capitalists can continue to be served by the world’s cheap labor. The global capitalist machinery continue to be run by high tech means so that capital can flow freely in this borderless world in the process displacing jobs daily by the thousands. I am still searching for answers. And I still continue to be both a skeptic and a cynic of any forms of government which attempt to socially engineer and reproduce human beings via the mass-babysitting enterprise called schooling. I may one day find the meaning of education and the possibilities in liberation. Such is the postmodernity of my thought on education and national development. But till then, I will continue to enjoy what this course has to offer on the many ways to look at how education and international development translate into theoretical and pedagogical perplexities. References Carnoy, M. (1984). The State and political theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Frank, A. (1966). The development of underdevelopment. Monthly Review, 18 (4), 17-31. Lewis, W.A. (1965). Is economic growth desirable? The theory of economic growth (pp. 420-435). New York: Harper Torch Books McMichael, P. (1996). Development and social change (pp. 1-43). Thousands Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. Psacharopoulos, G. (1994). Returns to investment in education: A global update. World Development, 22 (9), 1325-43 Rostow, W. (1973). The stages of economic growth. Cambridge University Press. Schulz, T. (1971). Investment in human capital (pp. 24-27). New York: The Free Press. Seers, D. (1972). What are we trying to measure? The Journal of Development Studies, 8, 21-26 Thurow, L. (1997). Plate two: An era of man-made brain-power industries. In The future of capitalism (pp. 65-87). New York: The Penguin Books. Tsang, M., & Levin, H. (1985). The economics of overeducation. Economic of Education Review, 4 (2), 93-104. Wallerstein, I. (1981). Dependence in an interdependent world: The limited possibilities of transformation within the capitalist world economy. In. H. Munoz (Ed.) From dependency to development: Strategies to overcome underdevelopment and inequality (pp. 267-293). Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. Wignaraja, P. (Ed.) (1993). Rethinking development and democracy. In New social movements in the South (pp. 4-35). London and New Jersey: Zed Press
Posted by Dr. AZLY RAHMAN at 12/07/2005 11:10:00 AM
Issues and institutions of educational reform in a developing and cybernating society: Case study of forces of influence in the Malaysian “Smart Schools” project By Azly Rahman Columbia University Introduction Third World countries undergoing economic changes modeled after the advanced industrialized West most strategically focus their human capital revolution efforts via the process of educational restructuring which attempt to shift society from industrial to information-based. Thurow (1997) wrote of this phenomena in the historical development of capitalism in which advanced communications revolutions in the telematics industry has coerced nations into shifting their educational agenda for social reproduction to cultivate “brain power industries” in order to gain competitive advantage. McMichael (1996) analyzed the complex relationship between the so-called developing states in the international capitalist system, concluding that the former are relegated to the role of production houses for the advanced nations progressing into the Age of Networked and Digital Economy. Among the nation states in East Asia, Malaysia has been categorized (at least before the financial crisis of July 1997) by the World Bank (1993) as one of whose growth rate is “miraculous”, an “East Asian miracle” as it is termed, judged by indicators such as Gross National Product, per capita income, and openness to foreign investment. In this essay, I shall look at the relationship between Malaysia’s strategic plan for creating , via educational process and schooling as mechanism, a citizenry literate in technologies of cybernetics, the role of governmental institution involved in this plan, and the issues arising out of the mega-structural reform movement. This essay will be guided by the following questions: i. as it relates to a change in developmentalist paradigm, what is the nature of educational change engineered in the Malaysian “Smart Schools” project and how does it relate to international institutions involved, using Conflict paradigm as a framework of analysis? ii. as it relates to process of change, in what way is the project illustrative of the transfer of ideology and discourse relating to cybertechnology inherent in the global phenomena of a “wired and borderless world”? iii. as it relates to the players (actors) involved, what role do the multinational corporations and the government play in the initiation, implementation, and institutionalization process? In attempting to answer the questions, I have outlined the discussions within the context of the initiation, implementation, and institutionalization of the idea and weave through the issue of the embededness of political-economic discourse and the institutions involved in this structural reform. Scenario Independent Malaysia which emerged from centuries of Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese and British colonialism is an example of a nation-state which recently embarked upon a developmental quantum leap, from a semi-agricultural base to a high tech-high touch information-based social and educational transformational paradigmatic evolution via its announcing of the creation of “Smart Schools.” The concept, directed by the centralized top-down Ministry of Education and made to co-exist in tandem with Malaysia’s transformation into a “cyber society” is an attempt to technologize schools so that “democratization of learning, teaching and living” can be finally and fully realized. The case study from its initiation, implementation, and institutionalization aspects will discuss Malaysia’s “smart schools” as a planned change effort in light of its political-economic, sociological, and pedagogical dimensions. Fullan and Steigebauer (1982) in their analysis of the sources of educational change, note that changes in educational policy entailing in educational restructuring effort oftentimes are initiated out of society’s need to respond to complexities emerging; those which force governments or institutions to respond to the pressures which arise. “We can take it as a given that there will always be pressures for educational change in pluralistic societies. These pressures increase as society becomes more complex.” (p. 17). Quoting Sarason, Fullan and Steigelbauer (1982) summarized that “innovations get generated through a mixture of political and educational motives” (p.27). What pressures for change and what political and educational motives then lead to the Malaysian initiative of the nation-wide, internationally linked, ideologically inspired concept of wired or cyber learning and teaching called the “smart school” project? Initiation history In early January of 1997, as a lecturer in Thinking Skills, I was invited to represent the university I worked with to the first session of the unveiling of the idea of the smart school. The idea of the “wiring” of the Malaysian schools can be summarized by a communique from the Ministry of Education (1997) which read: By the year 2010, all the approximately ten thousand Malaysian schools will be Smart Schools. In these schools, learning will be self-directed, individually-paced, continuous and reflective. This will be made possible through the provision of multimedia technology and worldwide networking. (p. 1) The plan for such a purposeful change was thus to utilize computer-mediated learning technologies particularly the Internet and the World-Wide web so that the national agenda of creating a “cyber society” will be realized by a targeted metaphorical date of year 2020. Echoing Sarason (1996) on the need to look at changes in the school system as derived from inside and outside the schools (p. 12), and from Fullan and Steigelbauer’s notion of political and educational motivated innovation (p. 27), the case of the initiated “smart school” concept can be said to be derived not only out of “first-order” analysis, but particularly apparent and dominant out of “second order” dictates --- out of political-economic perception of what constitutes progress and how education must respond to them. As the “smart school” concept relates to this second order changes, the Ministry of Education (1997) notes that: Malaysia needs to make the critical transition from an industrial economy to a leader in the Information Age. In order to make this vision a reality, Malaysia needs to make a fundamental shift towards a more technologically literate, thinking workforce, able to perform in a global work environment and use the tools available in the Information Age. To make this shift, the education system must undergo a radical transformation (p. 1) The Minister of Education announced that the first Smart School is being built with a cost of Malaysian Ringgit 144.5 million of which, aside from it being “wired”, “will also be equipped a hostel for 800 students, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a hockey pitch, a hall and other facilities” (Business Times, 1996, p. 3) It is also said that the school will start operating in January 1999 and eventually all Malaysian schools will be operating based upon this concept. The idea of democratizing the school system via the “wiring up” of learning would be an interesting area to be analyzed if one takes as a point of analytical departure Darling Hammond’s (1997) assertion on the criteria for schools that will work: The success of today’s effort will ultimately rest on whether educational policies continue to enforce a bureaucratic approach that emphasize standardization and prescription of practice or whether they support a professional approach that arms teachers with the knowledge they need to teach skillfully and make appropriate decisions. (p. 34) Along this line of assertion too Darling-Hammond (1993) talked about the need for reform movements to take into consideration the developing of “communities of learning grounded in communities of democratic discourse” (p. 761) In the case of the Malaysian “Smart schools”, it is thus the focus of this case study to mediate between the top-down mega-structural changes imposed by the Ministry of Education with the bottom-up response from those affected by the changes within the context of the meaning of educational change. Will the initiated change work? How does one measure the “democratic-ness” of the intended and purposeful change? Can equality and equal opportunity be achieved particularly in the distribution of resources needed to make future generation of Malaysians “cybernetic” in thinking? Which socio-economic class will benefit from this technology-intensive, political-economic driven educational transformation effort? These are the questions, which will be explored further in the next section on implementation and institutionalization. As to whether equality and equal opportunity will be achieved, a scenario of social transformation goal constructed within a perspective using the Conflict paradigm can perhaps answer the question of “who will benefit?”. Implementation Whilst in the previous section on initiation history I have alluded to the idea that the Malaysian Smart School project signify a phase in educational change situated within the context of paradigmatic insistence that the nation must be technologized as such so that its citizenry can become technologically literate and hence be able to participate as information workers in the laissez faire international system, the political economic context of such a proposed mega structural change need to be elaborated. The guiding question will thus be: what is the context, modus operandi and intended roles and relationship subsumed in the project’s implementation stage? More specifically, as this section will address are the philosophical, ideological, psychological, and pedagogical issues relating to it which guides and provide the driving force of this new technicist thinking about what educational change must constitute. Although Sarason’s (1996) analysis of the culture and problem of change is powerful in attempting to provide us a point of reference of moving from looking at change from its regularities to alternatives, it merely and particularly describe change at the micro level of schooling in the American context. The value of Sarason’s (1996) idea may perhaps be in his call for us to adopt the ecological approach in looking at change. Transposing this idea to the context of the Malaysian Smart School thus not only require one to look at the project within the macro level as it relates to curricular and pedagogical issues but also at the macro level of what Steiner-Khamsi (1998) called the “circularity of transfer” and the “displacing of reforms” of post-colonial educational system, Wallerstein (1990) called dependency in the world order and Bourdieu (1994) called “habitus” vis-a-vis to the transfer of discourse. We proceed, in the following paragraphs to look at the universe of alternative undertaken in the smart school project by drawing upon the “big picture” notion of implementation as described by Fullan and Steigelbauer (1982). Sarason’s (1996) concluding remark, that “…[c]onstant attention to both the content and process of reform and their complex interrelationship is required” is useful in my ecological analysis of the implementation of the Malaysian Smart schools. It entails one’s looking at the big picture of ideology and schooling and how the latter as a process of economic, political, cultural, and social reproduction is intrinsically-linked in a matrix of complex relationship within an ideological nemesis that perhaps only a critique of ideology can offer analytical help in order for it to be understood. Or perhaps the postmodern tool of Chaos or Complexity theory grounded in the critique of ideology can best be of utility. What then is this big picture? The picture of change is, in the Baudrilliardian sense, a fascinating one. Malaysia, under the rule of its Prime Minister of 17-years, Mahathir Mohamad has of late embarked upon the creations of a cyber-society run from an administrative capital called CyberJaya within the techno-cultural context of so-called a “Multi-Media Super Corridor” (MSC). The MSC is a built in on several hundred square kilometers of area in which “seven flagship applications” will be its feature. It mimics California’s Silicon Valley and Singapore’s cybercity concepts among others of which Malaysia will be moved to a new paradigm of living based upon the “humane application of high technology” manifested in the sub concepts of electronic government, tele-medicine, electronic banking, electronic commerce, and pertinent to our analysis, the smart schools. The biggest airport in Asia, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport was recently opened to facilitate the development of CyberJaya. From the “wired-up” capital city as the initial program of mega-structural change, the Malaysian government planned to create cyber-principalities out of the thirteen states constituting the federation. It is envisioned that by the metaphorical year of 2020 the country will have achieved the status of fully industrialized nation able to compete with other advanced industrialized nations namely the United States of America, Europe, and Japan and that such an advancement would however be based upon a strong foundation of religious and moral values. Thus, through its “smart schools” of which the prototype will be operating on January 1, 1999, future generation of this nation will be able to fully and democratically participate in the Information Age. The country has now specialized universities among them moving towards the total implementation of the Internet as a mode of delivery. One that was recently established itself as the first “virtual university” in the country prides itself in its total absence of physical interaction between the student and the instructor. The implementation stage can be looked at from the international and national dimensions within the perspective of the institutions involved as well as the issues at hand. The international advisory panel of the mega-structural change project is perhaps more impressive than those who sat in the 1980s Nation Commission of Educational Exchange (NCEE) who amongst of others insisted on creating a technologically literate America able to sustain the unchallenged preeminence superiority of the most powerful nation on earth. In the case of Malaysia, the government has invited, as advisors among others CEOs of the following corporations: Acer Incorporated, Alcatel Alsthom, Microsoft Corporation, SUN Microsystems, Bechtel Group Incorporated, British Telecom, Cisco Systems, Compaq Computer Corporation, DHL, Ericsson, Fujitsu Limited, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Motorola Corporation, Netscape Communications, Reuters, Motion Picture Association of America, and tens of other giants in the telematics and media-related industries. Professors of Business and Public Policy from Silicon Valley’s Stanford University and Alvin Toffler of Toffler Associates are also among those guiding the development of Malaysia’s cyber initiatives. Malaysian subsidiaries of these giants in the world of trillion-dollar club transnational corporations have been set up in the development of the Multimedia Super Corridor. The multi-billion dollar airport recently opened thus is an important infrastructure to help these trillion-dollar companies land quickly and safely to the MSC. At the national level of implementation, a landmark decision (passed in August 1997) is the creation of a Ministry of Multimedia and Information as a restructuring project of the Ministry of Information. The cybercity and all its cyberstate ideological apparatuses, the “seven flagship applications” will be under the electronic and telematic tutelage of this new ministry. The smart school project is currently under the Ministry of Education and with the creation of the Ministry of Multimedia and Information, it is not entirely clear yet how the context of its operation will be situated. Reflecting upon Sarason’s (1996) notion of ecology in social and education change, and focusing upon the case study of the Smart Schools, I have attempted to situate the macro-level context of the implementation, drawing upon the idea of the transfer of Silicon Valley idea of how a society is engineered to look like. I have also mentioned the context of change at the national level, characterized by a planned effort in paradigmatic shift, akin to what futurists such Alvin Toffler and John Naisbitt talked about as, respectively “the third wave” and “megatrend” of which structural transformations are conjured and brought to heights determined by the semantically- and semiotically-driven notion of “Information Age” under the shibboleth of “corporate developmentalism” of which technological advancement and its attendant demands is presumed of its neutrality. A critical analysis of this discourse on technologism and “techno-hype-ism” will be dealt with in the final part of this essay subtitled “institutionalization”. As a further point of case-study focus on the issues and institutions in the development of Malaysian education, I proceed to look at how the “Smart School project” is to be implemented as a top-down, technology-driven, corporate-capitalist ideologically- constituted agenda as it relates to its philosophical, ideological, semantical, psychological and pedagogical dimensions. Through such a level of ecological analysis, the picture of change can perhaps be logically perceived. In looking at the implementation stage at the national educational philosophical and curricular levels, it would be worth looking at the scenarios conjured by those in the Ministry of Education on the potentialities of computer-mediated learning as a “liberating force”. Since this case study looks at the Smart school as concept in the process of being implemented and not one which has been, discussions on its implementation will thus take the form of an analysis of the project’s intended outcomes relying upon analysis of scenarios. The description of the scenes from a day in a Malaysian Smart school (see Appendix) almost read like Arthur C. Clarke’s scenario of life in the year 2010; one in which the human being is further “liberated” from the mundane and uncreative aspects of learning to living and learning in a cyber society via telematics and informatics. Before moving to a critical discussion on the contexts related to the implementation at the national level, it is imperative to look at a view, in the paragraph below on what constitutes “technological determinism” as an ideology as it relates to the issue of professional control in this age of infomatics and how this in turn relate to the structure of teaching and learning, how knowledge is conceptualized, as well as how the technological model of teaching is to be employed in the Smart school project. I now turn to a brief discussion on the issue of the presumed neutrality of technology. Taking Beninger’s (1993) notion of “control revolution” as a point of concern and a framework for analyzing the human dimension of technological change, we can look at the Smart School project as a Third World nation’s economic developmental phase in integrating itself in the advanced stage of Computer Revolution which has historically emerged as an apparatus of human and social control. The tone of the communiqué on the Smart School, is one of a nation having the unquestionable faith in the inevitable progress of the Computer Revolution and the post-positivist euphoria of Information Age. It echoed the believe that technology, in all its neutrality will bring forth creative evolution for generations ahead via the social reproductive means called education, in the tradition argued by Herbert Simon, the “Father of Artificial Intelligence,”. Simon (1986) believed in our keeping of options in our planning for alternative futures through the epochal advances in our society, and in this aspect, the advances made in the Computer Revolution. Simon’s ideological orientation in equating social progress with the parallel development of technology can be logically understood. This orientation can be derived from many a common-held belief in the presumed neutrality of technology and the paradigm of equating human thinking with the inner-workings of the artificial intelligence manifested in computers. There are however, issues which need to be addressed both, in case of Malaysian Smart Schools and in the overall interpretation of educational planning, implementation, and institutionalization within the domain of human-machine interface. Whilst at the megastructural level the changes which have been influential in the decision to create Smart school is characterized by the ideological notion that Malaysia need to progress via technologizing society, at the nation-state level, educational restructuring takes the character of top-down reform within the matrix of the creation of the billion-dollar Multimedia Super Corridor. Zooming in on the implementation of the Smart school, particularly in the nation’s preparation for the radical technological shift in the manner educational change is framed, the following paragraphs will discuss ways by which the implementation process takes shape. Particularly important will be those on the infrastructural changes undertaken, teacher training initiatives planned, and the nature packaged knowledge designed. As it pertains to infastructural changes, the ambitious Malaysian Smart School project which attempt, by the year 2010 to technologize 10,000 schools has its focus the setting up of tools of cyberlearning so that knowledge can be electronically distributed through high-tech high touch means. As noted in the communiqué: Smart schools invariably demand a heavy investment in multimedia infrastructure. The hardware would include computers and peripherals, video and voice-conferencing equipment and the backbone of telecommunications infrastructure … The software will comprise word processor spreadsheets, networking software, e-mail-software, Internet browsers, authoring tools and training software. In addition, schools will require the creation of interlinked national and local databases and research center. The infrastructure is not incremental to the current information technology deployment but orders of magnitude higher. The successful planning, procurement, installation and maintenance will require a radical change in approach. (MoE Communiqué, p.1) Indeed such a plan to adopt infrastructure mimicking the way information technology is used in advanced industrialized countries is characteristic of a Third World nation’s ambivalence towards the concept of “appropriate technology, available resources.” It misses the point concerning transfer of concepts natural to the environment of advanced nations which already historically rich in technology and enculturalized into it. Fullan and Steigelbauer (1991) quoted research by Scandamalia and Bereiter (1989) on the use of computer-assisted learning to enhance understanding of subject matter in a cooperative learning manner. The project, CSILE – Computer-Supported International Learning Environment is one in which: Students interact with outreach databases to pursue and pose questions, construct plans for gathering information, elaborate what they know, and wonder, and the like. Students identify certain notes as “candidates for publication” (sharing) or as “candidates for submission to our biology expert” (either the teacher of someone designated outside the classroom). Thus ‘learning becomes exploration rather than task-driven.’ (p. 188) Indeed the above-quoted scenario of cyber-learning can perhaps contribute to the democratization and in-depth ness of learning if we look at it from a pedagogical perspective. However, albeit a liberating picture of technology utilization portrayed in the CSILE project, the case might turn out to be different for the Malaysian Smart School project. It must again be looked at from the standpoint of an implantation of a radical concept which will carry with it an expensive educational price-tag in foreign investment, technology transfer and the cost involved in restructuring teacher training to meet the demands of the cyberschools. For Canada, United States, Europe and Japan – owners of the means of production of cybertechnologies related to teaching and learning – the infrastructural development and the technological culture seem second nature. For Malaysia and other Third World nations wishing to “catch-up” with the West, the race might never be a fruitful one after all. From my experience as a visitor to the Open Learning Agency in Vancouver Canada and my discussions with those involved with the Smart School project, the information gathered is that the prototype for the Malaysian Smart School is a high-tech, wired high school in Vancouver visited by key policy-making officials of the Malaysian Ministry of Education. Perhaps out of the fascination of how technology can help “democratize learning” and out of the misunderstood notion of the meaning of educational technology as it is related to the meaning of education itself, the officials overlooked the nature of infrastructural changes which will have to be implemented and the astronomical budget involved. It is thus a political-economic issue with transfer of discourse at its core. At the level of teacher training, plans are being outlined to train cyberteachers to work with cyberlearners in cyber schools within cyber cities soon to be governed from a cyber capital. The communique from the ministry, concluded in a language synthesizing technological determinism, top-down reform and “swim or sink attitude” can be illustrated as follow: The most crucial aspect of training would be teacher training. There needs to be a careful mix of intensive training and counseling to help teachers adapt to the new environment. This will be critical in order to dispel the natural insecurity and fears of redundancy that will arise from this radical paradigm shift in teaching methodology and hence the very role of teachers. (P. 1) The language is hence illustrative of the limited choice given to teachers in determining the options open for understanding what teaching means. It seems to focus entirely on enabling technologies themselves rather than enabling teachers to master a repertoire of teaching techniques which do not necessarily demand high technological investments. In short, the language is illustrative of the idea that teachers need to be prepared “what to think about” rather that what Darling-Hammond (1997) would say “how to think” and design their own methodologies so that the concept teaching for understanding can be realized. To quote Darling Hammond on the critical success factor for teaching: The success of today’s effort will ultimately rest on whatever education policies continue to enforce bureaucratic approach that emphasizes standardization and prescription of practice or whether they support a professional approach that arms teachers with the knowledge they need to teach skillfully and make appropriate decisions. (p. 34) Although the communiqué allude to the idea that the mindset of the teachers need to be prepared for the Smart School environment which will be characterized be “self-paced, self-directed, and self-accessed learning” (p. 1) the cyberschool project is predominantly clouded in language of heavy infrastructural investment colored by the idiom of corporate restructuring focusing on infrastructure more than intellectual endeavors: Effective implementation of Smart Schools will require funding for the building of new schools will all its multimedia infrastructure, upgrading facilities in existing schools and teacher training institutions and for the maintenance of new technology introduced. Over the duration of this project, this will require several billion Ringgit Malaysia (RM). While the dramatic increase in budgetary allocation is necessary, it is unlikely that it will be sufficient to fund this mega-project. Innovative methods such as private sector funding, corporate and community involvement and sponsorships and smart use of the excellent infrastructure after schools hours, will need to be explored. It is also interesting to note that parallel to the implementation of the Smart School as a cyber learning initiative is planned and purposeful change to implement the principles of Total Quality Management so that Malaysian Schools will, like the manufacturing sector, be certified with the ISO 9000 (International Standards of Operation 9000) The Ministry of Education has announced this initiative as a vision to turn schools as “a wellspring of knowledge” and for them to become world-class education centers consistent with the Total Quality Management concept and ISO 9000 quality standard” (p.1). In elaborating this vision, the Deputy Education Minister is quoted as saying that: The implementation of the systems would also alleviate disciplinary and social problems… [and that the systems are to be implemented because]… TQM and ISO 9000 have become global benchmarks reshaping competition and organizations around the world which is why its concepts must be learned and factored into our education system. (p. 1) If the top-down efforts are characterized by the demands of transforming the entire system into one technologized in nature demanding shifts in teacher mindset and quality assurance in the manner schools will be controlled, what then could be the nature of implementation relating to the body of knowledge to be passed down to the student? In other words what kinds of learning and teaching paraphernalia will be used in creating a learning environment, which has the vision and mission of creating a technologically literate citizenry? What courseware will support the implementation process? These questions will be explored in brief before we move on to the scenario of an institutionalized concept called Smart School. The discussion on courseware and the mode of teaching and learning via electronic means can offer an insight into the shape of education to come circa year 2020 in a cyber Third World nation such as Malaysia. Institutionalization The setting up of the Smart Schools within the Malaysian government’s project to establish Cyberjaya and Putrajaya claimed and trumpeted as two of the world’s first intelligent cities, is a technological deterministic step towards further linking the nation to the world’s financial capital. And within the perspective of school as a means of social, economic, political and technological reproduction, Smart Schools are aimed at producing citizens able to function effectively in the Information Age. Whether the control of high-technological production is in the hands of the few in the techno-industrialized West and whether nations such as Malaysia plunging itself in this long term of uncertainty and in the wheel of international capitalist machine, are not the issue in educational reform. The idea and implementation of such a controlled paradigm of development and progress, once institutionalized, will carry consequences anathema to the idea of educational reform based upon the use of “available technology and appropriate resources” constructed within a paradigm celebrating grassroots, bottom-up and humanistic initiatives. The impending question of technological-based education reform movement in the case of Malaysia will perhaps miss the question of “who will benefit” in such claims (contd.)
Posted by Dr. AZLY RAHMAN at 12/07/2005 11:06:00 AM
REFLECTIONS ON MARTIN BUBER’S I-THOU AND THE CONCEPTUALIZATION OF PERSONACRACY by Azly Rahman Columbia University, New York PROLOGUE “Race, ethnicity and culture are dynamic constructs that are part of an evolving discourse in American society as well as in cultures around the world … the course will investigate what all this means for the individual and our collective work as educators” - from Course Description, "Race and Ethnicity in Education", Columbia University “ It appears that you have gone from being immersed in the contradictory, and yes… sometimes oppressive constructs in which we are socialized to a position where you now consider yourself above the fray of ‘illusions’ that you claim govern our existence. How do you expect to have any voice in relieving the oppressive conditions that so concern you if you are off into your own ‘inner –world’ condemning the rest of us for living in our socialized little boxes? While I agree with the need to be governed first internally and to conference the world through spirit… How can we effectively be not of the world yet in it and seek to bring that spirit to the concrete world of human suffering with all the illusions that accompany it! - Instructors' comments This essay proposes to illuminate the above quotations in order to highlight my views on the issue of constructs within the parameters of discussion on race, culture, and ethnicity in education. It is, I believe necessary to be such a length in order to justifiably explore particularly the second quotation and to situate my views on the construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the idea of race, culture, and ethnicity as constructs and to extend them to a paradigm of action. I wish to make myself clear on the view that eventhough I recognize the strength of the arguments for race, cultural, and ethnic consciousness, I believe they can be look at within a metaphysical framework as well as from one which synthesizes the essentialist, progressive, and postmodernist perspectives within the paradigm exploring the possibility of a global and humane world order. The most fascinating and highly stimulating class discussions facilitated by an energetic and very knowledgeable instructor, the cutting edge readings on traditional, modern, and postmodern conceptions of race, ethnicity, and culture, the excellent views from the guest speakers, as well as illuminating data gathered from preliminary site visits to the Harlem Congregation for Community Improvement, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Exhibition of Traditional African Sculptures), and The Nuyorican Poets Café – all these have benefited me tremendously in understanding issues which are real to the question of race, culture, and ethnicity. Through this important essay, I wish to assert my uncompromising view that I am indeed committed, as an educator for creative and critical consciousness, to looking at “liberation” from the lens I am much socialized in: a metaphysical lens which looks at constructs within the matrix of injustices at our global and planetary level, As such it draws upon the rediscovery of essentialist themes in major religious tradition, modernist critique of the role of excesses in technological domination, and the postmodernist sensibility in the analysis of constructs. I have chosen all these perspectives, synthesize them, and look at how, as an educator I can believe that it is imperative to look at how the world within us can be perceived and thus, through recognizing the “government within” can help me design agendas to liberate human thinking within what I call “cosmotheandric, trialogical, and personacratic view of education” which addresses issues of constructs beyond the boundaries of nation-states. I thus draw my arguments and formulations for action based essentially upon Martin Buber’s “I-Thou” philosophy and link it with major metaphysical themes derived from established religions to then look at the universality of ethical ideals concerning education of the self. INTRODUCTION As we come close to the turn of the century, issues brought before the 52nd General Assembly of the United Nations illustrates a dismal view of how we conduct our affairs on planet Earth. Wars are constantly being fought, militarism continues to be on the rise even amongst the Third World nations whose citizen survive on barely US$1.00 per day, human rights violations continue to be exposed, authoritarian regimes prevail, trade blocks are operating more intensely in the language of the war system, technological progress, controlled by the few in the advanced industrialized countries continue to become potentially dangerous engines of planetary destruction, international distributive justice remains a tedious forum of debates amongst nations and environmental destruction continue to threaten the survival of the world we have inherited for our children. (UN-USA, 1997) The urgent call for the global society to works towards peace can best be illustrated by the opening remarks in the report by the Commission on Global Governance which stated: The collective power of the people to shape the future is greater now than ever before, and the need to exercise it is more compelling. Mobilizing that power to make life in the twenty-first century more democratic and more sustainable is the foremost challenge of this generation. The world needs a new vision that can galvanize people in areas of common concern and shared destiny (The Commission on Global Governance, 1997, p.1) Autobiographical reflections and the issues brought before the 52nd UN General Assembly above, points then to the intent of this essay in which, I shall argue that in order to arrive at a state of being conscious in the sense Jean Paul Sartre talked about as “being and becoming” within the human and social dimension of peace we ought to begin to radically reframe educational issues along the lines of global ethics and planetary consciousness by drawing upon our search for universality in humanistic and philosophical terms with view of praxis in mind in order to “achieve higher levels of cooperation in areas of concern and shared destiny” (Commission, 1997,p.1 ) Whilst highest levels of international decision making will continue to dwell upon the intricacies of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building (Boutros-Boutros Ghali, 1992) and whilst sovereign governments will continue to do similar within the confines of their nation-states, education as a enterprise of developing one’s potentials within ought to play its role in conceptualizing what in means to prepare the citizens of the next century to become authentic beings, in the Freirian sense; beings who are conscientized of the needs for a human and world order. Thus, in arriving at this reconceptualization, I shall be guided by the concepts of “cosmotheandry”, “trialogue” and “personacracy” in our re-framing of our educational philosophical priorities and our perceptual lens in looking at constructs. In them I shall draw my arguments from Martin Buber’s I-Thou philosophy synthesized with a cross religious mystical concepts and culminate them in the context of what I term as “personacracy” meaning “government of the self, for the self and by the self” as opposed to that of democracy; the latter having been subjected much abuses and adulterations in its interpretations. CONCEPTS By “cosmotheandry” I mean the vision of reality in which the Human and the Cosmic are integrated into a whole more or less harmonious according to the performance of our human rights” (Pannikar, R.). This is a mystical conception of being and becoming in which the philosophical concepts of religion, which unites rather than divides, are taken and applied to one’s ontological vocation. By “trialogue”, I mean the extension of the often used term dialogue, in which it does not only mean one taking place between the persons and the transcendent reality, but to quote Boehle (1995) one of which the meeting is between “the Ultimate Self and Ultimate Reality. I will apply to this concept to any definition of trialogue as the interaction between the Self, the Surreal (technology and creativity) and the Spirit. By “personacracy” I mean the juxtaposing of the understanding of the mystical with the transient self and the meeting of both in a rendezvous wherein the mystical guides the transient in order to gain the full realization of the self in its journey towards enlightenment and self-realization. Personacracy thus require one to travel the path of self-knowledge and to realize “the power within” which is a reflection of the power bestowed upon at the onset of existence. The three mystical concepts above, of which Buber’s I-Thou philosophy points out to is methodological in our re-framing of educational paradigm of looking at, among others, racial constructs towards the next millenium as we analyze the historical development of materialism and industrialism as an I-it experience upon which human beings must come to terms with. These concepts entail one to search for the Inner Self within which has allowed the domination of the Ego to the effect that through creativity we create representations of ourselves in the form of technologies which, in their most negative and excessive use has threaten the world we live in to destruction, anathema to the concept of peace, and in Buberian philosophy failed to realize the meeting of the Thou with the I. Whereas these concepts are discussed with Buberian I-Thou as a focal point, the religious-mystical dimension of other religions, the “cosmotheandric” vision in them are brought into play so that the unity and universality of Buber’s Hasidic tradition can meet the vision of Sufism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, as the major beliefs which in reality brings peoples together albeit the divisions they also set when interpreted in the strictest religious and political sense. It is my view that much of the inter-religious and inter-racial conflicts which carry the banner of “organized” rather than “metaphysicalized” religious and racial consciousness stem out of the misinterpretation of the doctrines at one level, and the misguiding of the philosophical understanding of their inherently peaceful and humanistic dimensions at another. A cosmotheandric reading and deep understanding of the varieties of religious doctrines concerning the cultivation of a peaceful self must then be the agenda beyond those to be achieved at the institutional and the ecumenical levels. It is when one’s understanding of religion as a comprehensive way of life and adapt this understanding metaphysically at any changing times and cultivate this experience in the most intellectually experiential sense that issues such as dehumanization, war-mongering, environmental destructions, xenophobia, racial intolerance and bigotry, and all those which constitute pathologies of the transient self can be contemplated and acted consciously upon. And when dialog of the Thou and I is extended to include the dialogue of I or the Ultimate Self with its Creative Faculties (which produces technologies,) in the presence of the Thou or the Ultimate Reality, then this trialogue becomes metaphysically and spiritually authentic in that human use of technology and what he/she creates is not devoid of the Inner Conscience which can guide him/her from Ego, self-destruction and the destruction of others (beings and non-beings) who and which together share living and breathing space. And in realizing the meeting between the Ultimate Reality and the Ultimate Self, or in which the Thou meets the I, what must proceed would be the I’s or the Ultimate Self’s understanding of what constitutes his/her essence. “Personacracy” then, within the claims of this essay, can be a powerful starting point to prepare oneself to travel the path in meeting the Thou. It is when the path is not taken that the “thyself is not made known”, as Socrates would put it: that the world of the I will only meet It, which constitutes merely the worldly, experiences non-relational to the Thou. This state of being in turn brings forth realities such as Man’s utilitarian conception of one another, nations creating boundaries to alienate each other, and technologies being developed to subjugate the planet one era after the other, and design and perpetuate constructs to gatekeep one another. ON BUBER’S I-THOU PHILOSOPHY The scope of this essay would certainly not permit enough discussion to do justice to Martin Buber’s complex philosophical discourse not only in his disposition of the religious outlook of the Self but also how it governs race, ethnic and social relations, morality, nationhood, and international relations. Buber’s profound thinking, which champions the mystical Jewish tradition of Hassidism, can however be largely discerned from his 1923 publication of I and Thou. The range of writings essential to the understanding of Buber’s contribution to humanistic philosophy is one which is edited by Herberg (1956) in The Writings of Martin Buber. As it relates to the intent of this essay, I and Thou is concerned with the nature of Man’s relation or non-relation with God. Here Buber talked about the levels of awareness of one’s existence in relation to the world he/she occupies and experiences and to the Supreme Creator of whom he/she comes forth from and would thus return to. Buber distinguishes between the primary I in I-It and I in I-Thou in which the former operates at a level wherein we experience things around us as objects, as “It” and the insignificant-ness of this experience minimizes our existence as merely relational as far as how they govern our transient affairs. It is when we work towards realizing that the relations are one of I- Thou in which the beings and non-beings are experienced as part of Thou that relations become authentic and that the manner we conduct our affairs will become more authentic and moral, imbued with a deep sense of religiosity which then allows us to frame our thinking that, all that exists is the Thou. Authentic meaning in being and becoming in this world can be achieved by one’s setting of the preconditions “to meet the Thou” rather than to “go out and seek the Thou”. The Thou is present in It but is not part of It, as Buber wrote “… the Thou meets me through Grace – it is not found by seeking… the Thou meets me.. but I step into direct relation with him” (p.11) In defining the authenticity of being, Buber wrote of the meaning of the strengthening of one’s person-hood in order to have the Thou meet him: The stronger the I of the primary word I-Thou is in the twofold I, the more personal is the man… [a]ccording to this saying of I –according to what he means, when he says I-it can be decided where a man belongs and where his way leads. The word I is the true shibboleth of mankind.(p.65) It follows then that the weakening of the I in the I-Thou relation subjugates Man to the experiencing of the world and others around him/her as It. It is then logical to assume that the conditions that are herein plaguing Man at the turn of the century -- dehumanization, militarism, environmental degradation, identity crisis and fragmentation and paralyzing and excessive claims to religious and racial identity -- are a result of the paralyzing of the I in the I-Thou primary word. The resultant, Ego, in its crudest sense coupled with the utilization of Man’s creative instinct to develop alter-egos of themselves in the form of technologies of mass destruction and environmental subjugation, are those which are characteristic of the Buberian notion of the failure of Thou to meet the I. Buber thus believes that Man must create the meeting place for the Thou to meet the I so that humanity may reach its authenticity. There is no barrier between the primary word I-Thou in that: The relation to the Thou is DIRECT. No system of ideas, no fore- knowledge and no fancy intervene between I and Thou. The memory itself becomes transformed, as it plunges out of its isolation into the unity of the whole. No aim, no lust, and no anticipation intervene between I and Thou. Desire itself is transformed as it plunges out of its dream into the appearance. Every means is an obstacle. Only when every means has collapsed does the meeting come about. (Buber, 1958, pp.11-12) If we understand the underpinnings of Buber’s poetico-religious conception of “desire” as the veil separating the I and Thou, we can attribute this to the idea that Man has reached a stage in civilization that in virtually all levels of human organization that “desire” or Ego has continued to alienate himself/ herself with others. At the personal level, we distinguished ourselves by our oftentimes excessive claims to individuality, at the cultural level by our nationhood, at the societal level by our class and race distinctions and our economic ideologies, at the territorial level by our geographical boundaries and at the regional-political level by the trade, economic, political, and military blocks we create to render each other aliens. Communitarianism, in the manner we order our political lives fueled with “Thou-less” political philosophies contribute to our misguide notion of what universal destiny means. And in our relationship with Nature, our I-Thou becomes I-it in the manner we dominate planet Earth to our Ego’s desire. We may have failed to look at the “Thou-ness” in our relationship with our planet. Reflecting upon Buber’s analysis of the I-it condition of the modern Man, we relate to the Freirian concept of Man’s inability to be liberated from the presumed objectivity of hi/her nature and to fully understand his ontological vocation and vice versa. (See Friere, 1970) We saw this condition of man in Albert Camus’s Sisyphus in which, after being condemned by the Gods, the central character Sisyphus was condemned to eternally roll the rock and in which Camus asked us to imagine Sisyphus happy. Or in the context of violence and the war system, as analyzed by Reardon (1996) in Sexism and the War System that Man has constantly struggled to deal with the Ego or the “primal wound” wherein his lack of full realization of his androgynic nature has contributed much to the structural violence (slavery and racial discrimination as examples) created since the dawn of history. It is with the “Thou-less” condition of the I that distributive injustices as analyzed by Shue (1980) argued in Basic Rights is rampant as we approach the millenium and that violations of human rights in all sense of the word is ever prevailing, as analyzed by Felice (1996) in Taking Suffering Seriously. Human condition is to be reversed if it is to meet the situation of I-Thou and as John Rawles note that we may have to play the game of distributive justice all over again when our veil of ignorance is lifted for us to make choices in our attainment of the true meaning of the word “justice” (Rawls, 1971) in a seminal work The Theory of Justice. In Buber’s term, we can only reverse this capricious state of human affairs by bringing the Thou into a relational being-ness and by reaching a level of awareness wherein the Thou responds to the I’s awareness of it. Such a state of being then will transform our relationship with Nature, other human beings, and spiritual beings – all these share the experience of being-ness and becoming-ness in their desire to have the Thou meet them. This is a profound mystical notion of Self-hood which destroys the notion of other-ness and instruct the Ego to bow down to the conditions set by the I-Thou relation in its pre-Oceanic stage. It is as if there is a covenant between I and Thou prior to being born, in the moment of conception wherein the Thou meets the I in the womb called by the Semitic term “Raham”, “Rahim” or Love. Perhaps Man becomes It in I-Thou as he progresses through life because he drank too much from the River of Forgetfulness, to use Socrates term in his Doctrine of Reminiscence? From the womb then, Man is transgressed into the world of It – of things, events, other persons, etc., -- and some remain in the I-It relationship in the worldly experience leaving only a few (such as Buber and other mystics) to work for the setting of the preconditions to have Thou meet them. Buber indeed, does not see the evil in I but sees it as one’s denial of the possible meeting with Thou. Buber (1958) wrote: The primary word I-It is not of evil – as matter is not evil. It is of -- evil as matter is, which presumes the have the quality of present being. If a man lets it have mastery, the continually growing world of It over-runs him and rules him of the reality of his own I, till the incubus over him and the ghost within him whisper to one another the confession of their own salvation. (p.46) Like many a humanistic philosopher would look at it, Buber believes that human nature is neither good nor bad; it is the inability of him/her to master the Ego within and to acknowledge the possible meeting of the Thou that has brought the I-It world into the present-day crises. Buber’s work has a great many similarities with the mystical conception of Self, desire, and I-Thou relation in the major religions of the world: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Islam. It is necessary thus to find common themes in the Hassidic mysticism with that of others. It would then give legitimacy to the following section’s discussion on the cosmotheandric feature of the next millenium’s educational philosophical priorities and how we deconstruct constructs and consequently to relate this notion with “trialogue” as another dimension of being-in-this-world notion; one which is preconceived upon the interplay between the Ultimate Self, the Surreal and the Creative Instinct, and with Ultimate Reality. ON COSMOTHEANDRY If the power of Buber’s philosophy is in its mysticism brought down to the level of praxical philosophy coupled with his view that the world is to be made conducive for the Thou to meet the I, this notion must be extended in a cross-religious mystical context. The philosophical dimension of religion, as I’ve argued in the previous section, can be more powerful than its institutional and ritual dimensions. It should be through the philosophy of religion, albeit seemingly contradictory to the mind of the orthodox and fanatic, that one can explore the essence of the dialogue between the Thou and the I, the Ultimate Self and the Ultimate Reality, between Man and Creator. In addition, and pertinent to the intent of this section, if Buber’s philosophy or in his words, “his pointing out to Reality”, can be taken to be universal and contains the realism of the Ultimate Reality, then it must be conceived to be compatible with the dimensions of other religious mysticism. This is what is meant by the cosmotheandric nature of mystical discourse. In addition too, given the fact that Buber’s philosophy may be taken to be, by (again) the orthodox and fanatic, to be exclusively Jewish, whereas in I-Thou contains a profound statement of Man’s ontological vocation, a cosmotheandric view can best be an avenue which can appeal to educational philosophers intending to explore universality in mystical thoughts. I now illustrate some of the salient mystical ideas in consort with Buber’s relational philosophy; namely those from the Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, and Islamic traditions. The cosmotheandric dimension of I-Thou relation in the variety of religious experience points out to the ultimate Reality and the illumination to self of which when this stage of enlightenment is achieved the “goodness” in Man is brought out, Humanity reaches its moral epitome and the I-it world is imbued with the presence and vision of Thou-ness. In Christianity it is the Jesus of Love and the love of Jesus, which runs through the idea of the setting of the precondition of the I’s rendezvous with Thou. Illustrations of the yearning for self-illumination and the inner beauty of self-government is St. Francis Assisi’s parable of the seeker of God and poor man of a church, the Master of his own kingdom: The Master asked… : Whence are you come?’ “From God” Where did you find God?’ When I forsook all creatures’ When have you left God?’ In pure hearts and in sea of good will.’ The Master asked: What sort of man are you?’ I am a king.’ Where is your kingdom? ‘My soul is my kingdom, so I can so rule my . senses inwards and outward, that all the desires and powers of my soul are in subjection, and this kingdom is greater than a kingdom on earth: ‘What has brought you to this perfection? My silence, my high thoughts, and my union with God. For I could rest in anything less than God. Now I have found and in God have eternal rest and peace. ( Underhill, pp. 209-210) In Buddhism, the self acknowledges the Thou-ness of his/her existence through meditation and the following of the noble path in order to for Nibbana to be attained. The I-it world can only reach salvation and prepare the meeting of the Thou through the Noble Eight-fold Path that leads to the cessation of suffering (Radhakrishnan & Moore, 1967) which among them call upon Man to: know suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path that leads to the cessation of suffering; … to renounce the world and to do no hurt or harm; … to abstain from lies and slander, from reviling , and from tattle; … to abstain from taking life, from stealing, and from lechery; … (p.277) It is when these are taken to be a part of one’s program of self-purification that the I-it world may be raised to a higher level of consciousness. In the Hindu tradition, the I-Thou meeting can be preconditioned by Man’s adherence to the Law of Manu, a code of conduct written as metrical sutras of which deals with the religious, legal, customary, and political aspects of the Hindu philosophy .The aim of life as conceived by the Hindus is to obtain fullest realization of his/her existence through dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (enjoyment) and moksha (spiritual freedom) (Radhakrishnan & Moore, p.172) Man is to live anthromophically with Nature in a world wherein beings and non-beings have their significant in the cosmic and metaphysical order of creation. It is when the world is looked upon as an “It” -- to be dominated and peoples to be utilized that this order is violated and Mother Earth is raped and the cycle of destruction begins. In the Taoist tradition, the character of Lao Tze, controversial to many a Confucionist of his philosophy of Nature, is an epitome of the “Thou-ness” in thought. In Lao Tze, Nature is not to be tampered with at all, illustrative in his symbolic metaphor of the uncarved stone of which creativity of Man would carve into representations. If there should be a great grandfather of ecophilosophy, Lao Tze would be one. In one of the most powerful dialogues in the Taoist philosophical thoughts, in which Kung Fu Tze (Confucius ) is said to visit Lao Tze to consult him in matters of propriety: Lao Tzu said: “Those of whom you talked about are dead and their bones are decayed. Only their words have remained. When the time is proper, the superior man rides in a carriage, but when it is not, he covers himself up and staggers away. I have heard that a good merchant stores away his treasures as if his store were empty and that a superior man with eminent virtues appear as if he were stupid. Get rid of your air of pride and many desires, your insinuating manners and lustful wishes. None of these is good for you. That is all I have to tell you. (trans., Chan, 196, p.36) The essence of the passage and of Taoist philosophy is to live a life of humility through the subjugation of the Ego. It is this essence of naturalism in philosophical though which has brought Lao Tze’s mysticism comparable to Buber’s “Thou-ness” in which nature is seen as one amongst the many beings in the world of the Thou. The Tao The Ching (The Way) is to be followed in order for Thou to meet the I in the Taoist tradition. The Islamic conception of mysticism must begin with the mentioning of the Prophet Muhammad as one of the world’s greatest mystic whose entire life was spent preaching the Thou-ness of living. Allah (God) is to be made present in the heart mind and soul of the believers so that the I-it world may become one in submission to the will of the Supreme Being. Peace for, oneself, for society, nations and the world order can be attained by adhering to the true spirit and meaning of the Quran. The mystical aspect of Islam nonetheless involves one to take the path to self-purification best illustrated by those “seeking God” through, among those, Sufism. The writings of poet mystics such as Qadir Jailani, Fariduddin Attar, Jalaluddin Rumi, Omar Khayyam, Al Ghazalli and of one widely recognized in the west, Idries Shah, illustrate the Thou-ness of the tradition. The popular profound sayings of the Islamic mystics “know thyself and you will know God”, and “God is closer to you than your jugular vein” has remarkable similarity with the Hassidic belief of the closeness of God to those who seeks to meet Him through his Grace. It is to be noted that Moses and Jesus are revered to be two of the major prophets of Islam and the monotheism in these two are but a continuation of the God’s message brought also by Muhammad as the last prophet in the lineage of those beginning with Adam. Thus, the mysticism inherent in the religions I have scantily mentioned point out to the cosmotheandric paradigm inalienable to Buber’s idea of I and Thou. It is my view thus that the inherent philosophical aspects of those religious traditions points out to the need for their believers to work towards peace from within the self so that this boundary can then be extended to others, to beings and non-beings and ultimately to the planet and cosmos in which then, we will realize that all there is the Thou of whom which we are to provide rendezvous. It is when the self is “lost” in the finiteness of the Thou that humanity can take its true character and that the ego is subjugated from its need to manifest all forms of behavior and acts anathema to the Thou-ness of the I. Perhaps one may conjecture that politics being the art and science of constitutionalizing and unconstitutionalizing of power relations has been a predominant influence of the ego that Man has been veiled by the notion of the apolitical and beauty of the Inner self, that Man has created psychological, cultural, social, economic, political and global structures which mirror the triumphs of the ego over the primordially pure self. This may perhaps explain manifestations of mania that have historically color our activities as human beings: The two World Wars, slavery, the holocaust, Nuclear Arms Race, Environmental Degradations and a range of other madness in our civilizations. The “I” seeks power, seizes it and uses it to shackle the I-it primary word so that an I-Thou relation is no longer possible. The power sought is then used to subjugate others and to threaten Nature. We then become shackled by constructs. It is not the intent to do a dissertation on the meaning of power in the realpolitik-al sense as opposed to the mystical but a pertinent question which correlates with the Buberian and cosmotheandric view of power is that how can the self be made to realize its power within and what does it mean to be powerless yet powerful compatible with Buber’s Thou-ness of the self? I will turn to my notion of the powerful self and personacracy; “the government of the self, by the self, and for the self.” after relating trialogue with Buberian philosophy and cosmotheandry. ON TRIALOGUE As we have seen in the previous section, at the core of the cosmotheandric view if we also juxtapose its notion with Buber’s I-it predicament in Man, is the Thou-nesses of humanity, which must be re-framed. Taking Lao Tze’s metaphor of the uncarved stone as the symbol of radical naturalism upon which Man must live by, we find a common strand in these integrative theme: it is that Man’s technological progress has reached such an advanced stage that we are able to create the most sophisticated machines which have not only make our lives easier but also, in the case of aerospace industry, have stretched our imagination to probe the meaning of Creation. The dark side of the Lao Tze-ian or Taoist “carved stone” metaphor however has illustrated the fact that, coupled with the Thou-lesness of our I-thou primary, technology we fashioned has also contributed to environmental destruction, colonization and imperialism, militarism and transfer of national currencies (to render nations bankrupt thus affecting the lives of millions upon millions of people who do not own such sophistications in economic warfare). Those are illustrations upon which Buber may term as the I-it of or relation of virtually all levels. Whilst Buber talked about dialogue in his pointing out to reality, we may extend this notion to a trialogue in the sense that the dialogue should involve the I’s or the Ultimate Self’s constant dialogue with what it creates (technology) in the presence of the Thou or the Ultimate Reality. We could also sum up this tripartite in this trialogue with the idea of Self-Surreal-Supreme Being. The supra-real energies we manifest, in the form of “the stone we carved” (if we must insist on its “inevitable progress” in celebration of human creativity) must then be an act of creativity in the moral domain. We may then find countless illustrations of how technology is used to promote peace in all the domains known to Man. It could be as though Man has brought along the carved stone in his meeting with the Thou or even more imperative would be, in Man’s urge to constantly carve the stone he/she may do it in the presence of the Thou. This is the essence of my conception of the Self-Surreal-Supreme Being or the Thou-ness of man’s acts of creation. Technological progress, which has been heralded from one epoch another; particularly in modern history from the Industrial Revolution to this Age of Higher Species Cloning has often been assumed that it has life on its own. This presumed neutrality of technology, as illustrated for example in the “inevitable march of computers” as a triumphing engine of progress, has often mask the real actors behind the push for such progress: the multinational corporations situated predominantly in Silicon Valley. (if we analyze the United States as a source of such progress). The inherently profit-motifed industry which perhaps produce the personal computers as spin-offs of supercomputers employed for the manning of missiles in Desert Storm or maneuvering the Space Shields in Reagan’s “Star Wars” program some time ago; these two illustrations are, in Buberian philosophy a clear example of the Thou-lesness of the human condition. The historian David Nobel in his classic1977 work on the progress of technology in America, documented in America by Design for example, provided the historical materialistic paradigm of looking at how the owners of the means of technological production, i.e. the most powerful transnational corporations, have dictated the terms of socio-economic and educational changes not only in the United States but also extending imperialistically to the Third Worlds nations, so that the entire world become a huge production line based upon the excessive drive for profits. (See Nobel, 1977) Taking the development of military technology as a case in point to illustrate the It-ness of our thinking, the post-Cold War era, (albeit has lessened the threat of the world being blown away ten times over), has continued to portray progress in the development of more sophisticated conventional, chemical and biological weapons. And as stated in the lamentations at the of the beginning of this essay, one must imagine how much sophistication would be involved if the producers of the weapons of the three European countries combined their technological intelligence to produce arms more powerful and plenty in anticipation of the strength of those produced by the United States. In a world wherein the boundary between the threat to the liberal democracies par excellence, the Soviet Union as once as powerful arms producing Communist state is eliminated, in what countries would the market demand for such weapons be created? The self who is in dialogue with the Surreal in the case of the contemporary escalation of arms race is in Buberian and cosmotheandric terms Thou-less. Man’s creativity has lost its moral basis although the cognitive faculties may have advanced beyond the thermonuclear age. In a brilliant analysis of the inconceivable blend between the I-it-ness and I-Thouness of this creative development as it relates to technological progress, an eminent professor of creativity asked this question: What is the essence of this pathology? Its essence is the failure of civilized man to evolve appropriate new social institutions to manage a powerful new technology. Society changes fairly slowly. Technology changes rapidly… This unbalanced growth is especially true today, when vast sums are spent on research to find new ways of changing technology but those in charge of spending these funds, the political leaders of each country, have no desire to provoke important changes in the societies they enjoy governing. (Gruber, 1997) As long as the world is looked upon as an “it” in Buberian philosophical term, we will then expect such imbalances in the cognitive-emotional development of Man as it relates to the developing of weaponry. The technology we develop is deployed to make each other the “enemy” within the paradigm of love-hate with the planet. The absence of the Thou in the Surreal will remain a major obstacle in our dialogue with Ultimate Reality. Gruber (1997) who studied the paradox of this love-hate relationship with the world we have in is illustrated the case of the eminent scientists who played important roles in the development of the atomic bomb: The vacillations of the physicists who created nuclear weapons make a well known story: Sziland, the prophetic physicists who first tried to mobilize physicists against contributing towards nuclear weaponry, and who then took the lead – when a Nazi victory seemed possible – in calling for making such weapons; Einstein, lifelong pacifist, who followed Sziland’s lead in helping to persuade Roosevelt to initiate the Manhattan project; Oppenheimer, who directed that Project and then, when he saw the first mushroom cloud at Los Alamos said, ‘we have known sin.” (p.127) If science, as the soul of Man’s Surrealistic representation of himself/herself via technological progress, produces men of eminence who harness their brilliance in the interest of social and political institutions governed by leaders trapped in the I-it frame of existence, how then can ultimate use of science for peaceful purposes be attained? It is prophetic if we return to Lao Tze’s metaphor of the uncarved stone as a powerful vision, which contained the relational element of the I-thou and I-it. Lao Tze would predict that should Man be not tamper with Nature and to not create, we would not have Man’s technology destroying the Earth and each other. Should Man tamper with the Earth and create, he would not be able to control what is created. If we analyze the state of technological progress at its most excessive stage, we will come to the conclusion that it is because the dialogue between Man and his Creativity is stripped off of the presence of the Supreme Being that Creativity and Technological Progress has fallen into the immoral domain. This is the main idea of this section on trialogue as a concept, which can be a guide to thinking about the educational framework for peace as we race towards a century, which may perhaps be filled with more anxieties and perplexities. Too radical it may perhaps be for us to accept the Taoist conception of creativity – to not create at all –, as it would mean living the life of a Thoreau, a Longfellow or a Robinson Crusoe. The “Ego” or Desire in its most positive aspect could mean the creative instinct in us bestowed upon by the Supreme Being, the Supreme Creative Mind so that we may meet them in Grace after undergoing through the trials and tribulations in life by using our creativity and problem-solving skills. Perhaps the scenario of peoples of this Earth living in lives of isolation in a Taoist imaginary world may also produce technologies of a different breed; one of metaphysical powers perhaps as claimed that many among of religious mystics possess. Certainly this is not a forum for discussion for we may also find that in such an imaginary world with metaphysical, magical, or mystical technologies there would be no guarantee that different forms of domination and destruction may also be cultivated by the Ego. The trialogical perspective in our discussion entails the discussion of what can constitute the transformation of the Surreal into the sacred in which the Ultimate Self’s development of Creativity and the deployment of his technology will always be in dialogue in the presence of the ultimate Reality or the Supreme Being. What kind of Self do we develop then, should we wish to see technology developed in the I-Thou paradigm? How do we understand the Franciscan idea alluded in the previous section which illustrated a man who called himself a king without a kingdom yet governs a world within larger than the world outside? This is certainly a mystical concept, which goes beyond the idea of modern-day democracy in the individual. Can there be a more logical, systematic and in depth analysis of the I, beyond the I and selfhood described by Buber? Can we conceive and make intelligible for the modern man a condition wherein the self is larger than the world outside and at the same time offer explanations compatible with the notion of individual liberty so ingrained in the modern-day democratic tradition? What should be a philosophy much deeper than the combination of demos and kratos? I now turn my notion of personacracy in the following section; one which attempt to frame selfhood within the I-Thou and, cosmotheandric and trialogical concepts. ON PERSONACRACY If Buber’s philosophy is to brought further down the level of analytical philosophy, if the cosmotheandric view from the varieties of religious discourse is to be made understood beyond their mystical garb, if the I which governs the Surreal is to be recognized as the I of Thou, and if democracy is to be practiced at the most meaningful and personalized level, and if human and social dimension of peace is to be grown as a perspective, we may have to define what “government of the self, of the self and by the self” means. We now look at the concept of “personacracy” as a synthesis of the perspectives thusfar presented. My own reflection over the years on the meaning (or the loss of meaning) of democracy as the idea of government by the by the people (demos & kratos) and my disillusionment of its development of one which is for the privileged few, coupled with my believe that the government which governs the least governs the best, and my question of “who should rule, why should we be ruled, and a range of other reflections -- all these have awakened the fundamental urge to search for the meaning of “governance”. In addition, my own quest for the meaning of existence through intense reading of Sufism and the universality in the spiritual quest in all religions have contributed to this conception of what personacracy means. And it is within this personalistic experience that I too look at race, ethnicity, and culture as constructs we can move beyond from. If the “I” in Buber’s philosophy is to prepare itself for the meeting with Thou, how would the nature of preparation be? If we entrust a human being to rule others, how would we wish the nature of governance be? If democracy is to be the one best political ideology thusfar conceived, how would its interpretation be if we are to live in system based on this idea and yet wish to see militarism, oppression, environmental degradation, racial discrimination, and all other forms of pathologies which may develop, be absent in such a system? In short, would the form of government be based upon the rule of the I-Thou person, or one of I-it? The common theme, which runs through this essay, is the concern that the I-it world is a reality and the I-Thou is a hope. The I-it person who governs, or enjoy governing others manifest his/her I-it-ness, the I-it technology created, or is used by its owner, manifest itself in its destructive and misanthropic forms, and the I-it system of government being created, destroyed, or sustained projects the excesses of power as manifested in authoritarianism, corruption, illusions of grandeur, misguided priorities, and control of the state apparatus for distributive injustice intents. History has shown us examples of I-it governments, kingdoms, civilizations and the like, which have undergone their rise and falls. The Babylon of Nebuchadnezzer, the Egypt of Ramses, the Rome of Pontius Pilate, the Germany of Hitler, and the Soviet Union of Stalin are among the major few which illustrate the governments of the Thou-less it. My conception of government is that it must begin with the self, the development of personhood, liberated of the I-it ness of its existence and evolve via dialectical dialogical means adhering closely to the Socratic tradition so that when the self has at its disposal any technology it embodies and employs, it will be used for peaceful purposes and so that the Thou-ness is present in the Surrealistic dimension. The personacratic I if he/she may be asked to govern others will govern them with the Thou-ness of governance of which the society which will emerge and the organic-ness of the culture will be Thou-ful in its civility. The personacratic I will be one with Nature for in Nature, like in I contains the Thou. Thus the ontology of the personacratic I is one of constant trialogue of the Ultimate Self and the Surreal with the Supreme Being constantly present in its Absolutism. What forms of civility will then personacracy contain? If personacracy is “a government of the self, by the self and for the self” it must contain the attributes of the Thou if it must meet the Grace of Thou in its existence. Being and becoming, as Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus have championed, becomes an essential pedagogy determining our understanding of the beauty of personacracy as self-government contained in them are the questions: What is it to be a human person? What is it like to explore the gifts of the intellect? of understanding liberation? of free world? of having died before Death comes? of being embodied by the Human spirit? of having power over Ego? and of coming to understand our personhood as an image of God? Personacracy is an existential metaphysical notion which may allow one to understand the image of God within and to understand that forces outside (which are representations of the inside) oppressive and anathema to human liberation can never subjugate the free self. Personacracy rests on the maxim that “the government of the self governs the very best.” It entails one’s understanding and living with the cosmic dimension of the self; dimension which are in essence the Beauty and the Bounty of the Thou. If Man is said to have been created in the image of God, how is this image hence manifested? It is when Man is aware of the elements and forces within that the meeting with Thou can be authentically Graceful. Herein lies the branches of the government of the self; one’s understanding that his selfhood is one of existence, balance, persistence, eternity, harmony, uniqueness, power within, decisiveness, knowledge, living, ability to hear, see, speak and the ability to understand with reverie and profundity who sees what is seen, who speaks what is spoken, who hears what is heard, who knows what is known, who decides what is decided, and who powers what is powered. If the Thou may meet the I it must be through thus common ground of the common language spoken, of the unity within and without. If Man is to be Creative, then the Created is that of the Supreme Creator, and if Technology is to be deployed the Technicity is that of the Supreme Technician. “The “I” proposes, the Thou then disposes.” What the I touches becomes those touched by the Thou. The veil of ignorance is lifted and the mundane becomes the sacred and profound. It becomes the Thou and the essence of humanity becomes illuminated. The Ego is then but a slave to the I in the I-Thou. If the elements outside – earth, wind, fire and water are to constitute the physical world then they must be compatible to Man’s being-ness as a Creation. In the cosmopolitan tradition then the four element-constituted self thus is merely differentiated by the skin color bestowed upon by the Ultimate Reality so that they may perhaps learn to go beyond their communitarianism in their attempt to cultivate, at least in their one lifetime, a suitable place for the Thou to meet. And it may be through self purification and managing of the Ego that the veils of ignorance can gradually be lifted so that the self may not be shadows mistaken as real by those in chains, projected onto the walls of the cave in an allegory conjured by perhaps a personacrat called Socrates. Democracy in a society of personacratic I’s then may not be necessary of its existence in that one would in such a society need food, shelter and clothing and be in constant business of preparing for the meeting with Thou. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, much popularly employed by the I-it world of mass advertising, may be reduced to two levels; one of meeting the basic needs and at the next and final level, of meeting the Thou. The Internet as an extension and Surrealistic notion of Man’s telepathic power may not be needed to be developed as the purity of thoughts of the citizens in a personacratic state is powerful enough to destroy any physical boundaries of communication. Communication, defined as the equal exchange of social messages can take its true definition as the personacratic “I”s communicates in the presence of Thou. Weapons of mass destruction will be inconceivable as their development would violate the most fundamental doctrine of personacracy, i.e. to be at Peace with oneself so that the Absolute Peace – the Thou – will only come to meet the I in such a condition. Slavery and other forms of dehumanization on others may also be inconceivable or all personacratic I’s will be judged the worth of their existence in the amount of Thou-ness in them. We may continue to envision a scenario of a global and planetary community of personacratic I’s in their Thou-ness of their existence, in all spheres of human activities but the essence of their section points to the notion that it must began with one’s recognition of the I as a government in itself; a kingdom wherein the I is a king. Perhaps only when there are more personacratic Is are created, the form of governments other than the ones I-it in nature prevalent and contagious of their presence will be gradually eliminated. We do not then wait for the Messiah, for Jesus’ Second Coming, or for alMahdis to establish a kingdom of God but create personacratic I’s who would be sparsely distributed on the face of this earth to pose non-violent threats to the existing “I-it ‘forms of government. The ultimate aim would then be for the global society to see a thesis-antithesis-synthesis and praxis of the movement of the personacratic I’s so that in the end all that will exist will be a grand meeting place of the Thou and the I. Such is a conjecture. If the world may not see such a scenario, it may perhaps be blown up ten times over as a culmination of the march of progress of the Thou-less I. What then can be a middle path? ON PEACE AS PROCESS Instead of a conclusion, I am offering the following closing passages of hope and activism in our view that that peace must be conceived and constituted as a process and an evolving system with the personacratic “I”s playing their role as makers of history and guardians of humanistic futurism. Before we reach the final exit of this essay which calls upon one to realize “self government which governs the very best” and one which can most meaningfully define the human and social dimension of peace, we look at the aims of an educational framework which is based upon the themes we have discussed thusfar in the previous section. I have argued for the value of Buber’s Thou-ness in being and becoming, align this concept with mystical dimensions of a variety of major religious thought, offer arguments for the need for technology and creativity to be developed in the presence of the Ultimate Reality, and lastly to offer an introduction to the concept of the kingdom of the self. These arguments represent and yield premises to our reconstructing of educational framework and the deconstructing of communitarianism in the way we perceive race relations as we come to the close of this century, and step with anxiety into what could be a more turbulent century. From the formulations of premises and the conceptualization of an alternative definition of government above, the aim of education for deconstruction becomes more increasingly of process. It becomes one whose aim is to realize being, living, and becoming as creative and moral act based upon the principles of liberation rather than development, transformation rather than mutation, trialogue rather than monologue or dialogue, cosmopolitanism rather than communitarianism, eco-philosophical rather than ecodominations, and cosmic rather than close–centric. These aims are to provide a “benchmarking” out of the constructs we have created out of the I’it –ness of our existence; constructs such as oppression, control and subjugation, monological and dialogical limiting tendencies in communication, communitarianism, eco-political anti-philosophical contentions, and atomistic and mechanistic reductionism in ideological formulations. If the aims of education are to counter the excesses as such constructs supra, what would be the process in to be followed in order for one to attain peace as the ultimate “state of being-ness and becoming-ness” of living? I offer the following strands of activism if we are to travel in the humanistic futuristic path: i. that we transform power relations which are anathema to the principles of Thou-ful living for, such a transformation can help us address more profoundly the issue of distributive injustices which has plagued us since the dawn of history., ii. that we transform the concept of creativity which leans towards certain destructive tendencies for, synthesis of major metaphysical strands in religious traditions can give us a futuristic outlook to living as beings on “Spaceship Earth”., iii. that we transform the will to use technology for destructive ends for, peaceful use of this Surrealistic manifestation can render technology as an ethical and powerful tool for socialization., iv. that we transform knowledge structure and control which is characterized by its inherent I-it-ness for, such a transformation can make us better understand and act upon orthodoxies in our conception of race, ethnicity, and culture., v. that we transform environmental policies which failed to drastically halt ecological degradation for such transformation and the concern for the common destiny of human beings can help our children inherit a better future from us., vi. that we transform our consciousness from one of merely being in this world to being in this world with the Thou being in it for the spirituality within the paradigm of cosmopolitanism can strengthen our unity and dignity as a human race. The activisms I profess out of the six strands are but a synthesis of much of the cutting edge thoughts on the precondition of a globally humane and peaceful world order beyond the issues of race, culture, ethnicity, culture, and nationalism. They perhaps can force us to think at the supranational level within the metaphysical plane. Through the vehicle of education for critical, creative, spiritual, and futuristic consciousness, we can perhaps carry out this process of trialogue by first reordering ourselves along the line of realizing ourselves as kings ruling our own kingdoms and queens ruling our own queendoms, in the presence of Thou. It must begin with a systematic study of our Self drawn from religious and philosophical tradition most dear and familiar to our hearts. If we must envision a future, it must be one of which wisdom rules and peace reigns. We are to be reminded, in this process, by metaphysical axioms such as “know thyself”, “God is closer to you than your jugular vein”, “ know thyself know thy powers within, one hundred trials and tribulations, one hundred victories." And in conceptualizing and envisioning the shape of education to come, I end this analytical-praxical essay with the condition of the meeting of the I and the Thou uttered by the great Sufi mystic Jalalludin Rumi: No lover ever seeks union with his beloved But this beloved is also seeking union with him But the lover’s love makes his body lean While the beloved’s love makes her fair and lusty When in this heart the lightning spark of love arises, Be sure this love is reciprocated in that heart When the love of God arises in thy heart Without doubt God also feels love for thee. (quoted in Underhill, p. 134) PEACE, LOVE, AND DECONSTRUCTIONISM BIBLIOGRAPHY Boehle, J. (1997). “Dialogue or trialogue: The personal and transcendent dimension in interreligious and intercultural dialogue.” Available: http://sun1.bham.ac.uk/j.boehle/pub.html. Boutros-Ghali, B. (1992). “An agenda for peace: Peacemaking and peacekeeping,” Report of the secretary-general pursuant to the statement adopted by the summit meeting of the security council, January 31. New York: United Nations. Buber, M. (1958). I and thou. New York: Collier Books. Commission on Global Governance (1995). Our global neighborhood: The report of the commission on global governance. New York: Oxford University Press. Chan, W-T. (1963). Trans. The way of Lao Tzu (Tao the ching). New York: Bobbs- Merrill Co. Felice, W. F. (1996). Taking suffering seriously: The importance of collective rights. Albany: State University of New York Press. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder. Gruber, H. (date unknown). “Man or megaperson?” Source unknown. Teachers College, Columbia: in Reader. Course: development of creativity. Fall 1997. Gruber, H. (date unknown). “Can a baby be an enemy?,” Source unknown. Teachers College, Columbia: in Reader. Course: development of creativity. Fall 1997. Herberg, W. (Ed.) (1956). The writings of Martin Buber. New York: Meridian. Nobel, D. (1977). America by design: Science, technology, and the rise of corporate capitalism.New York: Oxford University Press. Pannikar, R. (date unknown) Source unknown. Teachers College, Columbia: lecture notes. Course: United Nations as Peace Educator. Fall 1997. Rawles, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Radhakrishna, S. & Moore, C.A.E. (Eds.) (1967). A sourcebook in Indian philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Reardon, B. (1996). Sexism and the war system. New York: Syracuse University Press. Shue, H. (1980). Basic rights: Subsistence, affluence, and U.S. foreign policy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Tessitore, J. & Woolfson, S. (Eds.) (1997). A global agenda: issues before the 52nd. general assembly of the united nations. Boston: UNA-USA. Underhill, E. (1955). Mysticism. New York: Meridian.
Posted by Dr. AZLY RAHMAN at 12/07/2005 10:51:00 AM
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- Dr. AZLY RAHMAN
- AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of nine books on Malaysia and Global Affairs. He grew up in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. Twitter @azlyrahman.