Partial and Total Insight: Constructivism and Krishnamurti’s Pedagogy

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  No. 15, January 2011 !"#$%& !( )*+ ,#-.*$%/"#)- .0*!!&. 󰁥󰁤󰁩󰁴󰁯󰁲󰁩󰁡󰁬   󰁢󰁯󰁡󰁲󰁤 Chief Editors:Ahalya Chari, O R RaoEditors:Alok Mathur, Jayashree Nambiar, Kamala V Mukunda, P Ramesh, Viju Jaithirtha A 󰁮  E 󰁤󰁵󰁣󰁡󰁴󰁩󰁯󰁮󰁡󰁬  J 󰁯󰁵󰁲󰁮󰁡󰁬 This is a journal on education that is  brought out annually. It is an anthology of writings by educators, teachers and thinkers exploring a new vision of education in its many dimensions—philosophy, psychology, classroom experience, curriculum, nature and environment and contemporary issues. It lays special emphasis on J.Krishnamurti’s principles of education. It will be of use to teachers, parents, educational administrators, teacher-educators and to any individual interested in education. Please note: The Journal of the Krishnamurti Schools No. 15 will be published in January 2011. The Order Form is included in this journal. 1 This issue of the Journal also contains a separate resource pack which includes: 1. Poster: What Fear Does to Me 2. Four Booklets on Tests, Exams and My Future; People; Insects and Animals; Loss and Death 3. Ten Activity CardsThis is available on request.  37 ‘What I am trying to say is that insight is never partial; I am talking of total, not  partial, insight … An artist can have a partial insight. A scientist can have a partial insight. But we are talking about total insight.’ (J Krishnamurti, The Ending of Time, Chapter 6, 15th April 1980, Conversation with Prof. David Bohm: ‘Can Insight Bring About a Mutation of the Brain Cells?’) ! ihat is Krishnamurti’s pedagogy? How is it distinct from standard practices as well as alternative pedagogies? What might a pedagogy grounded in total insight look like?The constructivist revolution clari 󿬁 ed and explored decades ago the old 1  idea that students are not blank slates, that they bring their own experiences and knowledge into the learning environment and build new knowledge based on this. Such an innovative way of thinking about learning gave validity to experiential    learning , a stated key feature in many of today’s traditional schools as well as alternative models such as the Montessori and Steiner schools. Even though the manner in which di ff  erent traditions practice such insight varies, constructivism scienti 󿬁 cally justi 󿬁 ed the importance of learner-centred experience in teaching: students need to  do  and not just be told  . For all the good it brings, the main shortcoming I see with this so-called revolution is that it is partial at two levels: in its application and in its depth. Talking from 󿬁 rst-hand experience in both public 2  and private schools, it is evident that the constructivist model has had a hard time making it into the classroom. I take this to be the result of its partial insight into how people learn. Acknowledging students’ own thinking is a step forward, but it is not the education of the whole child. A telling feature is that while it is true that constructivism allows greater freedom than behaviorism 3 , this freedom is more theoretical than applied. Namely, it conceptually acknowledges that !"#$%"& "() *+$"& ,(-%./$0 1+(-$#23$%4%-5 "() 6#%-/("52#$%7- !8)".+.9 L IONEL  C LARIS  38 if students are encouraged to engage with the world they will also be more active in their learning and not be mere passive recipients of information, as in the behaviorist approach. However, when it comes to the classroom, a contradiction emerges. Because teachers do not know how to deal with the freedom they promote, it tends to turn to license and then antiquated  behaviorist practices are invoked to restore order. A deeper revolution would have been if constructivism had fundamentally changed what goes on in classrooms by creating an approach that actively relates to such freedom, so that thinking and knowledge themselves are engaged with and questioned. In a very real sense, while not demarcating his approach from either constructivism or behaviorism as such, that is what Krishnamurti implicitly proposes. While constructivist approaches take into account the obvious fact that the minds of students are not empty vessels, they tend to ignore students’ hearts – the motivational aspect of learning (aspects such as the emotional  brain, the social nature of learning). As a result, constructivist teachers invariably have to resort again to behaviorist tools. Motivation takes the form of rewards and punishments, because the relational   aspect of learning, perhaps one of the most important aspects Krishnamurti talked about in education, is absent. (It may appear that rewards and punishments, central to the behaviorist model, indicate a relational aspect, but they tap into it in a coercive way.) Krishnamurti points out the need to fundamentally change the way the teacher and the taught relate to one another, which by implication changes the way they relate to the world and to knowledge. Here, learning to relate in a di ff  erent way is the very motivation for a kind of learning that includes knowledge but transcends it. Krishnamurti talks of partial and total insight; while they may be distinct, it does not mean they are opposed. Rather, they may be said to be interwoven. When Krishnamurti says that an artist or a scientist can have a partial insight, he clearly seems to mean that total insight is di ff  erent. What did he really mean? It is for each of us to ask and explore the question. Having explored the essential nature of both kinds of insights, I would suggest that both are  based on the art of questioning. I also 󿬁 nd that while both have questioning at their core, it is with a markedly di ff  erent emphasis, giving di ff  erent e ff  ects. What distinguishes partial and total insight is twofold, their primary 󿬁 eld of application as well as the qualitative e ff  ects that ensue from each.  39 Krishnamurti’s far-reaching insight is to extend the questioning from the content of knowledge (partial insight) to the movement of knowledge (total insight). For example, there is a di ff  erence between having an insight into a mathematical concept, which improves one’s understanding, and having an insight into the dangerous implications of becoming identi 󿬁 ed with knowledge. Partial insight accepts knowledge and thus works within it. Here the observer tends to still see himself or herself as separated from the observed (knowledge in this case) because questioning knowledge does not necessarily lead to questioning the identi 󿬁 cation of the ego with knowledge. If on the other hand, we begin to question the identi 󿬁 cation as part of the movement of knowledge, this must necessarily lead to new knowledge. We may say that knowledge revolutions, not just innovations within knowledge, are made possible to the extent that the movement of questioning knowledge takes place. What happens is that when total insight occurs, we perceive the assumption of the existence of the self to be groundless; by the same token we see knowledge to be like ourselves: constructed and in critical need to  be doubted and questioned. Total insight, thus, is total in the sense that it does not see the observer as separate from the knowledge of partial insight. By negating the separation this positively a ff  ects knowledge. Hence there is a qualitative di ff  erence in results between partial and total insight. Let us explore the implications of this for Krishnamurti’s pedagogy.To quote Krishnamurti: ‘Can that ‘me’ end? It is only when that ends that there is total insight … We say that something is total emptiness, which is energy and silence.’ 4  Total insight, then, may be said to be total emptiness. Such insight stands in contrast to something identi 󿬁 able and something to be identi 󿬁 ed with. It has no identity and yet it exists. Emptiness as the practice of insight within a school curriculum is perhaps one of the ways in which we can refer to Krishnamurti’s pedagogy. The emphasis needs to be on the notion of insight as emptiness. Otherwise insight tends to refer to learned knowledge: content and skills. Emptiness, while perhaps not as pretty a word as insight, seems to accord more with what Krishnamurti is ultimately after. The pedagogy of emptiness would be a questioning practice in which the point is not to accumulate but to empty consciousness of not only misconceptions but of attachments and identi 󿬁 cations thereby addressing the emotional brain that constructivism does not. This is not to say that nothing is learned and remembered, but what is studied is internalized critically, intelligently, as something constructed
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