Education is Life Itself: Evolution, Unconscious and Reflective Processes, Change
by Paul Grobstein and Alice Lesnick
Schooling often rests uneasily on presumed dichotomies between coverage and inquiry, skill development and creativity. By drawing on the often under-recognized parallels between biological evolution and human learning, this essay argues that formal education need and ought not forego the unconscious exploratory processes of informal learning. Rather than posit as natural the cultural story that formal schooling must prepare students to integrate with given cultures and foreknowable futures, the evolutionary perspective shows that education is better thought of as preparing students to create cultures and to change, and foster change, in relation to unknown futures. The properties that distinguish formal from informal learning -- conscious reflection and a degree of collective consensus about what constitutes knowledge at any given time – are, we argue, useful not as ends in themselves, but as tools for maximizing, sharing, and extending unconscious, evolutionary learning. Working with them as such offers a way out of some of education’s persistent problems. Two autobiographical case studies provide grounded examples of these evolutionary changes and indicate pathways of inquiry by which to pursue them.
- Education in Life Itself - Changing Perspective, a response to Education is Life Itself, by Brie Stark
- On Beyond an Algorithmic Universe, by Paul Grobstein
- Would You Like to Swing on a Star? Reflections on the Evolving Systems Project Year One, by Alice Lesnick
- Alternative perspectives on randomness and its significance, by Paul Grobstein following conversation with Mike Sears
- Cultures of Ability, by Paul Grobstein
The final publication is available at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/g72182425t327326.
Grobstein, Paul, and Alice Lesnick. "Education Is Life Itself: Biological Evolution as a Model for Human Learning." Evolution: Education and Outreach 4, no. 4 (2011): 688-700.
From the text:
"The purpose of education is to prepare learners to engage creatively both with existing structures and with other structures yet to arise. There is, in the evolutionary process, no sharp distinction between 'preparation for living' and 'process of living,' nor between 'integration' and 'freedom,' or between 'survival' and 'liberation.' Individual organisms come into existence with a set of tools (provided by their genomes) that reflect in part previous experiences ("natural selection") and in part random variation. There is no "optimal" set of tools. The tools available to different organisms (both across species and within a species) are different, and each organism both hones its tools and develops new ones throughout its life. In short, neither individuals nor individual species 'prepare' for life and then 'live' it."