©2015 Peter Fritz Walter. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
— Introduction : The Systemliterate Child
‘Creative-C Learning’ presents a pre-school curriculum for a sane, holistic, brainsmart and systemliterate education of small children. The author’s educational approach is tailored to how our brain works and develops from ages 2 to 6. It’s a functional approach, not an idealistic one, based on the actual constitution of the human being, with all the complexity inherent in it.
The author contends that children are born sane and are rendered more or less insane by an educational system that till now considers the human being as the impossible human, that is, a creature that is basically faulty and has to be improved and upgraded by education, and morality. The present view opposes this age-old educational paradigm and shows that traditional education brings about fragmentation, ignorance and widespread violence.
The present curriculum emphasizes the natural integrity and wholeness of the small child, who is by nature a systems thinker. The curriculum builds upon this fact and presents a way to raise pre-schoolers in a learning environment that fosters systemic thinking capabilities, so that children become systemliterate at a young age.
The author also emphasizes the need for teaching emotional awareness to teachers and presents techniques to be applied in the vocational training for early child care workers and pre-school teachers that teach how to cope with stress, and that show the details of the trustbuilding process both between teachers and students and between parents and teachers.
The audience for this guide are all those involved in educating children, as well as educational policy makers, also parents, educational associations, politicians, pediatricians and child psychologists, and also the lay public, especially those who are looking for a new way to educate children now and in the future.
Introduction : The Systemliterate Child
I believe that children are systems thinkers by nature. They are keen observers. They want to know how nature operates and how things work.
Their play reflects their mental flexibility and openness to understanding more and more complex interrelations as their intelligence and their emotional awareness mature.
I coined the expression ‘systemliteracy’ for the framework of an education that is geared toward the understanding of living systems and the functional logic of networks. We know in the meantime what ‘ecoliteracy’ is but I believe that without having prepared children to be literate in systems thinking, they cannot become literate in ecological thinking. The first is the basis of the latter.
Ecology is not a branch of science but a way to redefine science. All branches of the tree of science should be ‘ecological’ for this simply means that they are bound to respect nature and to understand the patterned setup in nature.
— Note that the term ecology comes from the Greek ‘oikos’ which means ‘household.’ Ecology thus deals with our household, the household of planet earth.
To see life composed not of separate parts or elements but of organic patterns in a whole — or as systems within systems — is the point of departure of a truly ecological science. There cannot be any ‘ecoliteracy’ without ‘systemliteracy’ and logically, I must adopt the systems view of life before I can in any way become to care about our household, our ecology.
In other words, ecology is a term coined for the development of holistic science, while systemliteracy is a term coined for the development of holistic education.
To repeat it, I believe that children think systemically by nature; it is by emphasizing an intellect-based educational concept that school systems teach children a largely distorted view of nature in which everything is split apart, fragmented and un-whole (unholy). And this really begins in Kindergarten. Let me only mention the way reading and writing even today is taught to children in public schools, and even most private schools. Letters are put on squared cardboards and hung at a wall.
This and related procedures give children the impression that letters, words, phrases, spelling, and grammar are all separate elements of language, while in truth language is one whole, and these organic elements have been separated from the systemic logic of language. This is really not smart because the same children who are in for learning to read and write have after all learnt to speak without all those tools, simply by picking up the language spoken around them — their mother tongue.
Research about how children learn their first language clearly shows that children do not learn abstract elements of a language, but the whole of it, including syntax and grammar, and without knowing what a syntax is and what grammar means. Hence, the learning of a child is by nature holistic and systemic.
I shall list and review here a number of other important distortions of the natural systemic view of life that our cultural heritage has brought about.
It is important to see that this process of fragmentation in science and education has developed not only in the West, but also in the East, while in both cultures the ancient civilizations fostered a holistic and systemic worldview. While the East favored this view longer than the West, today it is easy to observe that the East, in modern times, took over the distorted and fragmented Western approach to life, science and our planet.
— About 2500 years ago, man turned away from the until then valid all-encompassing mystical view of life, and began to intellectualize perception, fragmenting the holistic understanding of the world. This is how the conceptualized and compartmentalized view of the world was born.
— The split of this unity of perception was marked in the Hellenic world with the Eleatic school which assumed a Divine Principle standing above all gods and men. This concept later developed into what perhaps most marked monotheistic religions: the assumption of an all-knowing, overarching, monolithic, male God.
— At the same time, thinking and deductive logic assumed a more important role than intuition and associative logic, thereby giving more value to yang, the male principle, to the detriment of yin, the female principle.
— This inner fragmentation more and more mirrored the view of the world outside, seen as a multitude of separate objects and events. This is how it became at all possible that obvious organic elements in the setup of nature were seen as separate parts to be researched by separate branches of science; at the same time, the world was split into different nations, races, religions and political groups.
— The conceptualization of life developed into a limitative view in all scientific observation of nature. This is how the mental and intellectual representation of reality became more important than reality itself. This is very well expressed by the Zen saying that the finger that points to the Moon is not the Moon. In other words, the distorted perception of reality led to a confusion between the terrain and the map that describes it.
— The next step in this ‘processing’ of reality was to develop a mechanistic view of nature, next to a rigorous determinism. The universe was represented as a giant machine or clockwork that was imagined to be completely causal and determinate. This view in turn led to a fundamental division between the Ego or the ‘I’, and the ‘reality out there.’ This further distortion of perception led to the assumption that nature and the world could be described objectively, without the mental bias of the observer playing any significant role.
— Instead of understanding that male and female attributes are elements of the human personality, the division between the Ego and Nature led to a static order where men were supposed to be masculine and women feminine. By the same vein of thought, men were given the leading role and women were supposed to follow as submissive servants. This attitude has resulted in an overemphasis of the yang aspects in the human setup, such as activity, rational thinking, deductive logic, competition, aggressiveness, and so on, while the yin, or female, modes of consciousness, which can be described by words like intuitive, religious, mystical, intuitive, occult, psychic or associative logic, have constantly been suppressed.
Over the last decades, this distorted scientific and religious view of the world, of nature and the human setup, which is reflected in our highly fragmented curricula, began to change. With the advent of first relativity theory and then quantum physics, we learnt that all in the universe is connected, and that we can change our fragmented worldview and adopt an integrative view of life and nature. The rigorous split between ‘reality’ and the ‘ego’ was seen as incompatible with the truth, delivered by quantum physics, that nothing can be observed without taking into consideration the ‘observer.’
In other words, when I observe a living system, my observation of that system can be as elegant as my technology is, but even when my observation is sophisticated, there is a definite and finite frontier: my observation will disturb the system, whatever I do.
When you teach children that we are separated from nature, however you justify such a view, you will act against the natural and intuitive understanding a child has of life and the world.
For a child, nothing is separate because children have (hopefully) not yet been conditioned to the mainstream view of a ‘processed’ reality. They look at the world afresh, with eyes full of wonder. For small children, the divisive, fragmented and distorted view that observes living systems like one would dismantle a clock, is not intelligible.
Therefore, it is actually not so much by doing anything specific, but rather by not doing many things conventional education does that we develop in children the systems view of life, or ‘ the systemliterate perspective.’
This teaching is first of all based on an innocent observation of nature and our planet seen as one whole living system.
The second step is to explain to children that the living world consists of nested networks, living systems that are embedded within greater systems and still greater systems, and that there is a flow of total information between all those systems.
Computer graphics can powerfully bridge the gap between what can be seen with the naked eye and what cannot be seen. For example, the information flow within living systems cannot be seen, but it can be measured and those graphical details can be shown to even small children when the activity is functional and connected to the actual observation of a system.
Even small children do understand that there are things so microscopic that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. With the aid of a loupe and a basic student microscope, it is easy to show to children that there is an abundance of living matter to be seen on a level that is not accessible to the naked eye.
©2015 Peter Fritz Walter. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.