This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
Immersing myself in ideas about humanistic education. Rogers, a tremendous resource on holistic learning in A Way of Being (On Becoming a Person, too). Maslow wrote a great deal about his own experiments in humanistic education in his journals. Makes me sad that it is not the norm to educate the whole person. Including feelings, sense of responsibility, knowledge of one’s own limits, exercises in building self-confidence, really playing, experimenting, etc. To me, this is tremendously freeing. Abandoning oneself—one’s whole self—to the process of learning. Not just listening and note-taking. But really engaging and articulating one’s honest thoughts and feelings without fear of repercussion. I read Rogers on this kind of learning and begin to look at my own education (formal and otherwise) differently.
So if I were to attempt a crude definition of what it means to learn as a whole person, I would say that it involves learning of a unified sort, at the cognitive, feeling, and gut levels, with a clear awareness of the different aspects of this unified learning. I suspect that, in its purest form, this occurs rarely, but perhaps learning experiences can be judged by their closeness to or remoteness from this definition. – Carl R. Rogers
An important observation: There have been times in my life in which I’ve valued experiential (or, radically hands-on) learning over the purely cognitive type. I’ve written so much about cooking, but really, in the privacy of my kitchen, as I taught myself all kinds of hands-on skills (mostly by mimicking chefs I admire, like Lidia Bastianich, Ina Garten, and grandma, of course), I refined my own tastes and sensibilities. Became an artist in one of the fundamental acts of daily living. I learned so much. I grew so much. Entirely elevated my consciousness, altered my way of being, living, relating to my body, viewing my humanity. Was a process I felt my way through. Learned honestly. From my mistakes. Got up and kept going. Played like no one was watching. And all practical knowledge, even wisdom, garnered from these experiences. I may not score any higher on an IQ test as a result, but I can make a pretty mean quiche. And a darn good meatball. Creativity as a means of self-actualizing. Reminds me once more of the famous line:
A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting. – A. H. Maslow
But, all this is important. So critical, to me, to being a fully developed human being. Achievement of balance and harmony within oneself. Congruence. Satisfaction and enhanced confidence at having facilitated one’s own development. Greater respect for many different forms of knowledge. I realize I had a similar experience in graduate school. The classroom stuff alone made me restless. (Instructor-led discussions were usually too biased to reflect instructors’ points-of-view, political and otherwise, for my tastes. I wonder what we would have talked about–what insights we may have had–if they had been more silent…) So, I sought other outlets. Took to reading up on topics that mattered to me in the library. Always in the library. Or having heady, artistic-type discussions with like-minded friends. Or in the gym. Learned so much from fitness. And I still do. The Kilimanjaro climb was huge on the list of experiential learning achievements for me. A quick observation: experiential learning has helped me view achievement differently.
Thinking also about jobs I’ve had. I see them as an integral part of my education. The best were those that allowed me to expand my personality. Be someone different, if only for awhile. Sales made me a great deal more extraverted, which I am thankful for. Other jobs that allowed me to travel, to experience different cultures, to interact with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. All part of a life-long, holistic education. I learn the fundamentals of acquiring a new skill (cognitive component) and what it means to act in a new role (expansion of self). Find out what’s me. Find out what fits. Toss the rest away. Existentialists call developing one’s potentialities in this manner virtuous. I never think of it this way. Only as conforming to my sense of self, but I think they would also call this virtuous…
Another thought: It’s best not to value one form of learning disproportionately over another. I would wither up and die if I couldn’t feed my intellect. Have to be reading, learning, thinking, experimenting, feeding my curiosity. Why I always loved school. But, it’s got to be balanced. Learning in multiple dimensions at once cultivates wisdom. Helps one understand the relationships between seemingly unrelated phenomena. Learn to see the same issues differently. My mind goes back to the lines in Patchwork in which I refer to some kinds of people as “all big draggy brains (like Ginsberg says) / and no music.” The music is in the flesh and the soul and the feeling and the lived things. All the little lived things. The things we take for granted. The things we often forget to see.
Poetry is a lived thing. Would be impossible to write poetry without living. It’s far less an intellectual endeavor and far more an exercise in the transformation of feeling. Imagery. Depth and breadth of experience in living creates those metaphors. The most powerful kind. The most novel kind. All the reading in the world can’t foster that kind of creativity. Of that, I am convinced. I am forced to stop myself here. Am I suggesting that the ability to think metaphorically is the byproduct of a holistic education? That one can be taught to think metaphorically by being educated at once in matters of intellect, feeling, and self-awareness, as Rogers describes it? Oh. I hadn’t intended to write that at all. And, yet, my intuition tells me that is exactly what I mean to say.