Culture and Education

A. Levintov

 During the sociocultural reproductive process, the bridges and transitions between cultural paradigms and social constructs are represented by several types. These are primarily projects: any society and any activity is the realization of the projects of previous eras. Included in this are legislative systems, which provide society’s foundations; religions and their social institutions (churches), as well as a system of education. Of course, such transitions and bridges represent a collage and often are part of a cocktail of social relations and organizations.

 The transfer of knowledge, concepts, skills, abilities and the general experience of implementing activities occurs at the crossroads of two sets of dualistic concepts:

 The conceptually-provided transfer of experience contradicts the empirical, conceptually-unprovided route. At the same time, the expedient transfer of previous experience is obstructed by value-oriented transfers, which are thereby pointless.

 Thus, we have available four methods by which to transfer experience:

Within the context of the general process of sociocultural transfer, education, as a universal and reliable method, attracts special interest.

The Position of Education

Education is represented by four personages:

The teacher, relative to the system of knowledge conveyed, engages in retrospective reflection, assessing the present from the standpoint of the past. The teacher cannot know the future into which he leads, he is always merely on the threshold and thereby free. The teacher principally does not belong to the world of activity and is a preliminary instructor. A classic example of the teacher is Socrates, who, despite his introduction of Plato’s generation to philosophy was not a philosopher himself, but rather a thinker.

The instructor demonstrates models of genuine activity in the name of their continuation. He does not teach, but rather presents, and therefore is completely unconcerned by the past, already fixed for him in contemporary models. He is a guide. The instructor engages in prospective reflection relative to the subject of education.

The pupil perceives teaching as normalization.

The student perceives, within the instruction received, projected expanse and transformation of the self and future activity.

If the prospective transition from teacher to instructor (or vice-versa) and the preservation of both roles by one individual in various educational settings are exotic phenomena, then the choice between the positions of pupil and student abound: in the environment of our chosen professional field of activity we usually occupy the position of the student; in all others, that of the pupil.

Thus, education is a semiprocess in which the set “teacher-pupil” represents the process of education (transfer of communicative norms), “teacher-student” – enlightenment (transfer of cognitive norms), “instructor-pupil” – instruction (transfer of norms and methods of action), and “instructor-student” – transformation (transfer of methods of existence within the “thought-communication-action” construct).

The educational process, since the teacher and pupil engage in retrospective reflection, i.e., in reflection upon the past, is arranged as a system of precedents and examples of previous experiences. Communicative norms developed and applied during the educational process are of a dogmatic nature.

During the instructional process, the pupil engages in that same retrospective reflection, absorbing, step-by-step, the actions of the instructor, who is submerged in prospective reflection and is concerned with his own shadows and projections for the future. For both, the important thing is not the product or the goal of their actions, but rather the manner of action, the postulation of these actions.

The enlightenment process combines the retrospectively-reflective teacher with the prospectively-reflective student. The compatibility of these two differing manners of reflection is provided axiologically, on a values level. In this sense, and due to the aforementioned values, the direction of the enlightenment becomes a basic process of education. At the same time, enlightenment is a more dramatic process, since the student has no point of reference for normative works or thought. The rioting student and the conflict with conservative teachers is a typical situation in enlightenment, which opens the entire pedagogical history of humanity.

In common practice, the teacher is always pleased with the diligence of the pupil, but expects surprises (pleasant and unpleasant) from the student, whether trusting or mistrusting the student’s excessive (from the teacher’s standpoint) independence.

At last, the process of transformation includes the prospect of reflection in both the instructor and student. Here knowledge, in its dogmatic, axiological or postulative form is replaced by comprehension in more or less free forms. Transformation as a comprehensive education (education in the medium of comprehending the reflection of the student and the reflective understanding of the instructor) is directed toward the transformation of the entire aggregation of activity, on the one hand realizing the idea of freedom of choice while on the other hand defining the measure of responsibility for this choice by the abilities and talents of the positioners.

As a rule, the teacher obviously selects his pupils and students, showing the former professional “tricks” and drawing the latter into coauthorship.

The educational process, permeated by various types of reflective works supplied by all participants in this process, is not merely a system of transferring knowledge and understanding, but is also their origin.

The Nature of Knowledge

Even here we encounter the problem of the nature of knowledge, a problem first posed by Plato.

In Phaedo, Plato was first to advance the position of the genius, the daemon, the inner voice: “Thanks to divine fate, from my earliest childhood I have been accompanied by genius – a voice that, when I hear it, always, no matter what I want to do, instructs me to back down, but never incites me to anything.” This is our only “I,” “I” in the singular, the “I am nothing,” capable only of prohibitions, sometimes important, but nevertheless prohibitions and nothing more. We cannot limit ourselves to prohibitions; if we do, we become puppets in our own naked and uncomplaining souls. We need knowledge. We thirst for knowledge. In Theaetetus, Plato proves that we merely recollect knowledge from the experiences gained in other worlds and spheres, and possibly, in previous incarnations.

Knowledge arises from a love of the search for one’s other half, the other half of oneself that completes the “I am nothing,” for one’s own genius and daemon. In knowledge, we seek and find that previously unknown and unrealized part of ourselves. Knowledge is the “I am something” that permits action, complementing the “I am nothing,” which forbids action. By complementing our “I am nothing” with our “I am something” we console ourselves with new knowledge, which brings a fiery joy that becomes a calm confidence and self-assuredness in our knowledge. This passionate love of first discoveries becomes a calm union with oneself and one’s knowledge. The nature of knowledge, therefore, is itself reflective – this is an objectified form of replenishing ourselves with that which permits us to act (a non-objectified form, i.e., one not accepted by others, of such replenishment is an opinion according to which we also are permitted to act, but without sharing with others the risks and responsibility for our actions). Knowledge, therefore, exists only in its acquired form. Alienation from its bearer leads to ruin, to necrosis, to a transition of knowledge to the genre of information, data if you will, until the next consumption and privatization in a new cognitive act.

The origin of knowledge in love makes it attractive and valuable to us in itself, sometimes even irrespective of its necessity in future activity or actions. Love, as the hypostases of our existence and the existence of God, is the one, powerful source of knowledge. Not for nothing are Judaism and especially Christianity, for example, permeated with the idea of love, with invocations of love, with a thirst for love and, at every step, with the synonym for love and knowledge – cognition.

If the human (not the biological species Homo sapiens, but human beings) arose from conscience, then it continues to exist thanks to its knowledge, love, and love of knowledge. We may doubt any values and achievements except the value of love and knowledge we possess and which are mirror images for our “I am nothing.” In this celebrated mirror image we see our narcissism in its entirety, and in this, our protection from our inner beast; in turn, we realize the inherent ability to create new spiritual substance, and primarily, knowledge. We create a knowledge of the world and of ourselves in that world, of the heretofore unknown, and of ourselves as we penetrate into the unknown, transforming the unknown into knowledge and into a self previously unrecognized and unconcerned with new knowledge discovered or created by ourselves. The romantic meeting with new knowledge and, subsequently, with a new self, can repeat itself an endless number of times without wearying or sating us. This love is akin to Divine love and is of the same nature, the same creative illumination.

The acts of cognition and discovery of new knowledge are experienced by us as an act of love, having the same sublime tones and the same exultant notes. We are stunned by the harmony of new knowledge, because we feel ourselves replenished by new knowledge. Precisely for this reason, Albert Einstein in particular claimed that the search for new knowledge and the renewal of learning paradigms occur under aesthetic criteria, according to the norms of harmony and beauty.

Regardless of which of the four sectors of the educational spectrum we occupy and what our position there, we are generously able to tread the path of knowledge as a path of love.