In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. Every message is, in one sense or another, a simulation of some idea. The machine, like the book and the painting and the symphony and the photograph is made in our image, and reflects it back again. We are drawn to this medium because we need it to understand the world and our place in it.
You’re probably waiting for something impressive. What I’m trying to prime you for, though, is the realization that the impressive new tricks are all based upon lots of changes in the little things you do. Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. However, many problems that can be thought through in advance are very difficult to think through in advance. How will we escape the labyrinth of deconstructed ideologies and self-reflected signs?
All depends on your frame of mind.
A general human motivation is god-given at the beginning and warped or destroyed by the educational process as we know it; thus we internalize at last that most fundamental of grownup goals: just to get through another day. I want you to notice first how hard it is for a person to realize how really unquestioning he is about the way he does things. Our cultural concept of education and knowledge is based upon the idea of building something up from the ground, from zero, and starting piece by piece to put things together, to construct edifices.
This way of thinking is characterized by the conceit that all things may be planned in advance and then directly implemented according to the plan’s detailed specifications. And this all ignores a simple fact: all are arbitrary.
Instructional sequences aren’t needed at all if the people are motivated and the materials are clear and available. What are needed are new networks, readily available to the public and designed to spread equal opportunity for learning and teaching.
But to say that intellectual structures are built by the learner rather than taught by a teacher does not mean that they are built from nothing. They become players in their own game, makers of their own mysteries. The games demand skills that are complex and differentiated. And the real magic comes from the fact that this knowledge includes those elements one needs to become a formal thinker.
There is learning how to learn.
The gestalt, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.