Interdisciplinary, Countercultural Learning thoughts


One of my social networks reminded me of this post that I had shared a year ago today. As DAVIDE ‘FOLLETTO’ CASALI, the author of the post, notes that this concept resonates with him, it resonates with me as well. This quote was noteworthy:  “It’s interesting to note how could also happen that a Shu learner could think of being at the Ri stage, thus falling in the usual Dunning-Kruger effect, failing to recognize one’s own skill level, thus trying to break the rule too soon.”

Source: Shuhari: a mental model for the phases of mastery · Intense Minimalism

The author also follows up with this article, Shuhari is about master-apprentice, not solo learning.

The two posts are useful together. I find that this mental model for phases of mastery can inform teachers and learning leaders. I wonder how it can be used in teacher preparation in order to focus discussion around mastery and other education goals. I also imagine Shuhari can help direct life-long learners in the use of mentors and reference materials and other resources. The Eastern Thought cred can be exploited since some tend to assume that Eastern philosophies are historically older and more mature than American philosophies and traditions. This Far Eastern-philism (love for things far eastern) has been noted and lampooned in viral posts on social networks.

These are some examples:

If the Chinese tattooed lame English words on themselves.

A Ga. School Bans The Greeting ‘Namaste.’ Do They Know What It Means?

Articles like these help remind me not to use terms in public if I don’t know what them mean. It also reminds me of the time I used a slang term that did NOT mean what I thought it meant. (“Chicken-head,” for example, is not a term for a female gossiper. Trust me on this.) Trying to be “hip” and “with-it” usually doesn’t work out too well no matter how “cool” you think you are.

I don’t know why Eastern thought is so powerful to me, but many Westerners, especially Americans in the United States, reveal interests in (Far) Eastern philosophies. This is a trend that extends decades back into American history, at least in popular fiction, probably due to American involvement in World Wars I and II. Numbers of creatives, for various reasons, have consumed traditional aspects of Chinese, Japanese, and Indian religion and philosophies in the form of martial arts, fashion, religious beliefs, cuisine, and approaches to life and aesthetics.

Trying to think from another’s perspective generates many insights into our own beliefs and practices. The Other reveals our blindness and illuminates. Similar insights are achieved when traveling to foreign countries and in finding ways to engage with people living there.

I’m not even sure if Aikido counts as an Eastern martial art. In Wikipedia, an author explains:

“Ueshiba developed aikido primarily during the late 1920s through the 1930s through the synthesis of the older martial arts that he had studied.[10] The core martial art from which aikido derives is Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu, which Ueshiba studied directly with Takeda Sōkaku, the reviver of that art. Additionally, Ueshiba is known to have studied Tenjin Shin’yō-ryū with Tozawa Tokusaburō in Tokyo in 1901, Gotōha Yagyū Shingan-ryū under Nakai Masakatsu in Sakai from 1903 to 1908, and judo with Kiyoichi Takagi (高木 喜代子 Takagi Kiyoichi, 1894–1972) in Tanabe in 1911.[11]

Not that I don’t believe that someone from an Eastern civilization created this martial art. It’s just that, for some reason, I am troubled by the possibility that it is “less eastern” than the martial arts created for self-defense. My suspicions are shared with aikido critics:

“The most common criticism of aikido is that it suffers from a lack of realism in training. The attacks initiated by uke (and which tori must defend against) have been criticized as being “weak,” “sloppy,” and “little more than caricatures of an attack.”[46][47] Weak attacks from uke allow for a conditioned response from tori, and result in underdevelopment of the skills needed for the safe and effective practice of both partners.[46] To counteract this, some styles allow students to become less compliant over time but, in keeping with the core philosophies, this is after having demonstrated proficiency in being able to protect themselves and their training partners. Shodokan Aikido addresses the issue by practising in a competitive format.[19] Such adaptations are debated between styles, with some maintaining that there is no need to adjust their methods because either the criticisms are unjustified, or that they are not training for self-defense or combat effectiveness, but spiritual, fitness or other reasons.[48]

“Another criticism pertains to the shift toward ki as the focus of training. After the end of Ueshiba’s seclusion in Iwama from 1942 to the mid-1950s, he increasingly emphasized the spiritual and philosophical aspects of aikido. As a result, strikes to vital points by tori, entering (irimi) and initiation of techniques by tori, the distinction between omote (front side) and ura (back side) techniques, and the use of weapons, were all de-emphasized or eliminated from practice. Some Aikido practitioners feel that lack of training in these areas leads to an overall loss of effectiveness.[49]

“Conversely, some styles of aikido receive criticism for not placing enough importance on the spiritual practices emphasized by Ueshiba. According to Minoru Shibata of Aikido Journal, “O-Sensei’s aikido was not a continuation and extension of the old and has a distinct discontinuity with past martial and philosophical concepts.”[50] That is, that aikido practitioners who focus on aikido’s roots in traditional jujutsu or kenjutsu are diverging from what Ueshiba taught. Such critics urge practitioners to embrace the assertion that “[Ueshiba’s] transcendence to the spiritual and universal reality were the fundamentals [sic] of the paradigm that he demonstrated.”[50]

In these reflections, it can be valuable to note the questions that emerge.

Why does the authenticity of Eastern philosophy matter? Shouldn’t a resonating thought matter for its own sake?

What is the value of a martial art that is “not training for self-defense or combat effectiveness, but spiritual, fitness or other reasons.[48]?”

The answers to these questions depend on the learner’s goals. The answers also depend on the learner’s thinking skills. For me though, as I learn more about dignity and its history, and learn about the tripartite domains of mind, I have broadened my understanding of what “thought” can be.


When the Focus on ‘Grit’ in the Classroom Overlooks Student Trauma – The Atlantic


“We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them.”

“The transformative potential in growth mindsets and social-emotional skills such as grit may be more applicable to students whose basic needs are already met. When asking the question of why some children succeed in school and others don’t, he said the educators and administrators tend to overestimate the power of the person and underestimate the power of the situation.” (Excerpt)

Schools as Factories: Metaphors That Stick

Once, this was a comforting image. Now, it's a criticism.

Once, this was a comforting image. Now, it’s a criticism.

This connects with my own exploration of the Schools as Factories Metaphors on LinkedIn in this article “Work Transformed in the Knowledge Era” ( and in this article “What’s the School Biz?” ( However, this article has more important information around the origins of the metaphor–tracking it back to Professor Ellwood P. Cubberly, and how it was widely accepted and promoted “by champions of uniformity, productivity, and more more bang for each dollar spent in every aspect of schooling”. It makes me wonder if the War Effort and returning GIs were a factor.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

You have seen images like these time and again:



The idea of the school as an efficient factory assembly line has a long but surprising history. A century ago, the notion of schools delivering finished products to a democratic society was both new and admired. Here is what Professor Ellwood P. Cubberley, of Stanford University said in the early 20th century:

Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.

In the midst of the progressive-inspired school efficiency movement, sparked by “scientific management,” Cubberley captured the prevailing beliefs of most school reformers then. Critics of the day, such as John Dewey, did

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Neuroscience: The Power of Curiosity to Inspire Learning


excerpt: “Ranganath’s team discovered that as the students grew curious, activity increased in two brain regions (the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens) that are associated with reward and motivation. The level of curiosity seemed to control activity in these areas like a dimmer switch. During times of great curiosity, these two brain regions were very active. During moments of disinterest or even boredom, these areas shifted into low gear.”

NIH Director's Blog

Snowflakes activating the brainWhen our curiosity is piqued, learning can be a snap and recalling the new information comes effortlessly. But when it comes to things we don’t care about—the recipe to that “delicious” holiday fruitcake or, if we’re not really into football, the results of this year’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl—the new information rarely sticks.

To probe why this might be so, neuroscientists Charan Ranganath and Matthias Gruber, and psychologist Bernard Gelman, all at the University of California at Davis, devised a multi-step experiment to explore which regions of the brain are activated when we are curious, and how curiosity enhances our ability to learn and remember.

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How is cognitive behavioral therapy like teaching/learning?


I asked this question: How is cognitive behavioral therapy like teaching/learning?

Corina Obrero @corinaobrero, a freelance writer and registered nurse who is passionate about health, medicine, personal finance and investing, responded. This is her response:
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a form of psychotherapy which is based in the cognitive model. According to this model, our perception of things affect our emotions. Therefore, when a certain situation makes a person distressed, it is their perception about the situation that’s making them distressed, not the situation itself. CBT will help clients identify distorted or unrealistic thoughts that they may have. Once these clients learned how to identify their distorted thoughts, they will be able to change them and it will be easier for them to feel better and initiate behavioral change. A therapist performing CBT will act like a teacher who facilitates the problem-solving process of the client. The client should also be actively engaged in the process. The therapist will assist the client in identifying his/her problems. Once the problems are identified, the therapist and the client will develop an action plan to solve the problems that were identified. Therapists may also give homeworks to their clients as these will reinforce the client’s learning from the CBT sessions. Once the therapy ends, clients will be able to apply the skills they learned in dealing with everyday situations. Based on the description of how CBT works, it is evident that it applies the basic teaching principles that are also used in regular classrooms. For instance, it emphasizes the importance of active engagement from the client since this is vital for true learning. The therapist, just like the teacher, will not point out exactly what the problem is, he/she will just assist the client in discovering it on his/her own. During the problem solving process, the therapist will not dictate the “right” way to solve the identified problems. Ongoing evaluation is also performed to test the ability of the client to apply the skills that he/she learned, just like in the regular school setting.” 
Click on the link above to see the links that support her reponse.