Passion, Culture and Education (& John Seely Brown and Phil Zimbardo)

April 19, 2009

John Seely Brown and Richard Adler write about “passion-based” learning. These authors argue that understanding is socially constructed and that meaning is created “by what one person produces and others build on – a remix” e.g. (2008) Minds on Fire.

I know that passion is related to Zimbardo’s concept of heroes. And to peace & conflict resolution – creativity over destructiveness – civic responsibility & resisting unwanted influences. I believe that all of these can be ignited through passion-based learning and that culture and the arts have a role.

Is the “remix” related to the idea that the arts and culture are a shorthand way of expressing our values? Stories. Music. Art. Poetry. Movies. Plays…

E.g. the documentary “The Singing Revolution” which tells how, against all odds, Estonians preserved their culture through singing and with this solid cultural foundation, were ultimately able to regain independence. The passionate remix in action?

And to me, this fits with the messages from Phil Zimbardo and Cindy Wang’s “Resisting Influence (10 Steps)”


Step 8:
I will balance my Time Perspective.
We can be led to do things that are not really what we believe in our value when we allow ourselves to become trapped in an expanded present moment. When we stop relying on our sense of past commitments and our sense of future liabilities, we open ourselves to situational temptations to engage in “Lord of the Flies” excesses. By not going “with the flow” when others around you are being abusive or out of control, you are relying a temporal perspective that stretches beyond present-oriented hedonism or present-fatalism. You are likely to engage in a cost/benefit analysis of actions in terms of their future consequences. Or, you may resist by being sufficiently conscious of a past time frame that contains your personal values and standards. By developing a balanced time perspective in which past, present and future can be called into action depending on the situation and task at hand, you are in a better position to act responsibly and wisely than when your time perspective is biased toward reliance on only one or two time frames. Situational power is weakened when past and future combine to contain the excesses of the present. For example, research indicates that righteous Gentiles who helped to hide Dutch Jews from the Nazis did not engage in the kind of rationalizing as their neighbors did in generating reasons for not helping. These heroes depended upon moral structures derived from their past and never lost sight of a future time when they would look back on this terrible situation and be forced to ask themselves whether they had done the right thing when they chose not to succumb to fear and social pressure.

The ongoing (as opposed to expanded present) temporal perspective sounds like a definition of culture to me.

And as our culture evolves so that in some ways it is existing within (and definitely shared through) new technologies, hopefully basic values can and will be retained – with passion. I’m not sure our education system is up to speed with this though.

Phil Zimbardo recently said “Passion is the single word I use to start any teaching workshop — if you dont have it, learn how to get it, and if you can’t get it…  quit teaching.”

John Seely Brown calls himself “Chief of Confusion, helping people ask the right questions.”  
In my perfect world, I’d like John Seely Brown take his (passionate learning through technology/innovation) focus and work with Phil Zimbardo’s expert ideas about how we acquire and manifest our values. Can you imagine these two working to address the future of education?

This post is a based on a conversation that I’ve been trying to get going on my Ning site.