Saturday, April 11, 2009

Layer 145 Cherry Blossom Sightseeing, Hormes, Mnemes, the Aims of Education and the Learning Revolution.

Friday 10th April

The Japanese are pretty blasé about the cherry blossom season. On the one hand they think it’s delightful, and on the other they don’t really seem to pay it too much attention, in terms of going out sightseeing. Sure, there are lots of strollers and picnickers sitting under the trees - but nothing compared to the population as a whole. It’s taken for granted I guess.

The Japanese language apparently has several words to describe the varying shades of colour of the blossoms - pinkish white, whitish pink, etc.

Today was another beautiful, cloudless, warm day. Everywhere there’s an atmosphere of calm and peace, even in the middle of the city, in the middle of the working day. There are no screaming sirens or noisy vehicles. The level of courtesy on the streets and elsewhere is staggeringly high. Wherever there’s road works or pavement excavations there’s always at least one guy in uniform waving a red baton whose job it is to direct pedestrians around them safely.


Yesterday a youngish American guy came down from the upstairs flat to let me know that I could access his broadband wireless link to the internet if I needed to use it. Brilliant! Except that my bloody wireless card has crashed.

The flat’s starting to look nicely lived in. I now have three guitars - one of each. A steel-stringed acoustic, a Yamaha gut-stringed classical, and an Ibanez electric, together with a mini-amp and effects box, and headphones! That’s all thanks to Yoko putting the word round in the uni that I’d like to borrow a guitar. Pity I can’t play any of them properly, though I keep on trying.

I had another major learning experience yesterday. I discovered how easy it is to download digital video from camcorder tape to computer hard-drive, via firewire. And I had a first proper look at Windows Movie Maker, which seems to be a great little gadget in the ‘accessories’ menu. I can’t wait to get started on editing my first DVD, using the video I’ve shot these past two weeks.

The problem with working with digital video is that it needs masses of memory, and the hard drive on my laptop is pretty much full. No problem! says Yoko, as she whips out a 32 gigabyte memory stick. Bloody hell - that’s bigger than the actual hard drive on my ancient machine! How do they do that?


Today we were making plans to go to Takayama, up in the central mountains on the fringes of the North Japan Alps, for the weekend, to see the preparations for the famous Takayama Matsuri festival. One of Yoko’s friends is coming to collect us at 1.30 at the uni.

We were also looking at the guidebooks to Tokyo, to decide which bits of it I’d like to see when I go there the following weekend as a guest of Professor Yutaka. He’s a very cosmopolitan, well-travelled guy, Department of Health and Sport Sciences and Director & Chief of International Affairs of the Japan Basketball Association. He seems to be heavily involved in Tokyo’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.


I’ve been spending some more time translating into contemporary English from 1920’s English four more chapters from Percy Nunn’s book on Education. It’s quite a challenge. God help any poor Japanese academics who choose to summarise it for themselves, especially the bits about hormes, hormic processes, conative processes and mnemes. All of that was in a chapter called The Will To Live, and by the end of it I’d just about lost mine.

Yoko reckons my lecture for the post-grad students on the aims of education ought to include the relevant bits from Nunn, who, in spite of his weirdo psycho-babble, was clearly an academic (Institute of Education, London) who was ahead of his time, in terms of his ‘progressive’ ideas about the chief aim of education being to produce autonomous beings who are equipped to find and become their true individual selves.

According to Nunn, “Freedom for each to conduct life’s adventure in his own way and to make the best of it is the one universal ideal sanctioned by nature and by reason. It offers the one possible foundation for a brotherhood of nations, the only basis on which men can join together . . . Hunger for it is the secret source of much of the restless fever of the age.”

Then as now. And not a word about bloody SATs.

To be fair to Nunn, leaving aside his hormes and mnemes, his ideas about the aims of education and how to develop thinking, well-motivated, creative and imaginative individuals is way more enlightened than any of the ‘standards’ bullshit that comes out of our government and its lackeys nowadays.

Those bastards have no idea how the very spirit and lifeblood of children and teachers alike are crushed by the government’s ‘standards agenda’ and its evil didactic methodology, with all of its ridiculous ‘wow words’ and ‘connectives’. They wouldn’t have a clue how to go about developing creative autonomous beings. Then again, they’ve no interest in doing so.

I’m determined to make the focal point of my lecture the 3DI model and explain the six intelligences and their relevance to self-actualised creative individuals who are well equipped to follow their individual pathways towards enlightened living.

I’m also going to put in a huge plug for the New Learning Revolution by Dryden & Vos, and point out that countries who continue to ignore what’s happening in truly progressive education systems will live to regret it. I feel so bloody sorry for the kids who are missing out on all the truly exciting innovative learning that’s available now - thanks to technological miracles and thoughtful teachers who have already plugged into the learning revolution.


Yoko told me today that her family have traditionally followed Rinzai Zen, and she’s proposing that we go to visit the Tenryu-ji temple, located in the Sagano district in the western outskirts of Kyoto, since it’s the head temple of the Tenryu-ji branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. This is excellent news. I feel a strong sense of mission to get Zen on to the school curriculum in Japan!

Here’s a good page of background reading for anyone interested in Zen:

And on that note I’m going to blog off and get ready for the trip to Takayama. Sayonara.

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