Capacity building requires forums in which space has been created for learning about the betterment of society. Open forums for discourse can accompany and assist undergraduate students through their four years of university studies. Through an ongoing cycle of study, consultation, action and reflection, youth between the ages of 18 and 25 can learn more about who they are, what type of life they are leading, and the significance of engagement towards social change. In such settings people with potential learn about the dynamics of their engagement in social action and about the issues confronting prevalent discourses. They develop capacity to reflect, analyze, and learn from study and from ongoing action. Important in this process is the erection of essential elements constituting their conceptual framework. It is through some type of structure in the values and mind that people contribute to their families, neighborhoods, communities, and civic engagements. This structure is constant, but evolving. This structure encapsulates their principles. This structure allows progress to circumvent problems associated with whimsical decision-making or changes in mood and environment. Principles and scruples are as indispensable to productivity in the workplace as they are to advance in the social and intellectual setting. It, is after all, through the sum of multiple individual’s conscientious striving that we advance as a civilization. In this way, on a personal level, we acquire the tools necessary to decipher and understand the complex mesh of intentions and realities we are inundated with in popular culture. Such tools include the ability to disentangle, understand and contextualize undergraduate university hierarchies and course content. Most people come to recognize the less than flawless value system that went into the design of their university courses and majors. Undergraduate students engaging in this forum, then, emerge with a sense of responsibility to assume ownership for their own education. This spiritual and intellectual empowerment is the agency by which we seek out and acquire the kind of knowledge necessary to live productive, contributory, and meaningful lives.
That one who generates knowledge can be likened unto a scout evokes images of walking a path, which perhaps can be an analogy to the process of generating and applying knowledge. Let us expand on this analogy. Firstly, walking a path is a collective enterprise, not an isolated act; a path invites the participation of many and can be known by all. A path has an end point and necessitates a structured, defined, and logical progression forward; but the actual course is not a straight line – thus, progress is mapped out, by multiple groups, through periodic reflection on current position and factors, at which point, the course and direction can be adjusted. In this way, uncharted territory and related lines of exploration can be charted, and a fuller picture of the landscape can be obtained. Walking a path implies constant movement and active effort, and yet the pace is not fixed; all strides are accommodated. Those who walk this path require skills and abilities, qualities and attitudes, and it is through walking with others that these capacities are developed, not in isolation or off the path – there is no “practice” path; all actions are within a social context. And of course, this path is not mapped out from the beginning; the horizon in the distance beckons those who walk and provides the general direction and goal, while the lamps that illumine their footsteps are the systems of knowledge and practice of science and religion.
One note about pace. Although it is fostering a natural and unified process of forward movement with others that is important, and not reaching the end goal in a disunified manner, still there must be value placed on the speed of exploration. The rate of progress of organic social processes can be increased, while still maintaining requisite characteristics of unity, justice, and humility. The relationships between individuals, communities, and institutions, all walking this path, and their ability to engage in an ongoing learning process – defined as consultation, action, reflection on action, and study of science and religion – is what will determine the pace of progress. In short, as has been a theme throughout, the advancement of civilization is propelled by the generation of knowledge within a learning mode and the development of proper relationships between its three protagonists.
A culture of learning that operates through study, consultation, action, and reflection, depends on empowerment and capacity building on the level of both the individual and the institutions of society.
Individually, all are responsible to participate in the generation and application of knowledge according to each’s unique talents and capacities. Contrasted to current society’s depiction of education and learning as a filling information into the empty minds of passive recipients, a culture of learning recognizes the innate capacities of creativity, insight, and intelligence of all individuals. Opportunities must be created to develop these latent capacities towards the end of generating and applying knowledge for the betterment of the world.
Institutional capacity must also be developed – both creating systems which foster the empowerment of individuals through manifesting their latent capacities of knowledge generation, as well as consolidating, integrating, and diffusing generated knowledge. Learning is a collective enterprise, as consultation thrives on diverse perspectives and views from many individuals. Thus, not only does the role of institutions becomes the empowerment of all to contribute to learning, but to distill and synthesize knowledge generated from diverse settings and contexts. Knowledge propels the advance of civilization – the goal being a world civilization. Knowledge, therefore, has a global dimension, and institutions must discern universal patterns from local insights. Of particular significance is the impact these concepts have on the educational systems of the world. They need to be concerned with empowering students to be active participants in a process of generating and applying knowledge – not receptacles of others’ learning; and they need to compare knowledge from diverse contexts, identify patterns, and disseminate learning. In these ways will institutions be empowered themselves to guide a global collective learning process towards building a world civilization.
An approach to the generation and application of knowledge within a learning mode occurs through a process of study, consultation, action, and reflection.
Science and religion are the two systems of knowledge and practice that strive to describe reality, and are studied in an ongoing and systematic manner, with humility and with the understanding of their complementarity. This study is undertaken for the purpose of informing action, to apply insights generated.
As reality is multifaceted and complex, and every individual has a unique perspective on some aspect of reality as an object of study, then consultation is the method by which a more accurate depiction of reality can be created. For consultation to be effective, the individuals participating must have purity of motive, humility, truthfulness, patience, and detachment. In an atmosphere of openness, mutual respect, and commitment to truth, individuals can exchange diverse views on reality, offering them to be critically and frankly examined, in a dispassionate and courteous way. The more individuals that contribute perspectives, the more facets of this highly complex reality will be illuminated.
Tentative insights into reality, through study and consultation, must be tested against reality for learning to advance. A goal and purpose of study and consultation is action – in particular to not only effect individual and collective transformation, but to learn about it. Thus, action in a learning mode must be unified and accommodate diversity, must reconceptualize mistakes as opportunities for growth, must aim to build capacity in all participates to become protagonists of learning.
For learning to actually take place, reflection on action is essential in order to analyze observations, modify conceptions previously held, and adjust subsequent action. This is both an individual and a collective endeavor – individually, realizing one’s capacities and how best to manifest them; collectively, as just with consultation, each person’s diverse views can provide a unique perspective.
Study, consultation, action, and reflection are interwoven aspects of a single coherence process of learning.
What are your reflections on reflection itself?