I was struck by one point in the lecture being held in our class today. It was at the presentation of Hegel’s conception of branching and competing concepts of knowledge. When Prof. Den Boer made a remark about the circular consistency that occurs in knowledge, I began to consider how we might be able to place a stop on that circular process of knowledge. I don’t mean that I want to stop the generation of knowledge, and I certainly don’t want to stop society from referencing knowledge from the past. Instead, I want to come to understand how something might be maintained consistently throughout these cycles. For me, I think that this is a role for technology. Bear with me.
I have had this reoccurring notion for the last year or so that most people’s perception of what technology encompasses is too narrow. I consider technology to be more than just the material constructions like airplanes, Youtube, and Lab-grown Hamburger. I mean to say that some human practices should be considered as technology as well. For example, I think that being inclusive of others and against discrimination can be understood as a technology. I think that in some parts of the world, oppression has been endemic. Whatever the cause, asserting the notion of anti-oppression has taken more than just thought, it utilises technique as well. It’s application has rendered far reaching benefits, including a better lifestyle for all people, a stronger economic base for a nation and, well, the fundamental justice of overcoming oppression of a population.
I’m not say that oppression and racism do not still exist in this world, that’s pretty obviously incorrect. But I would argue that our society is experiencing a wide range of benefits from adopting anti-discriminatory attitudes and practices. I would also argue that attitudes of inclusion and empathy can be taught, and I’d even go so far as to argue that they need to be taught for it to persist. I’ll admit, I remain a little fuzzy around the details of developing a specific process for developing inclusion in others, but I sure don’t think we have formalized it as much as we should at this time. That’s a digression though.
Why I bring this up though is because I think that one way to maintain in perpetuity within a system beyond the beyond whims of philosophical fads is to formalize it in the objective world. Mathematics was once a philosophy, but it proved so persistently valuable that we use it to this day. Math is a practice and an abstract technology. Writing instruments were invented many years ago, and we continue to use them. If we can take a concept, and formalize it into the objective world with clearly defined inputs, effects and behaviour, then it can become a conventional part of our world, and no longer subject to such whims.
I havn’t read nearly as much of Lev Vygotsky’s work as I would like, but I understand he has a concept called Social Tools that parallels this concept. What I would like to do is take those social tools that can be formalized, and that provide powerfully beneficial effects, and entrench them in our practices. It we as teachers think of ourselves as building the minds of students, then I want to write a routine when empathy and anti-discrimination is always running in the background of the operating system of our student’s mind. This might be a way to conceptualize integrality in teaching. My ultimate goal though, is to ensure that such a beneficial concept not be lost now that we’ve arrived at an upward-moving slope of progress, regardless of the changes in philosophy in society.
To be clear, I don’t think that all of society’s problems can be fixed with technology. Nor do I think all social constructs are tools. But, I do think that a lot of people are afraid of the fast pace of technology, as has been a persistent trend in humanity’s history, and I think that we should change that attitude. I think we should embrace the ability to people to change to world and develop new ways of thinking. This world needs to acknowledge a good thing when it comes along in a formal way that should be integrated into everything we do. How to do so remains incomplete, and the specific implications for this proposal haven’t all been worked out yet. But, I sure know that there are some good things that have come along and we need to respect and perpetuate instead of facilitating a battle of ideologies until the result comes full circle to something that has come before.