Consciousness, Education

Integral Education | A Guide For The Academically Perplexed

“In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the
learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that
no longer exists.”

Eric Hoffer

We are indeed in times of change, and at an historical first. All of
the world’s cultures are now available to us, with the totality of human
knowledge open to our study.1 What an auspicious and robust setting for
post-secondary study; how fortunate are the students and the professors
who are seeking the experience, wisdom, and patterns of the past for
their edification and for those of future generations! Computers
proliferate, bringing knowledge to most of the planet, and globalization
feeds the desire to access that knowledge. Certainly the universities
of the future will thrive in this rich environment.

And yet…the books, articles and reports from our civilization’s great
centers of learning do not report the feeling of fulfillment of
humanity’s lust for knowledge. At this extraordinary moment we find
instead the grumblings and irritations of educational participants and
leaders that indicate more of a feeling of deficiency than of needs
finally met.

The report of the US Commission on the Future of Higher Education
paints a picture of American educational downward slide. One member
observed, “The commission made a very strong statement around the idea
that we cannot continue to do higher education the way we have been.”2

Mary S. Alexander observes that upon taking her first teaching position, she was “…shocked to discover that our new students aren’t interested in ideas
[italics mine], just in the jobs they hope to get as a result of
suffering through our courses…. We discover that education today is
about increasing enrollment and justifying costs—or, to be more blunt,
about customer satisfaction…. Syllabi were once general ideas and lists
of books…, Now they are contracts for knowledge to be delivered…. That
is the opposite of the culture of graduate school. It is the opposite of
what I imagined my life as a teacher would be.”3

No less than the former dean of Harvard College, Harry R. Lewis has
written a dispirited account of the pride of American academia in Excellence Without A Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education.

Research on Western college-age youth indicates that they are
manifesting high rates of depression, eating disorders, and other forms
of mental illness.4 Australian adolescents and young adults responding
to researchers convey feelings of loss of meaning and hopelessness about
the future.5

Why are we not learners? With computers proliferating
worldwide, why hasn’t technology in academia led to an intellectual
golden age to rival the times of Plato and Aristotle? Why does a pall
hang over modern universities and those who teach in and attend them?
Indeed, what is the future of the university if its current state is one
of dis-ease?

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the
lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the
past.”

Edward Gibbon

The ‘lamp of experience’ might illuminate, but without a map we are
in a quandary as to what we are actually seeing. We are fortunate at
this critical moment that we possess Ken Wilber’s orienting map, known
as AQAL, or all quadrants, all levels, lines, states and types.6 This
composite culled from the world’s wisdom is an integral map, one that
permits us to index the plethora of knowledge we now possess and, most
importantly, to make use of this knowledge across cultures and domains
which ordinarily perceive one another as foreign entities.

In brief, the Integral Map or Model is based on five categories of
perspectives, or dimensions of reality: four quadrants (individual
interior, individual exterior, collective interior, collective
exterior); states of consciousness (such as waking, dreaming, and deep
sleep); stages or levels of individual and cultural development;
multiple intelligences; and types (such as male and female). Once we
engage this map, we can be sure that our ‘lamp of experience’ will shine
on all aspects of human existence, and we are better positioned to
extrapolate and to envision the universities of the future.

Academics are aware that there has been growth and development, or
simply evolution, in the unfolding of knowledge. Humanity at its most
developed edge has moved through pre-modern/pre-scientific/pre-rational
cultures or worldviews through which we understood reality, to the
modern/Enlightenment/rational/scientific worldview, on to a postmodern
worldview. It is as if this segment of humanity has moved up the
mountain, is capable of seeing more of the terrain below as it climbs,
and is sensitive to wider vistas. But just as the child must appear
before the adolescent and the adult, we find that some academic
institutions in other cultures might maintain pre-scientific worldviews
in spite of their use of computer technology and Western cultural
artifacts.

Similarly, when we analyze global reports from institutions of higher
learning and then attempt to extrapolate ‘the future of universities,’
we first need to interpret our findings in the context of where these
institutions are located on our mountainside. Contemplating the idea
that the proliferation of computers in academia will have a singular
effect is akin to assuming that an oncoming wave will hit the surfer
with the same impact as the observer on the hilltop. Laptops provided at
Cambridge will have impacts far different from laptops provided to
Madrassas. The causes of academic dispirit in the
industrialized-transitioning-into-knowledge-economy nations differ from
those in nations that have yet to transition into knowledge economies.
They will be afflicted with some of the problems that face schools in
the West, but they will be free from others.

These variant levels of intellectual and cultural development impact
the widely held belief that universal higher education protects human
rights. Especially in pre-modern cultures, higher education provided
through government-sponsored schools is often a pretense for
indoctrination of the young in both religious and political beliefs.
Pre-modern societies function at a similar level throughout the Four
Quadrants, with their moral level at egocentric, and their attention
restricted to pre-rational knowledge bases that enmesh their scientific
and religious understandings.

It was critical for Western universities three hundred years ago to
differentiate science from religion so that a rendering of objective
external reality would not result in loss of life due to running afoul
of some religious heresy. This ushered in the modern era and a
conventional, ethnocentric moral base with attention paid to tribe,
clan, or nation. Regardless of their access to global influences or
modern technologies, universities within conventional cultures will
restrict access to all but ‘acceptable’ data.

The postmodern cultural worldview has redressed many of these abuses,
and thus contributed to the evolution of our universities by their
challenge to meta-narratives and the myth of the given. Their morality
embraces the entire world, and they have deep concern for the
marginalized within their societies. But their deconstruction of the
modern world has dampened the kindling that fired education over the
ages, and left us with mulch: finely ground-up and strewn fragments of
the world’s collective wisdom left in a disassociated heap that
confounds the learners and the learned.

Fortunately, we are able to detect an even higher altitude from which
to assess the past and guide the future—an integral vision. Those at
the highest altitudes with this vision will be able to better predict
the trajectory of the evolution of universities and thus be more
effective in avoiding harm and encouraging healthy development. The
integral worldview transcends and includes all that humanity has to
offer, and is Kosmic-centric in its moral orientation.

From this even higher altitude, those who have traversed through the
earlier stages or levels are capable of greater clarity when viewing the
university—now seen not as a discrete, singular, atomistic institution,
but a whole/part embedded inextricably within its cultural and
socioeconomic systems. Since all whole/parts can be analyzed by virtue
of their interior/exterior and individual/collective natures, and since
each of these is capable of being viewed from its own inside and outside
perspective, we come up with eight ‘primordial perspectives’ by which
to assess the university. Further, each perspective comes with an
academically respected methodology by which it can be studied.

To give one example, the singular subjective ‘I’ can be viewed from inside via phenomenology, or from the outside by structuralism. Plural intersubjective studies of the ‘We’ can be experienced internally by hermeneutics, and assessed from its outside by ethnomethodology. The singular exterior of the ‘It’ can be understood through such interior means as autopoiesis (cognitive science, for our purposes), while its exterior can be assessed by empirical studies such as neurophysiology. Finally, the plural interobjective of ‘Its’ has an interior means of study by social autopoiesis and an exterior
study by systems theory. Thus, the AQAL map provides us with higher
altitude and perspective which, when detailed, gives us eight primordial
perspectives by which we can assess any university within any culture
or era, in a sense situating it within its ‘address.’ (For a more
in-depth look at the AQAL map, go to http://www.kenwilber.com/professional/writings/index.html).
Limiting the study of the future of universities to systems theory or
other plural interobjective perspectives is to do an injustice to the
topic and to grossly limit any potential understanding to the most
superficial level.

To return to our central question as to why we do not see the birth
of a new golden era of learners and learning, we need to address the
other core question about what universities have been charged with
accomplishing.

Broadly speaking, universities exist to transmit the culture, values,
and lessons of the past to the current generation, and to prepare young
adults for the world in which they will live.7 In modern cultures we
see that universities exist to transmit the ‘given,’ the ‘only true
word,’ to acculturate their young. Postmodern universities deny the
metanarratives that gave substance and meaning to their learners (that
one ‘truth’ exists, as posited by any higher authority), and embrace the
once marginalized. But at the same time, they have left their putative
‘learners’ profoundly distrustful, in a vast wasteland where nothing may
be elevated beyond anything else, and no judgments about ‘truth’ dare
be offered.

We know that changes in the collective exterior such as
globalization, the scientific information explosion, and the emergence
of computers in education can be studied using systems theory (for the
outside of the ‘Its’ in the plural interobjective) or social autopoiesis
(for the inside of the ‘Its’). From these methodologies it becomes
apparent that knowledge and human capital are becoming as important as
industrial plants; that the volume of new knowledge is growing
exponentially; and that technological determinism is posited as the
sensible response to achieve our dual aims.

But wait—there is more around us that we dare not ignore: more
addresses, worldspaces, places to inhabit. This is not ‘all there is’
when we look at our universities. For each perspective that the Integral
educator, student, or administrator engages, there is “an action, an
injunction, a concrete set of actions in a real world zone. Each
injunction brings forth or discloses the phenomena that are
apprehended through the various perspectives. It is not that
perspectives come first and actions or injunctions come later; they
simultaneously co-arise or actually, tetra-arise.”8

Having thus replaced perceptions of reality with perspectives, and
apprehending that one has a perspective prior to having a perception, we
are called by AQAL methodology to witness an opening for an Integral
post-metaphysics. Simply put, there will now be room for that which has
been banned from the academy for a very long time: consideration of and
respect for the subjective ‘I’ and intersubjective ‘We’ which we will
view through the sliding scale of developmental stages such as
egocentric, ethnocentric, and worldcentric.

We can no longer delude ourselves that by grasping one small part of
the truth of reality, we have succeeded in grasping it all. To do so is
to deceive ourselves, to miss the complexity and intrinsic richness of
our experience and the horizon of evolution. Nor are we better situated
in the postmodern limbo that posits no truth and no reality save our own
constructs. Once we settle into the understanding that the Eight
Primordial Perspectives tetra-arise through an injunction or action, we
can understand that our intentional actions do indeed have discernible
consequences. That does not imply, however, that we should embrace the
powerful manipulation of knowledge or the means by which knowledge is
delivered. Forcing the use of computer-mediated education to deliver
scientific knowledge to all will not lead to raising everyone’s boat. By
ignoring the other aspects of our AQAL map, we would, instead, be
creating a tsunami by which many would be blindsided.

This ‘quadrant absolutism’—or rather, the exaggerated belief in and
exclusive reliance upon the Lower Right ‘Its’ exteriors—is a part, one
small part, of what we can avoid as we look for answers to the
challenges posed by globalization and technology. Exclusive attention to
the ‘I,’ or the Upper Left interior, is not an answer either. It has
manifested in many parts of academia recently as the ‘I’ of
self-centered egotism (“No one tells me what to do”), which meshed well
with the belief that the purpose of education was to permit the
individual to secure the material benefits of the society as represented
by the culture’s celebration of economic materialism (found in the
Lower Right’s ‘Its’ collective exterior).

Harry Lewis ruefully reports, “Universities lack confidence that they
know what they are doing…. From the beginning, science and
globalization drove the review [of curricular changes]…. This
superimposition of economic motivations on ivory-tower themes has
exposed a university without a larger sense of educational purpose or a
connection to its principal constituents…. The relationship of the
student to the college is increasingly that of a consumer to a vendor of
expensive goods and services.”9 He further bemoans that instructors no
longer know what to teach, why they are teaching it, how to grade it, or
why they even do so.

But when we shine our light in a broad swath, these critiques of
postmodern academia catch the pulsating and never-dimmed perspective of
the subjective and intersubjective ‘I’ and ‘We’ interiors. We cannot
ignore Vartan Gregorian’s observation: “Humanity has always craved
meaning and wholeness, and when people do not have the ability or the
knowledge to separate fact from fiction, to question deeply, to
integrate knowledge, or to see coherence and meaning in life, they feel a
deeply unsettling emptiness at the core of their lives.”10

In contemplation, in meditative absorption, in centering prayer,
ecstatic dance and yoga, the interior view has been there all along. We
see cries for its honoring in both Western and Eastern religious and
spiritual traditions, but the postmodern academy is wary of inviting it
in lest it be of the ‘wrong’ type of interior knowing, or because it
cannot be quantified as the objective singular and plural forms of
knowledge can. Pre-modern, modern, and even postmodern spirituality and
religion can indeed rock the academic boat sufficiently to cause it to
capsize. A subjective or intersubjective interior practice that is
mismatched to the healthy functioning of its whole/part-ness, can indeed
present a real danger.

So what do we do, now that we understand that the interiors and
exteriors of the individual and the collective must be included with the
whole/part functioning of our universities of the present and the
future? Those who work at presenting the healthiest ‘address’ for
themselves individually will be able to contribute to the healthiest
functioning of their institutions, whether these universities exist in
the future as brick-and-mortar buildings, or as the open universities
made possible by computer-mediated delivery of information. Individuals
embodying an Integral awareness understand that their healthy
functioning is essential to the good of the whole, and will also be
aware of the ‘others’, inside and outside of their university, who are
on that mountain with them.

Seventy percent of the world’s population is at an ethnocentric or
lower ‘altitude,’ meaning that universities in those cultures or
functioning for that demographic will be far below the other 30% in
their meaning-making capabilities. Whether they have virtual classrooms
or computer chips implanted in their cortexes, their perspectives will
be truncated to delivery of ‘the one truth’ and by exclusion of those
perceived as ‘others.’ To make matters worse, the levels of
consciousness represented in the 70% and the other 30% cannot live
together without severely clashing. Further, technological methods of
destruction are equally available to those who wish the rest of us ill.

But there seems to be an immutable law of what Wilber calls ‘the
conveyor belt’ of human development.11 When basic needs and drives of
the individuals and the societies are met, they travel up the
mountainside to a higher, more caring, more inclusive way of
functioning. Some parts of the 70% will traverse from ethnocentric into
worldcentric, and those at worldcentric may well transition into
Integral. Thus we can predict the coming of an Integral wave in the next
decade.

And so I have the glimmer of an answer to Lewis’ Excellence Without a Soul, and to others looking into the mists of the future to detect what shape the universities of tomorrow will have.

Prepare for us. Permit us to dine on the finest, most robust
meaning-making meals to nourish us spiritually and relationally as well
as technologically. Take heed of the wisdom of our ancestors and our
current geniuses who know that we are a meaning-making species; that we
seek after an Ultimate because we intuit that an Ultimate can be
experienced. Do not shirk from our doing so within the shape of future
universities, for all ‘good knowledge’ consists of three strands: an
injunction (“if you want to know this, do that”), an experience (the
data or awareness brought forth by the enaction of that injunction), and
a communal confirmation or rejection by those who have completed the
first two strands.12

With this and the AQAL model in your consciousness, you will be able
to reclaim your mission, decide on curricula that engage and excite, and
make wiser decisions about your next steps. Watch us move up the
mountain; provide us with the best means by which to traverse those
stages; nurture the coming Integral Wave of learners from the highest
and healthiest altitude you individually and collectively can manage;
and welcome those who have reached that plateau with joy.

1 Ken Wilber, Integral Spirituality, Boston, MA, Integral Books, 2006.
2 Robert W. Mendenhall quoted in “Commission Calls Colleges
‘Self-Satisfied’ and ‘Risk-Averse,'” Chronicle of Higher Education, A44, Sept. 1, 2006.
3 Mary S. Alexander, “Taking All the Fun Out of Education,” Chronicle of Higher Education, B20, Sept. 1, 2006.
4 Bashir and Bennett (2000) quoted in “‘Education For All’ or Education For Wisdom?” Jennifer Gidley, www.metafuture.org.
5 Eckersley (1993) and Gidley (1998) quoted in “‘Education for All’ or Education For Wisdom?” Jennifer Gidley. www.metafuture.org.
6 See www.kenwilber.com/professional/writings/index.html
7 Andrew Molnar, “Computers in Education: A Brief History,” www.thejournal.com. June, 1997.
8 Wilber, op cit.
9 Harry R. Lewis, Excellence Without A Soul: How A Great
University Forgot Education (Public Affairs, 2006), pp.2-7.
10 Vartan Gregorian, “Grounding Technology in Both Science and
Significance,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 9, 2005.
11 Wilber, op cit. 12 Wilber, op cit.

 

Lynne D. Feldman is the Vice Chancellor of Integral University, Director of the Integral Education Center, and co-founder of www.integral-ed.org/forum.
She received her graduate certification in teaching, and taught high
school government and history before attending law school, where she
received the Am Jur Prize in trial practice. Lynne has won numerous
awards for her activism in getting students interested in the democratic
process. The Governor of New Jersey appointed her to the Character
Education Commission.