Monday, May 19, 2008

how we learn

51Nbbtr12Jl. Sl500 Aa240 In Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices, Brian McLaren speaks on learning via community and tradition.

One of my mentors contrasts deciding and trying with training. Deciding is necessary, he says. Nobody finds out they've accidentally trained for a marathon for six months without intending to. But deciding isn't enough, as all of us who have decided to lose weight know. I could even add to my deciding a healthy dose of trying: Sincerely! Passionately! With great commitment and resolution! But unless I put between my decision and the starting line sufficient training of the right sort, it will be 'Marathon- 26.5, Brian- 0'

That same mentor defines training like this: employing appropriate actions within our power by which we become capable of doing things currently beyond our power, and by which we become people we are currently incapable of being. Those "appropriate actions" we could further define as practices. And the community of people who teach us the practices we could define as a community of practice that carries on the tradition...

Most of the truly important skills we learn in life come through training, practice, and tradition or community. For example, we didn't learn to speak our native tongue by deciding or trying, but by training. We didn't even realize we were in training, and our parents (who were the community of practice, carrying on the tradition of English or Chinese or Zulu or whatever) probably didn't even realize that they were training us most of the time... Similarly, when they withheld something from us until we said 'please' and 'thank you,' they were the community training us in the tradition of community, and we were practicing so that courtesy would become natural to us.

It took a couple of years of practice, but in the process, largely without realizing it, we became fluent speakers of our native tongue, and maybe courteous people, to boot. Without the community, without the tradition, and without the practice neither possibility would have been actualized.


Technorati Tags:

1 comment:

Thom said...

Brian McLaren and I had a conversation about his new book on my blog Everyday Liturgy. The post is:
Finding Our Way Again: An Interview with Brian McLaren