Response to The Challenge of Change in Creating Learning Communities (1)
Jan responds to the previous entry:
I think it is important not to limit the idea of learning community to that of 'a community that cares for the institutions - such as schools - through which people learn,' which seems to be what you are saying in this opening piece (or do I read you incorrectly). Such a notion limits the idea of learning to what a learning individual does. In my perception that is an unnecessarily reduced meaning of learning.
Learning is what we do that allows us to enhance our constructive intercation with change. That's an abbreviated version of a more detailed and comprehensive definition of learning that I once developed and that I find useful in helping me understand the idea of learning community. Just as individuals, communities, societies, nations, regions, corporations, etc. interact with change. They produce change and they adapt to change; a complex multifaceted game. Both individual people and smaller and larger social entities become better at that game by experimenting different kinds of behavior and reflecting on such behaviors. The result settles down in the individual mind of people as much as in the collective mind of those social entities. Indeed, stories and symbolism play crucial roles in shaping the mind of the community, but it's a process more complex than what you find by adding up the learning of all the individuals that are part of the community. A learning community simply learns at a higher level of complex organization than the individuals that are part of the community.
One can extrapolate form the above relationship between learning individuals and the learning communities of which they are part (often more than one, e.g. a professional community, a religious community, a community of people who engage in a particular sport, a community in myspace.com, etc.). All these (learning) communities together - and together also with the (learning) individuals that constitute them - are the complex building blocks of yet more complex social entities such as entire (learning) societies.
You say that "the claim that the linkages between learning and community mean fundamental change, ignores the fact that links of this sort have been the defining ideology of most learning environments in the 19th and 20th centuries" and I agree with your observation. Of course, we have always been learning, and so have our communities. The fact that we didn't recognize it is perhaps yet another consequence of the too narrow identification of learning with what happens inside schools.
I of course agree with you.....the challenge seems to be
in the definition of community, the boundaries and borders
of practice and learning that grow out of the experiences of working with
people (and sometimes working against them!).
People cluster together for a variety of reasons and are motivated
to continue if they feel that there will be some value to the experience.
Problem is that value tends to be seen through a very narrow lens.