Wednesday, September 12, 2007

139] Create radical social futurists -- now!

Create radical social futurists
Azly Rahman
Sep 11, 07 3:28pm

Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. - Plato

I once taught Thinking Skills, Foreign Policy, and Ethics. My approach towards Teaching Thinking was about increasing the capacity of the mind to explore newer perspectives, make critical judgment, and envision a scenario of a society of peace and justice, based on the principles of multiculturalism.

I value such an experience and have grown with it. We need to create and nurture a culture of thinking in a world that is increasing hostile to radical and ethical ideas.

In my teaching, the approach combines universal ethical values, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving, and futuristics. I think there is value in such an approach.

If we can radicalise student thinking, teach them to stand for their rights, give them choices in thinking, have them articulate great ideas in their own words, we can make them better graduates.

We can train them to become good ethical revolutioners that will remove oppressive and corrupt leaders and redesign a society that will continue to rejuvenate itself.

We can teach them to punish polluters – especially corporations that dump poison into our rivers or puff deadly smoke into our environment. We can teach them to demand the resignation of corrupt leaders – or even have an entire cabinet resign. We can create socially-conscious futurists out of our children.

Futurists conjure scenarios of societies they want to have – build from the ruins of one that has crumbled out of the need for greed and economic speed. Radical futurists conjure newer social order reconstructed out of the ruins of the ones ruled by leaders addicted to raw power; power employed to rape the environment and humanity these leaders are entrusted to "govern".

But first we must have the teachers/lecturers prepare for all these as well. We have many bright and young academics eager to explore newer perspectives in politics, economic and cultural aspects of our world. Can they do these in a cognitively-controlled environment? How do we help them?

Critical thinking is not 'criticising'

It seems that there is a deeper meaning to "critical thinking" than just "criticising" something or anything.

It is a process of the personal evolution of metacognition (beyond cognition itself); to understand one's own thinking process and to govern it with the tools one acquire through interacting with the environment and processing information that will become meaningful through the complex neural connections made in the brain.

There has to be a good repertoire of knowledge in one's brain/mind/consciousness in order to understand the "dialectical and dialogical" aspect of thinking.

Our education system must encourage this development through the love of reading – the exploration of good and great books taught by teachers who love books and have the passion to challenge students to think and think. Thinking must be encouraged; students must live their daily lives in classrooms without fear of being punished or ridiculed for thinking critically and creatively.

Our classrooms must encourage dialogues and debates even if the subject matter is sensitive difficult, painful, and intellectually challenging. We must have good teachers to groom student to become brave thinkers and communicator of ideas. These teachers/professors themselves must embody the virtues of radical thinking and become beacons of hope for newer thinkers, much like what Socrates was to the Athenians in 5th Century B. C.

Radical thinkers must be celebrated and honored, not imprisoned and shamed. Only a shameless government doing shameful acts would jail good, ethical, socially-conscious thinkers who speak truth to power.

If in our universities, thinking means thinking about what the state dictates and students are being punished for speaking out on issues that concern their role as future inheritors of their society, we have a got a national problem.

Higher order thinking

The essence of higher order thinking skills is the "WHY" question and the "WHAT IF" and "WHY NOT THIS" ... these brings our students to critique dominant paradigm and allow them to conjure newer perspectives, much like what radical social futurists would do.

What is the culture of critical thinking in our Malaysian classrooms these days? Is it enabling the culture of thinking or retarding it?

Critical thinking is also not about running in the streets screaming for this or that change; it is a process of intellectual embodiment and the democratisation of one's personal understanding of the intellectual basis of change.

It is a process of constructing a "republic of virtue" in which each citizen is a philosopher-ruler in his/her own right. Each individual perhaps like the notion held by the Buddhist, is "aware" of the surrounding, mastering his/her own environment, aware of cause and effects of beingness, to identify oppressive signs and symbols that govern him/her and others, to destroy structures that are shacking, to essentially be able to look at his/her life like a crystal-ball.

Is this idea of creating world-wise radical intellectual and movers and shakers possible in our Malaysian educational system?

This is the greatest challenge of this century, for our nation especially. If we wish to remove the Internal Security Act, radically revise the Universities and University Colleges Act, and remove all Acts that are anathema to a healthy thinking culture, we must rethink how we think.

We owe a good education system to our children – a system that will teach children to systematically revolt against systems.


Sagaladoola said...

My writing on this:
Malaysia, A Land of "One Straight Minds"

wiltda13 said...

Have you ever try fusing crystal with body and mind thinking? I've read somewhere crystal can help human think better.. as described by the Legend of Crystal Skull. Just want to know your opinion in such matter. Thank you.

MI said...

My experienced with students,most of them like to critics but not many have constructive ideas to improve any issues.
For me many of us like to talks rather do actions.

Thank you

max said...

Actually I agree very much with what Mr Subang and H.Muhammad have to say about you and your writings.

1. I agree with you that critical theory of Frankfurt school has something very important to say about the modern world.
But it is also equally important to undertstand that the critical theory of Adorno and Horkheimer is based on key Marxist tenets such as class exploitation, surplus value, impoverishment, etc...Some of these Marxist categories are outdated. Please read some of the arguments from the Rational Choice Marxists against these concepts.
Although no longer that fashionable, Rational Choice Marxist theorists do raise important points against these sacred Marxist tenets.

2. Critical theory is against the hypostatisation of any theories, subject, object, values and ethical system...Thus in one of your essay where you say you want to create critical theorist with universal ethical values, you are already going against Adorno's insistence on the independence of critical consciousness.
Actually from what you write it sounds very much like indoctrination.
It sounds like you want to create a class of super revolutionaries armed with critical theory to instruct the future generation on what is in your views 'progressive' and morally good.
Adorno and Horkeheimer want progressive changes but they refuse to allocate the proletariat a role in transforming the world.
They want to tear down the reified world, which according to them is the source of all evils, but they never say what kind of world they want to replace it with.
They despair about the modern world and are very vague with the remedies for its problems.
This is what I like about critical theory, precisely because of its vagueness and its refusal to be absorbed by moral and ethical systems that claims to be universal.
This why Habermas broke from the Frankfurt School, because he sees too much despair and vagueness in it.

3. Theory is important for the study of history and societies.
But importing theories whole scale without applying it critically to local scenario is not the way either.
You have for example proclaimed Cyberjaya to be a hegemonic construct even before you study it.

Anonymous said...


Global progress in four points

Kind Social Futurists,

I present you my warmest greetings. In a common interest, please, let me offer a vision:

1) The laws that assigns for life the roles of the Public Administrations (PAs) of our Countries are obviously undemocratic and not corresponding with the ideals of a republic. All the assignments of a State, included the Presidency of the Republic, must return to the people after a certain number of years. On the contrary a public employee can mantain "his" role, practically owning it, for all his working life. Sometimes even transfering there his sons! In the facts our Countries are not yet finished Republics. They are instead for a great part a property owned by the public employees for life. And this oligarchic system cannot but have also negative, heavy repercussions on the politics, on the governments and on the private economies.

2) When our Constitutions were born, long time ago, the regulation of our PAs cannot be adequately developed. The founder fathers of our Republics, aware of the necessity of a continuous evolution, often expressed deliberately the necessity "... to eliminate the obstacles of economical and social order, that, by limiting the freedom and the equality of the citizens, hinder the full development of the human being and the real participation of all the workers to the economical, political and social organization of their Country ...", like in the Italian Constitution.

3) It is exactly this democratic anomaly, this heritage of a period preceding the arrive of the republican order, this oligarchic leftover of the allocation for life of a commune good, this propertization of a public resource, to create almost all the problems of today. Instead of PAs for life, we should have their roles, powers and incomes distributed among all the citizens wishing and able to work in them. In this way all the Public Institutions would be completely reinterpreted in the methods and in the purposes, under well other influences and with well other visions rather than the present ones. A Country with a Democratic Public Administration for rotation would have politics, governments and private economies perfectly correspondent to the real needs of the society.

4) Please, let us note that a public employment for rotation does not dismisses but engages people! In fact this system would acquire in the public area many economical activities that has been privatized. Our economies are heavily unbalanced towards the private sectors justly for the undemocratic state of the public sector. Think about the caste of the public employees, think about the mafia of State, think about the corruption and the inadequacy of our Undemocratic Public Administrations. And it will be clear the reason of so many privatizations! But once returned to the citizens, the PAs will be able to gain consistency by re-absorbing activities of primary importance.

This is the extreme synthesis of the complete project:


Through this scheme, the society will also succeed to provide a minimum job guarantee to all its citizens and even a basic income between a job assignation and another.

Let us note that such PAs for rotation will have no problem for as regards just requirements of efficiency and professionalism of its products and services. In fact the workers would move themselves essentially in two ways: they would move in a same field of skill but also in a different field. By moving themselves inside a same branch of specialization it is allowed the contribution of a larger role of contributors and the corruption is anticipated. By moving themselves in different fields, we would gain the sharing of our knowledges and a spread progress. Both the movements would favor the open-mindedness and the capacity to communicate, as well as the rise of a strong feeling for public interest.

Kind Futurists, if we really yearn a new world, if really we want to reach it, we should pass from the focused, sectorial, specialized traditional approach to a most profitable systemic, organic, holistic approach. Under this light it is evident both the global problem (the undemocratic PAs) and solution:

Once precisely individuated them, we immediately understand that we can make true our most beautiful dreams in the arch of ours same life!

Would you be part of this memorable and quiet revolution?

Best regards,

Danilo D'Antonio

Eudaemony Laboratory
Piazza del Municipio
64010 Rocca S. M.
Abruzzo - Italy

tel. ++39 339 5014947
tel. ++39 328 0472332


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