[Discuss-sudbury-model] Coercion, Learning & Improvisation

From: David Rovner <rovners_at_netvision.net.il>
Date: Mon Sep 22 13:20:00 2003

"Life is one big improvisation"
"From the most creative artistic endeavor to the most mundane action, that mysterious process we call improvising is a part of everything we do."

Dear participants of democratic schools forums,
Tom Hall has been working on some theories regarding improvisation, learning and coercion.
I am forwarding you Tom's message.
I believe improvisation and learning without coercion thrive in democratic schools, and we should be aware of it and help it freely develop.

So, here it is, please see below.

~ David Rovner

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tom" <tohall_at_RCN.COM>
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2003 3:37 PM
Subject: Coercion, Learning & Improvisation

> I’ve been working on some theories regarding improvisation,
> learning and coercion. I hope you find them interesting, and I welcome
> any criticism or thoughts you might have.
> Here’s the basics. (You can find more at my website:
> www.freeimprovisation.com)
> Definition: Improvisation is the process by which we combine the
> knowledge and skills we possess with the possibilities and materials
> available in the moment and spontaneously create.
> The process of improvisation works the same, whether one is
> creating new knowledge about physics, a safe drive home, a painting or
> a jazz solo. We simultaneously learn about and create our world by
> improvising with it.
> This does not contradict TCS’ theories of learning, it merely adds
> an acknowledgment of the process through which conjecture and
> refutation take place. As far as I know, there is no analogous concept
> in the TCS lexicon. The closest thing is “reason”, defined in the TCS
> glossary as “the general term for processes that tend to create
> knowledge”.
> Reason (or being rational) is one of the many tools we have at our
> disposal, but I don’t think that it is the best concept to describe
> these processes. When I watch children learning, it seems to me that
> their process of creating knowledge is much more akin to what we would
> call “play”. However, the word play, like reason, carries with it a lot
> of baggage.
> I find improvisation a very useful way to describe and work with
> this process. It is both specific to the process itself, and capable of
> universal application. It doesn’t have a lot of baggage attached to it.
> Understanding improvisation helps us understand how learning happens,
> and helps in the practical application of TCS theories of learning,
> coercion and common preferences.
> Take coercion. Coercion tends to stop learning because it tends to
> result in the termination of an improvisation. The learning stops at
> the point where the improvisation stops.
> It’s not the coercion itself that causes learning damage, it’s
> whether or not the person subjected to the coercion is subsequently
> able to improvise with the theories around which they were coerced. If
> one is able to improvise with them, they become simply more available
> data, and relatively little harm is done.
> It is when one internalises a prohibition against improvising with
> a particular theory that coercion is most harmful. Without
> improvisation, it exists in a bubble, unconnected to the rest of our
> lives. Entrenched theories are the result of being prevented or
> prohibited from improvising on or around a certain subject.
> That's all for now! I'll write more about how improv relates to
> coercion and entrenchment and send it later, if there is interest.
> Tom Hall
> www.freeimprovisation.com
Received on Mon Sep 22 2003 - 13:19:18 EDT

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