On Learning – by Krishnamurti

On Learning – by Krishnamurti

This is an excerpt from http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/


Authority Prevents Learning


We generally learn through study, through books, through experience, or through being instructed. Those are the usual ways of learning. We commit to memory what to do and what not to do, what to think and what not to think, how to feel, how to react. Through experience, through study, through analysis, through probing, through introspective examination, we store up knowledge as memory; and memory then responds to further challenges and demands, from which there is more and more learning. What is learned is committed to memory as knowledge, and that knowledge functions whenever there is a challenge, or whenever we have to do something.Now I think there is a totally different way of learning, and I am going to talk a little bit about it; but to understand it, and to learn in this different way, you must be completely rid of authority; otherwise, you will merely be instructed, and you will repeat what you have heard. That is why it is very important to understand the nature of authority. Authority prevents learning -learning that is not the accumulation of knowledge as memory. Memory always responds in patterns; there is no freedom. A man who is burdened with knowledge, with instructions, who is weighted down by the things he has learned, is never free. He may be most extraordinarily erudite, but his accumulation of knowledge prevents him from being free, and therefore he is incapable of learning. – J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

Learning Has No Past


Wisdom is something that has to be discovered by each one, and it is not the result of knowledge. Knowledge and wisdom do not go together. Wisdom comes when there is the maturity of self-knowing. Without knowing oneself, order is not possible, and therefore there is no virtue.Now, learning about oneself, and accumulating knowledge about oneself, are two different things. A mind that is acquiring knowledge is never learning. What it is doing is this: It is gathering to itself information, experience as knowledge, and from the background of what it has gathered, it experiences, it learns; and therefore it is never really learning, but always knowing, acquiring.Learning is always in the active present; it has no past. The moment you say to yourself, “I have learned,” it has already become knowledge, and from the background of that knowledge you can accumulate, translate, but you cannot further learn. It is only a mind that is not acquiring, but always learning, it is only such a mind that can understand this whole entity that we call the “me,” the self. I have to know myself, the structure, the nature, the significance of the total entity; but I can’t do that burdened with my previous knowledge, with my previous experience, or with a mind that is conditioned, for then I am not learning, I am merely interpreting, translating, looking with an eye that is already clouded by the past. – J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life

The intercultural dimension in global learning

Greetings everyone from the Pacific Northwest!

I would like to share the following considerations with you, as I believe in the synergy embedded in our cooperative learning experience.

From the very start of our program I read many interesting ideas on possible issues that we as a group may be interested in exploring. Someone (I don’t remember who, and I cannot find that post on Itslearning since there is no way to search posts) suggested that we do so by establishing informal, smaller groups with a focus on specific topics. I thought that had merit, and here I am now, sharing a few ideas within our “small group”.

Let me start with this. The ALGC has a global focus on learning. It also recognizes each student’s responsibility in the shaping of her/his own studies. This course in particular has presented us with a variety of learning approaches, from which I appreciated the shifting of the learning experience from a behaviorist perspective to one that is learner-centered and co-operative in its nature.

The readings on Phenomenography reinforced my belief that we as students have not only a responsibility but also a duty towards the success of the ALGC and of our own studies to inject our perspectives and learning goals into the program. My hope is that we will be able to negotiate ways to enrich the academic content with added shared enquiries stemming from our personal experiences and goals.

I have the feeling that so far many interesting ideas posted in the forums have not been adequately followed through. It appears that they did not develop past the initial exchange of comments. I believe it would be worthwhile to actually pursue some of those ideas and embed them into the group learning experience.

I will start with sharing a few thoughts with you within our small group, in the hope that, as the program evolves, the discussion could be extended to other members of the cohort.

Here are my thoughts.

Aside from a brief acknowledgement in Wenger’s book, I feel that this course has not dealt with the global dimension of learning as listed in the syllabus.

The course will enable students to:

§         Understand global differences in conditions for adult learning through the elaboration and discussion of own experiences of learning

§         Develop understanding of contemporary theories of learning, applied to the area of adult learning, through the analysis and comparison of their central concepts

§         Identify, analyze and discuss global dimensions of learning in how diversity or uniformity is depicted on a local level and how this affects the way people live, think and act in local communities.

I believe I am not the only one who would be interested in exploring this aspect. The collaborative effort for Assignment 2 would be a good opportunity to get us started on this.

Here are some basic considerations:

1) The task of discussing global education is complex.

2) Its complexity is further increased by the cross-cultural nature of our learning context and our diverse experiences.

In addition to the issues typical of an on-line program, when working and studying in an intercultural environment like ours there are some intercultural communication aspects that should be factored in:

  • Cultural differences
  • Personal backgrounds
  • Language differences (even though me are all using English as a way to communicate)
  • The missing out on Non-Verbal Communication patterns that are not part of our communication on Itslearning

Our living, working and studying in different countries is heavily influenced by factors that include cultural values and beliefs, experience, language, and contexts. While we participate in the ALGC, we bring all those factors into the program. However, I do not believe that such a broad intercultural spectrum will simply and magically blend in and transform itself into a new third-culture paradigm. But I also believe that that could be a feasible goal to hope for, and that it will be up to us to understand the processes through which we may create that.

Communication among us

The effectiveness of communication among us is limited. We are up against an established fact: verbal communication only accounts to 7 % of human interaction. In other words, the additional 93% that constitutes non-verbal communication usually employed to clarify meaning is lost. In our case, we rely heavily and exclusively on written communication, which is only a fraction of verbal communication. Furthermore, we all use English as a lingua franca, but we use it differently. Again, even the way we use our chosen language of communication is heavily affected by our personal, contextual and cultural circumstances.


I believe that in order to effectively discuss the global dimension of learning we should start with acknowledging and examining the wide spectrum of intercultural communication issues wrapped around our cohort. I sense that this will bring us closer together as a learning community and will help us adapt the theories learnt so far to the circumstances specific to our collaborative learning experience. (Wenger talks of the “emergence of a community of culture”)

Here are some questions that remain, among many others:

When we talk about global learning, do we envision a metaparadigm for global education, or simply a kind of learning that transcends local boundaries?

If we talk about a metaparadigm for global learning, what are the factors that would need to be examined?

Will we succeed in establishing a shared identity that will be respectful and inclusive of all participants’ cultural perspectives? (Through dialogue? Negotiation? Experiential learning? Acculturation? Assimilation? Enforcement? …….) and maybe use such model for further applications and the proposal of a metaparadigm?

Will our group identity be a mere negotiated collection of all our personal identities, or will it be instead the result of a transformation process that will eventually develop into a new shared identity?



Global education is complex. It is also part of our curriculum.

Here is an inspiring definition I found in the report for the Conference on Global Education in Europe , 2002.

Global Education is understood to encompass Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention and Intercultural Education; being the global dimensions of Education for Citizenship.
Global education is education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all.

I understand at least two levels at which we could approach Global ed:

– at the global level (which goes hand in hand with other globalization processes )

– at the personal/group level, as participants in a global education enterprise.

I think that starting from examining some dynamics in our group could be interesting. Have a look at this quick slide show on how the cultural differences among us may impact our effectiveness to communicate.


Cuture according to Wenger

It appears that in Wenger’s approach context, meaning, and experience are, not unlike the way they are presented in the other perspectives, interlocking dimensions of the same endeavor. In her work, however, such interdependence and interconnection is made official within the framework of her wholistic and systemic theory. Her perspective transcends epistemological attempts to codify learning along philosophical lines and focuses instead on premises that place learning at the center of human experience, as the direct product of social interaction and as both the source and the outcome of meaning. The arena for such interesting interaction of factors, outcomes and contents is the practice that occurs within the local and global boundaries of communities. She defines such communities of practice as “not self-contained entities that develop in larger contexts – historical, social, cultural, institutional – with specific resources and constraints.” She also goes on at length to painstakingly frame what such practices should entail to qualify as suitable, even though she seems to contradict herself when she says that having too rigid a definition would be detrimental to a community of practice’s effectiveness. I believe that Wenger has brought culture into the discussion about learning, which is relevant to what I perceive as a lack of general consideration for cultural issues in the other perspectives. I understand that she views culture as something that emerges at the interface of the phenomena of reification and participation, and encompasses the different aspects of human experience as it develops from the social interactions within the respective communities. However,Wenger’s idea of culture does not address profound differences that are oftentimes unstated and lie at the core of current globalization processes, including learning, teaching and education. Even though personal experiences are taken into consideration , I have come away with the impression that – from a cross-cultural perspective – the setting of a practice in her description is a fairly culturally homogeneous environment; in fact, even though she acknowledges personal experience as a factor, she fails to address the impact of each participant’s personal cross-cultural experience and cultural background in terms of their diverse cross-cultural make-up. In my opinion, such exclusion of intercultural dynamics, contributions, experience, meanings and personal contexts detracts from a theory that she takes pride in presenting as one of some universal value.

Cultural analysis (Gallestrup)



I am continuing this discussion with a reference to the relevance of culture for the purpose of understanding learning patterns. I have written elsewhere that the readings for this block, maybe with the exception of Wenger (which I still haven’t really delved into) seem to diregard culture from their discourses. I am convinced that any attempt to analyse data with the exclusion of the impact of culture will fail to address a series of issues and concerns that are necessarily culture-bound. Hans Gullestrup is a social scientist at the University of Aalborg in Denmark. In his recent book on Cultural Analysis, he wrote:

A given culture can never be described, analysed or understood empirically in its final form. ln its perpetual state of flux a culture never exists as a static entity. A given culture can never be described empirically, analyzed or understood objectively as all human description and understanding of the surrounding environment contain minor or major elements of social constructions. And yet in a number of individuals’ experience of a given culture – their own or others’ – or of a given intercultural interaction there will be such a degree of homogeneity that it will be meaningful – for a given culture actor in an actual context, and for a specific purpose – to outline a certain generally accepted picture of a certain culture to be used for a mutual understanding of one or several archetypes of interaction.

Source: Gullestrup, Hans (2007). Cultural Analysis: Towards Cross Cultural Understanding

Copenhagen, DK:Copenhagen Business School Press  p. 65

I believe his comments have merit and that Phenomenographic analysis or any other qualitative approach to understanding learners’ attitudes and understanding come under the spell of intercultural dynamics that would have a huge impact on the validity and the scope of such investigations.

All we can achieve is a fair approximation of trends, but only if we are willing to include cultural biases and factors in the relevant researches undertaken.Gullestrup makes it clear – and I happen to agree with him – that results are meaningful only within specific time and contextual limits.

Their transferability is not implied.

On page 330 of his book, Gullestrup humbly poses two self-reflective questions that in my opinion re-inforces my own questions:

“I can evidently not avoid this social constructivism myself, irrespective
of how mindful I have been of this. And therefore I have to raise the
question, in this last section of the book, of the extent to which the
preceding pages and the outlined models are characterised by having been
developed and written by a 69-year old Danish male social science researcher
with the life and education I have gone through up to now, and with the
personal experience I have had.

“How would a young Samoan social science researcher have treated the same
issue? How would a staunch religious Hindu woman from India, or for that
matter a die-hard Republican economist in today’s USA have treated the

Any comments?


Oct 27, 2008 – Adult Learning: contexts and perspectives

where is the “social” in phenomenography

Cultural component – contextual constructivism
Hi there,
Since I have a holistic perspective on life, including learning, I like making cross references between the different parts of our class material, even if the forums have been sealed into independent blocks.
I have noticed that the culture is barely considered as an important factor of learning in the reaings on constructivism and phenomenography.
True, the student’s prior experience is recognized as playing a role in how their knowledge will further develop and how teachers should include their students’ experience in their teaching approaches, however the articles and the book do not specifically address what that experience is all about.
In a diverse cohort like ours this is – in my opinion – a topic that should be addressed.
This is relevant to the identification of the learning context. In a broader and more inclusive way, a learner’s culture IS his/her learning context . Culture has been defined in many different ways; for me it is mainly a web of relationships that bind together personal, societal, historical, environmental, geographic, linguistic aspects of a person’s life, both as an individual and as a participant in larger communities.
There is in fact something called contextual constructivism, which concerns itself with the relevance of culture in the learning context. I might be wrong, but I could not find any mention of that in our readings.
Thus, to fully appreciate a learner’s prior experience and integrate that into a meaningful learning environment within the context of that learner’s education I think that culture should be given proper consideration. That would include considering – among other things – a learner’s worldview and cultural values and beliefs. These are no trivial matters, as we may have all found out in our own learning experience.
These would allow us to explore issues of effectiveness within the ALGC environment. The book on The Experience of Learning clearly points out the discrepancy between students’ views of their learning experience and their teachers’. In the book teachers are presented are being oblivious of their students’ individual experience, focusing mainly on the academic side of teaching. The book goes on explaining why things should be done differently in the future. Following that advice, is there a way we can continue our learning experience with a more mindful attitude towards the cultural context of the cohort? How flexible can we be (teachers and students) in adjusting the learning environment to the several cultural contexts of the cohort?

On phenomenography

This second forum is about the second set of readings, which included the book The Experience of learning, Variatio est mater Studiorum, and several pages on Phenomenography.
As I wrote elsewhere, I understand that Phenomenography is “the empirical study of the differing ways in which people experience, perceive, apprehend, understand, conceptualize various phenomena in all aspects of the world around us.” (http://www.ped.gu.se/biorn/phgraph/civil/main/1res.appr.html )

In the material published on the Göteborgs universitet site ( http://www.ped.gu.se ) I found the following definitions of phenomenography:

“ a descipted recording of immediate subjective experience as reported”
“a description of appearances”
“phenomenography thus evolves as a research specialization aimed at describing conceptions of the world around us”
“phenomenographic analysis”
All this considered, I find it confusing to think of phenomenography as a “perspective” to  be considered alongside constructivism. To me it sounds more like a methodology for qualitative research and…phenomenographic analysis.
Having said that, let me start with sharing some thoughts on what I have been doing for the past two weeks.
I have delved into the readings, in spite of my personal enormous difficulty in doing that. In general, reading is not my preferred way of learning, especially when the material is not my own choice.
To sum up my learning, I can say that most of the content of “the Experience of Learning” suggests a learner-centered model of education. It defines the discrepancy between traditional teachers’ view of learning, and that of their students. It also explores concepts such as deep and surface learning. This particular part of the book content is relevant to my own studies. As a learner, I embraced this program wholeheartedly, as I was under the impression that I could be “the master of my own learning.” Learn needs to be meaningful -so I read in the readings on constructivism. A deep learning approach suits me in that it allows me for opportunities for self-reflection. A surface approach, instead, is generally not very satisfying. However, deep learning makes sense to me only when the amount of information is manageable, otherwise it can turn into a very overwhelming experience, especially when I don’t get to choose the material.

For whatever it’s worth, here is a deficnition of Phen.: (from wiki)

Phenomenography is a qualitative research methodology, within the interpretivist paradigm, that investigates the qualitatively different ways in which people experience something or think about something (Ference Marton, 1986). Phenomenography, an approach to educational research that appeared in publications in the early 1980s (Marton, 1981; 1986), initially emerged from an empirical rather than theoretical or philosophical basis (Åkerlind, 2005).

..a qualitative research methodology.

That Phen. is a research methodology is written all over the place in the pages og the University of Gothemborg, as I pointed out in my other post.

but like you said, we could discuss this till the ned of times and…so what?

How relevant is this part of the discussion ( that I actually initiated) to my own learning? This is by far a more importantt question for me than the (dis)agreement on academic semantics. I do not live my life according to academic definitions, and if I have to make sense of an external reality based on my experience and through my  interaction with others, academic semantics would not serce as a useful learning approach.

Teachers and learners

I certainly can see how learning may occur from the participatory engagement of students and teachers. Teachers have a role as guides and facilitators and I believe that they have a responsibility in playing that role well. In radical constructivism that role may be limited to that of an observer, whereas in social constructivism teachers should engage students not by transmitting them external knowledge, by fostering the students’ ability to “construct” their knowledge of an issue. The development of critical thinking skills is very important.

Today I received an e-mail from the ass.dean of academic affairs at the art institute where I teach. I want to share that with the cohort, also because the video may come as a relief after spending weeks on difficult readings. This is just an example how constructivist approaches find nowadays acceptance in mainstream education.
Take a look.  Could be a good teaching tool for critical thinking
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