First Regional Workshop for School Teachers

On

“Time-Binding and the Art and Science of Pedagogy”

30-31 July, 2010  

The First Regional Workshop for School Teachers on “Time Binding and the Art and Science of Pedagogy” was organized at the Baroda High School , Alkapuri by Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences in collaboration with Baroda High School , Alkapuri during 30-31 July, 2010. The workshop was organized around readings from texts selected by the faculty. About twenty-five teachers from various schools of Baroda attended, presented papers and actively participated in discussions and other workshop activities. In the inaugural ceremony, Ms. Chaitali Korde, Principal, Commerce Stream, Baroda High School , Alkapuri welcomed the guests and participants of the workshop.

 

Inauguration

The Director of Balvant Parekh Centre, Professor Prafulla Kar gave a brief introduction of the Centre and its activities. Professor Kar thanked the school authorities and the Trustees for accepting the idea of organizing a workshop for school teachers despite their busy schedule of classroom teaching/learning and co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. He also expressed his gratitude to Mr. Balvantbhai Parekh for introducing General Semantics to people from all walks of life and regions by establishing a Centre and supporting such events across India . The participants were also invited to visit and read the books at the Centre’s library by Prof. Kar. Mr. Jagdish Shukla, trustee, Baroda Lion’s Club Education Trust (BLCET), delivered the inaugural Address. Mr. Shukla expressed his gratitude on behalf of the BLCET towards the Balvant Parekh Centre for considering their school as the venue for commencing such an endeavor towards the enhancement of the skills of school teachers through General Semantics. He also mentioned that it was of great honor for them to host such an event on the 50th anniversary of the Trust and suggested that such Workshops could be organized regularly. Mrs. Sadhana Desai, the local coordinator, proposed the vote of thanks.

Lectures by Faculty

On the first day of the Workshop, Bini B.S. gave a detailed introduction about what General Semantics is and how it can be applied in the teaching practice by school teachers to bring change in their world view and teaching. Through numerous examples, instances from history and anecdotes from the life of Korzybski, she described how education can transform the minds and make people more equipped to meet the challenges

 

Lecture by Bini

 

of life. After explaining the basic tenets of General semantics as time-binding, consciousness of abstracting, structural differential, extensional and safety devices, she justified why general semantics is a non-Aristotelian( not an Anti-Aristotelian) method. She emphasized that the primary application of general semantics is in training individuals to think in terms of levels of abstraction, to use extensional devices, to become aware of making assumptions and to arrive at decisions and choices that are beneficial to oneself and others. The claim of general semantics is that by applying its methods, disagreement will be reduced, some psychological disorders can be overcome, and reasoning will be improved. In her second lecture titled “General Semantics and Its Cultural and Ethical Implications in Pedagogy” Bini discussed General Semantics and the educational reconstruction of human society. Taking insights from Korzybski, Neil Postman and Paulo Freire, she discussed the ethical and social responsibilities of educationists. She explained that General semantics , a study of the relations between language, 'thought' and behaviour sees a human being, an organism as a whole in a socio cultural environment. A human being is body, mind and intellect; he/she has emotions and thoughts, stages of sickness and well being. But a human being is not an island. He/she is part of a society. Bini made an observation that the purpose of education is multi-level development; it helps in facilitating physical well being, generating mental awareness and instilling the sense of social responsibility. This was Korzybski’s idea of education which is similar to the Gandhian philosophy of overall development through education.  A teacher must try to develop the thinking capacity in students and give them courage for independent decision making. Then they will not be influenced blindly by propaganda, infantilism of political, social or religious leaders and resort to violence. Education is thus an eye opener, that helps a person see oneself, others and society in a rational and intelligent way; this awareness reduces conflicts and violence.

 Deepa Mishra’s lecture titled “Understanding General Semantics: The Concept of Man, Reality and the Theory of Abstraction” emphasized views of the General Semantics on Man, Society and Knowledge. Deepa explained why man belongs to the time-binding class of life and how he should overcome the traits of mere space and energy binders like animals.

 

Deepa Mishra

She opined that there are thinkers such as Albert Camus, Sartre and playwrights of the theatre of the absurd who presented a very dark view of life. Korzybski could see into the dark realities of life during the world war, but instead of dismissing life as futile, he came up with a solution: Human Engineering which means channelizing the potentials of human beings for their common good. In her second lecture, Deepa discussed various aspects of education starting from curriculum development, classroom teaching and experiments and methods of evaluation. She emphasized the need for a transformation in the curriculum development and evaluation system. Narrating several experiments she tried in the classroom and their benefits, Deepa affirmed that individual efforts and innovativeness on the part of teachers are much needed. Teaching is both a science and art. It is a methodical, but not mechanical. It requires imagination, genuine love and passion for the profession and above all, commitment.

During the public lecture under the title “General Semantics as a Way of Meaningful Life”, Professor Prafulla C. Kar talked about the meaningful way of life proposed by Korzybski with the aid of general semantics and how it can be used to lead a fruitful life for oneself and for others.  According to him general semantics can be practice and use in our everyday life. Korzybski cannot be categorized as a mere thinker but he was a philosopher with a practical approach on how to be a healthy and proper human being. In fact, Korzybski was a philosopher and scientist, basically a mathematician who had a scientific approach to life. His work reflects scientificity and philosophical analysis. Science is not confined to discipline. To be scientific one needs to have a broader perspective towards life. Science trains the mind to clear thinking and analysis of a given situation leading a person to be clear-headed. Initially, general semantics was categorized and called as applied anthropology. Professor Kar maintained that language is not the only thing through which one can communicate. But, it is a way among others and always placed in a context, or an environment to understand the surrounding in a better manner. While communicating, aggression should be curbed as much as possible for it is a very negative approach. Here is a philosopher, Korzybski, talking of success in life without being aggressive.

 

Prof. P.C. Kar

Professor Kar also talked about how to be a good human being, an ideal which seems to be losing its value. He reiterated that no other person can teach a person how to have a good life. No prescribed or fixed formulas are available to attain it. For this there has to be some innovative approach towards life. Here, he mentioned about the context after the First World War when Korzybski was confronted with his self questioning. During that crucial period, about one third of the able bodied European youths were liquidated in the war. Korzybski started to ponder why so much violence? How the world can afford such an irreparable lose? Crisis has always been a turning point in life. Without such crisis there is no chance to learn and look beyond the crisis and see a new world of promises. To be scientific is a positive way. There are two directions of thinking- scientific attitude and scientistic.

 

 

A section of the Audience

One can be an ordinary human being and be a scientist by having a scientific attitude which naturally comes to you or sometimes cultivated. This enhances the thinking capability in a human being which then leads to enlightenment, maturity, accountability, happiness, and be free from stress. And scientistic approach uses science as an instrument for power and too much of rationality. Korzybski wanted to give a direction to the European thought by the scientific approach. He was also aware that long term vision is a way of General Semantics. Science can be insane, diabolical. Sanity can be brought to science. General semantics is a way of understanding this way of life. It teaches to think collectively and not individually. Here he brought the relevance of what Walter Benjamin said “History of civilization is also history of barbarism.” The impact of the teacher in classroom may not be seen immediately, but is felt in a much later period. Students learn from the classroom but realize the value of their learning during his some crucial moments of life. So, as a teacher one should rejoice more for s/he has the potential to mould the future generation.

Screening of “To Sir with Love”

The first day ended with the screening of “To Sir with Love” directed by James Clavell and a discussion. This movie is an adaptation of a novel by the same title by E.R. Braithwaite. It depicts the successful experiments of a young teacher in a difficult classroom. Mark Thackeray arrives to teach a totally undisciplined class. He starts implementing his own brand of classroom discipline: teaching the pupils to treat each other with respect. Inevitably he begins getting involved in the students' personal lives. It is a classic portrayal of the lives of impoverished, battered adolescents and how a teacher brings some light and hope into their lives. The teachers found the movie inspirational and opined that it portrays several types of crises in the classroom.

Workshop Activities

There were several activities during the Workshop, especially during presentations of participants. An activity based on an inference test made the participants aware that how uncritically do we approach and use information and also the impact of pre-conceived ideas on human mind. Another activity was on individual and group communication.

Participants’ Presentations

Participants’ presentations were based on the essays provided to them as reading materials. They analyzed concepts and concerns such as value education, teachers as cultural workers from a sociological perspective, ethical and social responsibilities of teachers, dealing with adolescents, and discussed the common problems which they face in the school while teaching in the classrooms or in their inter-personal relationships. These presentations complemented the workshop sessions very effectively. These presentations also portrayed the present day situations in schools; for instance tendencies like bullying, students using drugs, strained relationship between the educators and the learners, etc.

Round Table Discussion

On the last day of the workshop during the round table discussion the teachers shared their experiences in the classroom and with individual students. The teachers shared their difficulties in dealing with the adolescents who are also sometime under peer pressure. They also shared their views and experiences of the attitude of the parents/guardians of the pupils. Many of the teachers suggested that such kind of workshops should be continued annually to enhance the teachers’ ability to tackle the adolescents and help them in facing the real world once they are out of the school. Moreover they also suggested that a workshop of this kind should also be organized for the parents so that it would create awareness among the parents.