On this blustery cold day in the Pacific Northwest, I sit, ready to contemplate education and learning. Not just any type of education and learning, but the progressive nature of learning. The collective individuality that encompasses progressive education is at the heart of learning and infuses the new ideas and experiences necessary to grow as an individual.
So, what do I mean about the collective individual? Who is it? What is it? How is it accomplished? Well, let us first back up and think of how we define learning of a person: Usually it is either through a collectivity, team work environment or situation, or that of an individual, personalized and private work. It is my assertion, that as educators, and learners, that we must stop trying to combat the collective vs. the individual, or group projects vs. individual assignments, but instead view education holistically, from a different angle.
In order to do this, we must, as educators we must stop compartmentalizing subjects and even more importantly, types of learning. Often times, the progressive educator will look at different subject matters and say, “those types of things should be interdisciplinary and interconnected,” but sometimes, we fall and slip into the realm of singling and viewing under a microscopic one particular part of the way in which we learn. This could be a symptomatic problem, starting with Piaget, I don’t know, but it definitely does not seem to work constantly to bring subjects or thoughts together.
So, if we can view learning in a WHOLE approach, that encompasses any and all things, then we can begin to think of how we take the entire scope, or realm, of learning and use collectivism and individualism as a co-partnership in new ways to spark the mind, to innovative new theory or practice and to be creatively driven, firstly and foremost.
The individual must be recognized. We are all different, we all have particular abilities, characteristics and we are all capable of learning that is unique unto ourselves. The mere fact that I mentioned, “we and all” three times in describing the individual, speaks to the manner of how interconnected these two elements actually are. There has to be a self-motivation that exists, one that drives the individual to learn for themselves and for the world. This is needs to be an individual trait that is nurtured and given confidence by a support community, but that ultimately, must rely on the individual themselves. There is a discipline and confidence that also must be understood by the individual, in believing in their own capabilities. Finally, there needs to be a firm structure in place (not in a legalistic sense, but outworking support) that does not necessarily force, but surely, encourages the individual to individually think for themselves and to use their own critical senses and past experience to learn.
On the same level, the collectivism must be emphasized. It begins with the community and a sense of belonging. Each individual must collectively come together and feel safe, encouraged and most importantly, collectively involved in any and all activities (if they so choose). The collectivism extends beyond being in a safe, belonging environment, but also must foster a sense of self worth, creative and innovative posture, and must be underlined with a never ending sense of encouragement and responsibility by the group, to help an individual reach their goal. A true sense of community must be at the center of this collectivism, relying on all the parts, working together, equally contributing and equally encouraged, to be apart of a place that is focused on learning, either one thing in particular or many things randomly. The collectivism, is not necessarily completely about being one, mechanistic body or army, that follows one set of rules or actions, but rather, as a functionary net, underneath the tight rope of life, just in case you fall, or to give you encouragement to go on, even if everything does not seem right.
Let us create the collective individual, both in the progressive educational world and all learning worlds. It must firmly be recognized and enacted, that both the individual be emphasized, with all of his or her, creative, personalized character and ideas, while being collectively guided, with an undertone and sense of community, compassion, and encouragement, constantly infectious by the equally democratic, equally motivated and equally needed individuals in the surrounding environment.
The collective individual learns through the lens of self exploration, group discussion and experiential moments, guided constantly through a world which is filled with a collective community that inspires that learning to happen.
-Casey K. Caronna