“He found his release and fulfilment in the classes in which he himself was a student. There he was able to recapture the sense of discovery he had felt that first day, when Archer Sloane had spoken to him in class and he had, in an instant, become someone other than who he had been. As his mind engaged itself with its subject, as it grappled with the power of the literature he studied and tried to understand its nature, he was aware of a constant change within himself; and as he was aware of that, he moved outward from himself into the world which contained him, so that he knew that the poem of Milton’s that he read or the essay of Bacon’s or the drama of Ben Jonson’s changed the world which was its subject, and changed it because of its dependence upon it.”

‘Stoner’ by John Williams


observing oneself…


I wanted to do a ‘piece of research’ in which I attempted to ‘observe myself doing it.’ I have been interested in patterns in nature for many a year and thought I would drop ink droplets onto paper to see what patterns might emerge, if any. The following are 3 grabbed images of this research. I have used images here because it is necessary to maintain the complex formatting: read the first section, upper left. This shows how the original tape recording was transcribed and then thought about and re-thought about so to speak…


a further piece some way in:


When I had finished the whole experiment I made a series of knowledge claims which were quite extensive. Here’s a small example:


Well, that’s what I did…

challenge: observe yourself making a cup of tea

(or similar)

gattegno buddhism and critical theory..ah well…

Gattegno maintained there were 4 stages in learning:

1. there is something to be explored

2. the exploration of this ‘field’

3. practice in this field leading to mastery

4. transfer of this knowledge to wider fields

The Four Noble Truths of Gotama Buddha, the cattari ariyasaccani are:

1. an unsatisfactory state exists

2. how this ‘suffering’ arises

3. how to end this ‘suffering’

4. the means by which this ‘suffering’ can be eliminated

In his book ‘The Idea of a Critical Theory’, Raymond Geuss describes a typical critical theory as being ‘ a transition from an initial state of bondage, delusion and frustration to a final state of freedom, knowledge and satisfaction.’ Further, he defines a typical critical theory as consisting of three parts:

1. the belief that a transition from the initial state to the final state is in fact possible

2. the demonstration that this is in fact necessary

3. this transition can come about if one follows the particular tenets of that critical theory.

Well, at least, Gattegno, the Buddha and Raymond Geuss have in common the idea that…


but it is clearly not going to be a push-over

huatou: is it possible to change?

assessment as it is…


 The ultimate zen assessment:

You cannot know another you do not know yourself

…it is not possible. You cannot ‘know’ another in the fullest sense. I cannot know you. I ‘see’ your outer coverings, your skin, your body, your clothes. When I speak to you we discover more about each other. All the time we are making judgments and attempting to interpret each others’ responses and so on. Clearly we can get somewhere, but…

‘I’ can ‘know’ ‘you’, up to a point, but that is all. Ultimately I do not know myself, never mind you.

We are always assessing people in general though, through automatic responses, automatic generalisations. ‘I like the look of him.’ ‘People who have their trousers hanging low are stupid.’ ‘I hate people who smoke.’ and so on… These ‘automatisms’ are deeply ingrained. If we are unaware of them, well…what do you think?

As teachers we are required to assess others in more specific ways

For example if its my job to teach you addition it would be very useful for me to know what you already know. At least, that seems a reasonable supposition. How do I do it?

I can only attempt it by spending time and focusing attention on the specific areas I am interested in.

To start with I need to look at myself. Do I know what I am looking for? Do I actually know what I am talking about when I say ‘I want to teach addition?’ Most people don’t apply too much attention in these areas. It’s dark in here and the ground is hard for digging. Read this Sufi story.

Basically, if you know what you are doing and you look and listen openly whilst asking suitable probing questions that’s a start

You will have to spend time and effort and you should work on each child at a time

You may have noticed that this is very hard to achieve in a large class and when you are burdened with too many other demands

to create order, energy is required

in physics, to increase order is to decrease a measure known as entropy

(I like entropy that’s why I’ve put it in….it’s closely related to the most fundamental law of physics, the Second Law of Thermodynamics…)

Entropy tends to increase throughout the whole universe…

Your desk becomes dis-ordered in the course of a day

iron rusts

you age

if you wish to tidy (order) your desk you will have to expend energy

If you wish to assess another, to increase your ordered knowledge of them, you will have to


to expend energy in this sense you will need TIME…

ps For those interested in our most accurate representation of matter: There is no unique universal relation in quantum theory that could stand on equal footing with the position-momentum uncertainty relation. The energy operator is called H the Hamiltonian. There is no dual relationship between H and T.

Not yet, anyhow…

see sister post

some important people…

Caleb Gattegno

Most of his works are available to read on line for free here:

Roslyn Young – a modern exponent of Gattegno’s ideas

try this: On awareness and awarenesses

Read this book, co-authored with Piers Messum,

‘How We Learn and How We Should be Taught’,

Vol 1: Duo Flumina Ltd, 2011, ISBN 978 0 9568755 0 1

Caroline Ainsworth

An example of a ‘research process in all its complexity’

a case study of one teacher’s professional development journey

Madeleine Goutard

the wonderful exponent of STL*

Talks for Primary School Teachers

Educational Explorers Company, 1963

Mathematics and Children – a reappraisal of our attitude

Same series.

*The Subordination of Teaching to Learning – begin here

the ultimate zen assessment – pseudo object oriented reality…

Warning – the analogy to object oriented programming is FALSE

(if you want to see the point of this post go here)

Everything you and I perceive takes place in the mind. Your senses provide information to your mind. Your mind becomes aware of what you call reality due to information supplied by your senses which is then subsequently processed according to your established interpretative neural networks. These networks are evolved through awareness and analysis of these perceived conditions during your evolution as a perceiving, conceiving being… i.e. whatever you have experienced and then ‘made of’ these experiences.

Clearly, this involves your total historical and psychic environment. It is then clear that ‘this certain something’ that ‘you’ perceived was an interpretation of an interpretation, and was only an image of ‘the real thing’ whatever that was. This certain ‘real thing’ cannot be known absolutely. That is why great masters such as HUANG PO pointed out the ‘error’ of conceptual thought processes:

“There is no  “self”, no “other”. There is no “wrong desire,” no “anger,” no “love,” no “victory,” no “failure.” Only renounce the error of conceptual thought processes and your nature will exhibit its pristine purity-for this alone is the way to enlightenment.” HUANG PO, Wan Ling Record 24, p.86.

This ‘error’, is merely the knowing that what is perceived as ‘the truth, the Absolute Real Reality,’ even in its brute external form, as Searle would describe it, is NOT IT ITSELF. It is only ‘one interpretation of it’, and this is all we CAN KNOW. We cannot know ‘IT ITSELF’, because for us there is no ‘it itself.’ All we can know is what we perceive and then conceive through interpretation. This is relative reality and is different for all beings. This is ‘our world’… This is ‘my world’, this is ‘your world.’ This is why it is said that we ‘create the world.’ This is why there are as many cities you live in as there are perceivers of the city. There is not ‘a city’. There are no unique events.

Clearly there are ‘events’ at some level. There are earthquakes, there are floods. There are divorces. There is love. You will be hurt by the master’s stick. Yet you are the perceiver. You ‘create’ your specific take.  You create ‘your’ world. The external, the unknowable, is the CLASS which is knowable to us only as a fragment or ‘taste’. The specific, our individual  realities, are the INSTANCES.


huatou: I am the world