Entries Tagged 'The Nordic Secret' ↓

Making the world better

Dear Lene and Thomas:

On page 416 you list the ten circles of belonging because that is an important concept in building meta-modern societies. The idea is that societies benefit as people broaden their circles of belonging:

  1. Self/Ego
  2. Family 1
  3. Peer Group
  4. Family 2
  5. Community
  6. Nation/People/Religion
  7. Culture Zone
  8. Universal Principles
  9. Humanity Today
  10. Planet and future generations beyond great-grandchildren

You also remind us of Kegan’s five layers of mental complexity: (1) early childhood, (2) self-consolidating, (3) self-governing, (4) self-authoring, and (5) self-transforming (pp. 416 & 417). You wrote that meta-modern societies depend on citizens who function at layers 4 and 5:

From an ego-layer 5 perspective as self-transforming, going through life feeling a sense of belonging in all ten circles, with that kind of complexity of mind and intimate as well as global connectedness, is deeply fulfilling. It is very meaningful and exciting, as long as you are not the only one around whose mind works like that; we all need to have others with whom we can share thoughts and feelings.  (416 & 417) 

From ego-layer 4, self-authoring, embracing circles 7-10 may be the inspiring parts of one’s personal journey. By becoming conscious of one’s culture zone, universal principles, humanity, and current and future planet, embracing all of them and feeling a sense of responsibility and excitement about engaging in them, one grows with the challenges. In the process, some may sever some of the ties to one’s smaller in-groups and feel a new kind of personal freedom and responsibility towards something bigger. Not just a bigger consciousness but a bigger conscience. (p. 417)

Both your book (TNS) and mine (TSVOTEP) discuss the ideal of the fully developed (educated) person and the environment in which development occurs. TNS borrows from psychology for personal development (Kegan) and from the world values survey, which presented seven circles of belonging, which you extended to ten.

TSVOTEP points to the 6 ingredients of all virtues, and it describes why we need to shift the 5 elements of American educational institutions: (1) from a core belief in democratic governance to a belief in the six-virtue definition of the educated person, (2) from purposes focused on higher test scores to modeling and teaching the six virtues, (3) from a democratic form of governance to governance that models the six virtues, (4) from an organizational structure that is bureaucratic and hierarchical to one that is communitarian, and (5) from a social scientific improvement paradigm that strives toward effectiveness to one that is aesthetic and strives toward appreciation.

In other words, we are saying similar things as we discuss how to build a better world. You make an important point by arguing that societies need to build several kinds of institutions that make citizenship rewarding. Examples are churches, families, and other cultural institutions. My focus is on educational institutions. As you pointed out in your review of Nordic history, the “secret” started with Folk high schools because the elites recognized the importance of a well-educated citizenry across all classes. 

Transitioning to 6 virtues

Dear Lene and Thomas:

In Societal Transitions (Chapter 17) you described five codes (eras):

Indigenous cultures are hunter gatherers and early agriculture.

Traditional cultures/pre-modernity: This covers ancient societies from the earliest city-states to feudal Europe in the 1800s plus the Middle East and many other places today . . . 

Modernity: This covers predominantly the West in the post-Darwin, nation-state era: we check assertions of fact and have separated religion/spirituality from governance/politics.

Post-modernity has been characterized as the collapse of all meta-narratives, i.e. religion and political ideologies, and one of the suggested dates for the beginning of the post-modern era is the fall of the Berlin Wall. (pp. 396 & 397)

Meta-modernity thus represents a holistic appreciation of the qualities of all the previous codes. (p. 399)

Then, you wrote:

The codes of post-modernity allow us to analyze and deconstruct all of the narratives, power structures and social constructs above and to keep an ironic distance, and this is fantastic, it just happens to be impossible to build a society on deconstruction and irony, and therefore post-modernity is only a phase-transition. Albeit a crucial one.

The codes of meta-modernity enjoy all of the above in their due time and place. (p. 400)

To explain the role of Bildung, you wrote:

The concept of Bildung was developed as part of the transition to modernity in order to add personal development to the collective epistemology, with Bildung came the tool to describe and judge ego-development in self and others and to encourage young people to first become self-governing and to complete the transition to self-authoring or Moral Man. Bildung was so much a term of the 1800s, it now has a quaint image, but it is one of the most crucial elements in establishing and maintaining democracy and human rights for all. (p.404)

A clearer prescription for establishing and maintaining democracy is adopting the six-virtue definition of the educated person. Cultures/Nations that want to benefit from the Nordic secret should build education systems that teach understanding, imagination, strong character, courage, humility and generosity.

That will be difficult in America because it requires philosophical, imaginative thinking, which goes untaught in our current system of education. Instead, today’s schools emphasize that students need to be able to correctly answer multiple choice questions.

Last night’s 60 Minutes show featured a segment entitled, “Talent on the Spectrum,” which described autistic people who had the ability to deal with large numbers of data points.

To explain his talent, one of them said, “I feel there are a lot of strengths to being on the spectrum, and I think imagination is a huge key trait.”

Bildung requires that citizens be taught all six virtues, including imagination, humility and courage–the virtues ignored in today’s public schools.

Demonstrate humility, not pride

Dear Lene and Thomas:

You wrote:

One ingredient in the Nordic secret that may surprise some is the importance of cultural heritage. Given the many ethnic, national and religious conflicts around the world, many would probably be hesitant to promote cultural self-consciousness.

We see it otherwise: the more self-confident people are regarding their heritage, the deeper their roots, the more meaning-making potential, Geistesbereitschaft, the more folklore, the more stories, the more mythologies belonging to their ancestors that people know and can relate to, the more complex and robust their inner world will be. The more one knows one’s own culture and history and can see its development in context, the less threatening the culture of others become.  

What should be avoided at all times is national chauvinism or ethnic/cultural chauvinism; but cultural pride and joy are different. They are crucial even. They allow a sense of belonging, cohesion in a nation and loyalty towards the same state. If the Nordic secret is to be implemented in other parts of the world, it must be done in such a way, of course, that national pride and joy is not based on disrespecting other cultures and peoples. It should never be creating or promoting an “us versus them” mentality. This is where ego-development becomes crucial: as self-consolidators and self-governing, we tend to seek “enemies” in order to define who we are by establishing who we are not; as self-authoring (the next layer of ego-development), we appreciate diversity. (p. 384)

Although you refer to cultural pride in paragraph 3, if other countries are going to achieve the Nordic secret, their people need to develop the sixth virtue of humility, which is deeper than pride. Humble people demonstrate this virtue in four ways:

  1. They recognize the greatness of their own ancestors and culture/nation. (Paragraph 2)
  2. They know that members of other cultures/nations care little about their own cultural/national greatness. (Paragraph 3)
  3. They shine a light on the achievements of other cultures/nations. (Paragraph 3)
  4. They appreciate the beauty of other cultures/nations. (Paragraph 3)

The humility described in Numbers 2, 3, and 4 is needed to achieve the benefits of the Nordic secret. On the other hand, throughout the course of history, cultural/national pride motivated both well-intentioned and evil-intentioned colonizers. That is why it is important to highlight the need for humility, instead of pride on p. 384.

The right philosophy does exist

Dear Lene and Thomas:

You wrote:

With increasing societal complexity, it is obvious that we must create education, symbols, aesthetics, epistemologies, Bildung, and ego-development that allows us to make sense of the reality around us, to navigate it safely and find meaning and purpose in it. It is equally obvious that we need to develop a sense of belonging in still bigger circles and that we need institutions and pedagogical philosophies for this that do not exist yet. (p. 386)

If you had read The Six Virtues of the Educated Person (TSVOTEP, 2009), you would know that such a pedagogical philosophy does exist.

TSVOTEP (2009) described a five-element system of education that (1) starts with an educational core belief, (2) has six virtue development as its purpose, (3) is governed by six-virtue citizens, (4) forms communitarian structures, and (5) promotes an aesthetic improvement paradigm.

Furthermore, your descriptions of Bildung and the Nordic folk high schools suggest that “Bildung” people demonstrate the six virtues of the educated person: (1) understanding, (2) imagination, (3) strong character, (4) courage, (5) humility and (6) generosity.  

Apparently, we are searching for the same thing. The difference is that I read your book and mine. You did not, yet, read mine. If you do, enlighten me about why the six virtues are, or are NOT, the path toward the better world that all three of us want.

What is “Bildung?”

Before posting a series of letters to the authors, “Bildung” must be defined. It is mentioned in the headings of Parts 2 and 3, and acording to the authors, it does not translate easily from German to English.

The authors’ descriptions of “Bildung” start with reviews of Kegan’s five orders of mental complexity and Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development. Then they present a three-dimensional graphic of concentric globes, which represent personal development in three directions:

     The spheres being three-dimensional, we see the horizontal plane representing knowledge, facts about the world and experiences we can share with other people. . . The vertical axis represents our emotional roots downwards and our moral aspirations upwards; as we mature, our understanding of our roots and ourselves becomes deeper, and our moral aspirations can evolve to become higher. The vertical axis represents our spiritual ego-development and paths to moral truths. It represents emotional truths that we have learned through experience not facts through rational learning. (pp. 56 & 57)

     Illustrating our ego-development this way, as concentric globes with horizontal knowledge and vertical truths, allows us to talk about a deep personality, depth of character, and inner roominess, as our mental complexity grows and we mature. Only if we mature and add layers in all directions can we become deep, wise, and rounded persons.  (p. 57)

The authors use the language of “layers” to point to examples of both Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development: (1) oriented toward obedience and avoiding punishment, (2) oriented toward self-interest, (3) oriented toward interpersonal relations and conformity, (4) oriented toward authority and maintaining social order, (5) oriented toward the social contract in general, (6) oriented toward universal ethical principles; and Kegan’s five orders of mental complexity: (1) early childhood, (2) childhood, (3) socialized mind, (4) self-authoring mind, and (5) self-transforming mind (pp. 42 & 43). In general, “Bildung” points to the development of the whole person.

Their discussion of developmental psychology is later combined with German philosophy to complete translating “Bildung” into English.

     Until around 1760, Bildung means religious Bildung: to shape oneself in God’s image (Bild). Around 1770, it got a new secular meaning, which meant an inner development related to one’s emotions. (p. 157)

German philosophers, writers, and key political figures in Weimar “expanded the epistemology of the time. . . ” (p. 159).

      From Shaftesbury to Hegel, the philosophers focused on inner freedom, getting oneself beyond one’s emotions, cravings and drives, and beyond the fashion of the day, the norms and expectations of others. The goal for all of them was a fully rounded, self-authoring layer 4 (Kegan), and they obviously wrote from layer 5, self-transforming, where they could explore their own inner workings and that of their fellow men. Schiller described a stage where one can handle constant change, and it matches (Kegan’s) layer 5. (p. 159)

Part 3 of TNS describes how various Nordic countries implemented a system of education guided by Bildung. Beginning in the 1870s, folk high schools were established throughout Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Finland developed folk high schools in the 1920s. The schools were built by elites to educate the lower classes for full participation in Nordic societies. They were designed to be communities in which young people flourished emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.

According to the authors, it was this “Bildung-type” of education, that was partly responsible for enabling Nordic countries to go from the poorest European agricultural societies in the late 1800s to the happiest, most prosperous nations in the world today. 

Now that I have covered “Bildung,” each of the following letters to the authors quotes their Part 5, entitled, “Looking Forward,” and finishes with my comments on their ideas.

Introduction to The Nordic Secret category

The Nordic Secret (Andersen & Bjorkman, 2017) has five Parts: (1) Setting the Scene, (2) Personal Freedom and Responsibility–Bildung Philosophy, (3) The Scandinavian Spring—Implementing Bildung, (4) Exploring What We Have Found, and (5) Looking Forward.

The following blogs (The Nordic Secret category on the right) are written as letters to the authors. Each blog responds to texts in Part 5, which starts with the following statement: “There are some useful, concrete lessons to be learned from the Nordic secret that can benefit others” (p. 381). That is what we all want from a book—insight into how our learning can make the world better.

I, too, hope “concrete lessons can be learned from the Nordic secret;” but I also recall Kubow and Fossum’s (2007) warning in Comparative Education: Exploring Issues in International Context. They argued that education policies and results cannot be picked up from one country and placed into another. Too many factors prevent transfer–culture, history, values, and other variables.

Andersen and Bjorkman would probably agree with that point, but they would also argue that careful consideration of a nation’s current educational situation, along with a clear idea of where policymakers want education to go, gets them ready to consider what the Nordic countries have achieved. Throughout the book, they argue that institutions, philosophies, and structures need to be built before improvement efforts will be successful anywhere.  

That is also the perspective of the following letters to the authors.