The adult teachers, men in the making

René BARBIER (Université Paris 8, CRISE)

This article is based on my intellectual and spiritualjourney during the last forty years and on my experience in adult continuingeducation, as director of educational courses educational leading to theDUFA (adult teacher educator certificate) at Paris VIII university overthe last twenty years.

Adult teachers are educationalist who have questionedtheir own representations of themselves as  instructors, teachersand adult educators. They are essentially and functionally products oftheir society and of the education which they have received. So they havehad to go through a kind of cultural uprooting in order to develop themselvesthrough a range of human and social encounters, often marginal ones, with“remarkable beings”.

During this period of self training, they have learntto question in different ways : questioning knowledge, questioning theknow how, questioning the “know where ”, questioning the “know how to be”.

Three types of doubts drive him constantly :
1. A scientific doubt regarding the knowledge whichclaims to express the human reality.
2. A methodological doubt about the “good method”for the adults he is teaching to approach their relationship to knowledge,to their know-how, to their “know-where” and to their “know-to-be”.
3. An ontological doubt questioning himself on hisown identity and his own understanding of the meaning of “life and death”.

As educationalists, they try to express, in a radicallydialogic way, these numerous learnings and self-knowledge. This radicaldialogic joins on the one hand the meaning of meditation on non-thoughtand on non-being, and on the other hand the meaning of the culture as aproduct of numerous learnings : social, economical, political, philosophical,religious, scientific, artistic and literary.

In so doing, they become aware of themselves as researchersand “meaning handers”travelling along a process of creation and ending,a process of structuring, destructuring and restructuring the world.

At the end of this journey of actualisation and potentialisationof inner silence and outer activity, they transform themselves and reacha T point of being where they go beyond the wish to teach and to be taught,to merely be in the now, in awareness, aware of themselves and of others,aware of the world, and aware of life and death as a double indissociablemystery.

In this way, they become “open” to life as it happens,and so able to live in an existential poetry that is a constant life forcefor the better and for the worse.

Since the beginning of the seventies when I decidedto involve myself as a university teacher in adult education, I never stoppedquestioning myself about the difficulties there are to give some meaningto this term of “educator”. Are adult teachers one of the shapes for tomorroweducators ?


This designation might sound too simple, obvious indeed.But that would be misjudging the complexity of this term “educator”.

Educators are not instructors

Instructors, for instance military instructors, arenot concerned about education. Their goal is limited and precise. Theyhave to make known a kind of knowledge or of know-how, most of the timea very functional one, to a category of people regarded as legitimate addresseesby an appropriate teaching system. Military instructors teach their youngrecruits how to lay an ambush and how to use a machine gun. Their purposeis not for thinking wether such a learning is well-founded or not. Worst,every discussion about this topic will be regarded as dangerous for theArmy’s establishment. We had to wait a very long time to acknowledge andmake legal consciousness objectors.
Even concerning their more technical sides, adulteducators cannot possibly be instructors.
For instance, if they wish teaching computer technology,they will have to leave their mere technical function in order to recognisepupils not only as subjects dressed in uniform but as individuals resisting,or as suggests Jacques Ardoino, as individuals in ability of “negatricity”,so to say able to thwart strategies of symbolic violence that others tryto engage against them.
Adult educators always mind about imaginary in itsconnection to knowledge. Instructors are only concerned with functional-realdimension in transmission of knowledge.

Adult educators are not teachers

Teachers involve themselves straightaway within theframework of a system overtaking them but which they are component factors.As teachers they have to spread a discursive thinking, an amount of knowledge,subsequent to legitimate cultural representations from a specific socialgroup, on a particular time in political, economical and cultural historyof an age. We know for a long time this “reproducing system” (Bourdieu& Passeron) does not fit today in its inner logic with legitimate addressees­ those famous heirs ­ of this cultural fund. New pupils as wellas new students don’t own anymore scholarly culture because of a lineageinheritance. Their subculture is of another order and mostly depends uponinterbreeding cultures so often being depreciated, power struggle conditionbetween social groups in a free enterprise economy, and upon the way theymanage themselves to produce their own specific culture in their districts,with a language wich only them can understand. French writer and film-makerAlexandre Jardin asks good questions in his movie “The Teacher” (april2000), but cannot really share those questions with us, probably becausehe speaks on too much and does not go deep enough in the dayly life ofsuburban secondary schools.
Teachers are more and more regarded like establishmentsystem agents which expels more than it integrates, specially in the middleschool. Even if pupils representations may widely be ambivalent concerningthis issue (attraction ­ repulsion phenomenon relating to knowledge),teachers remain stamped by their position within establishment. To reallybecome educators, teachers have to come up through the ranks and questionthe establishment, yet not falling into a fallacious friendship with pupils.Their training do not predispose them to this attitude reversal. You mayask agregative students, whatever field of knowledge they are in, in wichway they have been taught how to face “negatricity” of their future pupils.They will need much realistic intelligence and mediation sense to managein their first job as teachers. They will have to realise than their verymuch specialised training, and very learned too, is not helpful at allto face pupils speaking to them with a cultural code absolutely unknownby its facts, references, gesture, behavior and language.
As a matter of fact, today the most competent teachers,academically speacking, are the less competent ones, in regards to thescholar and pedagogic order. Of course teachers holders of the agregationare mature to be research-teachers at universities, but they will haveto train themselves and change their ways in order to teach at middle andhigh schools. Maybe entitled teachers, because their training at the UniversitaryInstitute of Teachers Training will more easily manage it.
So adult teachers are not teachers in the strict senseof the word. On the contrary they might do their best to remove this imagefrom its academic outfit. To teach adults requires a total questioningof usual image and practises of the teacher.
This approach is so true than, on opposite, adultteachers succeed very well at university once they get the cultural fundrequisite in their own field. Because ­ don’t we forget-it ?- studentsare also adults.

What makes adult teachers educators?

They are educators by their own training. This trainingis almost always transversal and transdisciplinary. Unlike experts, adultteachers train themselves more than they have been trained. Their trainingcomes from many cleared up and worked out borrows. According to GastonPineau, training is not only academic and learned, stemming from rightinstitutions, so to say in the nature of “heterotraining”. Training isalso, and frequently in a significative way, resulting from a “night training”,a “self-training”, from occupational life, out of schools, but also fromassociative, syndicalist or politics way of life. Adult teachers have learnedalong their training process the meaning of complexity and of a relationshipto knowledge wich does not rejects the very intimate questioning of theirrelationship to self-knowledge.
This “roaming itinerant” (french : itinérance)life allows them to meet people in their own context and language. Theyhave learned to listen before talking, to recognise their ignorance ratherthan showing their learning. They have grown as “meaning handers” as Ilike remind it.
What are “meaning handers” ?


Adult teachers as “meaning handers”, along their manyways of training themselves, have exposed themselves to three kinds ofdoubts: a scientific doubt, a methodological doubt,  an ontologicaldoubt.

Scientific doubt

By their experience, adult teachers are pluridisciplinariesand transdisciplinaries. Their many touches with reality have shown themthat a single viewpoint in human sciences will never restore reality inits permanent and uncertain mobility. Exploration within different humanand social sciences they had to undergo has dived them into doubt. Concerninga single branch of learning, they soon realised the diversity of trendscrossing it, and the conflicts that drive it, sometimes bitter ones. Stepby step, they got a view upon the trend of their branch of learning wich,in a single discipline, seem to them the most adequate to face facts intheir occupational practise. But this practise has forced them to extendtheir viewpoints and to turn to others viewpoints and even to others visionsof the world : non-rational, more imaginary and poetic visions.
Since then adult teachers contest every word of truthas know how to state some dogmatic learned. They perceive the real deeperand more complex than any scientific explanation related to it. Science,in the end, only gives an interpretation of the real wich it labels objectivereality. But wich is objective reality in a quark or in baby’s attachmentto his mother ? Or in someone dying in a few minutes or in someone’s afflictiondue to the loss of a loved one ? Wich is the science able to respond tosuch psychologic or material facts ?

Methodological doubt

Even more, how to approach human fact without betrayingit ? How to listen and understand wich is a matter of the transcient andimpermanent, a matter of the present moment ?
Soon, adult teachers realise shallowness of everyresearch method in human sciences. They do not leave these methods, butthey put them in their right position : one of confidence in finding one’sbearings faced with fear of the unknown. They know that adult educationimplies a non ending open-mindedness towards non knowing and non knowing-how.A taste for improvisation. A non fear faced with the other’s understanding.

Ontological doubt

The process leading them in the complexity of educativelife questions them fundamentally. It is really an uprooting from everyconviction : familial, social, philosophical, epistemological convictions.Sooner or later, adult teachers are faced with the reality of their ownbeing. Who are they, where do they go, what do they really want ? Whatdo they fear ? What do they try to escape from ? What kind of power systemdo they create and use in order to protect themselves ? What is this thatmake them run and claim to be able to teach other ones ? Whom and who legitimatethem ? Wich language do they hold and for wich social function ? For whichinterests whose they are mere unaware cogs ?
Adult teachers leaving then their occupation becausethey have answered negatively to all these questions are probably the bestand the most courageous. Maybe will they be the more effective ones intheir’s children education ?
Because they truly become educators.
Educators aim to question others (and themselves)upon their way to concretely educate themselves from day to day.
Educate oneself is the acting out of facing oneselfand reality. Educate oneself means giving significance to one’s own lifeby meeting and dialogue with the different knowledges and know-how belongingto the human cultural fund. Educate oneself also means to open oneselfto self-questioning and reach one’s essential being through miseries andjoys of dayly life and in meeting other and others ones. Even more, educateoneself involves a permanent dialogic between those two areas in educationthat remain in a kind of logic of the conflictual and complementary bipolaritydear to Stephane Lupasco : a questioning into the knowledge and into theknow-how by self-knowledge and a questioning into self-knowledge by theknowledge and the know-how.
On this level, educators are beings in motion, alwaysin a state of incompletion. All educators are bound to be in an ontologicalincompletion (french : néotonie). Becoming the authors of theirown material, intellectual and spiritual life constitutes their fundamentalmomentum. The meaning of “authorization” as Jacques Ardoino conceives itemerges, to my sense, on a most important dimension : noetic authorization,or becoming the author of one’s own spiritual life pictured not as dogmaticor religious ritual demand, but as an unceasing testing of reality wichone never sees the end. One can see this process in action in many of ourgeneration regarded as remarkable men, such as Carl Gustav jung, Sri AurobindoGhose, or Jiddu Krishnamurti, without speaking of many other people ifwe do agree to question them on this issue (Joëlle Macrez).


Every human being constitutes one’s own representationupon what is. Life on Earth remains very mysterious and one constantlypursues one’s abyssal depths. In order to do it, one uses means of technology,science, literature, art, mystic and philosophic thinking. So facing lifeprovides foundations for one’s radical and ontological identity. Witoutthis identity, human being could never know the significance of life herebelow. This process of meeting world, beyond the fusion with motherly imagofrom infans is also a process of emergence of one’s own being. So humanbeings realise that everything is relationship and, as psychoanalysts say“everything is language” (Françoise Dolto). Every perception, everyconcept and symbol as well as every interpretation depends on the standpointwithin a field of standpoints. Actually, the only way to know consistsin clear-mindedly going into relationship and to stand this relationshipin a bigger field of relationships. Pushed to the boundaries, the fieldof relationships is constituted by the entire universe. None constituentexists on its own in the universe. It is relationaly generated by a constantinteraction with other constituents. So it is not only the constituentconventionally disconnected from a whole of constituents wich confers significance,but the system of relationships this constituent establishes with the wholesurrounding, from the nearest to the farest. This epistemologic perspectivegenerates ecology and allows to understand the relevance of some uptodatedtheories in human sciences such as symbolic interactionnism or ethnomethodologyfor instance. In a recent book, Gregory Bateson opening himself to easternphilosophy of life, speaks of sacred unity related to his ecology of mind.He gives a precise exemple of the fundamental characteristic of the relationshipbetween objects in talking about a jug upon a table. It is a matter ofcrisscross of differences expressing only the existence of relationshipand not radically of constituents wich seem to be disconnected.
But this epistemology is tragic because, as remindsus René Char aphorism “Clear-mindedness is the nearest wound fromthe sun”. Such a clear-mindedness leads on to non-knowledge about the worldand oneself. One is and will remain for a long time a mistery in the worldand for onself.
The “wound” one has to “cure” on the imaginary levelis the obvious reality of one’s death and the vanity of one’s achievementsand power upon the world. Actually, it represents a wound nobody may healup within the field of thought. One has no choice but, as Athens stoicsdid on IIIrd century before Christ, stoically facing “Abyss, Chaos, InfiniteDepth” (C. Castoriadis) and to stand. It mostly causes western moral andintellectual rout precisely because it centered almost the whole of itsexistence upon the denial of his wound.
But it is a wound “the nearest from the sun” becausethe suffering it generates is so powerful when one acknowledges it thatit urges one to go beyond meaningless. We have reached nowadays this pointof no-returnin our planetary civilisation. It is accurately what a zenmaster suggests with a koan or a mondo to his disciple. “Which is the essenceof buddhahood ?” asks the disciple, and his master answers : “Cypress isin the middle of the garden.”

Representation of Life

On this eminently personal topic, every educator, everyresearcher in human sciences should probably accept to express one’s philosophicalstand. It is upon this stand the researcher sets out one’s world and entersinto relationship. It is not trivial to notice for instance that GregoryBateson ends one’s days among a zen community, Rupert Sheldrake decidedto live in India, David Bohm has written a book with Jiddu Krishnamurtiupon the “limits of thought” and Frijof Capra has written “Tao of physics”.
To me, Life is organised energy wich at the same timeis awareness. Not aware of anything, but being Awareness, wich means nonintentional Awarenes. I am “not aware of” by my own will, but I am thatvery awareness as I rise up in the world. Living and being aware are intrinsicallyand reciprocally of the same nature. At the heart of this awareness inthe world one can find a meditative attitude, an inner silence, even ifwestern philosophical meditation, more based on thinking, is not useless.The highest living intensity means the highest intensity of awareness.Such is the way in any wisdom to realise it along one’s earthly life. AsKrishnamurti asserts, we need understanding and attention to what is butnot trust in ideas and in masters.
This Energy-Awareness is simultaneously selfless loveand freedom, with effects of creating and destroying phenomenal forms inits permanent motion.
Living (or Being) is fundamentally dynamic and many-sided,wich does not mean that it is not One, as the ocean incessantly drivedby currents and tides with an infinite number of waves. But it is not a“generic multiplicity” as Alain Badiou thinks in his book “Short Treatiseof Transient Ontology”, but rather the Edgar Morin’s “unitas multiplex”.That dynamism expresses itself in a double process. On one hand, it actualizespotential forces ; on the other hand it actualizes working (actualised)forces. But in this double related process, nothing vanishes and nothinggets created. As Energy-Matter-Consciousness (E-M-C) energized with lightspeed squared, as Albert Einstein points out in his formula (E = MC_),Life, or Real, is since the very beginning in a everlasting movement ofactualisation and potentialisation. In this representation of the worldthere never was any God as creator but imaginary. Big-bang, whose estimateddating (fifteen milliards years) poses problem nowadays to astrophysiciansin relation to the date of creation of some early stars, is nothing butan epiphenomenon of actualisation in relation to Real, even if it seemsit has generated all that we can perceive with our sophisticated yet inadequateinstruments. There is no heaven, no hell. There are no intermediate worlds(angels, devils, various entities) but the ones we create with imagination.But it is true that if we do create them and believe in them, if we reproducethem by ways of educational systems, they do exist and do have an effecton on our organic, social and symbolic world. It is the reason why, asEdgar Morin suggests it, we have to understand and live with our mythsand symbols. Most of the sects set up their authority on this belief fedwith an assortment of rituals, of hierarchy of great masters, and of aspectacular and legitimazing decorum. On this level, sociology is the scalpelof the appointed sacred.
To exist consists in actualizing the noumenon flowof Life. To be born is the beginning of a phenomenal existence, of a newform, wich means a process of energy actualisation. To die is the endingof it, wich means its potentialisation. This energy-matter-consciousness,mysteriously and extraordinarily organized, wich we call a human being,so exists from birth to death by a set of energetic actualisations andpotentialisations of the flow of Life.
Singular death of a human being, “intimate death”as Marie de Hennezel has written, in a first time (agony) sets up a remarkablecondensation of existential energy wich potentializes itself as the livingbeing goes towards one’s own death. It is the stage of detachment fromthe “things of life” that we can encounter when a dying being is awareof one’s close death. At the time of dying ­ this virtual point betweenpotentialisation and actualisation of Real - , everything goes as if thewhole individual existence would be absolutely condensed in a single pointwich potentializes all and every actualisations. Then it is time for apossible break-up, a psychic “big-bang” wich would similarly actualizethe whole potentialised energy. Tibetan Bouddhism fully recognises theimportance of it, in the stages of its “Book of Dead”, wich implies theaccompaniment of the dying by an awaken being. Is not it what experimentall those who came back from Near Death Experiences, those “experiencesat death doorstep”, when they talk about a generous and powerful Light?
Let postulate that the realisation of the sage one­ Awakening ­ is becoming aware of this Consciousness-energy wichtotally actualizes itself at the time of this virtual point experimentedin its symbolic and psychic dimension in one’s stream of life. It is reallythe experience of the psychic death of ego. If awakening is complete, thereis no residu. It is liberation, traditionally brahmanic Nirvilkalpasamadhi,reception of Nirvana, the achievement of the “thinking of non-thinking”(traditionally japanese hishiryo) of the “living-liberated” who, in bouddhisttradition, never reincarnates. Philosophically, he everlasting remainsin noumenon universe, but how to label this “he” whom I am speaking of? “That which cannot be said, better not to speak of” has written Wittgensteinin his Tractacus logico-philosophicus...
Some living-liberated out of compassion agree to delaytheir absolute absorption in Real to help the beings suffering becauseof their ignorance. They call them Boddhisattvas in eastern tradition.
Human love based upon craving is an expression ofthis double process of potentialisation and actualisation of Life. Desireis the driving force for attraction and repulsion, for pleasure and suffering,wich constituents are superimposed on one another without quite coveringexistential actualisation and potentialisation.
What attracts a human being towards an onther oneis what seems to lack, but wich, in fact, is potentialized within one.The notion of “lack” in psychology of depths is related to the ignoranceof ontologic reality. For the sage, paradoxally, everything is empty butnothing lacks.
At a certain time of their deepening, adult teachersdo reach what I call their “T point of existence”.
It is a point of balance in the imbalance of any lifein action : balance between body and mind ; balance between reason andimaginary ; balance between thought and sensitivity ; balance between spiritualand material ; balance between future and past in a reconstructed present;balance between temporality and instantaneousness ; balance between groupand individual ; balance between external life and internal life ; balancebetween masculine and feminie principles (animus, yang, and anima, yin); balance between homo demens and homo rationalis ; balance between assumingabsolute ignorance and relative truth.
Obviously, this state of T balance is only a virtualpoint. In real life, existence always trys to achieve this T point at thevery heart of a constant imbalance inherent to any life in action. Facingdesire for oneself as well as for other ones, facing the trials of life,the hazard of life, set up doubt and relativize every conviction in thisfield. Yet, adult teachers approaching their own T point seem to be spiritedby a principle which I call “principle of sensitivity”.

The “principle of sensitivity”

Ther are different ways to figure out ethically principlesvalid in education. Hans Jonas talks about the “principle of responsibility”for world citizen. Ernst Bloch draws up the “principle of hope” to openup ourselves from social fatalism. Freud expresses the “principle of Nirvana”,the “principle of pleasure” in its conservation of sexual energetic.
Personnaly I set forth the “principle of sensitivity”for evrything related to educative situations.
It includes ten key-points :
1) Attention rather than intention : to take rootin attention and instantaneous awareness; to develop an interconnectedholistic, whole, complex and processive vision in every situation. To condemnevery plan wich holds up to ridicule unity of the living.
2) Symbolic of life : knowing how to exist accordingto the logic of symbolic exchanges in the moment of relationship with theworld and other ones : to give, to get, to return. To know how “to poeticallylive in the world” (Hölderlin, Heidegger).
3) To be stirred : agreeing to be affected by whatis, witout a priori (beauty, ugliness, cruelty, godness...). The smileof the Joconde is magnificent, but the hedgehoggy shape of the aids virusis also of terrifying beauty.
4) To be one’s body : knowing how to observe sensorialityand imaginary (both delusive and creative) within oneself as well in otherones.
5) To free oneself from the fear of the unknown andto know how to play with humour. To understand the meaning of mytho-poeticimprovisation as a way to go beyond anguish of death and creation of ahuman being open to life.
6) Not to be afraid of meeting one’s emotions (laughters,tears) when they arise, but with no attachment and without strengthen spectacularinherent to emotions.
7) To think about the diversity of life in terms ofantagonist bipolarity and paradoxal approach (as also suggest Palo Alto,Stephane Lupasco and the traditional chinese wisdom).
8) To take unconditionnaly anything from other onesin a constant “compassion wave”, to be found in action, in right behaviorand attitude.
9) To start with the principle of congruence towardsoneself, opening oneself on mediation/challenge towards other ones.
10) To let come “The Great Blue” : to know how tolive and meditate in the silence of deep depths without images nor concepts,before any action or speech.

Approaches on sensitivity

Sensitivity is to be distinguished from emotion, frompassion and from feeling. One can define it very briefly by “what makessense by all the senses” :
- the sense as universe of meanings existentialy incarnatedand not susceptible of an explanation, but only of a multireferential andtransdisciplinary understanding on the base of a personal involvement ;
- the return to the body and the five senses, to dailyfind “skin and touch” (Ashley Montagu) ;
- the ability to be affected, to be emotionally moved,to enter into emotional “echoism” (Jacques Cosnier) ;
- The ability to understand other ones and the worldby co-understanding, by “co-natureness” (Jacques Maritain) because we allare made of the same substance despite our diversities, unity of mankind.Towards a vision holistic and linked up to life ;
- The ability to enter into a singular feeling includingyet going beyond emotion and affect. A feeling regarded as integrativeschema of any emotional trouble, by change of system of references, bymoving off selfcenteredness and by the faculty to stand our position indisturbant relationships (Palo Alto) ;
- The ability to leave the “already known”, let go,“free oneself from the known” (Krishnamurti) ;
- To see the new, arising every moment, to be in naturalspontaneity (notion of “improvisation” from Jean-François de Raymondand of “new mind” from Suzuki Roshi) ;
- To awaken to awareness wich is not “aware of” (asCastoriadis thinks following in Husserl’s wake) but a particular stateof mind wich is without any division with the world yet being able to distinguishthe constituents in a confused whole and to link up these constituentswich seem to be scattered. Opening oneself to the “oceanic feeling” fromRomain Rolland. To rightly estimate the divergence opposing Freud to hisdisciple Lou Andreas-Salomé.
From this conception of sensitivity, three metaphorscan be considered : the metaphor of the pair of pincers, the metaphor ofthe stone and the metaphor of the water.

The metaphor of the pair of pincers

Everything takes place as if the “principle of sensitivity”,considered under the angle of human sciences was held and tight by a pairof pincers whose two blades would be psychology and sociology, understoodinto their own historical development.
Psychology comes from a breaking off with philosophyand “mentalism” from the end of the XIXth century. It has been inspiredby and imitates the sciences of nature and generates experimental psychology.But at the beginning of the XXth century, psychoanalysis occurs (at beginningit is viewed as “scientific” by Freud). All along the XXth century, strugglebetween clinical psychology and behaviourism (science of behaviour) isat its height. At the end of the XXth century, it is the return in strengthof neurosciences in psychology and psychoanalysis is kept at distance (JacquesVan Rillaer).
Sociology comes from a “scientific” position withAuguste Comte and Emile Durkheim which has removed Gustave Le Bon, françoisLe Play and Gabriel Tarde. It imposes itself in France with Pierre Bourdieuwich takes over Max Weber and comprehensive german school of sociology.Thenagain, protest restarts with “history of life” (Daniel Bertaux) and ethnographycomponent of the anglo-saxon school (H. Mehan) and of the ethnomethodology(Harold Garfinkel, Alain Coulon). In United-States, the beginning of sociologyhad been marked by the school of Chicago, then had known an eclipse withtwo fundamental trends : “the Supreme Theory” of Talcott Parsons, and “theabstract empiricism” of opinion questioners (poll) and “quantophrenia”(Pitirim Sorokin). Nowadays, the “return of the subject” (A. Touraine)and the “miseries of the world” or “counter-fires” (Bourdieu) do assertthemselves more and more; in short, the voice of the actors, an openingtowards symbolic interactionism but also research of the social in individuallives (Maurizio Catani).
That double crossed and complementary evolution expressesthe ambivalence in human sciences in its relationship to the mystery ofone’s being-in-the-world, especially to one’s human sensitivity. It ismostly a misappreciation of another intelligibility of the position ofman in the world as it is developped in the East and more widely into othercultural backgrounds.
There is a paradigmatic hegemony of the western visionof the world. By paradigmatic, I mean a coherent whole of theoretical andmethodological assertions depending on a vision of the world, an “epistémè”,with philosophical base, historically and culturally in relation to it.
That consideration bounds us to consider two metaphorsand their indispensable dialectization.

The metaphor of the stone orthe westernization of the world

The analogy with stone is appealing. Stone is an isolablematter, yet disposed to be collected and quantified : the “heap of stones”.It is a hard matter, able to strike and to destroy. It represents boththe man’s first weapon and first tool. It is man’s first instrument forhis will to change the world and to dominate it.
Stone is hard and steady. It allows man to get a foundationso providing him some security when it is huge enough. It opens to mana shelter (a cave). It assures man a certain eternity of his output (onthis stone I will build my Church, says the Christian word since Peter,Christ’s disciple).
But stone is also a matter that hardly endure climatichiccoughs. On very cold or very scorching weather, it shatters. It hatesextremes, challenges, abrupt and incomprehensible changes. In the end itbecomes a grain of sand, and its universe a desert.
The underlying paradigm for the metaphor of the stoneand as well for the westernization of the world is one of fragmentation,of separatist crumbling of every living thing. Consequently analysis isits favourite way of investigation.

The metaphor of the water

Water analogically cross-refers a whole set of images.Water is the matter radically linked up and unified : no wave is “separated”from the whole of the ocean. A soft matter one can harn, put in a container,or even divert from its natural course, it seems to be obedient and weak.A matter for welfare, indispensable to any living being, it is requiredfor one’s body and even for the very formation of one’s life to considerableproportion. A receptive matter receiving other elements, other liquidsor solids for any kind of interbreeding., for the best and the worst ­just think about pollution waste. A matter anyhow able to derive from anobstruction. A matter wich can evaporate itself and come down again asrain in another area. In the end, it is a matter more than unobedient andeven sometimes hurtful when one tries to direct it, to tame it ­ letthink about tidal wave, downpours, but also sprays as thin as a laser rayable to crack a concrete block.
In the East, the metaphor of the water is very oftenused within canonical texts from taoism and Buddhism. Let remind the famousepisode when Confucius meets an old man whom, from the other side of theshore, decides to cross over the river. He vanishes in whirlpools. Confuciusand his disciples think the old man is dead but he suddenly resurfaceson the other shore. Confucius asks him how he could manage to do it. Theold man (Lao-Tseu ?) answers that he just followed the natural course ofthe river, diving into whirlpools, re-emerging according to natural bentsof the water.
The underlying paradigm for the metaphor of the wateris one of capillarity. It implies a vision of the world constituted withintercative networks in wich every constituent can be understood only inits inclusion in a dynamic whole, a field of relationships and an awarenessof an other order than the “awareness of”.
That vision of the world has been developped sincethousands of years through Eastern people, African people, American-Natives,through myths and symbols spiriting the many dimensions in daily life.North American-Natives are subtle representatives of it as delightfullyshows Teri Mac Luhan in his “Barefoot on the sacred land”.

Required dialectic of the twometaphors

It seems to me that new epistemology, in West as wellas in East, must go through a dialectic of the two previous metaphors inhuman sciences. Otherwise the disaster waits for us. Lastly, in altaicarea from Russia, engineers decide to build a dam in deriving a river,without concerting with local people living on fishing and hunting. Sothey destroy their culture and force them to be pitiful tramps. One alsoknows what Edgar Morin says in ‘Earth - Homeland” about the similar historyof the Kris Indian from Canada.
We must substitute western efficience at any ratefor symbolic significance and community solidarity on a world scale. Ethnopsychiatristssuch as Tobie Nathan are aware of this fact and use myths, symbols andbody-practises from traditional cultures within their therapic action,in order to relieve suffering “cultureless” people from our areas.
One can imagine where this dialectic between stoneand water would lead in the field of education :
- To provide steadyness and a relevant symbolic frameworkto any educative action.
- To agree to open up the way and to partly changethe world with community action collectively developped.
- To be sensitive to cultures, to individual and collectiveresponses, wich maybe conceal unsuspected treasure worthwhile for all andeveryone.
- To agree to go by alternative routes, to refusestraight line.
- To take into consideration a temporality and a senseof space in new and other ways.
- To recognise and to consent in living not only withone’s based on rationality, but also with one’s imaginary and one’s myths.
- To remain adaptable before becoming hard-heartedand stable. To know how to “let go”.
- To think both earth and sky, left and right brains,in one’s vision of the significance of life.


Heralds of learned disciplinary knowledge and of eruditeculture, great feodals since fifteen years arm their carabins towards educationalistsand pupils from suburbs and elsewhere, those sans-culotte of the culturalfield. They never consider that their own absolute lecturing word is maybenothing but the reflection of an unaware and narcissic fascination fortheir own sound of voice. To this last one, answer to their pupils intoa superfluous way, the unaware parrotry, the sardonic unconcern, the completelack of understanding, or the head-on agressiveness as a way to resist.It is more than forty years than works from sociologists of the EuropeanSociology Center have demonstrated useless of the lecturing methods inthe transmission of knowledge. It is more than one century than educativemovements try to give other answers to this failure. But nothing to do.Anti-educationalists persist to slander those trying to find solutionsto academic failure. They only have the sacred word of “culture” (learned)in mouth : it is their host ! As Catholics during Inquisition, they wantto impose their faith on the whole of the human community, if necessaryby force. They forget that gnostics have known how to thwart this imperialisticstrategy by a silent counter-strategy very effective, as well proved JacquesLacarrière.
Great admirers of the texts belonging to the legitimatetradition of culture, anti-educationalists submit more or less consciouslyto the tradition of the holy text, as one can find in the great religionsof the Book. Behind their defence of the french identity, or even the europeanidentity, one can find defence of an archaic religious philosophy in theWest.
In his will of intellectual power, Alain Finkielkraut,a leader of this intellectualistic tendency, during a lecture in Parison march 30th 2000, violently criticized a book by Philippe Meirieu andMarc Guiraud. He pretends to believe that those authors want the destructionof school and negate the general knowledge, wich is a misinterpretationand an attitude of bad faith. He forgets to quote an other book by PhilippeMeirieu, a newer one, wich sets clocks right. I want to talk about hisbook “Children and men. Literature and education. 1. The promise of growing.”In this book, Philippe Meirieu insists upon the importance of literatureat school to assimilate the variety of cultural values wich make senseinto education. One is at the opposite of the naive representation (is-itso naive ?) of Alain Finkielkraut in relation to educationalists destructiveof the learned culture. I never met uneducated modern educationalists.I never heard a single insult towards learned and universal culture intheir mouth. Most of the teachers involved in educationalism are greatreaders, very opened to the world. Often, by their comprehensive practise,they communicate this taste for reading to their pupils. This also happenswith friends of Alain Finkielkaraut and I rejoice about it. I know thatJean Lescure and the young poets of his time followed passionately thecourses by Gaston Bachelard at the Sorbonne. Who has not been moved inone’s libido sciendi with the courses by Vladimir Jankélévitchor those by Gilles Deleuze ? I do not think we can live in a world withoutany recognised history, without an asserted general culture. One has aduty of memory to spread, but how to succeed in this achievement nowadays:such is the modern educative stake.
Of course, a recent book by Marie-Danièle Pierrelée­Why do your children bore themselves at school -, prefaced by PhilippeMeirieu, very much criticized by Alain Finkielkraut in the aforesaid lecture­ suggests to reduce hours of lecturing courses dedicated to the learnedculture at the benefit of hours of listening and practises linked withdaily interest of the children in the present context. But it is not toget rid of the learned culture, just to re-articulate it, even throughcriticism, with modernity and everyone real condition. If Alain Finkielkrauthad, only once in his life, taught on a long-term at university in thecapital outskirts, and not only at Polytechnic School, he would know thatwe cannot anymore spread the universal Culture according to rules stillprevailing in classes training for high schools. Young assistants in highereducation begin to realise it, into their universitary training, in theCIES (Initiation Centers to Higher Education), a sI can hear nowadays astheir teacher. One can regret it, but it is a fact and we are bound toinvent a different education. It is not less rigorous and it requests usmuch more energy and time. But, even more, an education of this naturenecessarily implies to think about citizenship. Not on a purely abstractway, but into a conflictual and risky practise. Because nothing is wonon advance. The strength of some media, of some mafiosi opinions, spreadingtheir strenght-conceptions concerning easy money, sex and social legitimatizationthrough a show-policy, in short “the growth of triviality” (C. Castoriadis),never stopped to be fought by the difficult practise, even dangerous one,of active education.


Educators or adult teachers start by generating a feelingof confidence and user-friendliness into the group they manage. They haveto invent a “structure of life” with everyone contribution. Without institutionalizeit, no symbolic exchange can develop their inventiveness.
The notion of “structure of life”, as suggested byDaniel J. Levinson, presently seems to be a key-concept, as well in adulttraining than in basic training. I have always been careful, in the groupsof this “existential research-training” I have conducted, to focus on thisquestion.
In his book “The Seasons of Man’s Life” analysed byCanadian Renée Houde, D. J. Levinson definites the structure oflife as the underlying schema of a given one’s life on a given time. Morespecifically submitted to significance of adults life, the structure oflife includes occupational relationships and other constituents of occupationallife, love relationships (marriage, family), relationship with oneself(bodily experiences, spare time and breaks, loneliness), functions in thevarious social contexts. These constituents may be central or peripheralwether they are more or less significant for the “self” in draining a certainamount of energy and time relating to this individual. For Levinson, theconcept of “structure of life” is centered on the boarder between the “self”and the world. It is possible to regard it through three sides :
1) Individual socio-cultural side (one’s social class,religion, ethny, race, family, political principles, working structure,conditions and specific events such as 1929 crisis, war, freedom movements).
2) “Self” dimensions side (compromises with surrounding: desires, conflicts, worries, and so on, or to be kept out of things).
3) Contribution in the world side through variousroles played (citizen, worker, boss, lover, husband, member of any association,and so on).
One’s structure of life changes by displacement ofany constituent from the centre towards the periphery, of personal involvements(or the opposite), by its abrupt vanishing or its metamorphosis. Levinsonidentifies two major sources of change in a structure of life : maturationof human psyche and body and basic figures in the society. It developsthrough a string of areas and stages.
If we take up again some of the constituents of thestructure of life during the “season” of a young adult in one’s beginnerstage (between 17 and 33 years), and by expanding them, we can invent apattern of “structure of life” disposed to interest teachers, educatorsand adult teachers and trainers. Il will include the following constituents:
- The dream of life considered as a “principle ofhope” (Ernst Bloch) wich the individual maintains in one’s relationshipwith the world. What does he hope to do with one’s life (occupational,affective, social, cultural, and so on) ?
- The relationship with a mentor gifted with obvioushuman skills, in the relationship and intellectual fields, wich means someonethe subject can refers to to lead his life, specifically in his relationto his own education. On this point, the adult teacher or the teacher shouldbe able to be the one to refer to. Probably this mentor bears a resemblancewith the “master” of teaching as considered by Dany-Robert Dufour.
- The relationship with a supporting group (parents,close friends) whom the subject can talk to and be supported on the materialand symbolic levels.
- The relationship with a group of peers (the traininggroup), to its cohesion degree, to its affectivity, to its ascendancy andits influence both positive and negative.
- The relationship with taught knowledge, the contentof the training and the educative methods as well as human skills of theadult teacher.
- The institutional environment of the training-group(architectural and relationship, user-friendly and cultural spaces, providedby the training institution)
This whole of constituents of a structure of formativelife establishes an involving imaginary more or less significant for thetrained one. The adult teachers, as the driving force, have to regard itand incessantly develop it if they want toget an educative efficiency.This imaginary whole has to be listened and understood according to a logicwith three dimensions (urges, social and sacred) as I intend to theorizeit as “transversal approach” since many years. But the concept of “collectiveimaginary” linking together specifically the social imaginary and the personalimaginary, build up by Florence Giust-Desprairies in her book upon a newschool, “The dreamed Child”, is also of the highest importance in relationto this issue. More globally, it is to the problematic of multireferencialityworked out by Jacques Ardoino along the years that refers to an educationfor the present time.

The question of knowledge ineducation

The question of knowledge propounds as a postulatefour ways of linking with the world and it totally has to do with adultteachers as men in the coming :
- The practical knowledge connected with reality test,actual world, sensations, and based upon a living experiential buildingup the “known”.
- The learned knowledge wich theorizes the observationof facts according to scientific fund of knowledge already known and suggestspatterns for rational intelligibility about the complexity of the world,multireferential if possible (J. Ardoino).
- The poetic knowledge expressing world of facts testfrom an open sensitivity and increasing it by ways of a radical imaginary(C. Castoriadis), and so unceasingly expanding the symbolic field withina given culture.
- The ontologic knowledge appeals to the being-in-worldnature by a process of questioning based on negativeness, on non-knowledge,on vacant creative mind. In its more sophisticated forms it ends in Otherness(J. Krishnamurti), a state of bliss in wich the observer and the observedare inseparables yet unnamables on the level of rationality.
(René : ici le graphe)
expérience = experiencing savoir = knowledge
aventurier = adventurer émotion =emotion
connaissance = knowledge imaginaire = imaginary
poète = poet éducateur = educator
poétique = poetic désir = desire
sensations = sensations  sentiment = feeling
sensibilité = sensitivity intelligence = intelligence
saint = saint pensée = thought
 philosophe = philosoph
 intuition = intuition
 sage = sage
méditation = meditation savoir savant = learned knowledge

Two ways of practising and five psychologic-life waysof living are linked according to this problematic.
The two ways of practising are :
- Practical experiential, put up or natural, allowingto face the reality test, the facts shock, the real over wich one stumbles.
- Meditation wich is the unceasing practise, arisingfrom moment to moment, of attention, of the utmost awareness to the world,open to clear-mindedness and achieved in joy of being.
The five psychologic-life ways of living are :
- Sensations resulting from coupling together perceptionand action (of the subject onto the world and of the world onto the subject).They show the bodily and eco-contributive involvement of the human being,and they operate according to the duality pleasure/suffering.
- Thought usually signifying the sophisticated consciousnesson the rationality level. The ability to put in order wich seems to bechaotic in an intelligible way, allowing one to go beyond the immediateactual through an abstract object globalising yet inevitably reducing.Its levels of acting are memory bound to the past, anticipation bound tothe future and capitalizable knowledge.
- Intuition wich understands the content within theform with its constituents of suddenness and obviousness. It allows tosee, in a kind of insight, the unitas multiplex wich Edgar Morin talksabout, the holistic and unified nature of the real complexity, below theragged pieces of the world.
- Sensitivity expressing wich gives significance withall the senses. The subtle ability in human being to receive the worldimpulse and to bring it back immediately, after a singular mental translation,through mediating emotions between the significance and the trace (MaxPagès).
- Imaginary wich is both the sumative output and theradical ability to introduce into a brand new way and to regard it intoan unceasing mental flow, forms, figures, images, linked with the fourother ways already exposed.
Six kinds of basic personalities can be emphasized into this problematic, the educator standing at crossroads of their intercations.
- SCIENTIST, usuallyexpressing a rational thought to explain, understand or interpret the worldfrom a strategy of collection of data, hypothesis, and a pattern of research.
- PHILOSOPH, in its westernmeaning, attributing, from a methodical doubt and a constant curiosity,intelligible and theorized meaning to the relationships between the manand the world.
- SAGE, representingthe one who knows that he does not know, and who speaks not much or usingaphorisms, metaphors or suited tales.
- SAINT, the traditionalmystic, expressing himself from an oblative love closely linked to a veryhigh sensitive ability.
- POET, who makes onesee (P. Eluard) the world into his work but on a symbolic level, alwaysmany-meaningful, ambiguous, ambivalent and gifted with an over-meaningintended to be sensitively deciphered by one’s own imaginary structure.
- ADVENTURER, moved bya fundamental curiosity and perfectly representing the being of wandering; wich means the one playing the game of the man as microcosm of the gameof the world, to take up the words of the modern Greek philosoph KostasAxelos.