Balance and Harmony

I read a lot of blogs.  Not just education related, but blogs about art, energy issues, politics, etc.  People tend to read blogs written by people who have the same viewpoint as themselves (but I strongly encourage everybody to read one from the opposite side) so you tend to agree with everything that you read.  It gives us inspiration and new ideas (the currency of education).  Yet, even when I respect the author, I find some things still grate on me.  Little things make a big difference, especially the use of words and the implications and hidden meanings that they bring with them.  One word which is used a lot in educational contexts is the word balance.  I do not like this word and I think it sends the wrong message than intended.  I admit with full disclose that I can a bit of pedant with terms and words, but that is only because those terms and words act as metaphors which do shape our lives and the way we interact and view the world.

Balance is literary things that are equal, or a state of equilibrium or parity characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces.  2 on one side, 2 on the other.  In terms of education, this means that time must be balanced, and learning engagements should be equally distributed.  Taken literally, it would mean we have to have equal time dedicated to all subjects (what happened to dance, art, and music?).  If we try to find balance, we try to make ideas equal out in the long run.  Using tech and using your hands to make artifacts; both are valuable tasks, and in finding balance we are suggesting that we need to find equal time for both.

In my mind this is impossible, and highly ineffective.  The world does not operate at equilibrium.  It operates at disequilibrium.  If an ecosystem is put into equilibrium, it will die.  It needs disequilibrium to continue the process of change, adaptation, and evolution.  Complex systems operate far from equilibrium.  A classroom is no different.  It needs to flow and move.  It needs to evolve.  Learning is not a static entity that is characterized by the opposition of two opposing forces.  It is an ongoing exploration and integration of new images, metaphors, and applications.  If we impose the structure of balance onto it, we are doing it a disservice.

A more apt image is the Yin Yang.  When viewing the Yin Yang, it is not meant to be viewed is a static 2D form.  That view is simply a holistic view of balance.  Black on one side, white on the other, black dot in the white, white dot in the black.  It is the same thing as the scale!  The true nature of the Yin Yang is flowing.  It is moving.  Sometimes the white side is bigger than the black side, and sometimes the white dot is bigger than the white dot.  The point being that there is always white in black, and black in white.  It is harmonious.

I find this to be a more powerful metaphor for the classroom, and for knowing, learning, and teaching.  It is ongoing, always flowing and changing and adapting.  True, scales can move, but only up and down.  Classrooms move in every direction.  A harmonious synthesis of people, ideas and discoveries.

Or maybe I am being pedantic?  I am really not sure.



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