The monk and the singer

Imagine two scenes. The first one features a monk, the second one a singer. The monk has spent years locked away in his chamber, mortifying his flesh, meditating. He strives towards spiritual enlightenment. For the monk, the body needs to be shut out, silenced, bypassed to get closer to the truth. Apparently, for the monk,

12.12.2013

Imagine two scenes. The first one features a monk, the second one a singer.

The monk has spent years locked away in his chamber, mortifying his flesh, meditating. He strives towards spiritual enlightenment. For the monk, the body needs to be shut out, silenced, bypassed to get closer to the truth. Apparently, for the monk, learning is a matter of the mind and spirit only.

The singer has spent years honing his instrument, the voice. Right now he is rehearsing a difficult piece that requires technical prowess. He uses his brain to translate the notes into music and to memorize the lyrics. He uses his muscles and breathing to create the technique on which the voice rests. But something is still not quite right. He sings every note perfectly but the piece is incomplete. Only after the singer catches the emotion behind the music does the piece finally come alive. For the singer, learning is an amalgamation of mind, body and emotions.

The basic assumption we make in this issue is that learning is a holistic process, involving body and emotions, not just the intellect. In other words, we side with the singer instead of the monk. This is not a controversial statement: most people would probably intuitively agree that learning is a business for all the senses.

However, we acknowledge that bodily learning can be a vague concept. It should not be confused with the concept of learning styles, classifying learners into “kinesthetic”, “visual” or “auditory” categories and then teaching them with separate, tailor-made methods. Indeed, researchers debate intensely whether it is at all useful to cater to learners’ perceived learning styles. Rather in this issue we argue for methods that harness a variety of senses, instead of focusing on just one. We delve deep into the everyday lives of adult educators and also artists, learning first hand about successful education practices that involve the body and emotions. Often these methods are art-based: many of the articles describe art as the short cut to the emotions of the learner.

Moreover, we hope that the issue also offers a relaxing break from the dominant education discourse emphasising workplace skills. Indeed, LLinE’s March issue will be about PIAAC!

In addition to our quarterly thematic issues, LLinE now publishes fresh content every two weeks. Part of this content will be still theme-related, thus gradually contributing to an issue before and after the issue publication date. Part of the content will feature topical themes, article series and treasures from our rich archives.

But let us briefly return to the monk’s chamber. If he finally achieves enlightenment, is it a triumph of mind over matter? Or does his apparent denial of the body actually unwittingly place his body at the very centre of his learning experience?

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