Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Diversity and Development, Piaget and Higher Education

Learning happens in the form of development where lower level cognitive skills are transformed into higher order thinking. In gaining a greater awareness and consciousness of the world around us, the child, in becoming an adult, must devalue the ego. “Indeed, when the little child ceases to relate everything to his states and to his own action, and begins to substitute for a world of fluctuating tableaux without spatial- temporal displacements and according to an objectified and spatialized causality, then his affectivity will also be attached to these localizable permanent objects and sources of external causality which persons come to be.” (26) the child begins to interact with the world rather than at the world.

As the child develops this awareness, he or she identifies with his/her peers no matter what the skin color. And in fact, in diverse environments, the child may become aware of people whom represent a makeup that is more in touch with our global landscape, rather than the confines of local neighborhoods. This awareness allows students to develop heightened forms of critical thinking and tools that may easily dismantle such social ills as racism. Piaget calls this awareness perception.

“Perception constitutes a special case of sensori-motor activity. But its special character consists in the fact that it pictures reality in its figurative aspect whereas an action as a whole (and even sensori- motor action) is essentially operative and transforms the real. It is important, therefore, to determine the relative roles of perceptions and action (and later operations) in the intellectual development of the child.” (29) How the child sees the world then becomes the object of developmental intellect, again reiterating the departure from the ego to the conscious.

It would follow that the more diverse the environment the broader the students awareness. And that the most appropriate setting for rigorous dialogue and debate is within this environment. College, or higher education, must in some way shape or form have an apparatus to create this environment, and the tool to get there, as of present, is affirmative action.

Case for diversity: “The decentering of cognitive constructions necessary for the development of the operations is inseparable from the decentering of affective and social constructions. But the term ‘social’ must not be thought of in the narrow sense of educational, cultural, or moral transmission alone; rather, it covers interpersonal process of socialization which is at once cognitive, affective, and moral. This process may be traced in a broad outline—but we must not forget that the optimal conditions are in fact unattainable and that this evolution is subject to considerable fluctuation, teaching both its cognitive and its affective aspects.” (96)    

Affirmative action is a justified means to an admiral end!

The Psychology of the Child, By Jean Piaget and Barbel Inhelder, published by Basic Books 1969