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  • The Saunterer. That's me, H. Charles Romesburg, Professor in the Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University. As part of my research I saunter through the writings of especially creative people, keeping an eye open for insightful ideas on subjects that are joined with great goodness and creativity. I will in this blog present ideas from the writings of more than three hundred of these creators: painters, scientists, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, writers, poets, naturalists, actors, rock climbers and more. Among the subjects that will be covered: How workers in most every vocation and avocation can work as artists do, creating use, beauty, or both, of rare note. How regularly experiencing wild nature makes us better creators. How it is that the more all forms of life come to be revered, the more creative society will be. For some of the other subjects that will be covered, click on cnr.usu.edu/romesburg

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October 12, 2005


It seems to me that for any professional education to succeed a student must be exposed to both parallel and series learning. This exposure should be more or less constant throughout the educational program. Parallel learning often helps students understand the "whys" as they grapple with the "hows." Parallel learning is often educators only hope for jolting students out of what seems to be a widespread, culturally-induced lethargy toward learning anything challenging.

On the other hand, without a strong series education parallel learning may allow students to fall right back into lethargy. They may begin to think that everything is relative, that one person's opinion is just as valid as any other person's opinion no matter what differences in education and experience may exist. They fail to understand the struggle required to gain even a single grain of reliable knowledge.

"Teaching is a violent profession" is a statement I accept. I don't think series or parallel learning fully capture the essence of this statement. Each student's educational experience can be compared to his or her writing a personal guidebook for life. Series learning helps students add pages sequentially to the book. Parallel learning helps students insert pages among material already accumulated. But a skillful teacher (or team of teachers) can help another kind of learning take place, learning that is metamorphic. When metamorphic (big change) learning takes place even though new material may be added to the guidebook the student goes through the pain of ripping pages and even whole chapters out of the book. The student usually ends up with a smaller guidebook compared to what he would have designed, but the book is infinitely more valuable in the end. It is a book that reveals the student's understanding of the price of truth.

Henry David Thoreau said that we ought to build our castles in the air, but then we should put the foundations under them. If all learning is serial, students are incapable of imagining what is possible. If all learning is parallel, they will never understand how to build the foundation. But in the process of acquiring knowledge if no learning is metamorphic they won't have the inspiration to dream or the courage to build toward any goal other than a higher paying job. And that castle is only a few feet off the ground.

Thank you Charles for the chance to express some ideas.

Methinks we lean heavily toward being order disordered. Our predilection toward tidying things up leads us often down a primrose path leading us askew from truth. Arranging ALL learning into either sequential or parallel structures exclusively seems silly at first glance and well beyond. "Coming to know" happens in fits and spurts at least as often as it happens in carefully prescribed layers. Be wary of constructing paradigms which are likely to be shifted dramatically, if not shattered. Build it, and they may come, but when they arrive, they may well redesign it.

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Books by H. Charles Romesburg

  • H. Charles Romesburg: The Life of the Creative Spirit

    H. Charles Romesburg: The Life of the Creative Spirit
    Practically all of the quotations in this blog's posts are collected in "The Life of the Creative Spirit."

  • H. Charles Romesburg: How About It, Writer?

    H. Charles Romesburg: How About It, Writer?
    Based on a study of more than 12,000 essays from the very best literary magazines, this book provides writers with lists of thousands of classic forms of opening sentences, titles, transition sentences, ways of saying "for example," and ways of closing nonfiction pieces. When you are writing an essay and want a hint for a better or fresh way of saying what you mean, looking through the lists acts on the imagination, stimulating your creativity. From Lulu Press (ISBN 1-4116-2862-4, 194 pp., softback), it's $16.95 when ordered from Lulu.com/Romesburg , and $22.95 from bookstores. To view its cover, click on www.cnr.usu.edu/romesburg/how_about_it_writer.htm To view its title page, contents, and first two chapters, click on: www.cnr.usu.edu/romesburg/how_about_it_writer_preview.pdf

  • H Charles Romesburg: Best Research Practices

    H Charles Romesburg: Best Research Practices
    The Saunterer’s new book (2009), Best Research Practices explains how to plan and carry out reliable experiments, how to conceive and circumstantially support research hypotheses, how to test research hypotheses with the hypothetico-deductive method, how to discover cause and effect, and more. It’s based on his examination of 5,000 top scientific articles, studying the methods used to produce reliable knowledge. Preview it on-line by going to the following link: http://print.google.com/print?isbn=9780557017836

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