Think of something you love to do. It might be playing or listening to music, craft work, reading novels, watching great movies on Netflix or at the cinema, painting, or playing sports. Or imagine you are on vacation, with absolutely no obligations. That’s a nice thought isn’t it.
Consider now how you can completely forget about time when you are in the midst of doing what you love. We can be so involved in a project that “time” (clock time) seems to recede into the background. We experience durations, not time. We flow from one state to another. Our experiences flow from one to the next. We feel our natural bodily rhythms that are influenced by interest or external events. Durations feel short when we are are highly engaged, and yet can feel like they drag out when we are anticipating something. Think of the child having to endure a long car ride — the duration for the child feels much longer than the adult driving. Durations feel like they speed up or slow down. Our continuous flow is not demarcated with discrete beginnings, ends, or interruptions. Our durations are not being measured.
Clock time is different from duration. Clock time is a construct based on an external time mechanism. Clock (time) mechanisms are tools of rationality. and a sensitivity to discrete sequenced uniform units. Clock time superimposes spatial constructs on our lived durations distorting our lived duration by forcing us into mechanistic actions.
Consider how any activity will be influenced by superimposing clock time on the durations we experience naturally. As soon as we objectify our activities by measuring them and imposing time constraints, the purpose will have to take into account these forces (these constraints). For example, imagine you want to enjoy an afternoon shopping for clothes. You have no deadlines, nowhere you have to be at any particular time. Now, impose clock time on your shopping afternoon. You will monitor the time you are at any particular store and the duration you are there. You will find that you have to divide up the lengths of time spent so that you can ensure that you are able to get to all the different shops you wanted to. When you try on a piece of clothing, you become sensitive to the time. Someone is in the change room and they are taking too long. There are pressures imposed because you are acting in line with the sequenced of the mechanical time.
Think also of how clock time changes our sensory experiences. Our natural bodily rhythms begin to change to accommodate the mechanical structure. Our rhythms become standardized, bound to the regularities of the discrete time units. We begin to feel like the durations are no longer our own, but rather forced into an external format. Our rhythms become public, shared with other people following the same schedule (store closes at 6:00–everyone out). Our rhythms become mechanical, no longer flowing with our natural experiences of durations.
I have added the sensory experiences of rhythm to our Sensory Frame.
Developing a depth and breadth of understanding
We are continually learning. Our brains learn naturally. Neuronal cell assemblies activate and wire together as we experience the world. This wiring together of neuronal cell assemblies is different for everyone. It depend on many factors. It is not something that can be imposed from the outside. We are not machines.
Experiences of Time
Let me see if can give you an example of two experiences of time.
Try this if you will.
I have one of my favorite piano pieces here that was written by 19th (early 20th) century composer Erik Satie. Close your eyes, try to relax, and listen to the piece. It is only a few minutes long.
You should have felt something regarding time while listening to this piece. If we think of this experience in terms of past, present and future, as you listened you were situated in the present at each moment. The bit of the melody that was played prior to your present, flows into the present. The sounding notes and chords give meaning to the sounds you experience in the present. There is a flow. A flow that moves you into a future present that seems to feel right. Even if you have no familiarity with the song, you are familiar enough with the chord progressions and sounds of the piano that it feels right somehow. Even if you do dislike the melody, it feels sensible.
But what happens when we take the same experience and start to chop it up a bit, as one does with forcing schedule on lived events? What does it do to the flow of our lived experience? Do we begin to feel distracted?
Have a listen. This is shorter.
Your sensitivity to this ‘time’ experience will help you understand something very significant about schooling. It has to do with a spatial understanding of time and a lived experience of time. Even in this very short example we can feel the loss of flow. The fragmentation. The disruption. The abruptness of ending. Once familiar with the song’s melody, the notes played end up feeling out of context because the chord progressions are, at times, out of sequence. There is a lack of coherence. If you were enjoying the melody, you might have felt agitated. You might have felt the violation of the natural order of the piece.
We experience the disruption in our phone or video calls when our connection is poor and our signals freeze momentarily.
The foundation of clock time in schooling
Time pieces are tool of rationality. They impose an external order of their own design on our lived experience.
Schooling has been designed with clock time as a foundational element. Clock time is a foundation of schooling.
What might this experience “without a focus on time” tell us about schooling? In other words, what might “timeless joyful activities” say about timed school experiences? Is there something that we do in schools that might seem to be somewhat unnatural? Is the natural progression disrupted?
John Taylor Gatto
From one of his Teacher of the Year speeches.
Here he talks about the way teachers are forced into following artificial school sequences and the impact that has on students and teachers. He begins: “The first lesson I teach is confusion.” He is not saying that he actually teaches a class on confusion. Rather, because of the disconnected content and broken sequences, students end up experiencing confusion and a lack of coherence rather than natural sequence. He continues:
Everything I teach is out of context… I teach the unrelating of everything. I teach disconnections. I teach too much: the orbiting of planets, the law of large numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, gymnasium, choral singing, assemblies, surprise guests,fire drills, computer languages, parent’s nights, staff-development days, pull-out programs, guidance with strangers you may never see again, standardized tests, age-segregation unlike anything seen in the outside world… what do any of these things have to do with each other? Even in the best schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions.Fortunately the children have no words to define the panic and anger they feel at constant violations of natural order and sequence fobbed off on them as quality in education.
The logic of the school-mind is that it is better to leave school with a tool kit of superficial jargon derived from economics, sociology, natural science and so on than to leave with one genuine enthusiasm. But quality in education entails learning about something in depth. Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working alone with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess. Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek,and education is a set of codes for processing raw facts into meaning.Behind the patchwork quilt of school sequences, and the school obsession with facts and theories the age-old human search lies well concealed.This is harder to see in elementary school where the hierarchy of school experience seems to make better sense because the good-natured simple relationship of “let’s do this” and “let’s do that now” is just assumed to mean something and the clientele has not yet consciously discerned how little substance is behind the play and pretense.
Think of all the great natural sequences like learning to walk and learning to talk, following the progression of light from sunrise to sunset, witnessing the ancient procedures of a farm, a smithy, or a shoemaker, watching your mother prepare a Thanksgiving feast — all of the parts are in perfect harmony with each other, each action justifies itself and illuminates the past and future. School sequences aren’t like that, not inside a single class and not among the total menu of daily classes. School sequences are crazy. There is no particular reason for any of them, nothing that bears close scrutiny. Few teachers would dare to teach the tools whereby dogmas of a school or a teacher could be criticized since everything must be accepted. School subjects are learned, if they can be learned, like children learn the catechism or memorize the 39 articles of Anglicanism. I teach the un-relating of everything, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion; what I do is more related to television programming than to making a scheme of order. In a world where home is only a ghost because both parents work or because too many moves or too many job changes or too much ambition or something else has left everybody too confused to stay in a family relation I teach you how to accept confusion as your destiny. That’s the first lesson I teach.
When we are bombarded by disconnected bodily experiences, we can feel anxious, and fragmented. Here is a musical example that might elicit that feeling.
el canto de los adolescentes stockhausen.mp4
It would seem that our schedules would help us in our pursuit of learning. And indeed, in some ways they do — but that is only part of the narrative. What do I mean by a spatial understanding of time? Well, interestingly, a spatial representation of time is something that we represent visually. And when we represent something visually we experience it differently that might a non-visual representation. The schedule arrives as a visual orientation of time. We begin to think of the time line. We visually perceive time as if it were linear and that our activities should align to the linear line. When we visualize time, we can place events on a timeline. Each moment becomes a series of static states.
Let me give you another example. When you are doing one of your favorite hobbies, there are times you will find yourself not thinking about the passage of time. Of course there are times when you might think to yourself, ‘Oh, I only have 10 more minutes until I have to start preparing dinner,” and then you become aware of time in a way that is obvious. But when you are enjoying the moment and not observing the moment, your sense of time is something more akin to being lost in a song.
Our experiences can be represented visually. Schedules are made. Schedules are blocked. Times are recorded.
What does this emphasis on timing do to our experience? What does it do to our bodies? How do our bodies experience this visually oriented representation of time?
What happens to our experiences when we take something like a train schedule and apply that to our experiences?
Motion is represented in linear, static frames, and thus remembered in this abstracted form.
Think back once again to your favorite hobby. What would disrupting your activity by a time schedule do to your experience?
Imagine you are reading your favorite novel. Now imagine that there is an expectation that you read 100 words every 20 seconds. And, every 20 seconds a timer went off indicating that 20 seconds just went by so that you could keep on track.
Imagine you were having a relaxing game of golf, or spending some time on the beach with friends. And, every 10 minutes a timer reminded you that you only had a certain amount of time left to enjoy your event.
Schooled bodies are timed bodies.
In schools we are timed bodies. We become highly sensitized to time. Time can become our focus. Students are expected to attend school a certain number of days a year. Classes are built on a time schedule with classes having specific duration. Tests are timed. Bathroom breaks are timed. Arithmetic drills are timed. Recesses are timed. Lessons are timed.
Natural durations are disrupted, ruptured. And we feel that disruption physically. Our natural states of motion are disrupted. Continuity of action gives way to discrete acts. Acts that are ready for review and abstracted from experience.
The following short video will give you a bit of a background on the history of timing devices. As you watch, ask yourself how mechanization breaks up time into discrete bits.
A Briefer History of Time: How technology changes us in unexpected ways
Now that you have a bit of an understanding of the mechanical devices, let’s have a look at time more deeply by watching the following documentary from the series How We Go To Now. You will notice some questions below.
An understanding of our representation of time will give you insights into our schooling practices. Even though Steven Johnson won’t state specifically those connections to school, they will soon become very obvious to you. It will help you understand schooling practices in very sophisticated ways.
Please note: You will be accessing WOU’s Films On Demand when clicking the link or image below. You will have to sign in using your WOU login and password.
Questions (Second Set) Continued
7. (Starting at 7:30 minutes in the documentary) : What do Galileo and the alter lamp (pendulum) have to do with how we now experience time?
8. (12:00): What did Maritime Navigation have to do with the way we structure our experience of time?
9. (17:00): What did clocks mean for health care?
10. (18:00) How did the clock contribute to the industrial revolution?
11. At (28:15) Steven Johnson says:
Thanks to a crazy idea, a transformation in how we experience time now takes place. With more and more people carrying watches, we start to synchronize our actions. Before wide access to time-keepers, battles were started by the unreliable “boom” of a cannon. The Civil War battle of Vicksburg in 1863 is the first ever initiated by the synchronization of watches. This forever changes the way we fight.
Watch ownerships spurs an obsession with punctuality. It becomes a social virtue to keep good time, and people buy watches for their children to enhance their chances in life. Cookbooks evolve from never using time references to now offering recipes which timed instructions. Team sports start to form national leagues, which run on much stricter schedules, allowing masses of people to attend at a fixed hour.
Time gives us the power to organize and improve the efficiency of our lives, but there’s a deep irony here because the more we start to own our own time, the more time starts to own us. We can finely tune our schedules, but we’re constantly worrying about them and getting anxious about being late. So not only do watches liberate us, but they also start to enslave us.
So, question, how did we get to a global system of standardized time? Allen was largely responsible for the change in 1881.
Two threads to keep in mind as we move forward. First, the new emphasis on the division of time played a role in the development of the industrial revolution — something that will have a enormous impact on the way we understanding schooling. Second, the emphasis on scheduling and the way schedules were visually constructed influenced the structure of schooling.
Questions (Second Set) Continued
12. List 10 ways that our current perception of ‘time’ influences present day schooling. This might include the structure or organization of schooling, the way curriculum or lessons are organized, the way teachers teach, the way students are expected to learn, etc..
Please remember, don’t submit these questions yet. They are not due until you are finished Week Five Part 2. So keep them and add them to your Second Question Set.
Coffee Break Questions
Coffee Break Three
You know, I’m thinking back to the cup example and how the three frames would seem to demonstrate that it would be difficult to have any one, single definition of anything.
You know, there was a time when a number of philosophers got together because of that very concern. They didn’t believe that things have a narrow, defining, set of characteristics, or that things have a defining essence, or even one way of being defined. They were the ordinary language philosophers. And the impetus of much of their thinking came from the writings and philosophical work of a man by the name of Ludwig Wittgenstein.
When we think of ordinary language philosophers, we can imagine philosophers who honor, or respect, or take into account, the way we use language in ordinary experiences—like the cup. When you think about it, we have many different sorts of contexts, or experiences, with each thing we encounter. And just as you suggest, by looking at the three different cup frames, the meaning of the cup varies depending on the way we use the cup and the context in which we find ourselves with the cup.
The cup means something different if we are measuring out pancake powder, or drawing punch from a punch bowl, or drinking tea, etc. In our regular ordinary everyday experiences, as we are enveloped in our worldly engagements, we do not normally think of things so narrowly, as having a single essence.
A hammer, for example, isn’t one particular thing with a single essence. It is something we find ourselves using in many different contexts. And it means something different depending on the context. A hammer means one thing if I am crushing stone, or nailing shingles on a roof, or shaping metal, or repairing the hammer that hits the strings of a piano. In each context the purpose changes, the material changes, the meaning changes. Sometimes we find the hammer too heavy, or too light, or the handle too long.
We deal with things, and these things show themselves to us in meaningful ways depending on the context. Context confers meaning. And this flow from one meaning to another, from one context to another, is quite natural in our everyday dealing with hammers, or cups, or whatever artifact or process we are dealing with.
What does this mean for us in schools?
Schools lean toward essentialist thinking. Curriculum leans toward essentialist thinking. Testing leans toward essentialist thinking. We have touched on this now. These ideas will become increasingly evident as we move forward in our course as we talk about curriculum and testing. Needless to say, essentialist thinking, or the belief that things have an essence, or narrow defining qualities, has been a foundation of schooling.
I liked the word game. I did terrible remembering anything when I didn’t know what the words meant.
Yes, the way we experience words is important. Words activate neuronal cell assemblies. Without that activation, you do not re-experience lived experiences in such a way that you can perceive what is said, that you can understand what is being said, or that you would be able to make a memory.
Of course the implications here are significant. For example: A teacher can’t just say something to a student and expect that the student will understand, perceive, or remember what was said. We don’t transfer ideas into the heads of students. We perturb the students’ senses so that they activate neuronal cell assemblies and that activation is the way they perceive. Also, Many very intelligent students are discriminated against if they are not familiar with the vocabulary because without the vocabulary activating neurons, no experiences are re-lived. No meaning is perceived, no memories are made. This puts second language students at a great disadvantage.
It also puts students who might not have had the opportunities at home to have developed their vocabulary to the same extent as some of their peers at a great disadvantage too. Then, to make things worse, their lack of understanding or inability to form memories is seen as a deficit that is deemed to warrant failure. Language and vocabulary is important. But we have to understand the way that language and vocabulary play into, and facilitate our ability to experience academic settings in rich ways. We also have to understand the importance of reading and vocabulary development, so that students can perceive what is being talked about. To actually perceive. If you don’t know the word boldendra or mattan zanna, you don’t perceive anything.
You said facilitate our ability to experience academic settings. What do you mean by that?
There were some researchers who researched vocabulary development and came up with an easy way to organize our thinking around this. It was a three tiered framework, tiered as in levels. Three levels.
Tier One consisted of words that we typically use in oral language. We hear them on television, talking with friends and family, social media — the typical words we use in regular conversations. Everybody learns these words simply be peeing part of or community.
The second tier consists of words that we
find in written texts. These are words that describe ideas in more complex ways. Even children’s books will use vocabulary that deals with concepts that are described using words that tend to be a bit more specialized than the words we use when we are having our day to day conversations. Of course, if you are a reader, and you are talking to someone else who is well read, you will be more likely to incorporate more sophisticated vocabulary in your conversations.
The third tier consists of words that deal with specialized academic content — such as engineering, physics, medicine, or philosophy. But for us, and for our future students, if we can enrich our tier two vocabulary, the vocabulary we get from reading, we will be doing ourselves a big favor, going a long way to educating ourselves. That tier two vocabulary will help us develop a depth and breadth of understanding.
I guess the last thing we learned about was the development of time frameworks.
I think we’re developing a good understanding of the way that time mechanisms have influenced our perception and experience. Now you might be wondering if there is a connection here between language and time. And there is. If you incorporate concepts (words) into your regular language discourse, or narratives, as you know, that language will activate those neuronal cell assemblies and you will be moved by the language. Perhaps you have heard the phrase, give someone a hammer and everything becomes a nail. I know that is a bit of glib way to make this point, but the idea is that if you are someone who talks a lot about schedules, time, organization, and the sort, or are part of an environment where these organizations of time are paramount, and part of the narrative, you will start to act in such a way that represents or fulfills those ideas. In schools we find the imposition of mechanized time formats bearing down on our experiences. We notice time pressures influencing our thinking and our actions. These time constraints have an enormous impact on how we experience schooling environments.
Very cool. By the way, do you have the time?
Sure, it’s half past a freckle and quarter to a hair.
Have a great day! Until next time.