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Dr Bruce Copley

By Dr Bruce Copley

Article published in IT Review Vol.2 No.6 June 1995
Edited by Bette Kun


Dr. Bruce Copley - who has an outspoken disrespect for uncritical ideologies, stated limitations and definitive answers - has pioneered a systems approach to learning, known as COGMOTICS. The theory is widely acknowledged as the "missing link" in education.

Anyone who has ever taken a test or examination knows that within hours, little of the study material can be remembered and only a fraction of what is recalled will ever be practically applied. The efficiency of learning, defined simply as the ratio between input (teaching and studying) and output (recall and application), is extremely low.

Seen as a system, therefore, it is clear that traditional Western educational policies and practices function at a level of efficiency and effectiveness that are far inferior to our biological, organisational and technological systems.

Few would dispute the fact that the old educational paradigm, which is characterised by mechanistic, linear thinking, has unwittingly:

  • Fragmented and disconnected subjects, information and people.
  • Filled rather than opened minds.
  • Fostered dependency and learned helplessness.
  • Promoted a "listen - memorise - regurgitate" mindset.
  • Most of what is claimed to be learning is really conditioning. True learning involves a process of exploration, experimentation and discovery which stimulate, empower and change the individual.

What is being increasingly acknowledged is the importance of systemic or holistic thinking in which the emphasis is on contexts, relationships and wholes. Unfortunately this recognition has largely been confined to theoretical models rather than practical systems.

There are currently very few institutions or individuals who are implementing truly integrated holistic systems and methods.

Solving the Puzzle

Every individual has an innate desire to put together and see the image of the whole emerge. This process characterises all problem solving scenarios, from crossword puzzles, to everyday living scientific mysteries. Although the word "holistic" is commonly used throughout the modern world, few are aware that the father of modern holism is a South African.

Former South African prime minister General Jan Christiaan Smuts coined the term "holism" from the Greek "Olos" (which means whole) in his epic book "Holism in Evolution" published in 1926. He referred to the whole as being greater than the sum of its parts and was of the opinion that we live in a world that has an innate tendency towards wholeness. Smuts' ideas and visions were so advanced that it has taken almost 70 years for them to be fully recognised and understood by enlightened individuals working in the fields of science, education, politics, philosophy, conservation, medicine, art, psychology and religion.

The importance of a systems approach to business has been skilfully described by Peter Senge in his book " The Fifth Discipline". He recommends a shift of mind or "metanoia" incorporating the following views: we are not separate from the world but intimately connected to it; any part of a problem or system is both cause and effect; and we create our own reality and, as such, have the power to change and control it.

Education For a New Nation

The collapse of communism and apartheid has shown that profound socio-political changes can occur peacefully when a critical mass of people realise that the old must give way to the new. Radical paradigmatic shifts like these often stimulate changes in other areas in need of renewal and rebirth. While there are promising ripples of change occurring in the bureaucratic and outdated South African educational system, what is really required is a tidal wave.

Modifying, processing or treating the current system will be about as effective as attempting to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The old linear, mechanistic approach must make way for a modern holistic or geodesic system. While traditional education attempts to get the whole by sequentially studying its parts, holistic education starts with the whole and builds out into the parts. It is multi-modal and places as much emphasis on softly felt experiences and subtle nuances of living, as it does on the acquisition of hard facts.

Instead of producing look alike carbon copies, holistic education prepares people for a world in flux, a world where reasoning, creativity and vision are of paramount importance.

This new approach to education and learning calls attention to the neglected aspects of the human condition, explores hitherto unknown and undiscovered human capacities and asks questions seldom, or never, posed by traditionalists.

Start Learning

In 1989 a film entitled "Dead Poet's Society" was released, and like many others, I found myself wondering why I never had a teacher like John Keating. Based on a true story, here was an inspiring example of geodesic education.

In what must have rattled the cages of all traditional educationists, Mr. Keating masterfully introduced his pupils not to the study of poetry, but the learning thereof. He was able to transform a normally dull and boring teaching session into a vibrant and joyful learning experience by simply involving and integrating the minds, bodies and spirits of his pupils

This powerful method of teaching has been significantly developed and improved by a method known as Cogmotics. This geodesic learning approach ensures that all five faculties which accord us status as human beings, namely the mental, physical, social, spiritual and emotional, are stimulated, developed and actively integrated.

Through this "whole person" involvement, the mind, the body, our feelings, our spirit, the experience, the idea and the meaning become one. Cogmotics is far more holistic than experiential or action learning and can be applied to any learning, teaching or training situation.

While few would disagree that "a picture is worth a thousand words" our work with many people of all races, ages, sexes, cultures and educational backgrounds, has consistently demonstrated that a Cogmotic experience is worth "a thousand pictures"

By integrating theoretical information and knowledge which constitute the MAP, with actual practical experience and knowing, which constitute the TERRITORY, that elusive thing called WISDOM is acquired.

Innovatively designed holistic learning experiences and challenges are used to elicit highly relevant insights, provide practice in specific skills and create an arena for individual and collective growth and learning. In reclaiming our whole selves back through such processes, we begin to become very productive because we do what we love and love what we do.

The essence of Cogmotics is eloquently captured in the following modified quote by Eric Butterworth:

" When the ties of learning and the chains of conditioning that bind the human mind and heart again and again, are loosed and a person is introduced finally to himself, the real self that has no limitation, then the bells of heaven ring for joy and we are thrust forward into a grand rendezvous with life."

For further information please Contact AAHA Learning.