Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Creative Inquiry and opportunities for the Lao communtiy

Since the beginning of this year, I've been questioning things from many different points of my experience. Going back to the essential questions, older ideas, and in some cases considering some new theories and concepts. I've often been concerned growing older that I would fall into habits I disliked the most among some elders and contemporaries of mine, perhaps most acutely realized as an ossification. An ossification of inquiry, curiosity, opinion and soul.

I've counseled younger students of mine to appreciate that the work they create in their youth is often drawn from great leaps of imagination, while our later work tends to draw upon a well of experience and memories. If we're not careful, our thirties become the prime point our creative capacity for expression has its closest semblance to a balance. So we have to cultivate a constant appreciation for discovery and experience. As we age we develop habits and preferences, but without a regular regimen of inquiry and reassessment, they can become a crutch and an impediment to fully experiencing life and evolving within it.

So, now I've spent a good deal of time looking for ideas and perspectives that might be useful in my own process. Over the years, I've often employed a blend of systems of thought, most often preferring a syncretic, interdisciplinary model where I can look at ideas within diverse practices and extract the best techniques that transfer over into other practices.

At the moment I'm taking a closer look at integral learning, and particularly the theory of Creative Inquiry as an effective approach to discovering knowledge in a way that can work for me and the way I process the world. 

Perhaps, if we are successful we can also find methods that are effective at a wider scale for members of the Lao community in diaspora that will serve us better than conventional education is at the moment. When 90% of us don't complete college, I think we need to raise red flags and find models of education that can lead to knowledge in ways that meet our strengths.

Creative Inquiry is intended to help us discover new information by finding ways for us to ask new questions in new ways. Which sounds obvious, but isn't quite as easy as you might imagine. I'm starting the process thanks to the essay by Alfonso Montuori, "The Quest for a New Education: From Oppositional Identities to Creative Inquiry." It helps in part that he frames much of this article from the perspective of a jazz musician as well as a scholar. I connect with this as a poet. To be creative is not a call to be less rigorous. But it is a call to pierce through the veils and strive for discerning deeper truths we may not yet have a language for.

Montuori suggests that the best of academic process is being stifled by the worst of academic process, an inclination to impose oppressive tedium, constriction and "Objectivism" over rigor, vigor, quality and objectivity. 

I'm inclined to look at this with an interest in also applying the ideas of Paolo Freire and a modified sense of the Chickering Vectors, and the ability of all of these theories to be integrated meaningfully within a Lao American context. In this case, it's one that seeks not only bicultural fluency, but polycultural fluency. I would want a system that allows our youth, elders and adults to position ourselves ahead of the curve, which would be no easy task.

If this approach is going to work for me, and for other members of the Lao community, it requires being able to identify and challenge basic assumptions that limit the methodologies I would use otherwise. It would also require building an understanding of different styles of knowing and a sense of the knowledge we can discover. Epistemology questions.

Among those who've found the approach of Creative Inquiry useful, it seems fairly consistent that they use techniques that are interactive and experiential. It tends to be a cooperative process that requires everyone being engaged. This isn't incompatible with Lao methods, but I can see some concerns that it can get very chaotic. But that's just a pitfall of trying to build a community.

How might we build effective communities who are eager to explore the questions that move us most? This might get problematic because there are times Lao values seem centered on accepting the present situation without much question or ambition. How do we expand our personal and collective horizons to go beyond what we previously imagined, and to see ourselves as free beings imbued with knowledge? How do we create an ideal balance of experience where the mind, body, and soul are engaged in harmony?

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