Home > Books, Uncategorized > Not a fixed state

Not a fixed state

This morning, I read an article on business “culture.” Its author wrote about this in a way that demands quotation marks be placed around the word. Is “culture” really some fixed thing, perceived and experienced the same way by everyone?

As I read, I imagined the author conversing with Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, authors of the 1969 book Teaching as a Subversive Activity. The book is less about teaching than assumptions, and specifically learning to explore and challenges one’s own assumptions, including those shaped by a specific language. One of my favorite passages is about “the mind”:

Even the words “the mind” are subtly metaphoric. Think of those words for a moment. Why the mind? Why a noun? Why a “thing”? As John Dewey and Arthur Bentley observed, we would come much closer to actuality if we spoke of “minding” (as a process) than of “the mind” (as a thing).

With that passage in mind (ahem), I chuckled at the idea of “a culture.” Why does English treat it as a thing, not a process? It’s dynamic and evolving, shaped by many factors and influences, not a point in time! It seems more apt, then, to think of “culturing” than of “culture.” Every day, through countless acts and interchanges, the people who participate in a company or community are shaping it. They might be said to be “culturing,” rather than “impacting ‘the’ culture.”

I have no answers to these questions, but I do love reflecting upon them. Before last month, I’d never really considered how language shaped my world instead of simply helping me describe it. Now, I see dozens of examples of this shaping every day. It’s fun exploring these questions I didn’t even realize were questions a few weeks ago.

If this isn’t enough for you to mull over, here’s a parting consideration I’d do well to hold in mind keep minding: “You cannot avoid making judgments, but you can become more conscious of the way you make them.” This is important because judgment can make us “behave in response to our judgments rather than that which is being judged” and because: “People and things are processes. Judgments convert them into fixed states.”

I’m not a fixed state. Are you?

This 4/4/17 post transferred from L2SP 6/3/17

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  1. June 3, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Oh wow, you posted this originally on L2SP in April and I don’t remember it? Either I missed it or my brain has a big hole in it. Anyway, I love the way you are thinking here. I really cringe at the way business publications talk about “culture.” I think it’s putting a big hurdle in the way of our broader culture doing exactly what you are talking about — growing! It seems to me like MBA programs instill into their graduates that people are fixed and unchanging (unless of course you can plant manufactured needs in them). There’s this guy who teaches at the Wharton School of business, Adam Grant, of whom I’m not a fan; suffice it to say for now that he’s an organizational psychologist who contributes to this warped notion of culture, IMO. In my mind, he represents the worst of what you’re talking about here.

    And then on the other hand, there’s a Polish-Canadian psychiatrist who died in 1980, Kazimierz Dabrowski, of whom I’m a huge fan. He speaks more about individuals than culture as a whole, but I think his ideas really are in line with what you’re discussing here about “culturing.” He came up with this thing called the Theory of Positive Disintegration, which is all about the possibility of an individual growing and evolving through life. And his work really is complementary to what you wrote in that last paragraph. He posited that people essentially can grow through several levels, and if they reach the higher ones — in part by challenging our initial assumptions and being aware of our judgments and how they control our behavior — then we can become happier, and in most cases, more effective at having our unique impact on the culture around us. I go on and on about him in my blog, so maybe you’ve seen that…but if not, look him up sometime. His work might interest you!

  1. June 3, 2017 at 8:13 am

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