DRAFT FOR DISCUSSION (September 8, 2000)

Some Reflections of the Global Dialogue on Building Learning Societies

Hannover, Germany


Several of us have been reflecting and discussing what has happened over the past two days. We feel that there is great potential for and an urgent need for learning societies to emerge around the world. For this to happen in a meaningful way, we thought that it is worthwhile to articulate these reflections and discuss them with the larger group.


- One core principle that governs our thinking and action is that there is no one viewpoint that can claim a monopoly over Truth or over the path to the future. Each viewpoint enriches and expands our imaginations and perceptions and is essential for the future.


- Accordingly, measuring, ranking and labeling people and societies/cultures are contrary to genuine dialogue and unfolding learning societies. In this sense, the ‘Western’ way of understanding human beings and the world is only one view, not more and not less, not better and not worse.


- Development that starts with notions like ‘developed nations’ and ‘developing nations’ and creates artificial dichotomies like ‘modern’ vs. ‘traditional’ is a form of racism. Development, as perceived and practiced during the past fifty years, has been destructive to diversity and soils of culture.


- Learning societies cannot be limited to discussing the ‘problems’ of the South without critical examination of the North. Learning societies cannot grow in the context of global control, domination and exploitation.


- The commodification of knowledge, Nature and human beings is anti-learning and anti-human.


- Learning happens in so many different and diverse ways and contexts. The current monopoly of schools and formal education over learning is limiting and hindering societies from learning, sharing and growing in meaningful ways. Compulsory education violates the spirit of meaningful learning.


- Any solution that claims to be universal reflects a fundamentalist attitude, whether it comes in the name of ‘Religion’, ‘the State’, ‘the Market’, ‘Science’, or ‘Progress’.


- The essence of learning societies is not about expanding the use and reach of computers and Internet or about fitting more smoothly into the competitive global economy. Rather, it is about creating more opportunities and spaces for interacting around values that sustain and nurture life e.g., justice, wisdom, humility, listening. Learning societies necessarily embody a critical view and action of their own perceptions and practices.


- Promoting genuine dialogue does not mean creating more forums for begging from the World Bank and other international organizations or for selling products of multinational corporations.