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  • Curriculum and the Dream Paradigm

    [09.29.06]
    - Stephen Schafer
  •   

     Unfortunately, ignorance, confusion, and malaise are not the worst part of the problem.  Jenkins references the Slashdot.com website where journalist Jon Katz has described fear-based reactions to popular youth culture.

    "Schools are shutting down student access to the net and the web. Parents are cutting their children off from access to their on-line friends or forbidding them to play computer games.  Students are being suspended for coming to school displaying one or another cultural symbol...Students are being punished or sent into therapy because they express opinion in class discussions or essays that differ from the views about the events being promoted by their teachers.  Guidance counselors are drawing on checklists of symptoms of maladjustment to try to ferret out those students who are outsiders and either force them into the mainstream or punish them for their dissent.  The various letters Katz has reproduced through his column make for chilling readings because they suggest the consequence of adult ignorance about youth culture and their intolerance of any form of expression that differs from their own norms and values," (Jenkins).

    If fear-based, reactionary tyranny is the best response America can muster when faced with the demanding challenges of a paradigm shift, we are in for hard times.  Our cultural response to the terrorist threat and the shutdown of civil liberties under the Patriot Act portend the worst.  The generally fear-based response of our cultural persona suggests an imminent collapse of cultural identity in a deepening spiral of defensive machinations and psychotic responses.

    The generation gap has existed from time immemorial, but in our age the gap is tantamount to a state change.  Our youth are among the first to inhabit a reality with the dimensions of a unified field of psyche-the field of dreams-and more than any generation before, in order to put their lives in proportion, they need to understand perspectives from the past. The quantum leap in worldviews has never been so evident as it is today between our culture's youth, their parents and adults generally.  This is the real deal.  However, other than the increased availability of electronic stuff, most policy makers and most people are not even aware of the paradigm shift, much less the ramifications of this new "reality" which has been described as an illusion, a thought, or a dream.   In spite of the self-evident authenticity of the dream perspective (global media based on scientific principles of psyche-physics), people are still wandering through the dream as they wander through their dreams at night-without volition, understanding, or memory.  To wander vaguely through life is not an acceptable posture for mature, free, and responsible citizens.  Most citizens are not even aware of the basic dynamics, qualities, and characteristics of dream analysis.  They are even less familiar with the skills of navigating the dream, and are making no effort to prepare our youth for their brave new world.  The medium of video games has the potential to provide the authentic fluidity of perspective and the dream-like verisimilitude so necessary to navigating the dream.

    Within this framework, reformers at the primary and secondary levels of education have demonstrated less-than-oracular insight-they have reiterated the fundamental importance of science and language skills.  Their recommendations for achieving reform objectives are even less spectacular.  Recommendations focus on the implementation of a system of evaluation by testing and an emphasis on preparing students for the workplace.  Already there are serious doubts about the efficacy of standard testing, and there have been questions as to the validity of educating students to take tests.  Moreover, if the second goal is achieved, the educational system (at great cost) will be preparing students for a workplace that is obsolete. These reforms will have little effect on the quality of education in the United States because the reform effort has not addressed the right questions:  

    • How is the twenty-first century human experience to be defined?
    • How are students nurtured in a reality of advertising and the media to be motivated?
    • How can curricula promote essential knowledge and the skills of common discourse in a reality that is a dream?

    The quick answer to all these questions is, "with the ‘Dream' paradigm."  U. S. Reform efforts at the secondary educational level don't even begin to address the challenge of the dream; and, at the collegiate level, no commanding reform strategy has yet emerged for creating a curriculum that will prepare students for the emergent reality of a psych-ecology.  The means for realizing authentic objectives may reside in the realm of serious games because digital games can be structured as an analog to the new reality paradigm.  I am not saying that serious games should be used as an adjunct to existing curriculum.  I am saying that, used, as primary curriculum, interactive games have the unique potential to address the challenges of the new media paradigm and to reach its audience in a timely manner. 

    I need not argue further the fact that we live in a media age, and this media emphasis is intensifying.  James Gee, a distinguished professor of education at the University of Wisconsin, hits the nail on the head when he observes:

    "The power of these games is not the clicking.  The power is being able to extend your mind and body into this virtual space, an in that virtual space being able to take on an identity that you can think about in comparison to the real world," (Carlson, 2003).

    Notwithstanding their incipient state of development, serious games may be the only educational medium commensurate with the cataclysmic changes in our mediated reality.  What constitutes content in a game curriculum will take a great deal of intelligent and timely thought, and I deal with that issue more extensively in the book.  The salient point I will make about the efficacy of games as curriculum is that they can be designed to be highly motivational, and can include not only classical content, but complex psychological content.  Just as important is the fact that such a curriculum could be implemented in a reasonable space of time-by stages.  A twenty-first century curriculum needs to encompass the skills and issues of "world-building."

    Educators are not always on the cutting edge of change.  This is understandable because education is an important conservative force within a culture.  However, it is truly unfortunate that our national effort at education reform has been so reactive and blind.  With regard to their potential to teach worldviews:

    "Mr. Gee points out that both the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group, and the U.S. army have developed video games.  In Ethnic Cleansing, the National Alliance game, a player runs through a rotted city, killing blacks, Latinos, and Jews.  In America"s Army, a player learns how to work on a team to conduct missions and raids, and screw-ups can lead to jail time at fort Leavenworth.  ‘These groups see this as a cutting-edge way to interact with people's minds-not to teach facts, but to teach worldviews.  And yet schools don't,'" (2003).

    It is unfortunate that extremist groups and the military have been the first to grasp opportunity.  If America's educators abjure a more proactive approach to reform and the U. S. fails to address the paradigm shift, there will be no second chance.  I am completing a book that addresses these questions in depth, but as a prospective, the following article establishes the parameters of the argument.

    In a nutshell, the thesis of this paper is that the United States needs a new educational curriculum consistent with the paradigm shift that has already altered our worldview.  That view of the world is a unified, integrated field of psyche-physics.  Much depends on the research being done in the realm of physics.  Physics is a fundamental component of any reality model, if only because it has made the media age possible. However, emergent models in the areas of holography and string theory seem to have great potential.  One of the best scientific models for an emerging reality of psyche is the systems approach of ecology.  Only time will tell if the most important reality model available to us now is Jungian dream analysis.   It is gross understatement to say that the collective mind, educated in a scientific materialist worldview, has had difficulty grasping the significance of this paradigm shift. I would argue that serious video games, because of their synchronicity with the new worldview, have the potential to replace the existing educational paradigm with "minds-on" experience.  The emergent pattern is a unified field/psyche paradigm, a psych-ecology that subsumes an entire genus of theory and research relative to the nature of the real:

    If the scientific trend continues, human experience in the twenty-first century will be defined as a paradigm of dreams, and very soon we will be forced to make hard choices about the new social, psychological, and legal issues that ensue.  Issues of international law, the definition of life (abortion rights and cloning), medical ethics (right to life and euthanasia), privacy (surveillance), individual integrity (What, precisely, is an individual?), issues of historical fact or fiction in the media, electoral ethics, and all the ramifications of the brave new world are just the tip of the iceberg.  The dream paradigm will challenge all the assumptions of life as we know it.  It is barely surprising that educators and policy makers in general have buried their heads in the sand and abdicated their responsibility to prepare our people for this eventuality.  Antiquated systems and reactive thinking will not make the challenge go away.

    Just as dreams have purpose, the media in general and educational curriculum must define its purpose in terms of authentic wisdom.  A self-centered perspective and selfish choices are not the rout to wisdom, and games already have a serious capacity to educate the young as to beneficial choices in a holistic, interactive reality (Role Playing Games based on the mythical Journey of the Hero).  Jung recognizes that the unconscious is accessible to the consciousness when there is an intermediating symbolic system (a medium), and the medium of psychiatry is the dream. The raison d'etre of dreams and of all media including language is to translate contents from a condition of unconsciousness to a condition of consciousness.  A simplistic example of this is that when I communicate with my wife and ask her what time the concert begins, the information she has about beginning time is an aspect of my unconscious.  When she tells me the concert begins at 8:00 pm, it becomes part of my consciousness.  In a conversation, what component "A" wants to communicate to component "B" is unconscious content for component "B" until "A" gives form to subjective content with words.  The definitive purpose of both education and the communications media in all its forms is to make unconscious content accessible to consciousness.  So it is with the dream.

    "The dream [has] a ‘purpose', namely to disclose a fact of which the dreamer [is] not or [does] not want to be aware. Such dreams are relatively easy to interpret, for they are ‘parables' which can be translated directly into a warning.  Such a warning is the expression of a dynamic tendency in the unconscious.  This dynamic tendency, the force behind the dream and its utterances, sends new contents into consciousness which in turn-if they have been assimilated by the personality-react upon and modify the unconscious field of forces."

    "Of course we must not attribute ‘conscious purpose' to a dream.  Such formulation as the unconscious, or the dream, ‘expressed the opinion' or ‘pursued the purpose', are intended to mean only that the manifestations of the unconscious realm of the psyche are also meaningfully guided by the self-regulative activity of the psyche," (Jacobi, 1973, pp 87-88).

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