In this newsletter I would like to welcome the newcomers to our Learning Unlimited Community and congratulate Learning Unlimited students who excelled in the November 2022 CAIE exams. I include testimonials from these students.
There are also notices concerning the registration deadline for the May 2023 exams and forthcoming AS Science practicals starting mid February 2023.
Then two articles follow, one written by myself on “A new vision for education: redefining our humanness” in which I argue for the urgent need to redefine our humanness for a future educational dispensation and one by Zulfiqar Awan “Dispatches From A World Gone Mad” which outlines the historical forces that have shaped our existing dispensation.
I wish all of our students a fruitful and exciting academic journey in 2023 and thank you for choosing Learning Unlimited as your academic home.
Congratulations to our LU students who got outstanding results in the CAIE November 2022 exams.
Sophia Carlyle achieved an A*(94%) for IGCSE English in her October 2022 exams. Sophia is one of our mature students who managed to study for her exams in her spare time whilst holding down two jobs.
“Norman Bernard has been one of the greatest English mentors I have ever known”.
Phoenix Tennant joined Learning Unlimited at the start of his NSC grade 11 year. When he did so he switched to the CAIE curriculum. At the close of 2022, Phoenix achieved A’s for all his AS and A level exams including: English, Afrikaans, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics.
I have included two testimonies from Phoenix, one for his AS level English tutor Norman Bernard and the other for his A level Mathematics and Physics tutor, Charles De Villiers
Being on an accelerated course, the task of not only completing my English qualification but doing well in it too was daunting to say the least. However, Norman made the process both remarkably effective and efficient. He has the ability to explain difficult concepts in the subject in an easily digestible way while still managing to communicate the precise details that can make English so challenging. Despite his excellent teaching ability, I value Norman most for his personality. His injection of humour made classes enjoyable, his thoughtful discussions on topics often helped my comprehension of the task at hand, and, perhaps most importantly for myself, provided genuine support and advice when I needed it. He is the perfect mixture of professional and human and I couldn’t be more delighted to have been taught by him.
To Charles de Villiers…
Just got my results and very happy to report back that I got 84% for A level maths. Got As for everything else too (AS English, AS Afrikaans, A level Physics, A level Chemistry).
Thanks so much for the last two years. I’ve really enjoyed them and have learnt so much. It’s made my passion for maths and physics grow so much and I’m super grateful that I’ll now have the opportunity to live out those passions.
Congratulations to Travis Galbraith who completed his A levels in Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry in Nov 2022 and a special congratulations for achieving an overall A for A level Chemistry. Travis informed me on the 20th January 2023 that he had received a firm offer of a place at the UCT MBChB program for 2023. Only 200 applicants out of 8,000 have been successful in applying for this degree.
It has been an honour and a privilege for us to witness the development of Travis over the past 4 years, not merely academically but in particular in his character.
In this sense he exemplifies the profile of the kind of student that Learning Unlimited is proud to have worked with over the years.
Travis is a student of exceptional academic ability and a genuinely caring personality. His sense of responsibility, self -management and commitment to his studies are exemplary. He has displayed an enquiring mind and the mental ability to navigate complex ideas and problems. Furthermore, he contributes towards the welfare of others in every situation.
Amongst the many compliments that Travis has received from those who have worked with him are references to his commendable qualities of diligence, honesty, commitment and “a rare form of resilience and ability to work under pressure.” He also has a rare combination of scientific ability and compassion which is particularly suitable for a career in medicine. Professor Brian Allwood noted that while job shadowing at Tygerberg Hospital Travis “has shown himself to have empathy and compassion for people and patients, as well as the academic curiosity necessary to pursue this career and to sustain the lifelong learning that medicine demands”. Dr Bouwens has also noted his ability to think scientifically and “out of the box”. She further commented, “I have been involved in training medical students since 1987, so our patients are used to having students sitting in and attending rounds. Remarks from patients regarding students can be a good grading measure for the aptitude and attitude of future colleagues. I have had several very positive remarks regarding Travis: his empathy and ability to listen to patients are remarkable. The fact that he has an intellectually challenged younger sibling may have nurtured these abilities which are in my opinion indispensable for anyone working in the medical field”.
It is entirely in keeping with this personal profile that charitable eendeavours s have consistently played a role in Travis’ life as can be seen from both my personal reference and that of his church. His leader describes him as being consistent, reliable, always well prepared and loved by both the leaders and the children.
Travis Galbraith Testimonial:
My name is Travis Galbraith and I am a student at Learning Unlimited currently doing my A2 studies in mathematics, biology and chemistry. I’ve been with Learning Unlimited for nearly four years now and it’s been quite a journey.
I came to Learning Unlimited in mid-2018 during my 8th grade at a public school. I immediately started my 9th grade work with Sharon and a small group of 3 other students. It was a very personalized experience in which the pace and length of the classes were determined by the students and the rate at which they were comfortable learning. We wrote internal exams which were based on work we’d done that year.
The following year we started to work on my IGCSEs. Initially I started off with just 3 subjects which I wrote in November that year. Following that, I added a further 6 subjects to my quiver which I spaced out over another 2 sittings to stay within the 3 sitting rule that Cambridge has.
Throughout the process I was surrounded by professional teachers who were each passionate about both their subjects and their students. This helped me to achieve a total of six A’s, two A*’s and one C. But it wasn’t easy. I wrote all of my sciences during a heavy lockdown, and it was only through the commitment and flexibility of my teachers that I was able to submit a portfolio to be reviewed by Cambridge to give me my assessed grades. If it weren’t for Learning Unlimited, I would have been set back a year due to the pandemic.
I recently finished my AS levels in which I wrote biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and English. This included a selection of practical classes offered by Learning Unlimited and personalized one on one online classes. The amount of energy that my teachers poured into my education was far greater than anything I could have been offered anywhere else. My own capabilities were tested and pushed and it was at this stage that I learnt how to be truly self-motivated and hard-working. I came away from AS levels with 3 A’s and 2 B’s. These results have propelled me confidently into my full A levels where I am today.
My experience at Learning Unlimited has been nothing short of a dream with all the opportunities that have been offered to me. From the beginning I was welcomed with smiling faces which helped my education to progress to where it is today and I can’t wait to see where it will take me.
A NEW VISION FOR EDUCATION:REDEFINING OUR HUMANNESS by Sharon Levy
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Krishnamurti
“It is no badge of honor or measure of sanity to adapt to a world gone mad. Instead of trying to adapt to the world’s insanity, a person who is awakening remains open to the world, not clinging to fixed ideas and tapping into the creative spirit to transform our world so as to find our place in it.” (Paul Levy, Wetiko: Healing the Mind-Virus that Plagues our World)
An impoverished view of the human being in society creates a damaging education system that caters for economic imperatives and devalues the individual’s unique creative contribution to the world. What evidence do I have for this assertion? One has only to see how the curiosity and wonder of a child (mysterium tremendum et fascinans) progressively diminishes as s/he progresses through traditional schooling.
Zulfiqar Awan, Learning Unlimited’s Psychology, History and Sociology tutor, outlines the process whereby this situation has arisen in his article below.
In Western Industrialised society, human beings have been defined in terms of their anatomy and physiology and more recently from the study of the psyche. We identify with our sexual, cultural, ethnic, religious and social group. Such are our current day curriculums in mainstream schooling, still labouring in the 17th Century Newtonian mechanistic universe.
In the later part of the 20th century physicists’ findings about the atom and electricity revealed the electromagnetic energy of every mass that occupies space. Physicists found fields of energy radiating in and out of substances, including the human body, in such a way that Inside fields are interfaced with outside fields.
A new model of the human being is emerging – the “biofield” or the “Mind field.”
Pioneers in the scientific exploration of fields include scientists such as Professor Valerie Hunt and her study of the “biofield” or Professor David Bohm on the “Implicate order”.
It opens us to the possibility of redefining our humanness not as separate unrelated individuals competing with each other for limited resources but as beings related and inter-related to everyone and everything in the cosmos.
It is imperative that education awakens or re-awakens the dormant capacities within the individual so as to enhance his/her own self-understanding and his/her individual relation to the larger society of which we all are a part.
Max Planck, the founder of quantum physics said the following: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about; everything that we regard as existing postulates consciousness.”
The Nobel Prize physicist Erwin Schrodinger stated: “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. Consciousness is absolutely fundamental: it cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
In the words of Valerie Hunt: Human beings have capacities beyond our limited 5 senses. Bioenergy moves through connective tissue which surrounds all cells and organs. This biofield has memory that is stored in the gel of body cells, in the fluid system between cells, and the glial cells of the brain. This organized atomic field information is a deeper source of behaviour, disease, health, thoughts and consciousness. It flavors one’s insights, intuitions and imagination.
The overemphasis of rationalism in our mainstream education system and the downplaying of other human capacities leads to the suppression of intuition, and creative imagination so evident in young children and so lacking in adolescents.
In an earlier newsletter I raised the point that we need to develop all the senses in learners and that when any of these are deficient this inhibits the child’s natural abilities. William J Long, a naturalist of the early 20th century engaged in open debate with Theodore Roosevelt then president of the United States. According to Long “the only time he (Roosevelt) gets near to the heart of a wild thing he invariably puts a bullet through it.”
“For ordinary perception at near distance the eye or ear is sufficient, and while engaged in any near or obvious matter the five senses work independently, each busy with its own function. But when such observation is ended or at fault, and the human being retreats into his inner self, then in the quiet all the senses merge and harmonize into a single perfect instrument of perception.” William J Long How Animals Talk
The word coined by American natives for the unity or perfect coordination of the five senses working together as one is “chumfo,” a term which implies all that we mean by instinct, intuitive or absolute knowing.
Schools which build into their curriculum’s outdoor activities such as hikes, wilderness trails, etc are to be congratulated as it is in such environments that students can encounter their environment and the possibility of experiencing “chumfo” and an integrated sensual experience of being.
It is here in this inner silence that a sense of wonder emerges, and one gets in touch again with the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. In quiet moments under the stars at night, on a hilltop, amid the expectant silence of a wood, we become conscious of a mysterium tremendum et fascinans (translated: mysterium tremendum “a mystery before which humanity both trembles and is fascinated”; and “mysterium fascinans: a sense of something fascinating, desirable, good, caring, comforting which invites us into its fullness, fulfills us and produces a unique kind of bliss. The startling realization that we are alive and are conscious of being alive confronts the complacency of our disenchantment and disillusionment.
Joe and Nat (Learning Unlimited and Harvard graduates) take on the challenge of climbing Mount Rainer, USA.
The constant exposure of children to so- called facts, facts and more facts; and the erosion of spaces in which to be silent and connect with the inner self and the relentless bombardment of the senses by social media have displaced a sense of meaning and inner wellbeing, leaving the child in a state of dissociation and disconnected from his/her “inner judges”.
I am constantly frustrated by teaching syllabi that work with archaic, outmoded definitions of human beings, life and the universe. I constantly scour the textbooks I read, looking for glimpses of interconnectedness or holism.
No wonder our children are bored and disenchanted with the paradigm we cling to and reinforce. And with it comes the value system that expresses some of the antiquated ideas of Darwinism: the survival of the fittest versus cooperation between life forms.
My own life experience and personal explorations have taken me so far beyond the narrow confines of empiricist knowledge.
Still our parents and communities’ clamour for grades to satisfy the entrance requirements of institutions who view these and as a measure of achievement and success.
At what cost to our children and their wellbeing?
Dispatches From A World Gone Mad – Part I by Zulfiqar Awan
Dispatch I – The Vanquished Political State
The French political philosopher, and ‘father’ of that disastrous event known as the French Revolution, Rousseau delineated the foundation and function of the modern state. In his political writings he said, “It is our business to make every individual member absolutely independent of his fellow members and absolutely dependent on the state.” (Rousseau, The Social Contract).
The journey from a political entity based on power or sovereignty, considered to be a borrowed and limited attribute, exercised in consultation with other autonomous associations and accountable to both the temporal and eternal, to a political entity whose centralised power undermined its consultative associations and forced the individual to become ‘naked’ in the face of its absolute and indivisible power IS the story of the modern independent liberal democratic state.
Sovereignty is an early modern political concept, implying supreme authority within a geographic territory. The term ‘sovereignty’ originates from the Latin word ‘superanus’, meaning ‘supreme’. The concept was an outcome of a set of complex socio-political and economic processes spanning over two centuries in the history of Europe. Interestingly, since then the nature of sovereignty continued to evolve corresponding to changing historical settings, making it a dynamic and multi-dimensional concept.
Rousseau’s central tenet is that power/sovereignty lies with the mythical ‘general will of the people’ (democracy). The absolute and indivisible nature of the ‘will of the people’ is the legitimate ground for and justification of state action. Rousseau’s ideas, coupled with Hobbes’ concept of sovereignty provide the foundational building blocks upon which our state rests. His idea of the state as an all-encompassing entity to whose authority all autonomous associations such as the church, family, guilds, communities, and so on must submit, has been the most devastating act that has curtailed individual civil liberties.
Hobbes and Rousseau’s theory of sovereignty received its final form in the legal theory of John Austin’s monistic theory of sovereignty. Austin stated, “If a determinate human superior not in the habit of obedience to a like superior receives habitual obedience from the bulk of a given society, that determinate superior is sovereign in that society and that society (including the superior) is a society political and independent.” (John Austin, Lectures on Jurisprudence, 1832)
The above theory of sovereignty has also formed the philosophical basis upon which the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century justified their actions – Hitler’s concentration camps, Mussolini’s segregation, Stalin’s gulags, right through to Guantanamo in our own time!
It took a British ex-Marxist and excellent classicist to uncover the untouchable truth of the nature politics in the early 20th century. The brilliant British political theorist Harold Laski spoke of and understood why and how state politics had been shifted from its traditional command over force (military) and wealth (Treasury) to a usurped state by finance. He stated, “A new formula is needed for a state of which the roots have spread beyond the voting audience”. State power had been transferred from the organs of the state and people to somewhere else, an undisclosed location and unelected entity. Twenty years later, the Oxford Don and classicist Sir Ronald Syme exposed the new pattern of power as an oligarchy “lurking behind the facade of democracy”. (Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution, 1939).
As a result, In 1924 Laski wrote a historical introduction to the then forgotten political tract ‘Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos’ (Defences of Liberty against Tyrants, 1579) written by the Huguenot nobleman and warrior Du-Plessis-Mornay. Written at the height of the French religious wars between Catholics and Protestants, it was a political theory that was to be influential and relied upon by those wanting to resist tyranny over a 200-year period. It is one of the first attempts to advance a systematic justification, interweaving secular and religious arguments, of resistance against legitimate (in some cases illegitimate) constituted political authority.
The Vindiciae’s core argument is that government exists as a twofold contract. The first contract involves God on one side and the people and the king on the other, in which the people and king agree to obey God. In the second, between the king and the people, the people agree to obey the king as long as he rules justly. Should the king violate either of these contracts, the people have a right and duty to resist him. The Vindiciae stops short of arguing for a general right of rebellion, however: it continues to argue for resistance led by the lesser magistrate.
The Vindiciae would influence John Locke’s political thought; he had in fact secularised it for an English audience and was cited by John Adams as having provided an important argument for liberty and freedom. Its conclusions, as radical as they were, took a socially conservative position to avoid popular uprisings, relying instead on existing higher and lower magistrates of the land to resist when necessary.
Laski’s unearthing, translation, and introduction of this glimmering jewel, buried in the confines of history, pierced through the political debates of the time which centered on social contract theories, democracy, authoritarianism, and so on. More importantly, it illustrates that there is no such thing as sovereignty at all. State power is found in the free consciousness of consenting men and women who have a moral obligation to resist if the vessel of power does not fulfil his coronation oath.
Laski saw what had happened to the political state after WWI: it was hijacked by finance. Power had shifted from parliament to an outside entity, a powerful conglomerate of financial oligarchs. The state had been vanquished, and only the illusion of a liberal democracy remained. The Vindicae was to be a re-examination of the foundations of the state and a springboard from which a new political philosophy would emerge, one that reconciles individual freedom and authority.
We hope to answer the call of Laski when he said, “We live in a new world and a new theory of state is necessary to its adequate operation.”
The corporate takeover of the state and the ‘general will of the people’
Thomas Hobbes, centuries earlier, warned of and witnessed the corporate takeover of sovereign states. Meddling is the term used for the supranational institutions wielding power over the domestic economies of the many states.
By the end of the twentieth century, a small number of international institutions had come to wield great influence over the domestic economic policies of many states around the world. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank made assistance to member states conditional on them enacting a broad suite of reforms, often with far-reaching political and social consequences. From Africa to Latin America to Asia, loans were tied to the balancing of government budgets, the privatization of state-owned industries, the removal of regulations, and the lowering of tariffs. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) targeted not only outright barriers to trade but also an array of domestic laws and regulations concerning health and safety, industrial and agricultural policy, and the environment. Working alongside powerful governments, central banks, and private corporations, these institutions exercised powers of “global economic governance” that unsettled long-standing norms of sovereignty, which, at least in theory, were meant to safeguard national institutions and policymaking from outside interference.
Independent sovereignty had been hijacked by what Eisenhower referred to as the ‘Military Industrial Complex’. Wedded as they are to oligarchic financiers, these institutions have left global societies resembling the grim pictures prophetically portrayed in both Huxley’s and Orwell’s novels.
“Liberty is the capacity to resist.” (Harold Laski)
Dispatch II – Techo-financial Wars
The great organised destruction that is unfolding today does not always take the same paths and use the same means as a classical war. In our current situation, there is an urgent need to move beyond the mere military aspect of the enemy. With financial wars, there are no uniforms, no bullets, no drones, and no tanks in the streets. Financial wars are the most devastating.
On another note, Grégoire Chamayou’s ‘Philosophical Investigation’ into predator drone warfare devastatingly illustrated to the world that independent state sovereignty has been vanquished when he said, “the drone was an eye, now it has become an eye-weapon to assassinate anybody, anywhere, anytime – crossing borders undetected.” (Grégoire Chamayou, Drone Theory, 2013).
Once in 2008, when visiting my late father (may God rest his soul) in the most northern and beautiful mountainous area of Pakistan he told me, “We hear drones fly over all the time. Let them be brave enough to come to the mountains and forests and fight on horseback with swords; this is how honourable gentlemen settle combat.” Since then, a 2011 report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) identified at least “…385 civilians killed in seven years of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, including reports of 168 child deaths.” (Chris Woods, “Over 160 children reported among drone deaths”. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Retrieved 20 September 2011.) The Geneva Convention has just become an ideal without any reality.
The devastation caused by all the financial crises since the 1980s has resulted in entire cities being ransacked and human beings dying prematurely, exterminated by suicide, disease, or poverty. In the United States, the subprime crisis turned the suburbs of many major cities, such as Cleveland or Detroit, into ruins, as if their inhabitants had fled an invading army or succumbed to a neutron attack: hundreds of thousands of houses abandoned, seized, empty of occupants, and often looted.
Simply put, the financial crises and the austerity policies that accompany them kill, hurt, and destroy, sometimes with as much intensity as conventional wars. But, during these wars without uniforms or prior declarations, the dead are almost invisible, very far from the media scene because, between the primary cause (the financial crisis) and its ultimate consequences (material and physical destruction), the temporal distances, geographical and social mask causal relationships. This violence is thus easily ignored, supplanted by the spectacular tragedies, the only ones that the media sphere can understand or show.
Hiding behind the carefully engineered discourse of humanitarianism, quantitative easing, rights, independence, democracy, and so on, the silent and brutal devastation of entire cities and states unfolds.
Warring financial oligarchic dynasties are the ‘engines of the broken world’, to use a quote from the playwright Christopher Marlowe.
The key mechanism that facilitates such devastation, so perfectly hidden, is three-fold: an education model designed to reduce consciousness, the forced subjection of the individual to a debtor-creditor relationship, and an entire entertainment and consumption industry leaving the masses ignorant, highly in debt (both nationally and individually), amused to death and consequently, powerless and helpless to act.
Dispatch III – The Human Psyche & ‘Techne’
A new malaise emerged in the early sixteenth century. a century that marks the beginning of modernity and the end of the medieval age. It was recognised as a mental disease but appeared so different from all the known mental diseases that none of the terms of the extensive existing vocabulary (medical or general) were judged adequate to capture it. By the 1530s new words were invented, and the strange ailment was named “madness” or “lunacy”; four centuries later German psychiatrists would divide it into two separate diseases, naming them “schizophrenia” and “manic-depressive illness.” In England, madness was spreading quickly throughout the sixteenth century, by the end of it being considered—as we learn from the brilliant Shakespearean play of Hamlet (specifically Hamlet and Orphelia)—a special mark of English society.
Madness had marked the beginning of modernity!
Our current age is plagued by a socially structured psychosis. It is characterised by the self being disjointed from reality. This plague is not new as it permeated Imperial Rome from the time of the Emperorship of Augustus. His absolute power and its transfer from the senate to legions was brilliantly hidden behind the illusion of Rome continuing to be a Republic. History does not repeat itself; it rhymes.
Our Digital Age has changed everything. Mental illness is nothing like what it was even twenty years ago. Since the advent of the Internet, suicide rates have soared. Depression has become the single most debilitating disease in the world. The majority of people who go to their doctor, to an emergency department, and to urgent care have no discernible physical disease. Roughly half of all adults in Western countries struggle with at least one addiction.
We now live in a 24/7 miasma of media bombardment, of neuro-saturation, and of mental exhaustion. Technology has obliterated the human mind’s ability to keep up, and in this ‘brave new world’ it is time for an honest and forthright reassessment of both mental illness and mental wellness. The prevalent model of the inner workings of the human mind has reduced the human being to a set of biochemical reactions and thoughts, superbly corresponding to the increasing awareness that the masses are numb-calm and hyper-normal. The recent proliferation of zombie-themed television series are but art depicting reality.
The unheard voice of the erudite psychologist and philosopher, Dr. Ronald Laing, is spot on when he said, “Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.” (R.D. Laing, The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness, 1960). The world has gone mad, and the rise of mental disorders is a reaction to it!
It is at this point that a new society needs to emerge. It begins with a reconstruction of the education system. One in which will facilitate the flourishing of the student, by expanding consciousness. This is the subject of Sharon Levy’s piece.