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Ontological Learning and Constructivism
Joy Bonham, MA

We live in a post-modern world where our cultural, intellectual and artistic way of being is unclear. Globalization has resulted in diverse, complex and contradictory belief systems. As a result, a new paradigm of ambiguity and constant change has emerged. Western civilization, especially western thought, is experiencing a third historical shift and we are all caught up in the birthing process. We are living in a time of great transformation. It is a time of significant change and less certainty, resulting in turbulence and chaos for many. The existential crisis we now find ourselves in is the death of permanence and it requires that we let go of control, order and certainty; the staples of modern man.

Our first societal shift was from being a nomadic culture to a cultivation culture. Instead of following game we planted seeds. Our second historical shift was the industrial revolution, when machinery replaced human labor. We now find ourselves in a new meta-shift, a third wave, in knowledge or information saturation. We are experiencing 'culture shock' as technology ushers in exposure to humans in other locations and cultures. There is no longer a single worldview. "The simultaneous existence of different mindsets results in ambiguity, confusion, paradox and uncertainty." The post-modern world marks a shift in our ways of thinking and being: intuitive and rational, conservation and exploitation, religion and science, cooperation and competition.

The question we might ask ourselves is ... how might we accommodate and prepare for what is occurring around us? One approach is to use Ontology, the study of being and the nature of human existence. It explores who, what and why we are, from both a societal level and as an individual. An ontological shift in our being alters the way we view the world. What we are experiencing today is a mega-shift in our collective way of being.

Ontology theory is derived from two schools of thought: psychology and philosophy. There is a cognitive component, which is our belief system, and a behavioral component, which is how we act in the world. It is also philosophical in that it examines human existence in relation to the works of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and more recently Heidegger.

The world in which we now live demands that each of us continually becomes a different and more powerful observer, someone who is continually open to new types of learning and new ways of learning. "

In conclusion, our task ahead is daunting. In order to survive the third wave, humanity must become masters of accommodation and second-order change. We must be able to "accommodate" and sometimes hold conflicting belief systems and ambiguity. We need to avoid "confirmation bias". We need to drop or shift existing mental frameworks quickly in order to confront the current pace of rapid change before us because … globalization is here to stay.

The Hopi talk of the third wave "There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate."

--Toffler, A. (1971). Future Shock. London: Pan Books.
--Toffler, A. (1980). Third Wave. London: William Collins and Sons.
--Sieler, A. (2003). Coaching to the Human Soul: ontological coaching and deep change. Australia: Newfield.
--Kail, R.V., Cavanaugh, J. C. (2004). Human Development: a life-span view. Toronto: Wadsworth.
--Westen, D., Kilts, C., Blagov, P., Harenski, K., & Hamann, S. (2006). The neural basis of motivated reasoning: An MRI study of emotional constraints on political judgment during the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 1947-1958.

Copyrighted. Joy Bonham.  All rights reserved.

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