Culturally Mature Education Starts on Day One

While I repeatedly draw on the analogy between personal second –half-of-life maturity and the tasks of our time in making the argument for Cultural Maturity, I am careful to emphasize that personal maturity and “growing up” in this species sense, are distinct phenomena. The distinction is important because without it, as I describe in my writing, we can readily fall for traps in our thinking. It is also important because without it, we can miss where we often find particularly interesting examples of Cultural Maturity. While personal experience doesn’t hurt, today it is often young people who have most to contribute. For example, while acceptance of gay marriage can be a stretch even for many baby boomers who lived through the sexual revolutions, few millenials have much problem with the notion at all. This is what we would expect if Cultural Maturity has to do with social rather than personal development. Each generation should be a bit further along than that previous.

A good place to see the practical significance of this distinction is the important implications it has for culturally mature education—education that supports the development of culturally mature capacities. A person might reasonably ask, given that such education’s concern is mature understanding, whether culturally mature curriculum would not best be left for graduate-level classes (or even restricted to continuing education). In fact, culturally mature curriculum should begin on day one. The kind of “growing up” we have interest in involves the whole of culture as a system, and the earlier we start, the better.

Teaching about bringing more systemic perspective to the truths we draw on and about temperament differences—examples of what Creative Systems Theory calls the “crux” and “multiplicity” aspects of culturally mature truth—make good examples. I’ve written in detail about how each kind of discernment requires Integrative Meta-Perspective. Some of the people who have worked closest with me in developing these notions—and in particular in the development of the Creative Systems Personality Typology—are teachers of young children.

The following is excerpted from Cultural Maturity—A Guidebook for the Future: “Learning to make culturally mature “crux” and “multiplicity” truth discernments, for example, appropriately serves as the core of education at any age. To teach crux distinction skills, a preschool teacher might ask: “Sarah, which of those stories did you like best? And can you tell us anything about why you liked it?” And contrary to what we might think, we can begin just as early to teach about systemic multiplicity, about context and human difference. That same teacher might ask Evan and Jane and Walter “and which story did each of you like best?” She might then comment on how interesting it is that different people like different stories and wonder aloud just why that might be. Later, when looking together at the tadpoles in the tank in the room she might turn to Evan, a somewhat quirky kid who is often made fun of and tends to get left out of classroom conversations, and say: “Evan, you liked the story with the funny creatures in it. I bet you know a lot about tadpoles. Can you tell us about them?” Complement that with chances for others to similarly highlight their gifts—and with conversation that reflects on just how these diverse gifts are different, and also how different gifts can work together—and we are well on our way toward a curriculum that not only teaches about Cultural Maturity’s needed larger holding of systemic complexity, but embodies it.”