Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher

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R. Michael Fisher
Founder's Forum -> A Few Reflections on Indigenizing (Spiritualizing) Curriculum
by R. Michael Fisher - Thursday, May 19, 2016, 07:23 AM

A Few Reflections on Indigenizing (Spiritualizing) Curriculum

A cascade of experiences and ideas have settled from the past few years that have challenged my own thinking about Education, and more specifically about my projects in curriculum development and pedagogy. It was a recent “visioning” exercise and  overview I took part of with my life-partner, Barbara Bickel (a CSIIE Faculty), that coalesced a ‘big’ and ‘discerning’ picture of what is really meaningful to me in my work and life. I’ll refer to this overarching narrative as my journey to Indigenize and/or Spiritualize Curriculum. And by curriculum, I mean both formal curriculum that our educational institutions (anywhere) may utilize, but also the informal curriculum of everyday learning and socialization processes that are less touched by social institutions and yet, we know there is always that ‘lurking’ hand of institutional impact wherever we are.

I’ve grown into realization that I am an ‘architect’ (designer)—with a very particular orientation that moves around a critique, at least since my late teens, that “something is terribly wrong with the world.” I don’t doubt many people have this sense, yet rarely do individuals build entire life/career/purpose based on that. It goes a lot deeper than I “want to make the world a better place; and I can do so by being a better person myself.” This is admirable for what it is, and I hear it often or see it in how many ‘good’ people live out their lives, yet, I am so critical yet of the how behind their approach to bring goodness. They typically, in my view lack a thorough and comprehensive critical language, theoretical and philosophical awareness and mindset. Their ‘goodness’ is too shallow for me and too shallow for what I see needs to happen if this world is to become healthy in a sustainable way.

My own trajectory in terms of the critical and analytical study of educational philosophies, theories and curriculum, in very brief, carries across the territories of passions (in historical and autobiographical order): natural history education, ecological and environmental education, science education, experiential and holistic education, critical pedagogy, futures education, transpersonal education, art education, transformative education, integral education, fear management/education, and the latest Indigenizing Education. Some 45 years of travel-- ‘awakening’ and involving myself (and sometimes others I connect with) along a deep and prophetic journey to be effective in bringing about a movement from fear to fearlessness. The very latest project I am consulting on in Canada, involves bringing forward my knowledge, with a research team, to Indigenize Medical/Health Education and Health Sciences and Services, especially in regard to application to the treatment of Indigenous peoples (Inuit, First Nations, Metis, Aboriginals).

I call myself a curricularist these days. Most people haven’t a clue what that is but they get somewhat that it means I care about what curricula we put into from of people, especially young people, and “hope” that it will serve them (and society) well in the future. Simply, I care about what people spend their time on, learning and unlearning. It will determine the Quality of Life on this planet. Generally, my critique involves the deconstruction and unlearning side, because I feel that current dominant forms of curricula (almost everywhere) are far out of date and highly infused with a “social pathology” to be blunt. I am offering an alternative, as I always have in diverse forms for 45 years, and the latest is an Indigenizing Curriculum cura. If you haven’t followed my latest book (with Desh Subba), you’ll have missed my own transformation of a philosophy of fearlessness into a merged (E-W) philosophy of fearism. There’s a good deal of information on the Internet beginning to show the work that Desh and I are doing to create a new philosophy for the 21st century and a curriculum design that will someday soon follow from that. The philosophy of fearism is part and parcel of the overall ‘package deal’ I am offering to the world, as a cura for a dangerously ‘sick society’ that is designed on fear, not on fearlessness, and not on love. That’s a much bigger story for another time, as this blog will focus on other things.

Overall, on the philosophical level, lying behind and foundational to, this overarching journey, has been a crossing in and out of many kinds of thought and stances about my own “philosophy of education” and thus, how that philosophy affects my architectural and design practices when creating curriculum. I have recently been studying, albeit in small bits, the philosophy of history, and the history of philosophy in the Western world. A prevalent theme arose the other day from all this study, and the powerful insight emerged that: “I am not a humanist.”

I’ll take some time to unfold why I am not a “humanist” by my choice of identifying with a philosophical tradition in the Western world. I ask for some patience as I am writing this and working out my thinking as I go, as a process, so there is no fast and finished end product to consume. It’s all notoriously creating itself still, emerging, and incomplete. I could change this tomorrow and it will look at different color; however, I doubt that much of the deepest structures below the surface will change too much for the rest of my time on this planet. The underlying ‘awakening’ I had in my late teens was that humans, in the modern world are really neurotic (if not psychotic) at some level: They spoil their own nest. That’s insanity, by design. Every bone in my body told me then, and still does, “this is not a natural design” but one that has been culturally-politically modified and imposed on people and societies and is a by-product of a ‘sick way’ of thinking (or worldview). I have to figure out how to ‘fix this.’ The ecological disasters happening in the 1960s-70, and predicted to happen in the 21st century, became the major part of my first post-secondary education curriculum and careers. This created an indelible mark on my being.

I felt compassion for the “wildlife” and “environments” of this world, but it was a compassion immature, and a reaction against the horrible treatment of humanity towards Nature. I was a Nature-boy true blood. I began to “hate” Culture and people, including civilization and industrialization in particular. This affective-traumatic-scar remains with me no matter how much healing work I do; but I had a major transformation during these “Ecological Years” and became to see that I needed to share that love and compassion with humans because I was learning how they (and myself, my wife at the time, my children) were also hurt and doing hurtful things to themselves and others, including the environment. I learned that humans are dumping their “distress” (hurts, traumas) as excess fear onto the planet, that is, all other beings. It was a ‘war zone’ of a nightmarish kind. That mystical insight into seeing humans as part of Nature-Culture became critical to shifting to read educational philosophies that appealed to me like Rousseau, Steiner, Dewey, Freire, and so on, and they led me to be a “humanist educator.” I wanted the modern industrial society to shift its values from less on money/profit to taking care of people. To make that critical change, one needs well designed curricula to achieve it. Thus, I became a curricularist with this mission—not the first in history, that’s for sure.

I still have that humanist part in me, and it will never go away, yet, in the later years after 60 years old, I found myself moving into other ways of thinking about “humans” and “humanity” and, the complexity has been immense. I no longer see “human” (or “humanity”) as all that special of a category above and beyond anything else. Of course, some might recognize this shift in their own teachings received in life where they were told that what is most important is the “Divine” (in one form or another) and thus human-divine is a better combination than merely elevating “human” as the highest and greatest value. I always put “Life” or what I call “Quality” as higher than everything else—but maybe some people will merely call my valuation hierarchy “God” or “Spirit.” So, the short of this study recently, has led me to move away from a “humanist” orientation to two other preferred labels and orientations that go with them: (1) I am an integralist and, (2) I am an idealist. And, at times, I will put capital letters on those. For this blog, there is not the space to unwind all of what these mean. I’ll say a little more about the latter, because it is the newest thought and I have written the least on it. Then, the rest of the blog is devoted to explicating what I mean by my recent turn to focus on Indigenizing (Spiritualizing) Curriculum.

Hegel-Wilber-Fisher, is the latest triadic aesthetic form that I have created, like a transforming assemblage—it carries “me” (and all my work) into a set of relations with and beyond other great thinkers, the likes of Hegel or Ken Wilber. I am not overly attached to this assemblage on one-level, and yet I cherish it a lot. I am in deep dialogue in a hermeneutic circle with the thought of Hegel (19th century) and Wilber (20-1st centuries). I do not believe everything they thought and wrote is “the only truth” but it is important truth. I read critics of these thinkers as well. I interpret it all in my own frames of reference as I build a critical philosophy for my work as an architect of a ‘new society’ and educational system. Of course, I am not so naive to think there is only “one” system that works for all. Moving on... it is too complicated to go into these changes and the great philosophical “systems” of Hegel and Wilber. I learned in my recent study that Hegel is labeled as an “Idealist” (even if he himself, in his own time, may not have interpreted that label the same as his later critics and interpreters). I learned as well that Wilber, in Up From Eden (1981), my favorite book that I discovered in 1982, says that he doesn’t talk about Hegel’s work in that book on the cultural evolution of consciousness, but he says Hegel casts a shadow on every page. Now, that’s an honoring that I would not want to miss in how I understand Ken Wilber’s integral philosophy—albeit, this is the earlier-phase 2 of Wilber’s overall work. It is a foundation that still exists, and Wilber has been called a neo-Hegelian at times. I think it is appropriate. Now, the big kicker is that I am a neo-Hegelian, neo-Wilberian too... the details, are for another time. Thus, I return to why I am not a humanist anymore, I am an Idealist, and I trust you’ll give me lots of elbow room around that to be an Idealist, of a kind, of a dynamism, that the world has simply not seen before. I know I have a unique set of ‘gifts’ to bring to that rendering and what could be called an Integral-Idealist Curriculum for the 21st Century.

Lastly, let me introduce, ever so briefly, my connection to an emerging node of attraction, in this vast assemblage I am working with... that is, the Indigenizing (Spiritualizing) Curriculum. Hegel’s 19th century curriculum, for the entire world, is a Spiritualizing one, because he saw the whole of the Western modernist (Enlightenment) project going ‘bad’—turning away from its brightest roots of “freedom” to a lesser and lesser quality freedom, to the point of a disturbing pathological materialism (i.e., empiricism, materialism, utilitarianism). Again, you would have to read up on Hegel to understand this context of his vast critique. I find it impressive beyond my expectation of what I thought Hegel was about, and of course, I also realized in my study recently that the W, modern and postmodern and poststructuralist critics have so trashed Hegel and Idealism for so long, the ‘big picture’ of his role in history is vastly distorted to the negative and dismissed—marginalized, and unknown. So, it has been enlivening to study Hegel and those who are bringing his work back to life and purpose for the 21st century, of which Wilber is just one, and a major one, of that project. I now have joined in on this venture.

To repeat: Hegel’s (and Wilber’s) overall philosophy is what could be called “spiritualizing” the materialist paradigm and worldview—and thus, the World-Soul and world-at-large. You can read Wilber’s books on all that. Now, let me turn to the great influence from Four Arrows (aka Dr. Don Trent Jacobs, a CSIIE Faculty) that has come my way while studying education curriculum development in my grad school years (1998-2003). It is not like I was ignoring spiritualizing influences in education history and philosophy, because Rudolf Steiner and Paulo Freire, to name only two, were greatly influential. In 2007, I was contacted by Four Arrows, a mixed-blood Indigenous scholar, activist-educator, asking me to contribute a chapter to his new book on alternative dissertation research [1]. We continued to correspond. I began reading his many books and articles. I fell in love with his amazing work on a sacred theory of fear, like no one else’s [2]. We’ve collaborated on a few more projects bringing forth our thoughts on fear and fearlessness (and now philosophy of fearism) into curriculum—what Four Arrows has dubbed “Indigenizing” curriculum [3] --with roots in what many global postcolonial thinkers have called more generally “decolonizing” philosophies, theories, methodologies and curricula. I so respect his contribution to education, my latest intellectual biography of his life’s work is dedicated to showing how his critical pedagogy in particular, is the next evolution beyond Freirean pedagogy [4].

I adopt (and adapt), more or less, Four Arrows basic meaning for “Indigenizing,” without either of us having, or recommending, any singular absolute definition, as:

“... no single race of people can lay claim to ‘Indigenous wisdom.’ It lives deep within the heart of every living creature. Anyone who remains deeply aware of the rhythms of the natural world can remember it. Unfortunately, it seems that most of us have lost or are losing this ‘primal awareness,’ largely because of the language of conquest.” [5]

What is Indigenizing, of course has to do with some well-researched set of criteria for what can be generalized about as an authentic (pre-industrial, pre-modern) “Indigenous Worldiew” (according to Four Arrows and others), as opposed to a “Western Worldview.” Four Arrows calls this “ancestral Indigenous thinking” and “primal awareness” etc., diverse as many different Indigenous groups are around the planet and through time, the essence of his argument is that these people’s better know how to live with their local natural environments than any other group of peoples. And, so, with the current ecological and environmental crises (e.g., global warming induced by human industrial pollution) all people ought to be privileging the Indigenous wisdom available. Now, if you look at the meaning (quote) above, Four Arrows rightfully does not reduce Indigenizing as only coming from people (humans). I so appreciate that. Again, I am not a humanist, and nor is Four Arrows in a restricted Western meaning of that term and philosophy. Rather, Four Arrows says that such primal awareness is instinctive and found in “every living creature” and if pushed, he easily would say in all being (yes, rocks too).


The Indigenizing of the world has always been part and parcel of how Nature and Culture relate to each other. And they do so, as part of Indigenizing, or Spiritualizing. Hegel said all is Spirit and returns to Spirit, and I find that Idealist philosophy, basically, very coherent with Indigenous wisdom and its worldview. So, this ought to give you a quick glance at where I am coming from of late, philosophically speaking. If I was now to revise my assemblage that is carrying my work into the world, there is a shift to a quadratic relation: Four Arrows-Hegel-Wilber-Fisher. And, it ought to be clear, if you re-read Four Arrows Indigenizing curriculum agenda, it is very political! We are not talking about some fluffy peaceful ‘new age’ spirituality here at all. The “language of conquest” or what he also calls the “language of deceit” (from the Western Worldview) is not longer tenable as worthy to bring to solve the world’s problems, especially on its own. Yes, in a later blog someday I’ll talk about “Two-Eyed Seeing” methodologies (Indigenous, as one-eye, and Western as another-eye) that are emerging in the last decades and of which my own research in medical/health sciences is invoking as critical praxis. To be clear, both Four Arrows and I (and I suspect Wilber and if Hegel was alive) agree that the “language of deceit” is a “language of fear.” There, is exactly where I intend to take Indigenizing (Spiritualizing) in the next years. Join me in this dialogue and curriculum development.

End Notes:

1. Four Arrows (Jacobs, D. T.) (2008). The authentic dissertation: Alternative ways of knowing, research, and representation. NY: Routledge; see my own chapter, Fisher, R. M. (with Quaye, S. J., and Pope, B.) (2008). “Fearless leadership”: R. Michael Fisher’s Story (pp. 143-48).

2. See Jacobs, D. T. (1998). Primal awareness: A true story of survival, transformation, and awakening with the Raramuri shamans of Mexico. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, pp. 156-75.

3. Four Arrows (Jacobs, D. T.) (with England-Aytes, K., Cajete, G., Fisher, R. M., Mann, B. A., McGaa, E., and Sorensen, M.) (2013). Teaching truly: A curriculum to Indigenize mainstream education. NY: Peter Lang.

4. Fisher, R. M. (in progress). Fearless engagement: The true story of an Indigenous-based social transformer (an intellectual biography of Four Arrows, aka Don Trent Jacobs). NY: Peter Lang; see also my introduction to why I think this new evolution of critical pedagogy is so important (as I critiqued a mis-guided “radical love” of Freireans), Fisher, R. M. (in press). “Radical love”: Is it radical enough? International Journal of Curriculum Pedagogy.

5. Four Arrows (2009). Introduction. In Four Arrows (Ed.), Unlearning the language of conquest: Scholars expose anti-Indianism in America. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

R. Michael Fisher
Founder's Forum -> One Yellow (R)Evolution: Integral Spirituality
by R. Michael Fisher - Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 10:13 AM

I have long been interested in a (r)evolution, of another color, so to speak. "Color" is not what you may be thinking. I am referring to an arbitrary color designation found in spiral dynamics theory (integral), by Don Beck, and sometimes used by Ken Wilber. You can look up these folks on Wikipedia if you want more of a background. But let me say, that in my decades of learning philosophies, models, theories and systems, I continue to be impressed and engaged in integral theory. And from an integral theory perspective (sometimes called meta-theory integral by Wilber), there is a different color ascribed to the (r)evolution needed on this planet. Let me explain, and then offer you a long video to watch by Wilber called "Introduction to Integral Spirituality." I'll say a few words about why it is worth watching for an hour and half, regardless of the off-putting elements of it as well.

The One Yellow (R)Evolution, is a take-off from a fun improvisational theatre group in Calgary, AB, when I was growing up, called One Yellow Rabbit theatre co. They did really off-the-edge stuff. Yellow (R)Evolution is something I particularly began to promote, albeit on a low key, when I volunteered at the Gaia House Interfaith centre in Carbondale, IL between 2009-2012. I was basically promoting a different, more holistic-integral view, than I saw in the Green Revolution speak and imaginary of most of the eco-activists, and social justice activists that came there. The youth, from campus, they too had already well adapted as radicals a Green Revolution, often with socialist or communist or anarchist political leanings. All fine for what it is, but it lacked a vision beyond itself. Let me explain.

Green (Eco) and social justice liberation movements and activism has long been part of my youth-cutting-my-teeth on "alternative" ways to be in this world and to transform the world systems. Yes, it was all unsustainable and violent, etc. You know the rehetoric and critique and all partly true. Now, I left that Green Revolution for a lot of reasons in about 1990s. A big part of it was because, like Beck and Wilber, the "flaws" and "ideology" of Green became too much and was contradictory to real authentic peace and liberation. It became so infiltrated with political correctness, which is part of the postmodern turn, and academia in some faculties (arts, humanities, education) really took off on this new "empowerment" of Green Revolution in all its varieties, including all the gender revolution stuff. Fine, again, as it is and partially a very important critique of our modern socieities. But the analysis of reality I found more and more wanting as I grew and matured, and developed a refined integral consciousness (as Wilber calls it)--or Yellow v-meme as Don Beck calls it.

At Gaia House, and after, my interest is to promote a full-spectrum view of the evolution of consciousness on this planet, and how various levels of consciousness have their positive role and have their shadow side (i.e., pathologies). I won't go into the details of spiral dynamics theory, but to say, we've had in the last 500 years in the west an "Orange Revolution" (industrial, economic capitalism thriving, individualism, a business model of how to do everything valuable)-- etc. And we've learned that that Orange v-meme system is powerful but really has big flaws, of which the next step in evolution occurred to bring forward the Green v-meme... and the short of the story  is that Green is not the top of evolution (maturity). Green meme of course cannot see that. It thinks it is morally superior, and will solve all the problems that were created by Orange meme (not to forget to mention the other four v-memes prior to Orange and modernity).

Yellow v-meme is the corrective, and non-fear-based system that is next to evolve, if Green v-meme will let it. Long story. I have continually found the oppressive side of Green Revolution to exclude and devalue the Yellow (R)Evolution that is required-- the example I can best give of what a Yellow (R)Evolution would look like in the domain of religion and spirituality, is a long talk recently by Ken WIlber "Introduction to Integral Spirituality" 

Even if you have no background in integral theory or spiral dynamics, you'll get the idea from Wilber's talk of just how different an integral level of consciousness and action is from a green (pluralistic) level. Wilber describes it really carefully, but due to his severe illness and weakening of his capacities, you'll notice in the video how he is reading a rigid script which really kills his spontaneous human and brilliance, as I used to so love in his talks. Yet, this is a talk not about him, not about silly surface features of his body or personality, it is about a deeply moving wisdom that I frankly find no where else, from no one else, to be as resonant with my own sense of reality and how we need a new analysis (beyond Green Revolution).

I am blogging today because of Barbara Bickel, my life-partner, and one of the CSIIE faculty, sending me a short letter on her experience of so many youth disenfranchised and disheartened who are sleeping on the streets in Vancouver, BC right now, as she visits there. I have lived there, and I saw it too, and it is growing. She says there is lots of street literature emerging in those communities, that is about "youth revolution"--they have really dropped out like in the 60s and 70s-- they don't see any point in joining and fitting into a predatory capitalist system that will only put them in debt hundreds of thousands of dollars (e.g., to get a post-secondary education, to find housing), etc. I don't blame them for rebelling and wanting a youth revolution. My point of writing today, is to announce I will gladly help lead and guide such a revolution if it is based on Yellow (R)Evolution. Count me in. I don't need to be top-dog, I have lots of wisdom to share, and I will listen to all kinds of other wisdoms (from other v-memes on the full-spectrum)--however, I have a definite strong stance, and I have seen enough failures of Green Revolution and Orange Revolution for a life time. I am full of energy to help but in a more constructive way--a more holisitic-integral way than Green can provide alone.




R. Michael Fisher
Founder's Forum -> To Justin Trudeau: Canada's Progressive Prime Minister
by R. Michael Fisher - Thursday, February 25, 2016, 08:10 AM

Dear Hon. Justin Trudeau,

This open letter is my first attempt to craft what will be an eventual real letter sent to your office. When I finally send that letter, it will be accompanied by my two books. Before I get to those details of why I want to send you my books and this letter, a little background is important.

First, I want to congratulate you and your Liberal party of Canada for finally taking this country, my country, towards a possible revolution in humanization, after too many years which have devastated the social life-world and educational potential of Canada. I'll refrain from a political analysis per se, but to say, that I have always believed with the right fearless leadership, if you will, Canada could easily be one of the leading countries in the world in terms of the best education system for all. That's where my career as a Canadian comes in.

I had been on a few career paths which involves fighting for environmental justice and ecological sustainability, when in 1980 (age 28 yrs) I graduated with a third post-secondary degree in Education (Secondary Science). I got my first teaching job and retired after two years, because I loved teaching but couldn't stand school systems. The short of my career development, my first co-founding of the In Search of Fearlessness Project in 1989 (Calgary, AB), and a few more post-secondary degrees (Vancouver, BC), led me to graduate in 2003 with a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Pedagogy from The University of British Columbia, of which my doctoral degree was supported entirely by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada fellowship paid for by Canadian citizens, who paid taxes to support academics like me. I won that $51,000 fellowship #752-2001-2274 (2001-03) during the most important official research years of my career. I was granted that highly competitive fellowship because I sent in a proposal to pursue the reasons that violence (conflict and fear) so negatively impact on Education and how we could improve that problem.

My dissertation was a study of the "culture of fear" phenomenon and its impact on eductional leadership and educational systems in general. This was decided as my topic before Sept. 11/2001. So, it seems my research and intuition and critical thinking had taken me right into the mouth of the lion, so to speak, about what was going to be a major shaping force of future society and educational activities in the decades to come (now, it is called the post-9/11 era). Title of my dissertation is: "Fearless Leadership In and Out of the 'Fear' Matrix." From that work, I was able to generate many more cultural and educational documents, art exhibitions and a variety of teaching seminars, courses, etc. all around this topic. I was eventually "forced" to leave Canada with my life-partner because she found a professorship in the USA, and we could not find one in Canada. We have lived in the USA for eight years. During this time, as an entrepreneur, I have continued my commitment to the Canadian people and government to solve the problem of violence (conflict and fear) in the education of our children and citizenry at large, especially in a post-9/11 climate of fear. I have produced to major books, all at my own expense, in these years, of which I will be sending to you and the government of Canada, so that you may find a new resource to tackle the problems of violence in all its forms, including all forms of oppression right down to "anti-bullying" campaigns, which I see is a topic you Mr. Trudeau have engaged in yourself, as a former teacher, and now Prime Minister.

The two books are: (1) The World's Fearlessness Teachings: A Critical Integral Approach to Fear Management/Education for the 21st Century (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2010); (2) Philosophy of Fearism: A First East-West Dialogue (Australia: Xlibris) which is co-authored with Desh Subba.

As objective as I can be as a researcher-educator, these are by far two of the leading-edge cultural productions in the world with the newest and unique creative thinking about the Fear Problem, which is at the base of most every vicious problem of human societies. These, Mr. Trudeau, are the result of the support of the Canadian people for a Canadian researcher (myself) to advance our knowledge and ways of fear management/education. Canada deserves the best knowledge on this topic it can get. I believe I have delivered it. This is a Canadian-made cultural production. I trust you will have a read.

Lastly, I am offering myself as a consultant on this topic for the Canadian government, be it in Education or any domain of government. My life-partner and I are planning to return to Canada soon, and I would be glad to meet with you and your staff any time to begin a new phase of my life back in my homeland.

I look forward to hearing from you.


-R. Michael Fisher, Ph.D.

Fearologist, Education Consultant

R. Michael Fisher
Founder's Forum -> "Western" Universities Losing Their Nerve: Fear Invades Higher Education
by R. Michael Fisher - Saturday, December 5, 2015, 09:01 AM

Many of my posts on this Founder's Forum over the last three years have to do with the fate of Higher Education, which is becoming more and more controlled by neoliberal ideologism. You can maybe search some of these past posts, and see why CSIIE was founded.

My daughter Vanessa sent me an interesting recent article from the UK Telegraph on similar arguments I've been long concerned about, and I think all free-thinking young people who attend universities ought to think critically about... here's the open lines and link below to read the rest of the article. Would love to hear any of your responses and ideas for how CSIIE can evolve and better meet the needs of the future of our youth especially....

Article excerpt:

A refusal to think freely is making universities increasingly irrelevant

The vast majority of academics are of the Left – and their research often disappears without trace

"There was a time, not that long ago, when universities embodied the best of Western civilisation. Having broken away from their narrowly theological and often obscurantist past, they thrived during much of the 20th century, dedicating themselves to research, debate and learning. They were, at their best, cosmopolitan in outlook before the rest of society, beacons of genuine diversity and home to the greatest of thinkers.

But with a few brilliant and wonderful exceptions, they are now slowly drifting back to their pre-19th century role as a purveyor of a single, illiberal world view. Instead of opening the minds of young people by exposing them to every kind of idea and every sort of controversy, they are losing their nerve, pandering to destructive activists who would rather they serve up a thin, tightly controlled and unchallenging intellectual gruel. Rather than pushing the boundaries of human knowledge, most universities now churn...".


R. Michael Fisher
Founder's Forum -> Stopping Fear's Empire: Role of Critical Pedagogy
by R. Michael Fisher - Tuesday, September 15, 2015, 09:25 AM

From my journal writing the other morning, I came up with this sketch of what I see as a very important trajectory for critical pedagogy in the next decade or so. I won't give all the details of what this diagram below points to but you ought to see how it maps a territory of key important players (not the only important players, as I could add other sub-routes, e.g., bell hooks) to this map)... I say key players in dealing with FEAR & CRITICAL PEDAGOGY up front and center (more or less). I'm going to symbolically call this Figure 1 and use if for several years as a guiding map to what my work in education is going to focus on. Ultimately, my work is about trying to find the best critical pedagogy up to the postmodern task of stopping Fear's Empire (this latter term, I borrow from the sociologist Benjamin Barber)--or as I call it, the postmodern task of undermining the 'Fear' Matrix (aka Culture of Fear). Big project stuff... it requires vision, and this map is part of my vision for the task ahead...


First of all to say that the long tradition of critical pedagogy can be traced a long way back in history, including the critical adult education movements, but a sure fire starting point historically in order to make this handleable is to start with Paulo Freire's work or Freirean critical pedagogy (of the oppressed). My researching his work since the late 1970s, off and on, and back now to see how he uses "fear" in his critical theory and pedagogy is something I will be working to summarize soon. To say the least, he forefronts the problem of "fear of freedom" amongst the oppressed specifically in his theory. Now, I doubt I will find too much in depth discussion of fear (and none on fearlessness) in his work, but that's down the road. I am pretty convinced from what I have read that both Henry A. Giroux and Peter McLaren, two of Freire's North American leaders of critical theory and pedagpgy have not taken the fearanalysis very far either but they have a few important contributions. Point being, is that these main critical pedagogical leaders have not given us as humanity yet the philosophy, theory or practices to stop Fear's Empire--at best, they may help slow it down. That's where I come in as a theorist and pedagogue, and curriculum designer. I want the very best only, so as to stop Fear's Empire.

To create the very best approach I have been learning that I have to go beyond Freirean critical pedagogy to what I see as the next step forward, which is to integrate all of the above theorists and pedagogues... and especially those who work with the "culture of fear" construct and phenomena. I thought maybe Giroux and then Parker J. Palmer would come to the fore, but they tapered off nearly entirely from that analysis and trajectory--thus, fear is no longer very important in their work nor theorized in any profound way. Freire, Giroux, McLaren, Palmer (and hooks) tend to still fall back on the hope-courage formulations to help get us through oppression--that is, the culture of fear as a major contribution to oppressions of all kinds. And that's my point, they aren't strong enough, nor deep enough thinkers in the realm of the relationship of critical pedagogy to fear. Next, I turn to the map and see that my old friend and colleague Don Trent Jacobs (Four Arrows), who is one of the CSIIE Faculty among other amazing things he does in his life, is going to be the next in line of researching and integrating his work on fear and eductation and general human development. I have known of him and his work since 2007 and we've stayed in touch, all good. At times I have attempted to get him to work with me on the fear and fearlessness material further, especially developing his theories, and specifically his 1998 CAT-FAWN theory (1), which he continues to put out in his new publications now and then, but in such limited ways-- and fact is, no one I see is actually taking up his model Concentration Activated Transformation (CAT)--and Fear, Authority, Word(s), and Nature (FAWN). It certainly isn't getting press nor can be found in citations in publications in education. That is a fact. That is a tragedy. I can relate to the neglect of my own work by the field of education for example--all these years, and it is likely a sign that any model that really can undermine Fear's Empire in a big way is going to be by-passed and forgotten (i.e., the fearism-t, or toxic fearism ideology has so penetrated our world that it will undermine true liberational theories and wisdom). The more popular versions of fear and critical pedagogy, like Giroux, McLaren, Palmer (or hooks) are likely popular for a good reason--they don't yet cut deeply enough into the juglar vein of Fear's Empire. That's my working hypothesis anyways for this trajectory of my future research.

So, as of today, in published form, (and for CSIIE to take a good look at in the future)--I present what is to be called Jacobsian Critical Pedagogy as the next evolution beyond Freirean Critical Pedagogy. I have no doubt that a big part of Freire's success, among other factors, in spreading critical pedagogy was that he was drawing heavily upon Liberation Theology (and pedagogy of the oppressed) which had a long tradition (especially in Latin America)--and it fit his initiates in Brazil and from there. Freire is Christian (even if somewhat marxist), and he is a humanist in the Eurocentric tradition and has the Catholic background to spread rapidly over the decades. I don't know enough history of critical pedagogy or Freire to say more, but one could argue, his liberation is still colonialist, and I am not the only one to critique that--but it also makes it a palatable liberation work for large numbers of Catholics and marxists, and European folks and in Latin America especially. It is now internationally successful and has been modified by many. Again, my point, is that his successful model is likely due to him not refining a very powerful model of fear and education that would undermine Fear's Empire. It has not worked to do so. But then, no model of pedagogy has either. That said, there is still room to improve it and bring Fear's Empire to a stop. That latter project is going to come in movements of thought and theories like Don Trent Jacobs's work (aka Four Arrows). He offers what Freire and his followers could not--and that is, a complete dip out of the colonialist (Spanish-Portugeues-European-Catholic Christian) narrative and imaginaries. Jacobs is a mixed blood Cherokee and European and has long taken the path to integrate more and more of the Indigenous (and shamanic) ways of traditional knowledge into his work. He is recognized, albeit, controversial, as an Indigeneous educator of some renown, albeit, not popular by any means. His CAT-FAWN theory even less popular. He is not known by anyone writing about fear today (other than myself) for his contribution to the field of knowledge about fear and how to manage and transform it. Jacobs's unique experiences deserve book length documentation and I have been working on a manuscript and potential documentary film on his work off and on for the past three years. I want to foreground his work on fear and fearlessness, of which no one else has to date. That's a tragedy as I am convinced the Jacobsian Critical Pedagogy is much more powerful than Freirean Critical Pedagogy and its variants, especially when it comes to the project of stopping Fear's Empire.

There is no doubt in my mind that in Four Arrows (2013) (see EN 1.), he set forth an agenda that is still likely stunning or invisible to the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities re: education for the future. He articulates (with other writers of his choice) a way to "Indigenize" all curriculum but specifically mainstream curriculum. This is a very progressive and risky leap, for a lot of different reasons. Most radical, from my fearological perspective is that he set up in that book 12 chapters to deal with the early history of anti-Indianism (Eurocentric colonialism) in education (in the West), and then proceeds to bring in most all subject matters in schools (e.g., math, music, geography, literature, science) and shows how they can be somewhat "Indigenized" to improve them--and then, he brings in Chapter 13 with the title: "From Fear to Fearlessness (Religion/Psychology and Spirituality)." There is no curriculum I know of anywhere that has set that topic area aside under that initiative/project, which is to move our youth and our entire societies "From Fear to Fearlessness" (of which he argues, Courage is a major step on the way but not the ultimate goal). This is the signature of a great mind and visionary working to put the proper forces and words on the educational map. This is educational in and of itself to see that so labeled in a curriculum (again, other than my own work, which is even less known than Four Arrow's)-- this is powerful medicine! But the downside of that Chapter 13 is that it requires a book in of itself to adequately develop a Jacobsian Critical Pedagogy (at least, that's my view; he may not agree).

The next years need to build this Jacobsian Critical Pedagogy and show how it is a 'bridge' (complementary) to Freirean Critical Pedagogy. I certainly feel up to the task and I also invite others to assist and support this. Once that work is down, I'll bring in my own perspective and work on fear and fearlessness, perhaps one day adding another 'bridge' (complemenary) to Fisherian Critical Pedagogy. You can see in the mapping of Figure 1 that I am the most broad in my incorporation of a lot of movements of liberational thought and especially the Fearlessness Movement--as well, I am unique of all the critical pedagogues above in that I have been synthesizing all their work on fear for many years, of which none of them have taken on that large of project todate. Okay, I trust this will give you a 'big picture' of where I am focusing my work ... and yes, the recent connection with the philosophy of fearism (Desh Subba et al. in the East) is going to bring in exciting dimensions to this project of undermining Fear's Empire. I'll keep you informed of new developments (2).



1. He first introduced this CAT-FAWN model and its evolution through his autobiographical (largely shamanic-type) experiences in the 1980-90s. He published this 'story' and 'theory' in Jacobs, D. T. (1998). Primal Awareness. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions. Then he has mentioned it in part, insignificantly, in a few publications but most recently and with some detail in Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs) et. al. (2013). Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education. NY: Peter Lang.

2. I have just submitted the book ms. Fisher, R. M. & Subba, D. (forthcoming). Philosophy of fearism: A first East-West dialogue. Australia: Xlibris. As well, I have just submitted a major article "Educators, We Have a Culture of Fear Problem!"  to the international Journal of Critical Education and Social Policy. These recent works are important in setting up my current agenda for Figure 1.

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