What Is Comprehensive Learning?

This resource attempts to recapitulate and situate comprehensive learning in the broad context of our learning and our lives. It compares comprehensive learning, an emerging tradition of inquiry and action, with other approaches to learning to further clarify its approach. It is a refinement of the notes I wrote two months ago to guide my remarks at the 13 April 2021 session of “Comprehensivist Wednesdays” at 52 Living Ideas (crossposted at The Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society).

How does comprehensive learning compare to other ways of learning?

Buckminster Fuller wrote, “I am certain that none of the world’s problems … have any hope of solution except through all of world around society’s individuals becoming thoroughly and comprehensively self-educated.” The sentiment of this quote and related ones in Bucky’s 1969 book “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” inspired me in 2019 to formulate the Collaborating for Comprehensivism initiative and led to the resource on The Comprehensive Thinking of R. Buckminster Fuller.

For me, the idea of comprehensive learning and its cognate comprehensive thinking begins with these ideas of Buckminster Fuller. I have been working to capture Bucky’s ideas of comprehensive learning and abstract them into a new tradition of inquiry and action that does not require us to become Synergists in the style of Buckminster Fuller. That is, I imagine comprehensive learning to be broader in scope than even Bucky.

When Bucky defines Universe as “the aggregate of all of humanity’s consciously-apprehended and communicated experience” and then recommends starting all inquiry with Universe and subdividing, he is effectively starting with Humanity’s great inventory of all the traditions of inquiry and action in our cultural heritage. The source of all our learning can be seen as coming from the whole of Humanity’s cultural heritage. In contrast, we often think of our learning as coming from the three Rs, or from the classics, or the Great Books, or from standardized curricula. But that leaves out so much of Bucky’s Universe and of our cultural heritage including the wisdom of indigenous peoples, folk traditions, and so much more.

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Articulating Comprehensivity: The Comprehensive Design of Our Lives

To better understand how we might practice our comprehensivity, our aspiration for comprehensive thinking and doing, we might examine how to clarify or make effective such desires. This resource attempts to imagine how we might practice our comprehensivity. In the end we might apprehend how we can articulate the comprehensive design of our lives.

Articulating Comprehensivity

According to Wiktionary, to articulate is “to make clear or effective”. Comprehensivity is our inclination to understand it all and each other. So by articulating comprehensivity we mean making our aspiration to understand it all and each other more effective and clearer. How can we better clarify and make more effective our efforts to build an ever more extensive, ever more intensive, and ever more integrated understanding of our worlds and its peoples? How can we better articulate our comprehensivity?

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Chronofiles: Data Mining Your Life for Comprehensive Thinking

Many of Bucky’s essays (“Bucky” is the affectionate name for Buckminster Fuller) provide a window through which we may further glimpse his approach to comprehensive thinking. To iterate more deeply into his comprehensive thinking this resource examines Bucky’s short 5-page essay “Man With A Chronofile” published on 1 April 1967 in “Saturday Review”. We recommend you read that essay for context before continuing.

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