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What does it mean to be a Scholar in the Transformative paradigm?

What does it mean to be a Scholar in the Transformative paradigm?
A reflection on entering the IMA Program at Antioch University

Andressa Lutiano  [email protected]

Short Bio

Andressa is the founder of a holistic school in Brazil, a TLC Practitioner and an MA student in Transformative Learning Communities Concentration in the Individualized Masters program at Antioch University.

Wish School is a bilingual school that serves children from 2 to 14 years old and proposes a transformative way of doing education. Visit

“We educate ourselves every moment of our lives. Whether talking to our parents and friends, or reading a book. Education is a process of transformation, of inner growth, in which we discover the world around us and the world discovers us as well. Education is exchange, a subjective process, experienced at the moment when each one perceives himself learning something new.”

~Eduardo Shimahara

As we started our thesis preparation class, one of the first things we did was to discuss what it means to be a scholar. Having come from the field of education and having worked at schools for the past 20 years, I had this bad impression that a scholar is a person who believes he knows more than others and believes that his knowledge is more important than others – the ones with practical knowledge.

Because of my experience with SDGI and GIFTLearning this preconceived idea I had of a scholar had already started to change. However, as we transferred to Antioch – a matriculated, more formal program, a big university – the fear of meeting the type of scholars I had in mind came back to me.

Not only had I been really pleased to meet our first contacts at Antioch – Joe and Ashley – but I was also amazed at what I saw at their colloquium in May. Amazing human beings sharing their scholar knowledge in a deep connection with their life stories, with deep emotional and spiritual concerns, being incredibly vulnerable in a scholar environment, bringing to the discussion and reflection their life stories, their background, their roots. 

I felt at home in the sense that I can talk honestly about where I come from and how I grew to be a researcher and educator. I was specially touched to notice that many people came from diverse backgrounds, different countries and cultures. That spoke to me dearly since, coming from a third world country I feel the distrust, the looking down on and it is reassuring to see how these people managed to be heard and respected and brought exactly what was looked down on, as their strength, to the center of the discussion.

The content of the discussion was not the only thing that called my attention. As I am now in the moment of planning my research and thesis, it was really eye-opening to be able to see all the different approaches to research come to life. In this sense, I was particularly curious to know more about Angel’s work, since he managed to fulfill both the formal, academic requirements and the artistic representation in the form of poetry in his research. As I am a person who appreciates telling stories to help people understand the points I am trying to make, I felt like reading his paper to see how he managed to incorporate these languages.

Content and form showed me that we are really talking about a university and a scholar community that values and honours its roots, that brings the “I” and “we” sentences to the center-stage and that, not only understand, but live the new systemic, complex paradigm in their work and research, proving that new ways of doing research from a qualitative point of view, that  reintegrates the subjective and the objective, can be made in a rigorous process that is not only scientific but that is deeply enriching to all those involved.

In the moment that we are living, filled with uncertainty, fear, a mix of hopelessness from all that we have been witnessing and hope that these are the last episodes of a past that is struggling not to die, listen to people talking about a deep sense of community, a deep concern for the Earth, respect for the inherited roots, respect for diversity, respect for the self is enlightening, it fills the heart with love. Knowing that the kind of work that we do matters is key. It matters because we are helping give birth to this world that is trying to emerge. May we be the instruments of this emerging.

If the “quality of the results produced by any system depends on the quality of the consciousness of the participants that operate that system”, as Otto Sharmer states in his book “Leading from the emerging future”; then, having scholars that portray this concern for the community, the ancestors, the matters of the Earth is key to constructing a better world, one with “purpose, meaning and intentionality” as the title of this colloquium suggested.

I would like to highlight some comments that particularly called my attention as I listened to the presentations. Wendy Peters talked about the perspectives from indigenous wisdoms. It was funny to hear that because, just that week, I had been deeply immersed in the work of Ailton Krenak – a native Brazilian from the Krenak tribe. The connections between the indigeneous wisdoms and what we have been trying to reclaim by accessing the ideas of systems, complexity and the new scientific paradigm are amazing. It makes me wonder why we had to go through all the journey of civilization to realize that we need to return to ancient forms of knowledge and wisdom to be able to not only survive but thrive towards an unknown future.

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring 

Will be to arrive where we started 

And know the place for the first time. 

Through the unknown, unremembered gate 

When the last of earth left to discover 

Is that which was the beginning; 

At the source of the longest river 

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for 

But heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always– 

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flames are in-folded 

Into the crowned knot of fire 

And the fire and the rose are one.

(T. S. Elliot)

Digging deeper into the whole of ancient knowledge, I have found stories of connections to the Earth from the native Brazilians Yanomamis – the chief explains that the Sun is his cousin and the river, his brother. These family ties among nature and the Yanomamis would make it easier for the tribe to ask for help and favors if needed and would also make them absolutely respectful of the needs of nature as well.

It may sound silly to be focusing so much on that, but for me this realization, that nature is treated by us like backdrop, scenario, is fairly new and I am still in awe to keep discovering the connections, the intricacies and the systemic relationship that bonds us to Earth. 

Last year I read “The spell of the sensuous”, a book that tells the story of nature as alive, as part of a network from which the human being is just one of the links – not the main link, not the most important link – just a link. Having that in mind, and living what we are living now, I wonder what it is that nature has to teach us at this moment. What it is that ancient wisdom – so beautifully respected and portrayed as scholar knowledge in this community – knows that we need to RElearn.

“O tipo de humanidade zumbi que estamos sendo convocados a integrar não tolera tanto prazer, tanta fruição de vida. então, pregam o fim do mundo como uma possibilidade de fazer a gente desistir dos nossos próprios sonhos.”

(“The kind of zumbi humanity that we are being invited to integrate does not tolerate so much pleasure, so much life enjoyment. Then, they preach the end of the world as a way to make us give up our own dreams.”) Ailton Krenak, Ideias para Adiar o Fim do Mundo

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