Putting the learners in danger

Anti-learning ecologies put the learners in some kind of danger. The learners' experience anxiety, apprehensions and stress that indicate how impressed they have become with the presence of danger. The ways any apparent dangers get handled exclude authentic learning. Options are extremely limited until the danger is alleviated or eliminated. The dangers seem painfully familiar. The learners know what to do without thinking or changing their minds.

Some dangers call for safety. Others call for getting dangerous. When the situation evokes a flight response, we execute avoidance patterns or stick to our own kind. We may find safety in numbers and act in favor of conformity, compliance and collusion with those that give us shelter from the abuse. We may feel more safe going into our own shell, avoiding exposure to hostilities and appearing unavailable. We may pretend to learn what is being taught in order to avoid scrutiny, criticism or put downs. We may even experience our own emotions becoming our worst enemy and react accordingly. We will wear our game face, put a lid on our inner child, lose track of our feelings and repress all irrational urges. To others, we will look like a zombie: lights on - nobody home. We won't know what we feel, what to think or what to do differently.

Other dangers call for becoming more dangerous than the immediate threat. We react by getting in the opponent's face, making a scene to embarrass the enemy or cause problems for the predator. These fight responses take postures intended to intimidate, invalidate or manipulate the imposing danger. Our minds are devoted to getting control of the situation We cannot back down, lose face, admit errors or concede defeat. We know what the problem is, who's to blame and how to fix it. Nobody can tell us a thing. Our minds are closed.

When a learning ecology gets taken over by dangers, the learning stops until safety is restored. Each danger breeds more danger and devotes each learner's attention to questions of safety and control. The dance of aggression & withdrawal, fight & flight, overtakes any new inquiries, rethinking or deeper explorations in the situation. Anxiety levels rise unchecked until the accumulated stress induces systemic breakdowns. People say "I cannot take it anymore", "this is making me sick", "I don't need this much pain" or "I'm totally burned out". The learners lose their interest, motivation and openness which authentic learning thrives on.

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