9 January 2012

Use Your Head

Pedagogy 2

Use Your Head

This is the last preliminary posting before the courses re-start next week. It is a “conspectus” (overview) of Tony Buzan’s book, “Use Your Head”. Please find the file attached. The first instalment of the course proper will be sent out on Thursday, 12 January 2012.

The original author Buzan does not propose, or proceed from, any overt political premises. He appears at first sight to resemble a utilitarian bourgeois “management guru” or a “motivational speaker”. His work stands out from the others of that kind only because of its great practical effectiveness, and not because of any open political aspect.

But Buzan’s work also fits in very well, politically, with our Communist University pedagogy, because it is dialectical. And it is intentional.


From a practical point of view, Buzan’s appeal is that he offers assistance with faster, more purposeful reading; with memorising; and with note-taking, particularly using his invention, the “mind-map” technique. An example of a mind-map is reproduced above.

These techniques are just what students need to help them get through their studies, and just what conventional education often failed to give them. Students used to be obliged to learn before having learned how to learn. Buzan filled this gap very well.

But what underlies Buzan’s approach? It is not that he was just lucky to stumble upon three techniques, like an old-time prospector discovering gold in a lucky strike.


What distinguishes the mind-map, in particular, from other forms of note-taking characterised by lists and bullet-points, is that it begins and ends as a “unity and struggle of opposites”. It is a representation, in one glance, of the way in which any concrete phenomenon, or discrete system, is the product (or resultant) of many abstract dynamic forces (or vectors) pulling in different directions.

The mind-map is therefore a very good illustration of exactly what is meant by “dialectics”.


The other main underlying characteristic of Buzan’s approach is its “intentionality”, to use a term from Paulo Freire’s vocabulary.

Towards the end of Chapter 1 of Freire’s “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, Freire quotes Alvaro Vieira Pinto saying that intentionality is “the fundamental property of consciousness”, remarking that this concept is “of great importance for the understanding of a problem-posing pedagogy”.

Buzan’s approach is full of intentionality. There is no question, for Buzan, of wandering, or learning for learning’s sake, in a random, eclectic way. Buzan says that you must be looking for a result.

Karl Marx, in the 11th Thesis on Feuerbach, said that while the philosophers have interpreted the world, the point is to change it. That’s intentionality.

Intentionality, as well as dialectics and dialogue, are common themes in Freire, Buzan and Marx – and in the Communist University.


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