Cosmos Café [4/30] - Free Progress Education

Originally published at: Cosmos Café [4/30] – Free Progress Education


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About Marco Masi

Born in 1965 in Italy, attended the German School of Milan, graduated in physics at the University of Padua, and later obtained a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Trento. He combined his experience as a postdoc researcher in universities in Italy, France, and Germany with that of being a tutor in several universities and lately as a high school teacher. This allowed him to develop pedagogical skills in conveying complex topics to an audience of non-experts. Marco is also interested in philosophical ruminations and love walking in the woods and Nature.

A Cosmos Café Microbrew - Introduction to Free Progress Education with Marco Masi

Recorded 26 April 2019

An introduction to Marco Masi’s Free Progress Education paradigm in preparation for the Cosmos Café on Free Progress Education 30th April 2019.

The conversation provides an access point into the background of Free Progress Education (FPE). It begins with the roots of Marco Masi’s envisioning of FPE while also identifying the roots of the current stagnant and detrimental state of several generations of top-down education. Masi envisions utilizing the various alternatives and trends in education to match with individual progress. What needs to happen is local, tangible infrastructure to make the incremental changes that are talked about but rarely enacted in the educational system.

Free Progress Education is a “futuristic vision of self-directed, project-oriented, direct-democratic and non-hierarchical learning communities.” A main goal of FPE is to carry this vision into the high school and university setting, but we are all included in this vision. As we note on the Infinite Conversation forum and through the Cooperative efforts here, we are taking our education from Cafés, Readers Underground groups and other Cosmic participation out into the street. Feel free to take this microbrew and share it with others!


  • Free Progress Education - Marco Masi
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  • Mirra Alfassa
  • Greta Thunberg & Parkland students + activism
  • J.J. Kripal - The Flip
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Great topic. I have been thinking about the educational ‘system’ with some intensity lately—not only from the social point of view, but also a personal one, since I am in a lot of ways a product of that system, having grown up attending a public school which embodied all kinds of assumptions about the meaning and purpose of becoming “educated,” and how exactly that was supposed to be done.

I say it’s a “system” as if it were only one thing—but of course, there are various systems, approaches, and pedagogies—a whole field of research and praxis relating to the task of ‘educating’ children into becoming successful (socialized and integrated) adults.

Nonetheless, there are certain structural assumptions in educational methodologies which seem to be widely shared. For example, the notion of ‘grades’… the role of testing… the prioritization of certain subjects (e.g., math and science) over others (e.g., art and social studies)… definitions of achievement and success (and how these affect identity formation and sense of self)… I could go on.

The deeper I go into my own psychic being, the more I find the core assumptions of the system I was educated in, still patterning my life, since ‘education’ leads directly into ‘work’ and ‘money’—and especially, our relationship to time.

I am looking forward to this conversation, though I may not be able to make it in person on Tuesday (I will confirm that morning). It is also good to see Marco Masi again, and I am curious who else may be joining. I enjoyed listening to this prior take on a similar topic:


It is my plan to attend … having spent eight years in an alternative educational institution and having tutored at the undergrad and graduate level for a good dozen years. It is, however, my oldest daughter’s birthday and I may have some fatherly duties that could preclude me being overly punctual. We’ll see.


I’m in. I find @MarcoMasi FPE very interesting.


Marco Masi addresses this in his book and I’d like for Tuesdays Café to gravitate towards these important topic points. I understand (I think) when you say that education leads directly into work and money . . . could you say more about education and the relationship to time @madrush?

Thanks for the reminder of the past educationally themed Cafés, Morelli. The Postformal Pedagogies conversation was one of my favorites. @achronon, @MarcoMasi and @KPr2204 shared some great insights into their experience from within the educational system and its discontents while @johnnydavis54 and I provided the outsiders perspective.

There were also a few more shared insights the day after the Postformal Café on the Alternate Realities 5. @Michael_Stumpf, Johnny and Katina were the drivers in this conversation.

While the above two conversations focus on Gidley’s mandala and the idea of education and educational systems, the Café conversation Cosmos Café [12/4] - Subversive Pedagogy: The Intruder (stemming from a reading of @Geoffreyjen_Edwards essay with the same title) revolves around what is meant by teacher and student. What exactly is teaching and learning? Geoffrey, Ed, Katina and Marco again provide deep insights from the educator’s perspective . . . I was happy to receive an education during the call! (note: also processing this recording as I type; for now it is an unedited recording on YouTube)

Marco Masi and I discuss in the interview that education is not just an important element; it can be considered the core element . . . it establishes a way of life. It is not something that is to be separated into classrooms and learning environments (though we can arrange for optimal learning through the right kinds of learning infrastructures). Learning is what happens outside of the classroom. We Cosmic students never cease to chatter about how the discussions, debates, dialectics, deutero-learnings, etc. are being taken out into the streets, how what we learn here will be put into practice there. And, similar to how Masi does not wish to impose his spiritual foundations onto the secular public, I do not go around to my family talking directly about Bateson or Aurobindo or the latest Café discussion . . . they already think I am odd enough! But I do take what has been learned, what is now infused in my core, and bring it to my family, and we are all the better for this.

Our infrastructure is still light years from the “divinization of matter” or even learning how to arrange a get-together outside of the Zoom chats . . . we have a long way to go. “How can we reconstruct agency when the community is physically absent?” asks @johnnydavis54 in the Alternate Realities discussion. But we are an example of what a layperson’s optimal education can be when a few like-minded (or even disparately-minded) individuals decide to reach for higher ground, outside of traditional “schools of social media”, and come together to save the world (or similar intent) one conversation at a time. The Generations conversations, the Reading groups, and our Cafés strive to put a dent into the deficient systemic thinking.

Glad to read that others will be attending this conversation. We will likely have Marco Masi open up with a few more details on the Free Progress Education then have an open discussion. We can also reserve a bit of time at the end to think about the direction and content of future Cafés.


@Douggins: I have listened to about half of the pre-Café talk with @MarcoMasi and I like where the discussion is going. I already have gained clarity (and perhaps a way of naming) some key ideas in response, so I look forward to hearing the rest of it, as well as the discussion that unfolds today.

Unfortunately, this afternoon I have about 5 hours of work to do, and just about 5 hours in which to do it. So I will look forward to the recording, and hope to be able to articulate a response in the coming days. As you know, @kayla and I are homeschooling our daughters (9 and 5), so the topic is not just theoretical for us.

I am also inclined to agree with Masi that education is a (or the) core issue from a civilizational perspective. Thanks to everyone for brining your creative thinking to this event!


Thank you all for the stimulating conversation. And again to Marco Masi @MarcoMasi for contributing passion and depth of insight (outsight?) into all issues educational. As a parent I greatly appreciated your comments @Michael_Stumpf. Also, before the recording, @Mark_Jabbour had some great comments/questions about motivation in the classroom (how do we motivate kids in a stagnant classroom?) which Marco responded by saying we need to create the free progress alternatives in the schools which would spark motivation by allowing the students (and teachers) to express their potential.

@1:10:03 - @achronon’s comment that we traded in our society for an economy makes sense to me. It is the phrase that sticks out as the core conumdrum, the root issue. We, collectively, do not share a central story outside of this economic story. Our lives literally depend upon our participation in the capitalists’ devised systems. I greatly admire @madrush’s and others’ efforts to find a lifestyle that is as separated as possible from the “required” lifestyles of work, money and time dedicated to work and money. Or to those of us within the system subverting the rules, pushing for better livelihood. How far outside the system can we go before the system bites back? As parents, teachers, students, employers, employees are tied into these systems that have become unsustainable, attempts to keep up with the varieties of systems drive us into the ground, or into circles like chickens without heads. This does not mean that we cannot go about our days existing in this economy and have our good days and feel that things really aren’t all that bad. But things could be SO much better if we did have the freedom to step outside of the structures set before us and to progress in directions that would bring us to the core of a true existence.

We have separated our upbringing from our education. Upbringing . . . parenting . . . I’m with Fredrick Douglass that “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” We are generations into the vicious cycles of broken households that I feel (though I do not have the official stats in front of me) have their roots in attempting to keep up with the accelerated life demanded by “needs” for the ever-increasing economic gains and productivity. Teachers, from what was discussed and what I hear from those within the system, have become substitute parents in the classroom. “Fix my child… He just ain’t working right.” My wife recently started working in a mental health facility. There are parents bringing in 3- and 4-year-olds, required to seek counseling by a social service or because the parents cannot figure out what is wrong with the little hellion. It does not take long to figure out who really needs counseling or a few classes on parenting. But the parents were raised by parents that did not have enough time or raised in single-parent households, required to work two jobs to keep up with life demands. This inequality of time given to one’s own household and children’s upbringing vs time given to one’s work and money to maintain one’s household can be absurd when you stop and think about it.

Here is the Margaret Thatcher quote Ed referenced:

I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’ ‘I am homeless, the Government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.

… [It] is, I think, one of the tragedies in which many of the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or ill there was a safety net and there was help, that many of the benefits which were meant to help people who were unfortunate … [t]hat was the objective, but somehow there are some people who have been manipulating the system … when people come and say: ‘But what is the point of working? I can get as much on the dole!’

This ties into our UBI discussion in which, yes, there are the freeloaders, manipulators, crooks, thieves . . .but these individuals can be found on all levels of the system and the bigger the thievery, the greater amount of individuals in “society” are affected. Cutting through the political, I think we can all agree that there has been manipulation of the system occurring at the bottom and at the top. I think those at the top are afraid of changes in the educational system because it would mean that students and teachers would have a voice, that rote learning and collecting input into output and certificates and diplomas would lose its “swing” and “wouldn’t mean a thing” . . . there have been waves of changes, such as seen in the 1960’s. Marco Masi along with everyone participating in the Generations threads and many others on this forum seem to keep concluding that bigger changes probably won’t occur unless some major event (natural catastrophe, etc.) occurs. Sad but true . . . but things are looking good!


Hmmm …

Sorry, but I, for one, disagree. In fact, I don’t even agree a little bit.

Let me ask: What do you mean by “manipulation”? What do you mean by “the top”? And how do you define “bottom”? And can we cross-correlate types and categories (e.g., top & thief, or bottom and crook)?

It just so happens that our friend Slotty opined in a major (conservative) German newspaper (spoiler!): all of us have got it backwards – the real danger to us all is the poor’s exploitation of the rich. It’ all so very simple. Why didn’t any of us see this coming?

Still, I would like to see just one single fact or figure that justifies that conclusion. But it was just so Slotty-like of him to not deliver any. And why should he? Isn’t opining enough?

If manipulation = damage, then I want to see comparisons from top to bottom … in facts and figures; I want to see if the spreadsheets foot. There is 10 times as much corporate welfare (subsidies, tax credits, etc.) as social. Yes, government is axing social welfare wherever possible, but I haven’t heard that any corporate welfare was on the block.

So, just what is it we all agree on?


I for one agree with this,Sense we need to accept the Lost ?


Yesterday’s talk got me thinking, and I wanted to pick up on some threads of our conversation, but Douggins’ post gave me a push.

What struck me most about the discussion was the number of antitheses involved: individual vs. collective; personal vs. societal; conservative vs. liberal; social vs. economic; private vs. public; cultural vs. global; spiritual vs. material; upbringing vs. education; training vs. education, among others, and the fact that all of those antitheses could have just as easily been listed as complements: as “and” instead of “vs.”, challenges us more than we are willing to admit. If there ever was a multidimensional subject, by nature, “education” is it. Hands down.

And, unfortunately, since every one of us has “gone through the system”, every one of us is somehow an “expert” on the subject. We all know what we’re talking about it, because we all went through it. But I’m not sure that’s qualifying in any meaningful sense of the word.

Having had thought about it for a day, it is clear to me that there is a whole lot more that needs to be thought about. I appreciate greatly that Marco decided to start with the person, the individual; in fact, with the soul. You can’t get more fundamental than that. Every person is unique. We are all different. At least that much should be clear by now, even if it isn’t. I also think it is clear to everyone that the current system, regardless of the cultural flavor, cannot do justice to that simple fact. In this simple regard, the “system” has failed. I also find it noteworthy that with all the technological developments of the past few decades, we have are still nowhere close to being able to accommodate the individual within our educational systems. For me, this is a case of the technology being incapable of keeping pace with the human.

Now, all of the antitheses that I just mentioned cannot be found on the same level, if you will. To me, they indicate a multidimensionality that needs to be kept in mind when thinking about the topic of “education”. This multidimensionality most likely precludes any kind of reasonable political solution, or resolution, of the issue. Our current mode of mentation can’t accommodate anything other than single-point causation with singular results. The fact that any one cause may have any number of possible outcomes is simply inconceivable in our current mode of thought.

What struck me, however, is the fact that any mere reduction of student-teacher ratio can have enormous positive effects on the system as it is. It is not the solution, obviously, But it is an action that can gain us time to think the entire issue through. The fact that this solution is most often rejected out of hand tells me that it is close to a real solution generally speaking. The argument that is immediately raised is always “we couldn’t possibly afford it”. It’s somehow (automatically) financially out of the question. Or is it “economically” out of the question. Or “fiscally” out of the question. Or “budgetarily” out of the question. Just what is it exactly? One thing is for sure: it’s not monetarily (or cash-wise) out of the question.

Why is that? Why is that the question? And how did it get outside the question?

At the time of the 2008 Crash, the value of the CD-Swaps alone was 6x World Gross Product (WGP). Yes, just the Swaps … 6 WGP. It has grown in the meantime. Sure. So, today? Where’s the “money problem”?

Well, I hate to sound like a broken record, but it doesn’t sound like a “money problem”, it sounds like a “distribution problem” to me. And so now, for all you with your hackles up, just what is the issue? You don’t like the word “distribution”? I bet you don’t. But for all the wrong reasons.

Let’s face it: wealth is relative. (It’s actually more than relative, but most people don’t even get the “relative” part.) An example: let’s say there is me. And let’s say I’m worth X. I’m pretty much average (whatever that means). And then there is this other guy, Richard, and he’s worth Y, but Y is 10X. In other words, he has 10 times as much as me. So, for whatever reason, something happens to the economy (or how we count in it, whatever), and suddenly, everybody owns/has 90% less. I’ve got 0.1, or that’s what I’m worth. Y, however, is worth 1.0 … that is, still, 10x more. We both have less money than before, but who is actually poorer? Who is better or worse off? We both took the same hit. Why wasn’t it really the same?

And that’s why the money argument is simply a bogus argument. There’s more than enough money there … to solve any problem imaginable – for the money “on the books” is still several times larger than any- and everything the world is capable of producing ( … remember X x WGP?). We can (or think we can) put numbers on what we (think) we need to fix specific problems. And if you add them all up, you never get past what the world can actually produce; that is, the real GWP.

So, if the money is there, why couldn’t we afford it? But if the “money” is only “virtual”; that is, just “on the books” (but not there in reality), just what is it that’s “there”?

If you ask me, that’s where we’ve got a “problem”. On a number of levels … and I don’t even believe in levels.


Guess its a matter of perspective or how you define manipulation. And top and bottom. We can all choose how to use the words and I will attempt to clarify without a single official fact or figure (or a reference to Sloterdijk). Again, I think we can all agree, as in all of us here who participate on the site(and you can agree just a little bit) that there is manipulation anywhere you turn, top or bottom, left or right. You just want me to clarify the degree to which the manipulation affects the whole lot of us. Sloterdijk will say what he says and I don’t think we will change his fat head . . . just like we won’t be changing the fat cats on top.

I work with clients that manipulate the system. Or learn how to make it work best for them. I know of two individuals who have directly stated that they have had children simply because they love children, know that the state/system will take care of them and that they will receive more money per child. That’s manipulation of sorts.

I also work with individuals who, like Thatcher states (though on the opposite end of the politics I subscribe to), are “manipulating” the system. ‘But what is the point of working? I can get as much on the dole!’ This is a true statement. No matter how hard some of the folks work to get out of the welfare system, their hardest work cuts them off from the benefits they need. The welfare cliff they call it. So, what can they do? I inform them about other alternatives and additional programs that are more proactive, such as educational assistance (that won’t result in student loans, funding for removing felony charges, etc.) . . . its a small step, but they feel better when they are given chances to find alternatives to just finding another job.

So I think you can agree that you really agree, but that there is much more to the story of manipulation. There is a certain form of innocence and attempt at improving ones life and the life of others when at the bottom. . . not so much at the top. Do you have a link to Sloterdijk’s article? .


How can one lose what one never had?

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U referring to Minds or money -both.
It seems we can’t tell the difference?:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I wish to include something you wrote on another thread about Nora Bateson and her “mutual learning contexts” which she also termed transcontextuality in other essays:

And I think we are onto something. We are working on transcontextual explorations which lead to alternative modes of mentation. We are actively creating a community here that listens to alternative modes of existence. As Marco Masi mentions in one talk (and a few others continue to note), we can talk about reform and change but we actually have to live out what we want to have happen, so we are left to our individual modes of change (self-improvement) and changing the minds of those around us. And the constant changes from within the systems. What is the answer to our biggest problems?


That was my only point: there is much more to the story of manipulation. However, in our current economic-dominant situation, one can only calculate who or what is causing the greatest top-level damage, and the answer is always the same: not the bottom.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I don’t doubt for a moment that you hear the things you do and experience the things you do. But, in the grand scheme of things … there is damage – to the society (whether Ms. Thatcher ever recognized it or not) – but we also have to ask ourselves (if monetary value is the measure of “damage”), Is this what’s breaking the bank? And, as you note yourself: give’em half a chance and they’ll jump at it.

If you ask me, there ain’t a one of them who asked to be where they are. But they’re there … and now what?

Re: reference … not off the top of my head … it could have been 2015 or so. Still do think I remember correctly.


If I had the slightest clue, I might not be here trying to figure it out with the rest of you.

Nora’s observations are more than relevant here. We do have to change the way we mentate about just about everything. It’s not going to be easy. We – and by that, in this particular post, I mean the little community we’re nurturing here – need to keep doing what we are doing: exploring, probing, reflecting, trying, experimenting, discussing, exchanging, supporting, nurturing, pushing, challenging, butting-heads, embracing, acknowledging, and encouraging each other to keep on keeping on, to quote a long-outdated phrase.

My curmudgeony keeps me from getting too enthusiastic about outcomes. I’m glad we’re trying. I personally think we’re making progress (whatever that might be and however slow it may occur), and I think as well that it’s worth the effort we’re putting into it.

Picasso disdained computers because they could only deliver answers, never questions. We here know that it’s all about the questions. So we keep asking them.


Yeah, it was a great convo (imho).
Earlier today, I had another great convo w/my “psych girl”, in which we shared laughter and also uncertainty, and confusion. Near the end I mentioned the coming ‘apocalypse’ and she replied, “Which one?” Whereupon we both smiled the Buddha’s smile. Then I paid her/my fee … and then …
[Just kidding, hahahaha}
see y’ all next week.


And “especially time” might be the fundamental thing. I am reading A Sidewthays Look at Time, and it does make a horrifyingly believable case that “clock time” is the beginning of the end of a fluid conneciton to the living world, the beginning of mechanized labor, money, and finally, AI running our lives. Computers are a kind of elaboration of clocks with guillotine hands, chopping life into uniform segments…then no hands anymore, a march of identical digits/units, no circles allowed, the sun kicked out it, in favor of the Infinite Line…clicking into the Future… and so on. And where do we begin falling into this clocktime spell? In school! Prepping us for deadlines, clocking in clocking out times, a few stingy times off…if we’re lucky.

When my kids were young, independent schools were starting up. I got involved in that, sent my kids, but the undermining fear of a lot of parents was that “open schools” leave young people unprepared to get good jobs. Sigh. And eventually these schools disabanded.
What can we do? I don’t know. It takes great courage to resist the lure of " better clocks will lead to better lives", better gadgets, more young people in the hard sciences inventing more “smarter” gadgets…etc. “Data-driven blackboard teaching” as Marco M. calls it, leads to more of what we’ve already got or worse.

In my own college days, we had required classes, but also “Creative Studies” classes in which we ourselves came up with the things we wanted to learn and we would explore them. KInd of a marriage of conventional and radical…but those now seem to have largely disappeared. … not useful for employment?

What we humans of all ages need more of is watery time, moon time, soul time…time out time, for instance, to not need to know where you are going when you go for a walk in the fields or make up a singing game, or talk to a crow or… or… or…


I couldn’t agree more, @Ariadne. That is exactly what I was getting at. I don’t have a lot to say about it atm because I am still working out my feelings in a poem. It is getting to the source of some deeply embodied patterns which most of us learned in school. That’s really where this monophasic, vaguely psychotic ‘mental-rational’ form of time-training comes from, or is first applied. A “free progress education,” as I understand it so far, would involve a very different relationship with time—and many shapes of time. It would not be stuck or limited to, and certainly not ruled or dictated by, the technological tick of the conventional clock or the profit-motive of the corporate calendar.