The Future of Education: Discussion of Morin’s Seven Complex Lessons in Education

Developing a sustainable future is a mandate for our species to thrive and grow. As Mayor writes in the introduction to Morin’s (2001) book giving a vision to the future of education, topics such as “democracy, equity, social justice, peace and harmony” (“Preface by the Director-General of UNESCO,” para. 1) are were we must make growth and progress, especially durable progress in our scales of interactions.

This essay is an opportunity to examine Morin’s (2001) vision of a future direction for education. The future direction that is laid out is not meant to be a specific curriculum, but to act as a type of lens to education. To be the background information illuminating some of the problems that are sometimes neglected and overlooked in education. It reviews his description error and illusions, complex thought, his concepts of loops and unitas multiplex, the theme of uncertainty, and interconnectedness.

Detecting Error and Illusion

Nietzsche (2005 but writing in 1873) discusses the difficulty of seeking and finding “truth” through rational discourse. He describes the limited value in the act of defining a topic (such as what is a mammal), then providing proof of that truth by what we see (e.g. seeing a camel declaring that see, there is a mammal). He describes that there is nothing true in itself, other than a human interpretation of it.

Many out there would refer to Nietzsche as a predecessor to the concept of “post-truth” (Higgins, 2016). She argues that Nietzsche’s point of view is more to “complicate our view of human behaviour and to object to moral certainties that encourage black-and-white judgments about what’s good and what’s evil” (p. 9). The concept of Post-truth in light of the current political climate can be related to the routine and blatant lies provided throughout society.

Morin (2001) describes the Achilles heel of knowledge could be error and illusion. He enumerates that mental errors, intellectual errors, errors of reason, and blinding paradigms can all be the downfall in education. To address this, there is a need for education to develop the ability to seek and find errors, illusion, and blindness that can be in each of these arenas. As Moren describes in addressing errors of reason that rationality is our best safeguard. It can be too easy to hear a topic or a comment in discourse and accept it offhand. Being able to critically analyze the basis and rationality for the claim takes slowing things down. To be willing to sit with a thought or idea. To steal a metaphor employed by a podcast I enjoy, Roderick on the Line (see, the idea of trying on ideas like a pair of clothes. As they talk about “thought technologies” you have to really try out and understand those ideas. When we evaluate the concepts and tasks that we hear or see, if we go through that process it can help limit some of the dangers of errors and illusions. That when we are given ideas that lack substance we can be less worried about our image as the emperor and understand the ramifications of those ideas.

Connected to slowing down with our ideas is Morin’s (2001) concept of blinding paradigms. It takes time and attention to recognize the duality and double vision of the world requires seeing things from multiple perspectives and concepts. This slow and methodical nature of gaining knowledge is important. In the work I do with emotionally disturbed children, the pace of engagement and problem solving is fast. Sit without action and you might get a punch or spit on. But in the reflection about the actions and the planning and preventative work, it requires a thoughtful examination of what might be the most successful direction to go.

Complex Thought and Pertinent Knowledge

Knowledge requires being able to elucidate context, global, mutlidemensional, and complex understandings to be able to be pertinent. Morin (2001) states

“In fact there is complexity whenever the various elements … that compose a whole are inseparable, and there is inter-retroactive, interactive, interdependent tissue between the subject of knowledge and its context, the parts and the whole, the whole and the parts, the parts amongst themselves. Complexity is therefore the bond between unity and multiplicity.”

In his description, this complexity weaves a complex mash of both understanding the parts but also understanding the system as a whole. In my undergraduate sociology class, I remember enjoying discussion about the United States and describing it as a melting pot versus a salad. Many authors have used this dichotomy to discuss many different subjects (one example being Mahfouz, 2013). In my sociology class, I remember expanding my thinking about the idea of the United States having each of these different distinct flavors to it that each part is unique yet the whole also has its own flavor. Complex thought seems to require that we can appreciate the complexity of it contrary to only the general mush of one flavor of a melting pot.

In thinking about this complexity and the need to understand these parts, I’m drawn to my social work perspective. In schools of social work, there are schools that have different focuses. They are all accredited by the council for social work education, which gives competencies and practice behaviors that must be included (Council on Social Work Education, 2015). But various universities tend to have different sets of focuses on that material. In Washington State, there are three universities that offer Masters in Social Work degrees. The University of Washington offers a more research focus, where Walla Walla University provides a more clinical focus, and my alma matter described their curriculum as an advanced generalist. This concept of specializing, yet still focusing on broad strokes of how to address problems and challenges is highly alluring to me.

In looking at planning, one might look at a specific modality of planning, such as a crisis intervention model. This will give a specific direction for planning when somebody is in crisis. This is invaluable information to have. But an advanced generalist perspective will provide a basic framework that works for all types of planning. Then there is the need to have some of that specifically focused understanding of what to do in a crisis. But in an advanced generalist perspective, there is a need to both understand the underlying principles (such as the generalist intervention model) and how we engage with various needs that people might present.

The Human in Humanness: Loops and Unitas Multiplex

Morin (2001) many of the parts of the human condition in the context of loops. These include (1) the brain - mind - culture loop, (2) the reason - emotion - impulse loop, and (3) the individual - society - species loop. These loops seem particularly apt at describing the human condition. Looking at the interconnectedness of topics related to culture, impulses, and us as species helps give a perspective that it is an iterative process.

Morin goes on to describe this concept of Unitas Multiplex: Human Unity and Diversity. These interrelated triads are the loops that connect us to the same process. He states:

“Individuals are the products of a reproductive process proper to the human species, but this process requires the participation of two individuals. Interactions between individuals produce society and society, which testifies to the emergence of culture, retroacts on individuals by culture. The individual can not be absolutized into the supreme point on this loop; and the same is true for society and species” (p. 25)

You can’t have one without the other. That they build on each other. But we also wouldn’t have the whole without the parts. There is a need for us to both have things that unite us and things that make us diverse.

Uncertainty and Academic Discourse

While for many, uncertainty is an uncomfortable feeling. I could be uncertain that I am approaching this topic incorrectly or that I have misunderstood the intent and directions. While many might view uncertainty as a threat, for some types of individuals, there is an opportunity for creation within ambiguity, disorder, and uncertainty (Montuori, 2014). Having interconnected problems gives is a type of “unpredictable adventure” (Morin, 2001, p. 44).

As I have dived into some of the course work, especially around the course Self, Society, and Transformation this uncertainty can feel challenging and for me at times has left me having to forward on this unpredictable adventure. I find concepts such as Constructivism as described by Gergen (2015).

Interdependence Muliplied and Interconnectedness

Macy (2012b) describes that we have a need to be free from uncertainty. This uncertainty can be connected and cause hopelessness which can take us out of the moment. In Macy’s (2012a) she describes that reality is the view between both the parts and the flow of the system. We are all interconnected and this drives us to interdependence. Similarly in King (2014) famous Christmas sermon prior to his death in 1968, he describes connectedness between all people that

“I have a dream that one day men will rise up and come to see that they are made to live together as brothers. I still have a dream this morning that one day every Negro in this country, every colored person in the world, will be judged on the basis of the content of his character rather than the color of his skin, and every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality”

We have a need to grow together. To have a higher level and appreciate of Unitas Multiplex.


Council on Social Work Education. (2015). Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards for Baccalaureate and Master’s Social Work Programs. Alexandria, VA. Retrieved from

Gergen, K. J. (2015). Social construction: From “what is” to “what could be.” In An invitation to social sonstruction (3rd ed., pp. 1-33). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications.

Higgins, K. (2016). Post-truth: a guide for the perplexed. Nature, 540(7631), 9-9.

King, M. L. [Sudekum, J.] (2014, December 3). Martin Luther King, Jr., Christmas Sermon. Retrieved from

Macy, J. [Ferrar in Transizione] (2012, Feb 17) Joanna Macy on Uncertainty. Retrieved from

Macy, J. [Living Forst Farm] (2012 Aug 13). Part 11: The Systems View of Life - The Work That Reconnects with Joanna Macy. Retrieved from

Mahfouz, S. M. (2013). America’s Melting Pot or the Salad Bowl: The Stage Immigrant’s Dilemma. Journal of Foreign Languages, Cultures & Civilizations, 1(2), 1-17. Retrieved from

Montuori, A. (2014). Un choc des mentalities: Incertitude, creativite et complexite en temps de crise (A clash of mentalities: Uncertainty, creativity, and complexity in times of upheaval). Communications, 95(2), 179-198.

Morin, E. (2001). Seven complex lessons in education for the future: Education on the move. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Nietzsche, F. (2005). On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense. In J. Medina & D. Wood (Eds.), Truth (pp. 14-25). Ames, Iowa, USA: Blackwell Publishing.