education as the art of working with the human spirit
Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of
Sunderland for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Abstract & Introduction
This autobiographically-derived, and narratively-voiced, thesis is one teacher’s story. From the story a spiritualizing model of education is argued, toward making a paradigm shift. The suggested shift involves placing ‘technical’ learning within the context of being and becoming fully, and positively, human. Teaching then becomes a matter of enabling development of the individual’s Caring, Creative and Critical abilities, developed within the Community (the 4Cs), inspired by the light of higher-order values – the remainder being processes and content.
The thesis makes an original contribution to educational knowledge through the educational life-story, and through making explicit a model out of that life-experience. The suggested model of spiritualizing pedagogy, called SunWALK, therefore is grounded in accounts of the writer’s major educational life-events. In particular it presents epiphanous encounters undergone in meeting three ‘discourse-communities’: the Baha’i Faith, the teaching of English, and Philosophy for Children. These are seen as providing the three intrapersonal ‘voices’ of human engagement, Caring, Creativity and Criticality, which correspondingly have three ways of knowing: the ‘social-others-centred’, the ‘subjective-creative-mystical’ and the ‘objective-reasoning-scientific’. A fourth discourse-community, that of holistic education, is the educational sub-domain to situate the thesis.
A conceptual framework for the model is outlined, using concepts gleaned from the four discourse-communities. A view of ‘the Whole’, and of heart-knowing, is presented, to counter-balance the conceptual. Heart-knowing, the ‘subjective-creative-mystical’, is seen as an innate, intuitive way of knowing, c.f. the methods of the ‘objective-reasoning-scientific’. The third form, i.e. social knowing, is seen as deriving from the cultural interpersonal matrix of family and community relationships – internalized as Caring.
The conceptual and heart-knowing are brought together, via a ‘conceptual-contemplative-conceptual’ cyclical approach, using a ‘Mandala Diagram’. The idea of ‘Dialectical Spiritualization’ is developed, as that which the four ‘Cs’ have in common. A summary and diagram, and evaluation, conclude the thesis.
I dedicate this work to my parents,
Arthur and Beatrice Prentice,
and to Jane and Moisha Segal.
I feel a deep sense gratitude to the many people who helped me with this work including: Jean Wilson, Professor Jack Miller, Dr Ron Miller, Professor Suheil Bushrui, Dr Iraj Ayman, Professor Ridvan Moqbel, Professor Atsuhiko Yoshida, Professor Sholeh Quinn, Dr Steve Lambden, and especially Geoff Taggart, – and a host of other colleagues, students, teachers, parents, pupils, writers and others who gave me help, and pause for thought, and pause for feeling, and whose own actions and thoughts helped me articulate, and start to live out, some of the promise of the ideas. My thanks also go to my five supervisors; (after a famous line from Oscar Wilde’s the Importance of Being Ernest I could say, ‘to lose one is a tragedy, to lose three is downright carelessness’) Dr Bob Brownhill, David Adshead, Dr Steve Sutcliffe, Professor Peter Harvey and Professor Martin Cortazzi.
Above all I thank my wife Marion, who has borne the backwash from my eleven year marathon, with good will, and an unfailingly encouraging response.
Contents for ‘Spiritualizing Pedagogy’ thesis
Chapter 1: Autobiographical Roots and Groundings 43
Chapter 2: A Conceptual Framework – based on elements 87
gleaned from four discourse-communities
Chapter 3: ‘Sensing the Whole’ and restoring, 146
(and re-storying), heart- knowing
Chapter 4: Engaging connections: within SunWALK 193
as a suggested model of Spiritualizing Pedagogy
Chapter 5: Conclusion: the model as a whole 231
List of Diagrams for ‘Spiritualizing Pedagogy’
D 01:1 – The SunWALK model of spiritualizing pedagogy 9
D 01:2 – The human spirit as the 4Cs 11
D 01.3 – Showing interactive relationship between the autobiographic, 29
the model, and the research process
D 01:4 – Showing research process as ‘Applied’ Autoethnography 30
D 1:1 – To suggest that our knowing is ‘more than’ 59
the true belief that we can justify publicly
D 1:2 – ‘Head’ and ‘heart’ and the 3Cs 82
D 2:1 – Conditioning of the cognitive, and of meaning, as a virtuous circle 94
D 3:1 – Showing correlations between the 3Cs, the 3 ‘voices’, 159
associated virtues, form of knowing and forms of truth
D 3:2 – Maximising certainty in truth-seeking and 164
knowledge-creation – a Baha’i-inspired sub-model
D 4:1 – ‘Mandala’ Contemplation Diagram (MCD) 200
D 4:2 – MCD: showing worked example of meaning-making, 214
within SunWALK, as ‘the topic’
D 5:1 – The Model as a Whole – 240
SunWALK as a spiritualizing model of pedagogy
D 5:2 – Reflexivity in self and others in SunWALK 243
Parker Palmer in, The Courage to Teach, (1998 p.3), says that his book:
explores the teacher’s inner life, but it also raises a question that goes beyond the solitude of the teacher’s soul: How can the teacher’s selfhood become a legitimate topic in education and in our public dialogues on educational reform?
It turns out that this thesis is an attempt to answer Palmer’s question.
In a similar vein Sondra Perl (1994), (in Laidlaw, Mellett and Whitehead 2003) says:
Stories have mythic powers. To know this … is to know the shaping power of the tale. But how, I wonder, do we see beyond the boundaries of a familiar story and envision a new one? What, in other words, are the connections between texts we read and the lives we live, between composing our stories and composing ourselves?
I have sought, in this thesis, to see beyond the familiar stories of my life, and of education as it is has been, and, through a re-composing of my life via autobiography, my teaching and dialogues, I have sought to envision a new story for education.
CONTENTS OF INTRODUCTION
01:1 – Introduction 9
01:2 – The Key Ideas in this thesis 13
01:3 – Dimensions within the Religious Education debate 22
01:4 – To what forms of knowing does the 23
thesis hope to contribute?
01:5 – The 25 ‘Design Criteria’ / emergent criteria’ of SunWALK: 25
grouped into 8 categories
01:6 – Key aspects of methodological approach 27
01:7 – Positioning this work in the ‘action-research community’ 28
01:8 – The model as the process, and the process as the model 29
01:9 – Some of the ways that I have empirically tested and 31
01:10 – Videoing, Ethical considerations and Confidentiality 33
01:11 – The interwoven structural threads of macro and micro 34
perspectives that run through the thesis
01:12 – Metaphors and motifs that act as a unifiers 36
D 01:1 – The SunWALK model of spiritualizing pedagogy 9
D 01:2 – The human spirit as the 4Cs 11
D 01.3 – Showing interactive relationship between 29
the autobiographic, the model and the research process
D 01:4 – Showing research process as ‘Applied’ Autoethnography 30
01:1 – Introduction
Education ….. is a process of living and not a preparation for life.
John Dewey Creed for Education (1897) Article II, No. 11
This thesis is the result of an ‘interrogation’ of my soul that has taken place over the last eleven years, but with ‘tap roots’ that go right back into my early childhood. It is also a storied ‘translation’ of ‘me’, that is of my lived experience, beliefs, reflection, reading and insights, transmogrified into a model of education. It is an articulation of what I have come to, through being me. As such I take it to be consonant with Dewey’s (1916) view that growing is the continuous reconstruction of experience, and Abbs’ (1974 p.7) view that sees autobiography as: the search backwards into time to discover the evolution of the true self.
As such the thesis is introspection toward self understanding, but comes with the hope that its realization1 as a model will be of use to others, in teaching, or theory-making. The thesis combines various elements in an ‘applied’ autoethnographic approach. It is a half-century journey of personal realizations in, and about, education, woven into a narrative and corresponding model of education. The model served me well in the later stages of my teaching career. It evolved in the daily joy (mostly) of teaching English, Philosophy for Children and Drama with children in a West Sussex RC middle school.
I started work on the thesis in 1992 (at the University of Sussex, but transferred to the University of Sunderland in 1996), and the result, which I came to call the SunWALK model, is, in ‘one sentence’ form, as follows:
the SunWALK model of spiritualizing pedagogy sees human education as the storied development of meaning, which is constructed, and de-constructed, physically mentally and spiritually, through Wise & Willing Action, via Loving and Knowing – developed in Community, through the ‘Dialectical Spiritualization2’ of Caring, Creativity & Criticality processes, all undertaken in the light of the ‘Sun’ of chosen higher-order values and beliefs, using best available, appropriate content.
To make it clearer, the ‘one-sentence’ form of the model has also been presented in Diagram 01:1. It indicates the intrapersonal and interpersonal domains, and also the domains of ‘beliefs and values’, and ‘content’.
The numbers 1 to 10 refer to what are seen as the chief components, or ‘organizing principles’, of the model, to which all other concepts and concerns are related. Broadly speaking 1 to 6 are the ‘what’, the ideal intrapersonal goal of the model, and 7 to 8 the interpersonal domain, and the processes – the ‘how’ of the model. ‘9’ shows the importance of beliefs and values in the model and 10 refers to the best, appropriate, content available in the given culture, for the teacher to call upon. The intrapersonal Caring, Creativity & Criticality are referred to as the ‘3Cs’. When the interpersonal Community is included reference is to the ‘4Cs’. Content and culture, could constitute a fifth and/or sixth ‘Cs’, but are seen as sub-parts of Community. However for clarity ‘content’, which is of course cultural, is dealt with separately as in Diagram 01:1 above.
The 4Cs can be diagrammatically represented in various ways, most simply as in Diagram 01:2 below:
Diagram 01:2 – The human spirit as the 4Cs
– the core idea in the SunWALK model of spiritualizing pedagogy
The model is based on a notion of the human spirit, as the life-force that is expressed first diffusely and then, through that form of education we call socialization, as different modes – caring or creativity or criticality, the 3Cs. These are seen as the three ways we engage with others, or with things. Metaphorically they are seen as the three ‘primary colours’ of the human spirit. That is, at any one time, we are engaging caringly (the ‘WE’ voice of morality), creatively (the ‘I’ voice of subjective expression) or critically (the ‘IT’ objective voice of propositional knowing and science). In Diagram 01:2 the inner Caring-Creativity-Criticality circle = the intrapersonal. Corresponding to these three ways of engaging there are, so the thesis argues, three ways of knowing: the ‘social-others-centred’, the ‘subjective-creative-mystical’ and the ‘objective-reasoning-scientific’. The 3Cs as the three ‘primary colours’ of the human spirit, are ways in which we engage with reality – ‘I’ reality, ‘WE’ reality and ‘IT’ reality.
The outer Community circle = the interpersonal. Community, the fourth C, is also thought of as including the Cultural and, from a teaching point of view, Content. Together the intrapersonal ‘3Cs’, and the interpersonal C of Community, make up the ‘4Cs’. (These among many other issues are developed further as the thesis proceeds).
The making of meaning is seen in the model as the, quintessentially, defining characteristic of being human. Meaning, decoded and constructed, is therefore seen as the chief purpose of education – but positive, life-enhancing meaning, generated in the light of higher-order values.
By ‘meaning’ I mean the fulfilling of needs through achieving purpose, significantly, in all domains. The domains for the making of meaning are the 4Cs and their ways of knowing, using the cultural content in the society to which the meaning-maker belongs (increasingly global now). The signification looked for is of higher-order forms – not necessarily ‘high’ culture, but exploring the place of clothing metaphor in Macbeth would be preferred to memorizing the menu at Macdonalds. By ‘higher-order levels of signification I mean decoding (‘reading’), and constructing (creating or composing) in the ‘languages’ of the 4Cs.
The languages of the four are seen as: service to others in the case of caring, arts expression in the case of creativity, science, maths and critiquing (critical studies) in the case of criticality, and interpersonal abilities in the case of community – using the intrapersonal 3Cs. The ‘reading’, and creating, of meaning is seen as best being achieved through balanced development involving all of the organizing principles in the model (see ‘one-sentence’ version on page 8, and diagram on page 9). The reader, at this point, might like to read the summary of the model to be found in Chapter 5:2 and Diagram 5:1, and Appendix O, to get a fuller overview.
Some of the implications of the organizing principles are discussed in greater depth in Chapter 3, 4, and 5. Number 9, the ‘Sun’ is, metaphorically, the ‘spectacles’ we all wear – that is an individual’s admixture of beliefs and values through which s/he views the world. For my own version of the ‘Sun’, I concentrate, in Chapter 3, on two dynamics, ‘sensing the Whole’ and ‘restoring heart-knowing’ as a personal, but non faith-specific, view of the mystical.
The thesis argues the need for pupils and graduates who are educated in matters of the heart and spirit, as well as in physical and technical considerations, who might therefore be able to contribute as agents of change toward a more united, developed and peaceful world.
The thesis then consists of an explanation, and I hope a justification, of how I have arrived educationally at being me, and at producing the model presented.
01:2 – The Key Ideas in this thesis
The model shows how I have learned to practice my particular version of the art of teaching, holistically. It is especially concerned with how the ‘spiritual’ might be intrinsic throughout a model of education. Spiritual is defined in two ways. Firstly, in reference to the human spirit, it is defined as ‘the intrapersonal being and becoming of abilities in the 3Cs’, with, and through, the ‘interpersonal of being and becoming in community’. Being and becoming fully and positively human is the axis around which the model is built. This humanization, (development in being positively human as in the 4Cs), is seen as being achieved via the ten components indicated in the one sentence version of the model. Humanization, spiritualization (developing higher-order values or virtues) and holization (the realization of connectedness) are seen as three necessary ‘takes’ on the same phenomenon – human maturation.
Secondly, from a ‘divine’ point of view the spiritual is seen as the acquisition of those virtues that are taught by the great wisdom traditions, including the great world religions. The perennial philosophy of the great wisdom traditions is seen as providing sources for the inspiration, guidance and development of the human spirit, and I give examples from, Christian, Islamic Baha’i3, and others sources. Perennial philosophy is described by Aldous Huxley (1958 p.1) in the following way:
Philosophia Perennis — the phrase was coined by Leibniz; but the thing — the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s (sic) final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being — the thing is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions.
As a Baha’i I see a high degree of consonance between perennial philosophy and Baha’i teachings, in that Baha’u’llah, Founder of the Baha’i Faith, referred to His religion as: the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. (Baha’u’llah Gleanings 1949 p.136)
The essential point of similarity between perennial philosophy and Baha’i teachings lies in the fact that they both uphold the belief that the inner light of all of the great world religions is one and the same. Clearly some non-theistic religions, and some commentators, do not share this ‘oneness’ view.
The model that is presented here is also a meta-model, or perhaps more accurately it is a ‘model for modelling models’ of holistic education, since it tries to identify those elements that are necessary in any complete model. Holistic education I define as:
the balanced and integrated development of abilities in all positive aspects of being and becoming fully human, particularly via the realization of interconnectedness and wholeness. Holistic Education seeks to provide for balanced engagement of, and expression of, the whole person: physically, mentally, affectively and spiritually. Holistic Education seeks to maintain a dynamic balance between such concerns as content and process, and the critical, creative, caring and communal.
The thesis concerns my teaching in England, but may have relevance to other countries, at least Western-based countries. It especially concerns:
1) the making of a model based on (a teacher’s) life and practice,
2) how we might respond to the need for the spiritual in education – as required in the UK by the 1988 Education Reform Act and
3) how the model combines a view of education based on the human spirit, plus an inclusive (perennial philosophy) view of the ‘divinely’ spiritual, in both the religious and humanist senses – minimally seen as being guided by, and acquiring, higher-order values (virtues) such as justice, truth, beauty and goodness.
1. The thesis stories the creation of an autobiographically-based model of education, but specifically it is concerned with pedagogical process, and the consciousness and decision-making of the teacher as s/he goes about the art of teaching. The model is derived from reflection upon, and study around, the author’s ‘text’, derived from the re-constructive process of autobiography, along with more recent personal experience. The text focuses only on those parts of my autobiography that seemed especially important to the development of my educational theory and practice. Four experiences were nothing less than epiphanic – they were ‘revelations’ that radically altered and extended my theorizing and practice.
Abbs (2003 p.68) comments interestingly on ‘epiphany’:
the word itself is revealing. It shows in miniature the confluence of the Hellenic and Hebraic traditions which has driven the creative and turbulent story of western culture. The root word is Greek deriving from epiphaneia, meaning a manifestation or a showing…… the word has evolved during the last one hundred years to mark any rhapsodic state of affirmation with a cognitive charge, any sense of often unexpected and almost invariably overwhelming significance felt within the flux and bombardment of daily experience. (RP’s italics)
The Webster dictionary (3rd Full edition) also has three rather more literary things to say about epiphany:
A sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (its soul, its ‘whatness’) leaps to us from the vestment of its appearance…. James Joyce; an intuitive grasp of reality through something usually simple and striking (as a common place event or person). Stephen’s brothers and sisters, formerly seen as separate entities…. became the essence of childhood, in the presence of his labour, Joyce progressed from things to epiphanies of things.
Interestingly Joyce progressed from things to epiphanies of things suggests the same increase in sensibility that is in William Blake’s lines:
To See a World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand
And Eternity in an Hour.
— from The Auguries of Innocence, lines 1-4
Such development of sensibility, through raising of consciousness, humanization, holization and spiritualization, is seen as central to the spiritualizing model of pedagogy presented here.
The comments from the Webster dictionary, on the nature of epiphanic experience are included because they contain elements that relate to themes in the thesis: for example, intuitive and inspirational insight, (as well as propositional knowing); the raising of consciousness (as the goal of education); increase in meaning; meaning as culturally accumulated wisdom (as well as personal constructs); ‘reading’ reality (with enhanced meaning having been made).
Other experiences, some in early life, were highly significant learning episodes, not major revelations, but like the epiphanies were ‘landmarks of professional consciousness’ for me as a teacher. Such landmarks are seen as way markers on the mapping of self, particularly the professional self, as well as nodal points in realizing the model.
The text also includes experience of being a learner, and to a lesser extent of being a teacher of adults and teacher-educator. It also concerns, even more generally, six and a bit decades, inevitably part success and part failure, of striving to be fully and positively human – in the world, with others.
2. The Education Reform Act (1988), like its chief precursor the 1944 Education Act, requires that education in maintained schools include the spiritual. The 1988 Act states on its first page:
The curriculum for a maintained school satisfies the requirements of this section if it is a balanced and broadly based curriculum which—
(a) promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society; and
(b) prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.
In the fifteen years since the Act it is safe to say that it has proven difficult to ensure that the spiritual is intrinsic to educational process as a whole, not least because not many have seen that as a priority. A few however have concerned themselves with the spiritual in education including: Wright (1998, 1999, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c 2001b); Erricker C Erricker J and Otta (1997); Hull (2003); and in Canada, Jack Miller (1994, 2000). Construing education in such a way that the spiritual is integral to the processes of learning and teaching, is one of the chief concerns to which this thesis addresses itself. Instead of being integrated, or intrinsic, the spiritual dimension is often an ‘add-on’. Aside from elements such as school assemblies, and the general moral ethos of a school, the ‘spiritual’ has often been ‘delivered’ as a ‘bolt-on’, low-status, extra by those unfortunate enough to teach the weekly period of RE, or some version of PSME (Personal, Social and Moral Education).
3. The model views the ‘spiritual’ in two ways – and seeks to make them complementary. The first way is as the 3Cs of human spirit, and its development in individuals and groups. The second is as the central concerns of those perennial teachings found at the heart of the great faith and wisdom traditions, notably love, justice, truth, beauty and goodness.4 Complementariness between the two notions, of spirit and spiritual, is seen as working in both directions. Firstly as positive influence of the ’divine’ on the human spirit, the 4Cs, but also in the sense that the 4Cs should all be hallowed in how we deal with the spiritual and the religious, (especially given that most of the major religions teach that humans (positively) are made in the image of God).
Focus on major central virtues, is also seen as a possible way to establish common ground between religions, and other groups. Love, justice, truth, beauty and goodness might be the basis for some ‘holding together’ of a multi-faith non-denominational school.
Perennial philosophy according to Ken Wilber (1998b p.5) involves seven defining characteristics:
2.Spirit is found within.
3.Most of us don’t realize this Spirit within, however, because we are living in a world of sin, separation, and duality–that is, we are living in a fallen or illusory state.
4.There is a way out of this fallen state of sin and illusion, there is a Path to our liberation.
5.If we follow this path to its conclusion, the result is a Rebirth or Enlightenment, a direct experience of Spirit within, a Supreme Liberation, which–
6.marks the end of sin and suffering, and which—
7.issues in social action of mercy and compassion on behalf of all sentient beings.
For me this steers a course between East and West, between ‘Semitic’ and ‘Aryan’ religions – for example between the Christian emphasis on personal salvation, and the acting in the world with compassion as emphasized in Buddhist, (as well as Christian) teachings. Another way to look at salvation, divesting it of negative anti-Christian baggage, is to see it as finding the God within, or ‘becoming our true, spiritual, selves’ (see Wilber, 2000, and Jordan 1993).
An extraordinary compilation of writings linking perennial philosophy and the mystical is to be found at http://www.digiserve.com/mystic Happold (1990 pp.18-21) identifies the perennial with the mystical. Perennial Philosophy, he says, rests on two fundamental convictions:
1. Though it may be to a great extent atrophied and exist only potentially in most men (sic), men possess an organ or faculty which is capable of discerning spiritual truth, and, in its own spheres, this faculty is as much to be relied on as are other organs of sensation in theirs.
2. In order to be able to discern spiritual truth men (sic) must in their essential nature be spiritual; in order to know That which they call God, they must be, in some way, partakers of the divine nature…..
The subscription to the essential unity of religions, contentious though it is, even within views of the mystical, is part of my personal belief system.
In the thesis it is axiomatic then that spiritual development generated by spiritual nourishment is at the heart of formulating such a model, and its constituent sub-models. This is presented in what I trust is a ‘non-exclusive’ and non-sectarian sense, even though examples are given from Baha’i and other faiths. Of course even such a relatively inclusive and catholic view would be rejected by some. However, it is the position from which I start – and all journeys start somewhere, all construing starts with a some set of beliefs and values. It is taken as a working principle that spiritual development should be at the heart of education. The question here is how should we see, and do, that?
In taking the view that the human spirit can be viewed as the 3Cs, as three modes of being, three ‘voices’ and three ways of engaging with reality, there is correspondence to the cardinal virtues of goodness (Caring), beauty (Creativity) and truth (Criticality). The 3Cs are presented in active forms to emphasize human being and becoming as process, and secondly to underpin the view that education should have sufficient of the experiential. In fact the 3Cs are the engagement, and outflow of spirit, from within a person, or between persons, that brings about goodness, beauty and truth (or, in the case of neglect, their opposites). The fourth virtue that must be placed above these is that of justice. Although justice pertains to the social domain, I also include the view from the Baha’i writing that, as a command of God, says:
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbour. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. (Baha’u’llah 1932/1975)
This ‘psycho-spiritual’ view of justice is seen as vital to the overall argument within the thesis. It is a shift from outer to inner reality. Justice is here seen as that which enables us to truly know, and to be in touch with reality, and to see independently and authentically, instead of through the opinions of another. It is therefore about how we can discern in a way that treats all considerations justly, giving them their due place – a matter of interiority, as well as of external fairness. Benefits of autonomy and authenticity (when coupled with other virtues) are seen as accruing in any form of education that centres on justice.
The 3Cs are seen as the sources, in the world of interpersonal relationships, of those three core virtues, but conversely the 3Cs are seen as the internalized form of those virtues. As such they are seen as the chief way in which human spiritualization and Divine spiritualization intermingle, or become one (at least three major religions Christianity, Islam and Baha’i hold that we humans are made in the image of God – presumably in potentiality, as opposed to actuality). In the practice of such virtues, and their internalization, we become not just more maturely human, but are also moving toward mirroring the Divine. Justice I suggest is the key not only to such benefits as autonomy, authenticity and social justice, but also to how we construe other virtues such as goodness, beauty and truth – or the moral, aesthetic and scientific domains. Spirituality, it seems to me, is generated through seeing virtues, and practical matters (such as a curriculum, school architecture, school food ) in the light of other virtues. But spirituality is about flow, the flow of energy from feeling and, for believers that is a love relationship with the beloved e.g. God, or one of His Messengers. In SunWALK ‘Divine’ spirituality is seen as the chief means of nourishing truth, beauty, goodness and justice – and all of the other virtues. (I recognize that Humanist friends and colleagues see differently, such as human interaction being the source of such virtues.)
Many of the great faiths and wisdom traditions centre on love, the chief characteristics of which is attraction, and the realization of oneness. Love is here seen as the highest common denominator of all virtues. In matters of ethics – defined here as moral sensibility, in action, with others – the ‘golden rule’ is probably the most central of the perennial teachings – though we might now be being challenged to go beyond that rule.
One key question that arises is, ‘what is the relationship between the spiritual and the moral?’ This thesis takes the view that (ideally) the spiritual is the source of the will to act morally – and, for that matter, aesthetically and scientifically – which I suppose is saying that ‘the spiritual’ (especially as the external source that ‘feeds’ us) is our source of meaning, one way of relating to ‘God’ being as Ultimate Meaning, that which makes meaning-full all else.
Spirituality develops when we are willing, and able, to respond – willingness to respond to the ‘call’ of justice, truth, beauty and goodness is an arena that can unite believer and unbeliever, the theistically religious and the non-theistically religious. In responding we gradually internalize those virtues.
Each of us is an embodiment of our personal history, and of what we have made, and are still making, of that history. Behind my belief in the research process is the belief that if we could all, with support from those that have gone before, tell our own truth as deeply and fully as possible we could contribute to truth objectively, and to the sympathetic understanding of each other. I believe this as a teacher and as a researcher. However as Prain (1996) and Rosen (1996) point out this romantic-based view has been challenged by post-modernist thinkers and by feminist thinkers, the former to the point of questioning the idea of an autonomous self. However, whilst admitting the social, political and gender dimensions of how our notion of self is developed, and re-constructed in memory via the autobiographic, I still maintain that there is a true self that in research, and in teaching, we can identify, nourish and develop. One (religious) way to describe that authentic, true and enduring self is as that particular admixture of manifest (and potential, potential includes the ‘negatives’) virtues that is each individual soul – a soul meaning that individuation of the human spirit that is a person. If we deny the subjective uniqueness found in a person’s admixture of qualities we deny the creativity of God.
Logically and politically to hold the view that there is nothing but a socially constructed, non-permanent self is also to ignore the genetic and innate in being human, as well as the cultural, and consequently, and much worse, it is to play into the hands of those who want to be totalitarian. However my ‘ultimate-reality reasons’ for belief in the notion of a true self, and its nurtured realization, is, of course, theological. It is in the view that that unknowable reality (that many call God) is expressed via the subjective as well as the objective. Our uniqueness at any one time is simply that ‘admixture’ of the qualities, names and attributes of God that we have started to manifest. The negatives are the shadow side of virtues that, for reasons of fear, or injury or laziness or ignorance, we hold on to. Gradually, we each, like the wider society, need to reduce the negatives, through asserting the positives.
Although the thesis is as much concerned with the human spirit, the 4Cs, as with divine, higher-order virtues, we should just mention briefly one other concern – that of spiritual education as compared to religious education. I take the view with Hull (2003) that spiritual education is a wider concern than religious education, which is a problematic area even for those who favour it. I next therefore ‘touch base’ with a major UK debate that concerns religious education. In so doing I suggest an integralist, inclusive approach, that might be a solution to the kind of problems that arise.
01:3 – Dimensions within the Religious Education debate
Outside of indoctrination in intensely denominational schools, or to put it more positively, denominational induction, the domain of religious education can be seen as having a range of focuses, but two in particular have featured in religious education debates in the UK over previous years. The first we might characterise as ‘external-objective’ – knowing about religions in order to have respect for them. The second, which we might characterise as ‘internal-subjective’, focuses more on the need for children to ‘get in touch’ with their own inner spirituality.
The first view is represented by Andrew Wright (1998, 1999, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2001a, 2001b). Wright sees such knowledge as providing the means for rational appreciation of religions. At the extreme opposite is the work of Clive Erricker (2000a, 2000b), Jane Erricker (2001), Cathy Otta (2002) and others. In this view the focus is on what children experience as spiritual, or what the researchers see as being spiritual in what the children say, or otherwise communicate, as in their Children and Worldviews project (2000b). In this work there is an attempt to ground religious experience largely in the children’s lived experience, regardless of whether the child is, or is not, a member of a religious community.
Other important voices, relative to religious education, include Hull (2003), Hay (1982, 1985, 1998a, 1998b) and from the North American perspective John Miller (1986, 1988, 1993, 1994, 2000) whose views draw upon the ideas of Emerson, amongst others.
I propose an integrative approach that values both of the above positions in the model presented here. It is integralist, fter Wilber (2000), in that it seeks to combine dimensions that characterise the work of both, and consequently, sees all of their work as having some legitimacy. In particular it does this in its emphasis, in later chapters, on developing, in balanced ways, both the ‘objective’ voice and the ‘subjective voice’.
The integralist approach can be seen as taking up a more balanced position on what could easily be a starkly bi-polar argument. A range of such bi-polar dimensions can be found in the ‘Balancing Dualities Instrument’ (see Appendix A).
01:4 – To what forms of knowing does the thesis hope to contribute?
The thesis seeks to make contributions in the following ways:
a) firstly it is one teacher’s story – an autobiographic narrative about those experiences within the life journey that contributed to his way of seeing. The name SunWALK is used to indicate that we are all on a journey and that in helping each other learn we walk together for part of that journey. The ‘Sun’ is our source/s of spiritual ‘nourishment’, and its internalization as our beliefs and values, that become the ‘spectacles’ through which we read reality.
b) secondly in asking the key question, ‘What, spiritualizing, model of pedagogy is implicit in my personal history, belief systems and work as a teacher?’ it seeks to make a contribution to the comparatively new field of ‘living educational theory’ as developed by Jack Whitehead (1989) Jean McNiff (1993) and others at the university of Bath, and elsewhere. As such the thesis is an extended exercise in reflection using an ‘experience – reflection – reading – theory-creation’, ‘applied autoethnographic’, process.
c) as an intended ‘by-product’ to the autoethnographic process the model of education, especially of pedagogical process, might be useful for others, and it hopes to make a contribution in a range of ways indicated by the following list of criteria.
The 25 criteria grouped below I call emergent criteria – they emerged as various forms of engagement in the work progressed, and as various people asked what it was that I was doing. Had I had, at the outset, complete foresight these would have been my ‘design criteria’, or aims and objectives. To simplify the 25 criteria I have grouped them into eight categories:
01:5 – The 25 ‘Design Criteria’ / emergent criteria’ of SunWALK: grouped into 8 categories
A) TEACHING & TEACHER DEVELOPMENT
It is hoped that the model:
A 1 Provides a framework for understanding the job of teaching that is simple but comprehensive
A 2 Provides a model that views teaching as spiritual experience and spiritual service
A 3 Sees teacher development as spiritual maturation through ‘walking the talk’ with a model like SunWALK
A 4 Presents teaching/education as an art, supported by the sciences, good feeling supported by thought, revelation by reason
B) UNITY OF THEORY AND PRACTICE
B 1 Creates a model that is ‘inclusive’ – one that both theorists & practitioners can use.
B 2 Creates a theoretical model that is a map that enables the user to ‘place’ any piece of research theory.
C) HOLIZATION / HOLISTIC
C 1 Helps define Holistic Education, along with spiritualization, and humanization
C 2 Helps create an answer, or answers, to the question, “What is it that makes of the parts a whole?”
D 1 Provides a model that defines education through focus on the process of being and becoming fully & positively human
D 2 Creates a sub-model that, in and of itself, is also a model of human development
D 3 Creates a sub-model that, in and of itself, is also a model of moral development
D 4 Creates a model that, in and of itself, is also a model of spiritual maturation
D 5 Creates a model that is trans-cultural, and that also has the potential to help schools build inter-faith consensus.
D 6 Creates a model that fits with major ‘structures’ such as I WE & IT (the creative, the moral and the critical voices respectively etc. (see Triads Diagram in Appendix B )
D 7 Provides a model that positively creates identity – the opposite of the alienated person who says, in effect, ‘I know who I am/we are because I know who I/we hate’
D 8 Provides a model that positively creates purpose
D 9 Enhances the caring and creative in humanization without diminishing intellectual rigour
D 10 Balances the conceptual and ‘the transcendental’
E 1 Helps distinguish and relate development in human spirituality with development in divine spirituality, including the mystical
E 2 Demonstrates that in developing a coherent, holistic worldview there arises possibilities for re-generating & re-sacralizing each part, through continuous development of the whole system’s meaningfulness, including transcendental experience
F) INCLUSIVE via a PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY
F 1 Provides a model for the utilization of inter-faith theology & philosophy, especially perennial philosophy
F 2 Provides a model that is non-exclusive in the sense that it is workable by those from a variety of faith positions, including the Humanist position
F 3 Embodies & balances a set of core values – especially truth, beauty, goodness, justice, & ‘living in community’
G) RESEARCH MODEL
G 1 Creates a model that, in and of itself, is a (holistic) research model
H 1 Integrates self, peer & teacher evaluation formatively – without negating summative evaluation – within the cycle of:-
a) the process of teaching b) reflection upon teaching/learning & c) future planning.
The 25 criteria can also be seen as some of the sub-questions to ask if education claims to be holistic, or spiritualizing, or humanizing.
I use the eight categories of ‘design criteria’, as criteria against which to judge the comparative strengths and weaknesses, of the work (see Appendix L).
Because I have had to range widely over many fields, I have had, all through the work, to lay aside the important, in favour of the most important (some nine tenths of the chapters, and material collected was excised, in order to fit within the space limitations). Consequently the model concerns broad, human-centred categories and doesn’t, for example present detailed curricula, or programmes of work – such work is seen as future projects for myself, or others.
The model is however rooted in everyday practice – in three and a half decades of teaching children and adults English, teaching adults management and personal development courses, and particularly in a more recent half-decade teaching English, Philosophy for Children and Drama with, mainly, 12 to 13 year olds, i.e. Year 7 and 8 in the UK system.
The model, because of the breadth of its scope, seeks to bring together a wide range of ideas, within the framework of SunWALK and the 4Cs. The model, more or less, draws upon a range of sources, especially Perennial Philosophy, Baha’i Studies, the teaching of English, narrative studies, holistic education and theory, philosophy of education and mysticism. This long list however was not a macho attempt at territory traversing. It came about as a result of, firstly, the ‘accidentalism’ of (my) life and, secondly from the struggle to find the means of telling my story in ways, (supported by helpful others), that rang true – thereby truthfully revealing the model that was tacit in my accumulation of experience. As a broad-featured model it could be used when evaluating, refocusing or developing a course, an individual school or even an education system. The 4Cs themselves constitute a simple framework with which to start thinking about many aspects, or examples, of education.
I focus now on some of the methodological aspects of this thesis.
01:6 Key aspects of methodological approach
In this section I present three aspects of how the practitioner/researching/theory-creation process was carried out. Firstly I suggest how this work is seen as falling within the action research, S-STEP, Whitehead-McNiff, practitioner-researcher community ‘paradigm’ (refs. below). Secondly I present how the model, SunWALK, also constitutes a research model – a model for practitioner theory-creation – as well as constituting my story as a general model of education. The model, and the research model for practitioner theory-creation, are ultimately one, in that both are seen as answers to the question, ‘What is it to be human, fully and positively, here in the world with others?’ Thirdly I present some of the ways that I have worked over the last ten years to give the thesis integrity, thoroughness and validity. I do this, by listing some of the ways that I have empirically tested, and applied, SunWALK as a model. This section might also, in addition to the 25 criteria above, help answer the question, “What are those elements necessary to validate any claim that an item is holistic/spiritualizing?”
01:7 – Positioning this work in the ‘action-research, S-STEP, Whitehead-McNiff, practitioner-researcher community’
I bought Jean McNiff’s book Teaching as Learning shortly after its publication in 1993. It struck a deep chord in me and I have in the decade since then tried to square up to the focus and spirit of that book – i.e. of trying to live out, more and more fully, my values in my practice and theory-creation.
I haven’t kept continuous contact with the community of researchers that grew up under the guidance of Whitehead, McNiff and others, centred on the University of Bath, and I was astonished, late in the work done on my own thesis, to discover that no fewer than fifteen doctorates and six masters degrees have been published on the website (at http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/ ). In the intervening period the S-STEP (Self Study of Teacher Education Practices) SIG of AERA (American Educational Research Association) had also developed (see http://www.ku.edu/~sstep/bylaws.htm). Perhaps however by being ‘out of touch’ with that community there are consequently some strengths, as well as some weaknesses.
In reviewing the theses my work would seem to fit in with that sub-domain, in the following ways. It is personal, it is an account of the subjective, starting with an autobiographic text, it includes ‘chalk-face’ accounts etc., but it also seeks to produce a general model of education, the 4Cs framework of which, at least, could be used by others in a wide range of situations. The SunWALK model I hope incorporates, in general terms, the kind of methodology and values of the new S-Step practitioner research. My work would seem to have varying degrees of consonance with the theses at the Bath site but looks to have the strongest degrees of consonance with Cunningham and then with DeLong, D’Arcy, Eames, Whitehead, Laidlaw, Lawter, Jekan Adler-Collins, Mead, and Scholes-Rhodes (all theses are at http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/ ).
01:8 – The model as process, and the process as model
Having written the autobiography relatively late in the whole process I realized the high degree of mutual influence between:
a) the (subjectivity of) autobiography,
b) the research model & process and
c) the model of education as ‘final product’
This triadic relationship is presented in Diagram 01:3:
Diagram 01.3 Showing interactive relationship between
the autobiographic, the model and the research process
Each of the three focuses in the diagram is partly derivative from, and partly causative of the others. The 4Cs, and SunWALK as a whole, is seen as constituting a (holistic) research method – especially suitable to research that seeks to articulate how individual theory derives from experience, practice and belief systems.
Gradually I came to see the thesis as providing a research model as well as an educational model – (a possibility first mooted by Dr Pam Denicolo at the University of Surrey in 1992-3). However, the education advisor for this thesis, Martin Cortazzi5 (personal communication 2003) has also suggested that the approach used might constitute a new form of research methodology in another sense. He has suggested the term ‘Applied Autoethnography’ to indicate a combining of narrative studies, action research and autobiography and self reflexivity – all applied to a specific purpose, namely creating a model of education – see Diagram 01.4:
Diagram 01:4 – Showing research process as ‘Applied’ Autoethnography
Autoethnography is an established, but still emergent, form of qualitative research. Described by Ellis and Bochner (2000) it is:
an autobiographical genre of writing and research that displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultural. Back and forth autoethnographers gaze, first through an ethnographic wide-angle lens, focussing outward on social and cultural aspects of their personal experience; then they look inward, exposing a vulnerable self that is moved by and may move through, refract, and resist cultural interpretations – see Deck, (1990); Neuman, (1996); Reed-Danahay, (1997). As they zoom backward and forward, inward and outward, distinctions between the personal and cultural become blurred, sometimes beyond distinct recognition. Usually written in first-person voice, autoethnography , autoethnographic texts appear in a variety of forms – short stories, poetry, fiction, novels, photographic essays, personal essays, journals, fragmented and layered writing and social science prose. In these texts, concrete action, dialogue, emotion embodiment, spirituality, and self-consciousness are featured, appearing as relational and institutional stories affected by history, social structure, and culture, which themselves are dialectically revealed through action, feeling, thought and language.
This does seem to well describe my intentions, and the way I proceeded. Storying is seen as essential for learners in the model, as well as being present in the autobiographic approach. The legitimacy of the applied dimension lies in the fact that I knew I wanted to present a model before I knew that I/the thesis needed to use the autobiographic – the surprise, for me, was how much they are one and the same.
Action research, focusing down to the autobiographic and the ethnographic, is explicit, or implicit, in the overall process of the SunWALK model per se. In a sense the thesis is the story of the thesis – of its evolution from the dynamic between praxis and reflection and beliefs and values. As White (2002) says action research can increase the likelihood that one’s behaviour is congruent with one’s theories about teaching and learning – and, one hopes, the values with which we choose to identify ourselves.6
01:9 – Some of the ways that I have empirically tested and applied SunWALK as a theoretical and practical working model and research method
These are ways in which I have continuously sought to test the emergent theory:
1 Published four articles in Baha’i books, in preparing to start work on the thesis, (1990a, 1990b, 1990c and 1993) and one chapter in Cassell’s Education, Spirituality and the Whole Child (1996)
2 Did presentations at a range of conferences, for example Association of Baha’i Studies conferences, and Irfan Colloquium meetings, one or more per year.
3 Gave one of the main presentations, and conducted workshops, at the VIIIth International Conference on Holistic Education at Guadalajara in Mexico, November 2000. There I interviewed many of the leading figures in holistic education about the ideas for my model, including Jack Miller (Canada), Ron Miller (USA), Atsuhiko Yoshida (Japan), Jeffrey Kane (USA) Ramon Gallegos Nava (Mexico), Roger & Sue Stack (Australia), Doralice de Souza (Brazil)7. (Presentations are available at http://www.hent.org/world/papers/8mexico.htm)
4 Conducted 10 year ‘dialogue’ on Holistic Education/Spirituality in Education with Geoff Taggart (2003) as ‘study-buddy’ (he is the only person, that I know of, whose work is in some of the same set of fields as this thesis)
5 Conducted shorter dialogues with a range of others, e.g. Ron Miller.
6 Ran residential courses for teachers and Head Teachers.
7 Ran a range of in-service courses for teachers.
8 Conducted demonstration lessons for teachers in schools.
9 The five years (first half of the 1990s) of developing and teaching courses at a middle school in West Sussex were a daily evolution of theory in practice, and practice in theory.
10 Collected a 400+ list of concept-elements for model, sifted those into 67 main concept-elements, and from these derived a key set of ten ‘organizing elements’, as seen in the one sentence version of the model presented at the beginning of this chapter.
11 Continued, from time to time, to teach children, youth as well as adults – continuously applying my theory, and continuously modifying that theory in the light of additional experience.
12 Consulted thousands of books and articles. I confined those books and articles to approximately 1500 in my ‘master’ bibliography, but eventually had to use a more restricted range as listed in the thesis Bibliography – and I have included a Key Titles List (see Appendix J), through which a reader can be introduced to what I consider to be the most important introductory sources that contribute to the thesis.
13 Spent many hours watching and reflecting on videos of my own lessons (but decided to not go down the video analysis route because I wanted to focus on the theory as a whole).
14 Undertook specialist training e.g. Levels I, II, and III in Philosophy for Children, and became a Teacher Educator.
Each of these kinds of experience contributed to the ‘practice-reflection-reading-theory development’ cycle.
The thesis is written using several ‘voices’. In addition to the academic voice there are, a) the ‘I’ voice, and the voice of the ‘text’, (fragments of autobiography) in Chapter 1, b) the creative voice, as used in Jane’s Short Story, and in the Island, Shoreline Ocean personal myth beginning of Chapter 3), and finally c) there are the voices of pupils speaking for themselves via the transcript – I place a few of their comments in boxes throughout the thesis – not just as ‘proof, or even as illustrations, but as counterpoint, and grounding statements.
The creative pieces are seen as another way of ‘walking the talk’ – given the model I am presenting. I use creative writing with children, and I frequently do the tasks I set them. Here the creative is to help try to access that which is deep in me, and to set up an approach that is contrapuntal to the reasoning voice of the academic. I will be arguing that with pupils and students switching back and forth between the reasoning voice, as in philosophical inquiry, and the creative voice, as in creative writing, using different forms of dialogue, creates a very deep and powerful method, of teaching and learning, and of doing applied autoethnographic research.
01:10 – Videoing, Ethical considerations and Confidentiality
The two lessons that were transcribed and placed in the Appendices were part of a range of videoing I did, of work in a RC middle school in West Sussex in the first half of the 1990s – the children’s names are removed in the transcript. It was one of several uses of video – for example I was, according to the local English Advisor, the only person doing Film and Media Studies for that age range in the whole of the county. For example the children used video to record their own ‘13th episodes of Fawlty Towers’.
On one memorable day, with the Acting Head sitting there, as I answered an important telephone call downstairs, a 13 year old boy took my video camera, in the middle of a Philosophy for Children lesson, and seamlessly continued conducting the lesson and simultaneously recording it – echoing my mannerisms, techniques, tricks and phraseology. The student for a time became the teacher; the observed became the teacher, and perhaps researcher.
Video in various ways was part of how I and the children worked together. For example when I recorded a PFC lesson, with the children’s permission, and the children were offered viewings of the work as part of their regular learning activities, including asking the Head or others, to come and see the ‘Fawlty Towers’ scripts that they had written, acted, directed and recorded.8
In addition to lesson time viewings I offered viewings of work during lunch-times. At that time there wasn’t the same degree of ethical sensitivity about such matters as videoing work as now prevails. Since research ethics have been evolving, were I to do such work today I would of course seek written permission from parents, and whatever else might be required.
01:11 – The interwoven structural threads of macro and micro perspectives that run through the thesis
From reflection on, and ‘reading around’ life experience, professional experience, reflection came the macro perspective. The pair of videoed lessons with a mixed ability class of Year 8 boys and girls, (as teacher of English, in a Roman Catholic middle school in Sussex, in the first half of the 1990s) forms the ‘micro perspective’. The model is rooted in practice out of which came the theory-creation, as part of daily teaching and reflection. The accompanying CD, ‘What is a Story?’ shows the two lessons.
The key question asked in this thesis is ‘What spiritualizing model of pedagogy is implicit in my personal history, beliefs and work as a teacher?’ As such it falls in to that sub-field of research that asks, ‘How do I live my values more fully in my practice?’ – see McNiff (2003) and Whitehead (2003), Within those broad questions, the thesis is concerned with developing ‘spiritualizing pedagogy’ – that is it is concerned with the need for pedagogy to be spiritualized (and humanized and ‘holized’) and it is concerned with developing pedagogy that might have spiritualizing benefits for those taught and those doing the teaching. The two lessons show something of how I worked, with the evolving model, and with those challenging questions, in a school which was of a different faith persuasion to my own. (I believe I respected the Catholicity of the children and worked in such a way as to enhance, rather than detract from, their spiritual selves. One indicator is that the school trusted me to teach Religious Education).
If the post-modernist view is that there is no meta-narrative, and that consequently no agreement could ever again be had with regard to such difficult areas as spirituality, the thesis has a reply. The reply is that being human, here in the world with others, is the new (old) meta-narrative. And it also replies that a post post-modernist view might be that we can only make progress, toward such goals as unity and peace, if we learn to make and quickly re-make, time and time again, at the human, grassroots level, those basic necessary conditions of comm-unity. At the individual’s level comm-unity is dependent on personal qualities, including recognition of the other’s essential humanity, respect, empathy, trust, compassion, common purpose – and of higher-order values/virtues generally. The thesis is an attempt to present a blueprint for a re-formed, and re-forming, model of education, specifically its pedagogical process, that might help equip people with all that is necessary for such rapid making and re-making of comm-unity.9
The videoed lessons are representative of work at the micro level, micro but very real for me in that all the children, their statements, and their insights continue to reverberate in my consciousness, and in each aspect of the thesis – including the most abstract and macro.
Both the macro work of the theorizing, and the micro work of the representative pair of lessons, are seen as helping to make the case, although, again for reasons of space, the micro level has had to be restricted to occasional ‘comments’ by pupils, and occasional comments by me about the lessons.
There is one other structural thread, that is intended to help bind the work into a whole, namely the metaphor, The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of mystery, and passages that inspired its further development, eventually into the Island-shoreline-Ocean personal myth placed in the first part of Chapter 3.
01:12 – Metaphors and motifs that act as a unifiers – keeping us in touch with what is beyond the conceptual – the subjective-creative-mystical
The particular metaphor-as-motif, like several other key metaphors, is used to help make of the parts a whole, referring as it does to that which is beyond the conceptual – the non-conceptual, the transcendental or mystical. The key question, ‘What is it that makes of the parts a whole?’ has one answer in ‘ the mystery beyond the conceptual’.
The origin of the basic metaphor is itself shrouded in some mystery – it may even have been an adaptation of the passage cited below from Heschel in his book, Man is Not Alone, (1971 p.8).
As will be seen in Chapter 3, my extension of the metaphor is to imagine that each of us have gardens, larger or smaller than the average, on our ‘island’ of knowledge. These gardens of knowledge we tend, conceptually, with greater or lesser intensity. The extension of the original metaphor was inspired by a quotation from the Tao Te Ching, one from Abraham Joshua Heschel and one from Baha’u’llah, Founder of the Baha’i Faith. In Chapter 3, the Island, Shoreline Ocean personal myth is intended to give account of my view of how the ‘subjective-creative-mystical’ experience works, with the ‘objective-reasoning-scientific’, in relation to knowledge creation.
Through this Island, Shoreline, Ocean personal-myth-cum-leitmotif, I suggest two things. Firstly that any true, ‘spiritualizing pedagogy’, must include, in addition to our ‘islands of knowledge’, our responses to the infinite ‘sea’ beyond. As Heschel says (1971 p. 8):
Citizens of two realms, we must all sustain dual allegiance: we sense the ineffable in one realm; we name and exploit reality in another. Between the two we set up a system of references, but can never fill the gap. They are as far and as close to each other as time and calendar, as violin and melody, as life and what lies beyond the last breath.
The leitmotif function is also a way of staying mindful of the Whole, of Mystery, and, on relatively rare occasions, of the actual experience of the state of ‘no ego boundary ’(see Wilber 1985) – or as some would say the state of at-one-ment with God, (or at least with that Whole that is His Creation). The second thing suggested is that in staying mindful of the Whole we are enabling teaching and learning to be seen as ‘mystical process’ – but no more, and no less, than in the sense offered by the theologian Hick (1981 p.423) where he says:
Mystical experience…..does not seem to me to be anything other than first-hand religious experience as such. This is, however, the core of religion.
If a person does not have this direct relationship, and the experience that flows from that relationship, s/he might well be missing that which is essential in religion. Experiencing only the outer trappings and rituals is ultimately arid.
At its best, teaching and learning, can be seen as a sacred process. The subjective is the human side of the mystical relationship. This implies that my God has chosen to manifest, in part, through me (and you and her and him), and that we therefore are precious, and sacred (although through wrong or evil acts we can damage that sacred trust). God needs the children, and the teacher, to have the means to making and expressing themselves subjectively, as well as what is agreed to be objective.
Staying conscious of the infinite ‘Sea’, whilst dealing with the learners’ ‘islands’, and mine, and those we inhabit in common, is seen as vital to the model of spiritualizing pedagogy presented here, particularly in respect of the consciousness of the teacher. We have to deal with, or attend to, the parts whilst in the presence of the mysterious Whole – Heschel’s dual allegiance.10
The use of the island-shoreline-ocean metaphor, and personal myth, and such terms as the whole/Whole, without the use of specific theistic religious terminology, is also intended to indicate the desire to be as all-embracing as possible – to include not only non-theistic religion, but the more tolerant forms of humanism. (I mean tolerant, not tolerable, since a few humanists, like PC people, can be as intolerant as the religionists they oppose.) Writing as I do, from a perennial philosophy point of view, I have a great deal of respect for both. The ‘Whole’ is that totality of partial realities that we have a sense of, if we quieten our minds, and stop paying attention to the flow of fragments. Theistic people might also accept the Whole as an allusion to God, or His Creation, or both.
The use of this key metaphor then is seen as vital for keeping a ‘sounding, a resonance of the whole’ throughout the work. It is also vital for remaining conscious of the dualities – the ocean of Mystery and the (as yet) unknowable, as well as our small islands of what we, proudly, see ourselves as knowing. I try to communicate something of the ineffable, the magic and beauty and sweetness that lies beyond reason and rationalizing – something Heschel (1959 p. 41) describes as the ‘higher incomprehension’:
Awareness of the divine begins with wonder. It is the result of what man does with his higher incomprehension.
The presence of the ‘Whole’, and of having to admit to a state of ignorance, as well as sometimes a state of partial knowing, is one way we can seek to stay balanced and whole as persons.
Chapter 3, in its development of the extended metaphor into a personal myth about the mystical, draws on a range of traditions – that contribute to the underlying ‘theology’, my personal view of the ‘Sun’ in SunWALK. However the minimum necessary belief for making the ‘Sun’ bit, and the model as a whole work, is much simpler. It is simply the view that:
a) everyone needs one or more sources of inspiration for indispensable values, here seen pre-eminently as justice, truth, beauty and goodness, and
b) education needs to be conducted in such a way that pupils (and staff) internalize such values in the form of conscience, and of moral and spiritual sensibilities. That’s all that is needed in order to ‘sign up’ to SunWALK. The rest is seen as the glorious diversity of views, as we all look up at the singleness of the top of the mountain, from different stand-points.
In respect of the pair of lessons on ‘Story’, the ‘micro’ level, I have done two things. Firstly a copy of the video, as a CD, accompanies the written thesis, along with a transcript in the Appendices. Secondly, most chapters quote from, and make reference to, these two lessons, that were on the theme of ‘What is a Story’. Story, and storying, are essential to the SunWALK model as research method, as well as being integral to the model as spiritualizing pedagogy.
The discussion that links these two ‘unifiers’, the Island-Shoreline-Ocean personal myth, and the ‘presence’ of the lesson, enables the various chapters to be at-one at the highest macro level, whilst at the same time being grounded in the classroom, via some particular ‘micro statements’ of children, and teacher, drawn from particular lessons on a particular day. Through the raising of consciousness we come to see the micro and macro in each other – a world in a grain of sand.
Part of that grounding is also the ‘reading’ of the ‘What is a Story?’ lessons, and other lessons, and the feeding in of that consciousness into the theory-creation. Any such reading, of course, takes place in the individual’s heart and mind. ‘Heart-mind’ is preferred since interiority is seen as a unity. Heart-mind is also seen as the same as consciousness – consciousness as the highest level of functioning, not just the ‘absence of coma’ sense. In consciousness we relate to something real or imagined in present time, but I include in heart-mind material that can be brought to consciousness, and material that may or may not come to consciousness in the future, but which might also manifest itself, e.g. in dreams, or creative, or indeed negative impulses. In this regard I rely on a definition of the unconscious11 from Carl Jung, (in Storr 1999 p. 425):
everything I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all the future things that are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness; all this is the content.
Another reason I have brought in the Island-Shoreline-Ocean metaphor-motif, and return to it throughout the thesis, is because it reminds us that the deepest part of ourselves is a mysterious centre, and that the universe, and that which is beyond physical reality, is also mystery. These ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds are seen to correspond to the immanent and the transcendent, in religious terminology. Indeed in both experience ‘without’ and ‘within’ we can say we come to a limitless sea of mystery – our knowledge, via either route, turns out to be just a small island. Even successful teaching and learning, the expansion of ‘islands’, reminds us, if we can be truly wise, of the limitless extent of mystery. Einstein (1930 pp. 193-194) saw experience of mystery as nothing less than the source of all art and all science:
The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.
The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion…. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness….one cannot help but be in awe when (one) contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
Einstein (quoted in Suttle 2003)
It seems that for Einstein also, the mysterious12 was the source of our ‘islands’ of knowledge. If the mysterious is the source of all art and science then perhaps the kind of mechanistic epistemology that prevails in schools is inadequate.
The binding ‘island metaphor’ is further extended to seeing the individual’s knowledge as the garden that we each cultivate through being and becoming – so we can say that humankind’s island of knowledge consists of societies of individual ‘gardens’, a whole series of landscapes in fact – but still tiny islands, an archipelago, in a vast sea.
Perhaps the same sense of the unknowableness that ‘lies beyond’ is implied by Wittgenstein when he said, “I have managed …….. to put everything firmly into place by being silent about it”. (in Finch: 2001 p. 18)
Having worked on the model intensively over the last eleven years, I now have what I wish they had taught me at my excellent College of Education, Bulmershe, and, at best, I hope to pass this on for some people who belong, or who will belong, to future generations of teachers.
Looking back, the thesis has been an unfoldment in which each element came rather as a gift. Each day for the last eleven years I have tried to understand each unfolding stage, of the model, and of my own small island garden, as its identity emerges from its surrounding mystery – as it applies to being a person, in the world, with others, and especially to the business of being a teacher. Teaching – that exhilarating, occasionally alarming, and, so I here argue, spiritual and spiritualizing, business that starts when we stand before some thirty young souls and say, “Right then class this is what we are going to do today…..”. Or in the case of my videoed lessons:
“Right then 8G here is the shortest short story in the world, or at least what the author, an Italian chap, claims is the shortest short story in the world:
‘When I woke up the dinosaur was still there.’
Is it, 8G? Is it a story, and if so why? And, if it isn’t, why isn’t it a story. I’m interested to know what you think.”
The CD, which is designed to play via Windows Media, or RealOne Player, on a PC, should be viewed after reading this introduction. The recording, and reproduction, is rough. I developed a technique of holding the camera at belly height, so as to make the camera less intrusive, and so that I could maintain eye contact with the children. The video therefore presents a teacher’s-eye view of the lessons. This is also the predominant viewpoint from which the whole thesis is written. The video is a recording of a lesson that was tried out with two or three classes. It was a dialogue, not just with the class but also with the professional question addressed to myself, “How, and in what ways, can I deepen and broaden these pupils’ appreciation and understanding of the nature of story – and what might I learn along the way?”
As such it was ‘applied’ PFC, (Philosophy for Children) – because it served the needs of development in English, as well of development in philosophising. As such it was the raw material of action research, part of that four years of videoing, which helped give rise to the thesis. I was also trying to square up to the challenge of the question, ‘How do I live more fully my values in my practice as a teacher?’ We, the children and I, also did many other things together in the unit of which the videoed lesson was part; read stories, talked about them, did other PFC sessions like the one videoed, wrote stories, read each others stories, the children wrote alternative chapters to a ‘novel’ that I started – and so on.13
After a viewing of the CD comes the rest of the written thesis which consists of five chapters.
Chapter 1 shows how the model is grounded via autobiographical roots.
Chapter 2 presents a conceptual framework constructed out of the concept-elements, gleaned from the 4 discourse-communities
Chapter 3 concerns ‘Sensing the Whole’ and ‘Re-storing Heart Knowing’, as my view of the Sun in SunWALK.
Chapter 4 explores ‘Engaging Connections’ in the bringing together of propositional knowing and contemplative knowing.
Chapter 5 summarizes the model and presents it diagrammatically. It also tentatively evaluates the work.
Chapter 1, then, begins with the roots that tap back into even the earliest days of personal story, that provide the grounding out of which the spiritualizing pedagogy grew.