Chapter 1 (NB see PhD 1 which is the introductory chapter)
Autobiographical Roots and Groundings
He must have chaos within him,
Who would give birth to a dancing star.
Contents – Chapter 1
Introduction to Chapter 1 – an ‘overture’ 46
1:1 Earth is not for eating – 47
early memories that still ‘walk and talk’
1:2 The first epiphany – 70
Baha’i teachings as source of spiritual development
1:3 The second epiphany – 73
becoming a teacher of English
1:4 The third Epiphany – 73
A Tale of two Millers and Holistic Education
1:5 The fourth epiphany – 74
Philosophy for Children
1:6 The perpetuation of early experience – 77
via Jane’s Short Story
1:7 Conclusion to Chapter 1 – 80 the triadic shape of the model’s heart emerges
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
Introduction to Chapter 1 – an ‘overture’
By way of a short introduction I want to ‘sound’, as in an overture, certain ‘notes’, or themes or resonances. They are from writers, and a film-maker, whose statements have come to mean a great deal, in the struggle to search out my own story, and its meaning educationally.
Autobiography is a journey inward. St Augustine said:
Men go to gape at mountain peaks, at the boundless tides of the sea, the broad sweep of rivers, the encircling ocean and the motion of the stars; and yet they leave themselves unnoticed; they do not marvel at themselves.
St. Augustine, Confessions X2
Autobiography is not entirely a matter of re-collecting objective facts: it is re-creation as well as re-collection, but it is a seeking after a kind of truth; the truth of authentically being in oneself. Peter Abbs (1974 p. 7) calls autobiography: the search backwards into time to discover the evolution of the true self. It is, as such, about self-knowing, but something beyond the fripperies of the ego. Baha’u’llah, Founder of the Baha’i religion, in one of His own writings, cites a tradition from Islam: He hath known God who hath known himself. (Baha’u’llah: Gleanings, MARS database3 p.178).
For the theistically religious the more we come to know our true selves, the closer we come to the Divine within us, and vice versa. I make no claim, beyond a few faltering steps, but the ideas continue to inspire.
The ‘Thesis Poem’
I have chosen the following poem by Seamus Heaney (1996 p.14) as ‘the poem’ for the thesis because it shows beautifully how we resonate now, in relation to what we sensed and experienced as children. It also shows how, through metaphor, the objective connects with the subjective to thrill, to the very quick of our being.
About the poem, Personal Helicon Pelligrino (2003 p.1) explains
Mount Helicon is a mountain in Greece, that was, in classical mythology, sacred to Apollo and the Muses. From it flowed two fountains of poetic inspiration. Heaney is here presenting his own source of inspiration, the “dark drop” into personal and cultural memory, made present by the depths of the wells in his childhood. Now, as a man, he is too mature to scramble about on hands and knees, looking into the deep places of the earth, but he has his poetry – and, thank God, so do we.
Of course if Heaney was reading it we would have that wonderful voice, like an aromatic tree giving up the sap, and perfuming the air with all the good things from the soil.
Personal Helicon by Seamus Heaney
for Michael Longley
As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.
One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.
A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.
Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.
Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.
Later I take up the issues of resonance, and of objective and subjective meaning combined in metaphor, and the power of the subjective in personal history, to continue to generate the new in the meaning-making we do. The darkness echoes, as we stare into the part darkness of the self, and its memories – we stare, each a big-eyed Narcissus.
The final ‘sounding’, or theme, in the Introduction to Chapter 1 concerns identity and the moment, which lives on, and in which the past continues to create. The piece is by Jorge Luis Borges4, who says:
Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made
up of a single moment – the moment in which a man finds
out, once and for all, who he is.
The one moment could conceivably be a choice – as in Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After Life where a group of 22 people are suspended between earth and heaven with a week to answer the important question: “What is the one memory that you choose to carry into the afterlife?” When each chooses his or her memory, this is all that will be remembered for eternity.
Professionally, the lesson, or pair of lessons, upon which this thesis is, in part, an extended reflection contains the one memory I would choose. Ideally it would be the whole of the two ‘story’ lessons.
If it was reduced just to seconds it would be the moment that one ‘deviant’ boy offered an explanation of the possible symbolic meaning of the two fishes that I had drawn on the blackboard. One fish was a line drawing, the other a similar shaped fish, but its shape was delineated via chalk shading (i.e. from ‘the outside’).
“Mr P I think one fish represents bounded imagination, and the other stands for unbounded imagination.”
His brilliantly insightful comment was the jewel in the crown of an outstanding lesson in which the class and I, so I felt, was as ‘one-mind’, intellectually sharp but attitudinally contemplative, in ‘cross-over’ from extreme left-brain and extreme right-brain engagement – and here he was, the boy always in trouble with various teachers, speaking my as yet unrealized thoughts, and riveting me to that moment.
It was the supreme moment, within the supreme experience in a life-time of teaching, and it was, as Jack Nicholson and the movie title say, As good as it gets.
1:1 Earth is not for eating – early memories that still walk and talk
In this chapter the autobiographical pieces include encounters with the four major discourse-communities, that gave rise to three major elements in the 3Cs – plus finding the general domain of holistic education. But they also point to ‘landmarks of consciousness’, personally, that came before those of professional consciousness’. The deeper, earlier experiences are to illustrate two central points. Firstly, there is the centrality of narrative5 in process (the teacher can ‘narratize’ the year/s s/he spends with the class) and content (a story a day keeps the atrophying of imagination away) as well as the use of narrative in the theory creation within the research process. I story my own life and interweave it with commentary and quotations, some in the text, some in footnotes. Personal history is a child’s (and a teacher’s) major resource6, in development of the self, and ability in communication. Hence I am drawing upon what is seen as essential in the SunWALK model – the process of storying. My re-storying7 of relevant parts of my personal history constitutes a foundation text – plus reflection and the voices of other writers to help illuminate and extend the meaning made. Secondly the deeper earlier experiences are seen as means to development of what I would call ‘way markers’, and ‘nodal points’ in mapping self. These carry over into professional consciousness – the early experience in the tulips episode gave rise to ‘Jane’s Short Story’ (section 1:6), and continue to reverberate in my consciousness and professional decision-making as I seek to care for others in their learning. To illustrate the reverberations of early experience in ongoing consciousness I point, in addition to my own Jane’s Short Story, (section 1:6) to Heaney’s Personal Helicon. His poem in reverberating with connections between early boyhood tactile exploration of wells, and the abstract professional concerns of the adult poet – and how the former are the living roots of the latter. As the teacher stands before the class, most challengingly in dialogue, s/he, in the continuum of decisions, is drawing upon personal roots, and way markers, as well as professional ones.
Autobiographical fragments8, are presented in a different type-style, and the text is presented in one ‘voice, and then reflected upon in another ‘voice’.
The tap-roots of who and what we are, as persons or as teachers, go back to our earliest experiences, our earliest days.
Amongst my earliest experiences, I guess at around 2 years of age, was an experience of tulips, enormous red tulips, with cool, green, hard-fleshy, stems. I had toddled or crawled through the gate in the fence, that my mother got my father to build one-third of the way down the small, narrow garden at the back of our terraced house in Sandringham Road, Watford. And there they were, and here I was amongst them: they were so glorious. I recall wanting to eat them, they looked so wonderful. I vaguely remember being told that tulips were for looking at, and around the same time I remembered being told that earth also was not for eating.9
More than 50 years later the memory of these tulips re-emerged in a short story I wrote, (Jane’s Short Story, section 1:6) as a ‘stream-of-consciousness’ exercise to see how brilliant were my Year 7 class – (I considered them brilliant, but my wife says I said that about every new class I got.) They may not have been truly brilliant, but it is good for a teacher to be made happy about some aspect of her or his class, and to feel some sense of wonder and admiration at them. The short story was written as part of teaching them something more about story appreciation and story-writing, and about how time and memory function in our minds. 10
Each of us comes to the great conversation called education, as Oakeshott (1989) and Palmer (1993 & 1998) would have it11, whether pupil or teacher, with a personal history, with a story, and a set of beliefs, values and dispositions. The difference between what happens to us, and the story we make, is what we make of that experience. What we subjectively make of ‘objective’ experience, what we construe to use Kelly’s (1955) term12 is according to what we believe and value. From time to time, through experience, and reflection we adapt, displace or extend the beliefs, values and attitudes that, in effect, characterise our selves Sternberg (1998), also a psychologist, has a book expressing the view that the kind of relationships we have depend on the kind of stories we carry inside us.
We story what we construe, and we construe what we story, and only partly do we choose what stories we adopt.
The model presented here is grounded in my story so far, its major epiphanies and its minutiae, and, although I previously believed the theory about autobiography, the actual experience of writing one has been an utter revelation. Reflection on my story enables my answer to the question, ‘What should education be?’ as well as to the thesis question, ‘What spiritualizing model of pedagogy is implicit in my personal history, belief systems, and work as a teacher?’ The reason that both are possible is that the two here are one – to understand my life and self, is to understand the model that is implicit, and becoming explicit, in me.
Biographical groundings – in starting to find an answer to the question, ‘What should education be?’
What should education be? What form of education is best? What form of education do we most need today a) in the UK, b) in the world? What’s wrong with education in the UK? How should our teachers be educated? The model of education created out of my personal experience, and my professional experience over the last thirty-three years, relates particularly to the UK, but it is framed in such a way as to have, I hope, a more universal value, when cultural adjustments are made – because it is centred on some of the deepest and most universal of concerns as its axis – being and becoming human, fully and positively. The streams of autobiography, inevitably run, like the writing through a stick of Brighton rock, through everything, we are and do, and construe.
In asking,` ‘What should education be?’, there are no clear set of scientific facts that wrap up the issue, not the least reason being that values drive views of education. In the view of this thesis education is also best seen as more an art than a science. The sciences that support the teacher are here seen as just that, ‘supports’, or service activities because pedagogy should be developed from the loving and dialogic relationship called teaching, and not be defined by surrounding ‘ologies’, as Jack Dash the 1960s/70s dockers’ union leader used to call them, on his lecture tours around universities. It is in her or his humanness, and the relationships that are maintained, that the essence of education and teaching lie. As s/he practices the art of teaching, so this thesis argues, it is the presence and expression of beliefs and values, about what it is to be human, in the world, with others, right now and for the future, that rightly constitutes the true basis for our teaching.
In fact this thesis argues that pedagogical process is especially, if it is to be spiritualizing, an art – because both, of necessity, have to encounter the unknown, and have to generate new knowing from that experience. Science should be seen as the servant to being human because being human is always more than we can fully say, and write down, and systematize. Science here is given a broad definition, the collection, processing and systematic presentation of information, without excluding all of the ‘higher’ processes of the sciences. However this rational and reasoning activity also needs to be undertaken, so the thesis argues, in the light of being and becoming human, and of broad-based, inclusive, higher-order values such as justice, truth, beauty and goodness, those that have nourished humans most, at least since the time of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Unfortunately ‘right now’ science is too powerful and dominant a conditioner – it has for many become a god. The ‘deification’ of science and material progress is too powerful, and education, children and society, in the view of this work, suffer as a consequence. This is so because instead of growing our theory from teachers – supported by what the scientists can confirm by way of support we disempower them by making others ‘the experts’. Whereas the use of education as a ‘political football’ continues. An example of the bad use of science lies in the little attention given to teacher-driven pedagogy as opposed to the disproportionate respect given to such ‘sciences’ as psychology, sociology, economics and political science.
Education also needs to be forward looking – based on the best possible understanding of what society, and individuals, and their needs, will be in 20 years time, and in the decades following.13
‘Science’ can e.g. tell us important things about ‘children appear to learn best under the conditions of X and Y and Z’ . Or ‘ taking either brain research, or the work of Howard Gardner (1993 et al) on the supposed seven intelligences, school activities should be more balanced so as to cultivate a wider range of abilities – so as to do justice to those pupils whose skills are not primarily academic, left-brain, linear, language-based’. But that which touches children deeply, and shapes them, and fires them up to learning and growing and developing, is something more than that which can be fully defined, it is something that flows between teacher and pupil; it is love, and the flow of life itself. Love is the baseline, love professional, de-individualized but not de-personalized. Love is the baseline in Parker Palmer’s two fine books To Know as We Are Known (1993) and The Courage to Teach (1998). It is the experience of learning in the presence of love, or the bitter opposites, that makes us recall women and men in the context of our own learning story. The point was well made by Carl Jung (1999 p. 425):
One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw materials but the warmth is the vital elements for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
The teacher in my primary school, that I remember from fifty years ago, Bert (Bertram) Cooper, I remember because he was kind and recognized some spark in me, and came to see me when I was ill in bed with a broken leg, and he brought me a present.
In a sea of indifference, fear and cruelty Mr Cooper once said of my answers, in an RE lesson I think, “Ahhh an oasis in a desert.” A bit over the top perhaps but I don’t remember any other teacher saying anything that was affirmative to me as a person, and as a learner – affirmations were in short supply. The 1940s and 50s seem to have been quite influenced still by Victorian attitudes, Board School mentality and the like, whatever ‘RAB’ Butler’s 1944 Act14 might have said or wanted.
I don’t think Mr Cooper rests so positively in my memory just because he said something that made me feel valued, or just because he came to see me when I was ill. It was to do with what he was, as a person. And I remember him because something positive flowed from him to me, so that I felt I was a person with another, and therefore that I was real, in the world – and valued.
Flogging was still popular. The only time I was caned was for ‘running through the hall’. Although I still have a strong sense of injustice because I thought I was walking fast – the operative point being that at all times I had, like race walkers, one foot on the ground! Some were much more vicious.
A teacher in the secondary school was a monster. I remember he used to flog one boy in particular. Often in another building we could see the top half of victim and flogger, across the playground as we sat, as I recall on one occasion, writing an essay on a poem by A.E. Housman. Poetry and torture – what a heady mix! The teacher wasn’t very tall, but thickset and, to get more swing, he would throw the cane up and then go up on his toes, to get the maximum arc. As he got to the top of his swing his long, lanky straight hair would swing up off of the back of his head. The boy who was the most frequent miscreant would come back with weals on his hands that would take weeks to heal – even then the teacher must have been breaking the law. The spring in his flogging technique was also evident in the way he walked – I recall he was called by some of the boys ‘spring-heeled Jock’. (His name?, well even the genius of Dickens couldn’t have bettered reality; he was called Mr Jolly!)
We remember extreme pain, unless we suppress it, and we remember that which is life-enhancing; we remember the teachers that are responsible for these two. Teaching is a spiritual process in all the ways that really matter, and people are the ‘conduits’ for the flow of spirit. Of course we remember those who were responsible for making a subject work for us. That is what we really mean when we say that X was a good teacher – s/he was the one who ‘turned me on to a subject’ – what s/he really did was to turn us on to ourselves and to life, through that subject. Through the subject we are able to have experiences – a sense of vision and a sense of unfolding wonder, a sense of competence and control, something through which to excel, a domain in which to feel safe, a domain in which to make a contribution, and so on. This distinction between favourite subjects, versus favourite ways of doing and being, leads to another distinction, namely that between child-centred and human-centred. This dissertation is not child-centred15, it is education as the process of becoming, fully and positively, human-centred.
But to return to autobiography and belief-formation in the process of our knowing – through ‘Bombs, Mars Bars and the Kardomah coffee bar, as well as the blessed Bert Cooper.
Bombs, Mars Bars and the Kardomah Coffee – deeper roots of belief and commitment
My own views on education then, as is the case with everyone, have their roots in early experience, as well as in later education and experience. Such early experience forms the tap-roots of our beliefs16, values and attitudes.
Following Williams, Dobson, and Walters, (1989 pp. 35-39) I take a ‘belief’ to be the information, internalized and operationalized, that an individual has about an object. Specifically a belief links an object to one or more attributes. The object of a belief may be a person, a group of people, an institution, a behaviour, a policy, an event etc. The associated attribute may be any object, trait, property, quality, characteristic, outcome or event. This view, however, particularly in the case of being human, is necessary, but not sufficient. To be human is always ‘more than’ – for example, we always know more than we can articulate, or as Warnock (1976 p. 149) says:
There is always more to experience, and more in what we experience than we can predict (and control), but it is also the means where that more to and more in can be revealed.
The concept of belief inevitably links to the concepts of truth and knowledge. In this thesis I subscribe to the, originally, Platonic notion that knowledge is justifiable true belief, but argue that it also is not sufficient for a holistic model. The more complete model, 1:1, is suggested, where we are seeking to develop a holistic, spiritualizing, pedagogical model:
Diagram 1:1 – To suggest that our knowing is ‘more than’ the true belief that we can justify publicly
Public knowledge – e.g. maths &
physics as the ‘highest’ level
Personal knowledge that
is conscious or within re-call
& can be justified
Personal knowledge that is
conscious or tacit & not necessarily
At this deepest level, knowing
is seen as feeling that often
doesn’t transform into the explicit
without a major ‘stir up’, as in an
epiphany or trauma – and the
consequent possibilities for
increase in knowledge,
(Metaphorically it is suggested that
there is a ‘sediment of experience’
that lies beneath what we can
make conscious at will. It
manifests in dreams, and in the
germs or sparks of ideas for
We have to work as consciously as possible, but we also work with the unknown and unknowable in ourselves, and in our pupils or students. Mystery is within us as well as all around us – it is the ultimate context in which education takes place. Following Polanyi’s (1958/1998) notion of tacit, as well as explicit, knowledge and his view that the explicit is rooted in the tacit, Diagram 1 shows levels of ‘justifiability’ – with the lowest level being the tacit knowing of non-rational, non-articulated beliefs and attitudes, that often only becomes exposed via a ‘major stir up’, thus providing a step forward in self-knowledge.
An attitude can be described as a learned (consciously or otherwise) predisposition to respond in a consistently favourable, or unfavourable, manner toward a given object or idea. Values, Williams, Dobson, and Walters, (1989 pp. 35-39) see as either instrumental or moral. The former, they say, reflect a desire or preference and are virtually indistinguishable from attitudes. The latter carry a sense of obligation – of ‘should’ or ‘ought’ – and indicates what is correct or proper. Instrumental values result in feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction, moral values in feelings of e.g. pride or humiliation. Values, like attitudes, are learnt, and based upon the beliefs the individual holds. However, unlike attitudes, they are cognitively evaluated in terms of their logical consistency with existing beliefs. To recap – in simple terms – beliefs refer to knowledge, attitudes to liking or disliking, and values to agreement or disagreement.17
The model as presented in this dissertation has been made explicit, and justified, I hope, but it is recognized, following Polanyi (1958/98), that explicit knowledge always rests within contexts of the tacit – we always know more than we can articulate. We know in the context of not knowing – our knowing is an island in a sea of mystery! As the metaphor says:
The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of mystery.
The metaphor I found relatively late in the development of this thesis, and a similar statement has been attributed to T. H. Huxley:
The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land.18
This cardinal fact that our little islands of knowledge are within the context of mystery applies to our self-knowledge as well as to the universes of our discourse about the world. The ‘sea of mystery’ is the ultimate context in which we all are, in which we know, and feel, and do. Failure to stay conscious of this, as much discourse on education seems to do, is to de-contextualize, to de-contextualize being human. 19 It also inhibits the sacralization of education.
With belief formation, tacitness and contextualizations in mind I re-enter the ‘sediment’ of memory!
My parents, who lived all of their married lives in Watford, Hertfordshire, told me that I was born in a district of Watford called Watford Fields – this rather major event for me presumably took place in Neal Street, in my maternal grandparents’ house, as opposed to on the grass of the fields that gave the suburb its name. My arrival, in April 1941, coincided with certain activity in which the Third Reich was rather too successfully following its vision of world supremacy.
Amongst my earliest memories, between 0 to 4, are those to do with various impacts around the terraced house in Sandringham Road where I grew up. These were the effects of German bombers who were energetically, if imprecisely, trying to flatten places like Greycaines, a factory in Bushey Mill Lane, just around the corner, and close to North Watford railway Halt, on the branch line from Watford Junction to St Albans. My father worked at Greycaines during the war so it was all felt a bit personally.
The pleasanter memories include that of crawling or toddling into the lower part of the garden, via the gate built by my father to corral me, to enjoy closer communion with giant red tulips. The less pleasant memories concern fear of death, my mother’s rather than my own – through the bombing. Cocooned in ignorance as I was, the images of destruction came – of seeing on one dark night the red glow of bombed houses further down Sandringham Road and hearing my parents discuss their fatalistic view that, if your number was up then that was it, there was nothing you could do about it. These are part of my earliest consciousness but they didn’t destroy my ‘nerves’, and sense of confidence, in the way they did in my mother. Fear gave spice and fatalism gave a dubious, diffuse kind of security starting in years one, two and three.
We slept on mattresses in the living room to lessen the risk of injury if the roof fell in, following bomb blast. Sometimes we would go in the cupboard under the stairs when the bombing was sudden and particularly close, although we also had an Anderson shelter. For some curious reason Mr and Mrs Parker20 from next door used to come and join us when the sirens went off, I suppose they didn’t have an Anderson Shelter. The closest impact involved having our windows blown in. I remember seeing one morning the entire living-room window swinging on a single sash. Some time later a chap came from the council to fix the damage. His name was Bill and he became a family friend, for all of his life. Mr Parker from next door reckoned that a Doodle Bug was responsible for knocking off the top of the pear tree at the bottom of his garden. Mr Parker grew onions and pinks and his daughter, a nurse, some years later must have been one of the last people to suffer TB, until resistant forms started to reappear amongst those who live on the streets, in alcohol, and with shattered self-images.
In these experiences the seeds of beliefs and attitudes and sensitivities concerning fear, fatalism, neighbours and neighbourliness and many other such concerns, were sown, some of which carried through to how I see the world in adult life. I still struggle with attitudes towards some matters German.
In the year following the end of the war I first went to school, two streets away in Parkgate Road. I was for the statutory number of years a pupil at Parkgate Infant and Junior school. I also remember a party there to mark the end of the war, presumably before I joined. Adults collectively being nice to children, feeding them jellies and cakes, and flags on long tables – such largesse seemed strange, and I couldn’t enjoy it fully.
At Parkgate I have memories of three teachers: Lanky Lynam who slapped the back of your legs, in my case if you showed disrespect by saying “OK” when she spoke to you (I never knew it was a disrespectful term to use toward a teacher); Mr Lane, a semi-sadistic little brute, and the venerable Bert Cooper who had such a powerfully positive effect on my self-image, both spiritually and as a learner. His trip to see me when I was laid up with a broken leg, was astonishing – I think we thought the teachers were kept overnight in broom cupboards. The idea that they had families and did normal things, like visiting the sick, was beyond imagination at that time. The visit from Mr Cooper was caused by my having been tripped up as a ‘cowboy’, by an ‘Indian’, who was lying on the play-ground. That day that I broke my leg the kindly Mr Vicars, the Headteacher, brought me home in his car – the first time I had ever ridden in a car. I was nine years old. It was a bit of a relief since they had had me walking on my broken leg. The other thing I remember about Mr Vicars was his telling my parents, “He’ll get there, but he’s a bit slow.” Well given that I’m a 62 year old student I guess I have to admit to living out this prophecy.
In my early junior years the Co-op bread van was pulled by a fine chestnut horse, who if you were really lucky, and quicker than your neighbours, deposited a pile of steaming benefits for your father’s tomato plants. In Sandringham Road, like all the streets around, the post-war rationed years were smelly, as well as limited in their pleasures, since every lamppost had next to it a metal ‘pig-bin’ into which all families threw their food scraps. If the pig-man didn’t come regularly enough during warm weather the bins became maggoty as well as smelly.
I don’t doubt that the joys of food rationing meant different things to each person who lived through them. To me they meant the unbounded pleasure of (thinly sliced) Mars bars.
My mother would take me to buy a whole Mars bar following my broken-leg inspection visits to the Peace Memorial hospital. A whole Mars bar was a universe-filling pleasure. My mother would continue to tell, late into old age, of how I exercised extraordinary self control and never touched the Mars bar until I got home, when it would be cut into slices and eaten very slowly in several sessions. Such deferred pleasure used to be considered a distinguishing characteristic of the middle classes, as opposed, presumably, to the overpowering and immediate pleasure-seeking to be observed in the working-classes! Perhaps this was my first step of ‘upward mobility’! I certainly remember eating it slowly, not eating so much as slowly sucking each slice until it melted and ran down your throat, thin slice and trickle, by thin slice and trickle. Similarly I remember, at about the same time, the pleasure of eating ham for the first time – my father had self-sacrificially saved it for me from his lunch at DeHavilland’s canteen, where he then worked as a sheet metal worker (classification semi-skilled).
For us, and for those we teach, the past lives on in us. Our memories are a large part of what makes us who we are. Artefacts can be symbols of those memories. Every day now during winters, some fifty odd years later I use a shovel for our multi-fuel stove that my father made (classification semi-skilled) from scrap, such as off-cuts from DeHavilland Comets, or it might even have been a piece from the ill-fated Blue Streak rocket! It is rivetted, and rivets me – when I hold that shovel I sense all the experiences and memories to do with my father during my childhood – his shed and its smell, his boxes of tools, collection of scrap wood (you never knew when it might come in handy). He was a quiet, shy man who found expressing feelings difficult. When he was dying I was the only one there, my mother couldn’t face it. All night he had called out, “Beat (Beatrice) are you there. Are you there Beat?” I couldn’t stand hearing him call out this gentle plea, in the hospital. They called me at 2 am as he was breathing his last. I never knew at a conscious level that he loved me until, when clearing out his things, I was stunned to find in his wallet a picture of me, aged five. It was, and remains, too late to speak that which shouldhave been spoken, except via prayer.
Of such as these life is made up, the mundane is interlaced with the dramatic and heart-rending. It is into confluences of life-streams, the children’s’ and their families, and our own, that we make those interventions that we call teaching. Their histories, and our own, are a most precious resource, for them, and for us who would teach them.
The working class have always enjoyed the benefits of scraps – our Road was called ‘Sandringham’, my father was allowed to make tin boxes from scraps and his parents and family, at Tring in Hertfordshire, avoided starvation in the pre-war years because his brother was in-service to Lord Rothschild – they managed to get some of the scraps from the kitchen at the ‘big house’.
Watford has changed a great deal in the past fifty odd years and if you are less than fifty or so years old you won’t recall the bombs. The Kardomah Coffee Bar in the Odeon cinema is a distant memory, though some of its spirit is re-created in Seattle Coffee Houses and Starbucks and the like. Mars however continues to satisfy the lust for pleasure in the shape of a truly chunky chocolate bar, but relatively few people I suspect still cut them into small slices to maximise pleasure21!
At 11+ I went to Alexandra SM school in Judge Street Watford. SM, Secondary Modern, was supposed to be a neutral term but it meant second-rate – in resources and teachers and status – schools to which grammar school rejects went. In the case of Alexandra SM might have had yet another meaning since it was a sort of superior educational workhouse run by another semi-sadist called Macdonald. After these five years I went to Watford Technical college to do a pre-apprenticeship engineering course, but decided at the end of that to become a cadet with the Hertfordshire Constabulary. At the end of my cadetship I told the Chief Constable I was going to see the world before joining the police proper.
Forty odd years later I’m still seeing it. Seeing the world took me into the world of teaching, rather than back to policing.
School wasn’t a happy experience, but our consciousness is formed by negatives and positives in our experience. In many respects what I tried to do in my own teaching was a reverse of my own childhood experience.
I learned well the value, for children, when I came to teach, of some kindness and care, particularly in the shared focus – their learning. So it is that the child is father of the man, and we continue to reverberate as Heaney’s wonderful poem says, through our early experience, it continuing to live on in the living we do now.
When I was about eighteen, for two years I rented a house belonging to the Grillo ice cream family, next to the corner shop where they used to make the best ice-cream I’ve tasted, outside of Italy. After I had lived there for a year I found out that it had been condemned, but the location, location, location was so good! I ‘sub-let’ to a variety of characters; a tortured painter called Geoff, a roofer called Bob and another Bob, Bob Kerr, who was the greatest trumpet-cornet player I ever heard outside of Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke.
Bob Kerr and I put up £17.50 each to buy a set of wheels – a Bradford Jowett van which we painted canary yellow and black. It looked like a section of a mock half-timbered Tudor house on wheels. It was wonderful, it had I think a two, or three, cylinder ‘horizontally-opposed’ engine, like some of the Velocette motor-cycles. After a year Bob bought me out for the £17.50 and went on to drive the vehicle to gigs all over the UK, knocking up another 50,000 miles – it was very old when we bought it. It would be worth a fortune today, like the diminutive Austin 7s that Bob collected.
Astonishingly Bob Kerr still has his ‘Whoopee Band’ on the road, and is playing at the Edinburgh festival this year (2003).
During this time I was van or lorry driving for Victoria Wine, for a mineral water company and for the Building Research Station at Garston. Bob was driving a Weetabix bread lorry, like a maniac – he could hardly see over the steering wheel. I did his round with him one day and found out some of the secrets of maximising sales. He carried a basket of loaves, cakes, buns etc and we marched into a local grocery. The owner would tell Bob what he wanted and might then complain that an unsold loaf was stale. Bob would march out to the bread lorry, take the offending loaf, hold it under his left arm and punch it a few times. He then put it back in the basket and, sweet as milk, re-stocked it in the shop as new – this was long before anything like sell-by dates!
One day Bob, the roofer, and I were in the Kardomah Coffee Bar, which was next to the Odeon cinema near Watford Pond. The pond was a marvellous town-centre feature full of rushes and hundreds of gold fish, and on Rag Week days, students.
The beautiful pond got filled in after I left Watford, I think because of higher levels of vandalism.
We met Mick, a diminutive mega-ego on legs, so we later found out, and he told us that Watford Boys Grammar school was arranging a 6 week lorry trip to Europe and had two vacancies. We were duly inspected by the Head, the famous 2nd WW resistance hero, Harry Rae, to make sure we were fit to be with his young chaps, and off we went to explore Western Europe. Foreign travel then was still a relative novel experience. We went to half-a-dozen ‘foreign’ countries and to Gibraltar, but Spain was the most interesting place we visited.
Spain was then ruled by Franco; we saw many one-legged victims from the Spanish Civil war. It was still substantially a medieval country. How on earth did that incredibly backward country become the relative jewel that it is today – in so few years? Getting rid of Franco presumably was one bit of the answer.
I suppose this somewhat colourful journeying into independent living would today be a ‘gap year’, or some time working for VSO – it was definitely a broader and more varied ‘background canvas’ than I had been used to. Most people now would not realize how limited the lives of working class people were in those days. In our house we had about four books, other than my father’s bible – one was an out of date ‘home doctor, one a gardening book, and one unread ‘classic’. There was no television until 1953, no telephone and my father didn’t buy his first car until long after I had left home. My parents never left the country, except once when I took them to Scotland. They never flew in an aeroplane. So the trip to Spain, and about nine other countries, was quite something, and a good broadening of experience before I went to college and became a teacher. I was the first person out of a large extended family to go to college and university. But before the College of Education came the first epiphany – of meeting the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Before this I had been formed, but the epiphanies were transforming.
1:2 The first epiphany – Baha’i teachings as source of spiritual development
Then on another evening I was again sitting in the Kardomah and there met, quite by accident, a young man who invited me to a meeting. I asked what kind of meeting it was and decided, having been told that it was a religious meeting, that I would go and have some intellectual sport and set them right. Little did I know it would change my life.
Before coming across the Baha’i Faith, my religious background had been forged at ‘The Railway Mission’ that my parents had sent me to on Sunday afternoons and later, my own choice, a Methodist youth club that introduced me to Rock & Roll, and my first girl friend.
The meeting was in a small house in Loates Lane in which the Mehrnoush family lived. Through Abbas Mehrnoush I learned of the Baha’i Faith and studied it with him for three and a half months. He took me to various meetings, and we also studied together.
One sub-epiphany was to hear a particular reply, at a summer school, from the scholarly Baha’i John Ferraby, to my question, “What is justice?” His reply was to this effect:
Justice is the state of being that prevails when due weight is given to every force (conditioning factor) that bears upon a situation
I only have a poor facility for memorization, but John Ferraby’s reply has stuck with me, almost verbatim I suspect. Of course it relates to Baha’u’llah’s statement concerning justice (see page 18).
Another piece of scripture of comparable import, but discovered many years later, is Abdu’l-Baha22’s statement that:
Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power
the mysteries latent in the universe.
(`Abdu’l-Baha: Selections … `Abdu’l-Baha, Page: 27)
Its importance is in the possibilities it conveys concerning the relationship between spirituality and affect, and the development of intellect through the affective.
I became a Baha’i at 00.30 hours on 28th March 1963. Life-long study of Baha’i teachings, and participation in development within the Baha’i community, has been one of the three ‘rivers’ whose confluence is expressed in the model presented in this thesis (as the 3Cs). For me personally, the Baha’i teachings are both a source of caring capabilities, and they are part of that great treasure house of culture that the world, and educationalists in particular, can call upon for inspiration.
It is impossible to adequately describe the feelings in the process of religious conversion and I will not try, except where I say:
The exhilaration of the beauty of the Baha’i Writings and the wonder I felt at the comprehensive nature of its Teachings in answering individual questions, and the world’s problems, gave me the orientation I needed, and I consequently signed on at Cassio College in Watford to do ‘O’ and ‘A’ level, some during the day and some evenings, whilst doing three twelve hour night shifts at Leavesden Mental Hospital to earn my keep.
At Leavesden I met the first ‘savant’ I had ever known, the adjective was ‘idiot’ in those days as opposed to ‘autistic’ now. In his case you said a number, say 371 and he would say, “Rock of Ages.” Or, conversely, you would say, “Rock of Ages,” and he would say, “371.” He shuffled along the corridors of this vast 2000 bed Victorian dumping-place for the inconvenient, and ‘knew’ all the hymns and numbers in the Common Prayer Book. I don’t know what other extraordinary intellectual skills the man had, but his memory was phenomenal.
I have recently realized that three of my favourite films are about the subject of savants, Being There with Peter Sellers, Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks. Although I have liked all such people that I’ve come across, real or fictional, their mechanical display of knowing illustrates for me the inadequacy of the television ‘Mastermind’ concept of ‘shovelled information’. Such a ‘thin’ view of learning is the opposite of the deep, meaning-full, discourse that enlarges our humanity – even it performs useful functions for ‘savants’.
Following a three month stint in Southport, to support the local Baha’i community, I was excited to leave Watford to go to Bulmershe College of Education to become a teacher, a member of a profession I have followed, in several forms, for more than three decades.
1:3 The second epiphany – becoming a teacher of English
It is difficult to describe how good an experience the four years at Bulmershe were – given the miserable experiences of so many student-teachers then, and even more, today.
Bulmershe was a brand new college of education on its own campus along with a secondary school, and a primary school. The highlights were: almost all of the English courses, drama especially acting in Oh What a Lovely War, The Cherry Orchard, and Pinter’s The Room. Teaching practices included those at the Church of England primary school in Cookham Dene, (village home of the painter Stanley Spencer), and the tough Alfred Sutton Secondary Modern Boys School.
The deep pleasure of discussing literature, and of teaching it, has stayed with me. Writing poetry, and very occasionally short stories, at modest levels, is, along with photography, the medium of my own creativity, and the teaching of such creativity is as great a pleasure. English became the subjective-expressive element in my model of education. It was, I came to realize through doing the autobiography, the second of the three ‘streams’ that gave rise to the core of the SunWALK model, i.e. the 3Cs.
1:4 The third epiphany – A Tale of two Millers and Holistic Education
Chronologically the third epiphany concerned the discovery of holistic education, and its tiny, but international, community of theorists and practitioners.
Early in the work for this thesis, in 1992, whilst still registered at the University of Surrey I came across an article that had been published in the California Teachers Journal by the American Ron Miller23. This was the first article about holistic education and it was, as they, say, ‘like coming home’.
After Ron Miller I discovered the Canadian Professor Jack Miller’s work, based at the University of Toronto. So began a journey into the domain of holistic education. My MA work and my work in the Philosophy of Education field were not predominantly in the Holistic Education domain. This current dissertation is situated in the holistic education domain, and to a lesser extent, in the domain of ‘applied’ Baha’i Studies. Later two ‘sub’- epiphanies reinforced my commitment to this sub-field. The first was that many of the ‘illuminati’ of the holistic education global community, in 1999, came to the Krishnamurti school at Brockwood Park, including Ron Miller, Jack Miller, Nel Noddings, and David Purpel. This was for a conference celebrating the 30th anniversary of the School. The second was being invited to Mexico in 2000 to the VIIIth International Conference on Holistic Education.
Holistic education is not a ‘part’ of the model, so much as the sub-field of education to ‘place’ the model – given that it is intended to be holistic. I write more about holistic education in Chapter 2.
1:5 The fourth epiphany – Philosophy for Children
Having worked for a time as an independent management trainer and consultant, a major economic depression caused a drying up of that kind of work so I decided that a wage was needed. I rang County Hall to see if any teaching jobs were available. They told me that a Head had just rung from a Catholic school. I went to see him and within a week I was the class teacher of a Year 8 class who had allegedly terrorized the previous teacher into a nervous breakdown. I thought I might be in for a ‘Blackboard Jungle’ experience. They were ‘pussy cats’. In no time I loved them and they were as happy as sand girls and boys. The only tears were from a girl who thought I might be only playing a temporary role – they wanted a teacher to be theirs until the end of, not time, but the rest of the term. They wanted some stability, and an adult who wasn’t going to walk out.
Behind the ‘role’ of pupil, in some ways professional in the way that the teacher’s role is professional, there are passionate feelings that arise from all of the concerns found in families and other love relationships – security, being valued, commitment, steadfastness, forgiveness, discipline, laughter and so on. Good teaching has to have at least a minimum of connectedness with this human relatedness, warmth and caring.
At the end of the term the Head thought I wouldn’t be happy as a Year 6 teacher, the only post he had available, and so instead he ‘handed me over’ to the twin school Notre Dame as Head of English.
Whilst at Notre Dame I learned about Professor Matthew Lipman’s Philosophy for Children programme. I found it by accident lying on the floor at home flicking through channels – I found myself watching a BBC 2 programme called Socrates for Six-Year Olds. It riveted my attention, and changed my life. The programme as one of three under the series title The Transformers. I was one of the 10,000 who wrote in after the first transmission.
I went to an introductory day at Christ’s Hospital school, Horsham and invited Roger Sutcliffe, (now Chair of SAPERE (The Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education – the national body for PFC), to visit my class – I think in 1992. I videoed his lesson and was as astonished with the lesson as I was with the programme. I saw that the process had the ability to transform a class and to transform individuals. This was early in my time at the school. The class had been producing good creative work but like most classes in the school it was pathologically incapable of conducting any kind of class discussion. But here was a stranger managing to do just that on a first meeting. There were some very strong individuals in that class, as well as the very lively ‘class personality’, but I was now seeing them through new eyes.
Plucking up courage, after a bit more training, I started with some sessions and invited Roger to observe one such lesson. I then did Level II and Level III training and became one of the first Teacher Educators in PFC (all self-funded of course).
Because I was so concerned about the inability of classes to hold discussions I asked the Deputy Head to timetable me into all Year 5 and all Year 6 classes as a strategy to try to get a ‘culture shift’ in the school, at least in English. I was also responsible for all Year 8 English and for some of Year 7. In the two years that followed I integrated PFC into all of my English teaching, as well as doing the once a week ‘stand alone sessions’ with Years 5 and 6. The desired transformation occurred – at least for me in my lessons.
Over a four year period I videoed a range of lessons with classes in this middle school range, and a few adult sessions as well. I used these instead of a journal, for reflection, and to study particularly the dialogue, so as to gradually improve the process.
In finding and teaching in the PFC mode I had a perfect counter-balance to the teaching of Creative Writing – see page 121. One was, mainly, an imagistic right-brain activity, and the other pursues truth via the distinctions of philosophy – and the children loved both. Together with my Baha’i and perennial philosophy inspiration, I had sources, or exemplars, for the 3Cs and their corresponding processes. This triad I gradually realized had given rise the core of the model.
1:6 The perpetuation of early experience – via Jane’s Short Story
The story that follows I wrote some ten years ago to see what a Year 7 class could ‘handle’, but it has become a major piece for teaching me, as well as for teaching others.
Jane’s short story
1 “Come to mummy Jane. Come on, yes, you can do it.” Ste…steppp…stagger step..step got there BIGKISSmmmms’nice. Her mother’s nose stroked back and forth across her neck, as giggles of delight and laughter bubbled from Jane.
“Jane pay attention otherwise you’ll be asking me what the work is in five minutes time.”
5 (‘Oh no I won’t Mr Moaner, I know perfectly well what you’re asking – so stop picking on me!’)
“Images Jane, images.”
Tulips. Gigantic red tulips, opened a bit beyond their best, and bigger than any red thing and redder than any red thing and she crawled to grasp, to know the greenness of the green cool green stems and embrace them and lose herself in the redness that was ……..
10 “I want you all to pay attention to the structure of your story……..”
How could she tell her mother that she never felt safe after he left. Only in his hugs with the smell of him did she ever, could she ever, feel safe. She chewed over this and poured herself another bowl of corn-flakes, sensing school time getting nearer and nearer. Her mother had left without giving the bus fare.
Yet again Jane’s leg itched from the nylon thread in the seam of her skirt.
15 She grasped the chair to ease her leg away from the itch, only to put her fingers under her chair and into some freshly placed chewing-gum. “Ugh! Boys are so disgusting!”
“Thank you Jane. I’m not sure what that has to do with careful control of your narrative but I suppose we should be grateful that at least you’ve re-visited our world, even though the visit will no doubt be brief. The trouble with you Jane is that you don’t use the possibilities and talent you have.”
20 Endless possibilities. The muddy brown wet sand, miles and miles of it. She sensed freedoms beyond the edge of her imagination, she would be all creation itself.
“Put your hat on Jane and come here – you’re not going in the sun until I put some cream on you.” Jane submitted to the sun-cream and enjoyed it but also remembered the tug of the harness around her shoulders – tug tug, with her running but not going anywhere.
25 “……and do try to put some images into your writing – do make it come alive.”
The finch, with feathers going in directions they shouldn’t, struggled on its side. The broken leg would not need mending because the shock was already killing the tiny creature. Jane hated the cat with an acid and granite hatred.
“You have ten minutes to finish your story.”
30 Jane sat back on her rump and examined her mother’s radiant face.
She spat out the tulip petals as her sadness entered her.
She was as rigid as the door he had slammed behind him.
She willed the incoming tide to consume her castle and leave only empty sands.
The finch stopped its fluttering and took on the stillness of death.
35 Jane wrote some lines.
Jane felt the tug tug of the harness and struggled to go somewhere.
Jane is, substantially, but not wholly, me.
In writing the story I reached back down to early memories with which to ‘clothe’ some of the levels in the streams of consciousness..
In continuing to work with children, or adults, I still sometimes use Jane’s Short Story – as a way to encourage others to create their own stories, made from their own real, and imagined, experience. I discovered how powerful it is if PFC, and creative task-setting, are combined – so much so that I believe that the two, when harnessed, together create something akin to ‘exponential development’. It is still a joy, and a learning experience, when children make their own creations walk and talk, sing and shout, just as Jane became ‘real’ to me, some 9 or 10 years earlier. From time to time I revisit the story and change a few words. Once I also gave it to the same class on succeeding years and asked them to see what they could see compared to their ‘reading’ of the previous year – and to say what differences they felt between the two readings. On the success of this I think that it is worth doing something similar with every class, i.e. for them to re-visit a piece two years running. What they are looking at, with each re-visiting, is, in part, the growth they have had via another year’s experience – a very useful exercise in meta-cognition for the children.
Although it was written when I was in my early fifties I include the story here because it encapsulates some of how autobiography is expressed in even the most creative, or the most abstract, of our work. The story was written in a ‘stream of consciousness’ style to see how well my classes could be at deconstructing the text. It was written in my second year of doing PFC. Sometimes I use it just as a text, sometimes the classes go on to write their own episodes from Jane’s life.
My experience is that children in Year 7 or 8 take a little time to decode the levels in the ‘stream of consciousness’ but then respond most sensitively to the possibilities that exist in and around the story. It seems to work at quite a deep level for some, and very few, except perhaps in initial perplexity, reject the story.
Jane, both as part of my spirit and personal history, and as an independent spirit, has continued to exist, but she has also been transmogrified into the creations of other authors, adults as well as children. It is Jane in the personal myth called Island Shoreline Ocean, presented at the beginning of Chapter 3. My past is re-presented and it is continuously transmogrified, in further re-representations. Each of us re-experiences what we are, as we engage or re-engage, with our beliefs, values, attitudes memories and new experiences. We echo past experiences in each new experience, even when we are seeking to help others in their creativity. Jane’s short story lives on in me as a crystallization of the feelings and images deep in my soul, deep, one might say, in my ‘present’. It has generated versions from 11 – 12 year olds, but also from an 84 year old man who, on one of my courses, wrote the first story he had ever written in his life.
1:7 Conclusion – the triadic shape of the model’s heart emerges
From my childhood experience, my own education and the particular admixture of beliefs, and values and attitudes, that has been the being (and becoming) of me, a model started to emerge. As someone said, Man is made by his belief. As he believes so he is.24
Working on the autobiography, a suggestion of the third of my five supervisors, was a ‘revelation’, because its showed me how experience had structured the model that was emerging – three of the epiphanies gave rise to the 3Cs. I came to see that the discourse-communities had ‘nourished’ one each of the 3Cs in my emerging model. The fourth C, Community, is enriched by understanding from all four discourse-communities, especially understanding of the nature of learning in communities. As the years have gone by I have discovered that there are a whole range of triadic forms of the self that underpin the 3Cs framework (see Appendix A).
In SunWALK the teacher’s job is seen as enabling balanced, holistic development in caring, creative and critical abilities – all undertaken in the context of the fourth C, the Community (of the classroom, school and wider community), using whatever contexts and content, from the total available culture, that s/he chooses to draw upon, or to which s/he chooses to refer.
The 3Cs are ways of paying attention to, and of relating to, and of engaging with, another person, or thing, and each is accompanied by distinctive states of ‘heart-mind’. The Creative is meditative, the caring is characterised by other-focusedness, and involves empathy, compassion and a sense of solidarity, the critical is characterised by being analytical, discriminating and judgmental. The 3Cs not intended to relate one-to-one with the normal philosophical-psychological forms of cognitive, connative and affective. Those terms are seen as belonging to a different approach, and may constitute a problem. For example there is the tendency to make hard and fast divisions between cognition (high status) and affect (lower-status). The affective is often seen as a ‘problem’, and as such often related to women, or men, who are not functioning ‘correctly’. Instead of this hard and fast division between cognition and affect, interiority, as a whole, is referred to as ‘heart-mind’ in which thought or feeling comes to the ‘foreground’, the two being a side each of the same ‘coin’. All conscious thinking has affective value, and all affect is associated with thoughts. I also suggest that ‘will’ is better seen as a function of what we love, and choose to love (see May 1969). Head and heart are seen as how the energy of interiority is receiving, processing and responding to whatever is ‘coming in’. Some ‘inputs’ cause us to respond in one mode, of the Cs, others to another. To some ‘challenges’ we initially respond feelingly, to others it is thinkingly – depending on the demand being made. The nature of the response is more or less cognitive, and more or less affective, as in Diagram 1:2 that follows:
Diagram 1:2 Head and heart and the 3Cs
Diagram 1:2 also shows one way of looking at the relationship between head and heart (heart-mind) and the 3Cs.
The 3Cs triadic view of human nature as flow, and forms of engagement, is the heart of SunWALK and is its means of accounting for being and becoming human as the model’s axis. All consequent modelling moves forward within one of SunWALK’s chief concerns – that of placing all technical learning within the context of being and becoming fully and positively human – from functional literacy to higher engineering. When the ‘Sun’, of higher-order values is included, SunWALK is both a general model of education and, at one and the same time, a model of moral and spiritualizing education.
From the four epiphanies, and the communities of discourse through which the epiphanies were experienced, I gleaned the concept-elements out of which the conceptual framework of my model is constructed – this framework is the subject of Chapter 2. I use the term concept-elements to indicate that the model is seen as more than an arrangement of concepts – it is seen as a dynamic system. The concept-elements are the skeleton. But what is the flesh? Paradoxically I suggest the answer is spirit, in various forms – starting with the life-force (chi or ki), generally (metaphorically the ‘raw’, undifferentiated, ‘light’ of the human spirit). That spirit then refracts or trifurcates into the ‘primary colours’, i.e. the 3Cs.
Spirit is seen as energy and as process. Conversely process is an expression of spirit – in one formal level or another. The model is seen metaphorically as a circulation of energy, as in a fountain, not as simply a construction of static bits of ‘stuff’, such as data. The various forms of movement of energy are seen as conducive to, or derogatory to, the manifestation of potential – as a person being and becoming human, in the world with others.
Being and becoming human is seen as key process, the process toward manifesting potential, an idea that Jane Clark (2001) has pointed out, in her paper on the relevance of Ibn Al Arabi’s teachings to today, is at least as old as the time of the ancient Greeks. This goes a long way toward my own definition of education – the process, managed by teachers, of enabling individuals or groups to manifest their potential as human beings, through engaging with progressively more challenging tasks, toward a relevant and agreed goal.
SunWALK is the goal in the sense that we are looking to nurture students toward graceful expressions of spirit – that of wise and willing action, via loving and knowing, in community – all in the light of higher-order values. This is seen as cultivation of the human spirit, a process that is (infinitely) more than just the development of concepts and skills.
But we do have to stop, to conceptualize. We can compare conceptualizing to still photography, as compared to the flow of consciousness which is more like film. However when we stop to conceptualize we are removing ourselves from relatedness, and from the processes of being in relatedness – from the general flow of life, and most importantly from our embeddedness in mystery. In paying attention to a part we remove ourselves from relatedness to, and encounter with, the Whole, with Mystery, with God if you permit that term. Put by Heschel (1971 p. 7) this says; concepts are delicious snacks with which we try to alleviate our amazement. Ironically we all, including the great Heschel, can only speak of that which is beyond the conceptual, the realm of amazement, via the conceptual! In truth we need all three ways of knowing, the ‘subjective-creative-mystical’ and the ‘objective-reasoning-scientific’ and the ‘social-others-centred’.
The four human-spirit core elements, and corresponding ways of knowing, i.e. the 3Cs or the 4Cs, are also more than simply contributing concepts. They are the ‘human’ axis of the model, and the organizing principles which like a three-pronged magnet – are the means of ordering all other concepts. We engage critically, or creatively or caringly, according to such factors as the task in front of us, the nature of the relationships we have, the mood we are in, the nature of the communication ‘coming in the opposite direction’.
The SunWALK model then sees spiritualizing pedagogy as development of the human spirit, and corresponding abilities, that, taken as a whole, can be described as willing Wise Action through Loving and Knowing – in the light of the ‘Sun’ of higher-order values (or names & attributes of God if you are a theistic religionist). SunWALK, as name and mnemonic, is the ‘what’ of the model – the goal being an ideal flow of spirit within the person, and between her/him and what is met in life. The 3Cs are the ‘how’ the processes that enable the purpose to achieve ‘steps’ toward this ideal flow. WALKing in the light of the ‘Sun’ of higher-order values represents human expression as an inspired flow of the human spirit that manifests in action, via engagement that is either caring, or creative, or critical.
From experience come beliefs, from beliefs come values, from values come dispositions25, from dispositions comes behaviour – from the lot comes the way we model reality and possibility, and live our lives. Developments in what I made of my story is what has given rise to what is presented in the chapters that follow. Of course it is recognized that my, or any, re-collection of memories that are used to make a text, are not what happened in any truly objective sense; they are in a sense fiction. But as Picasso is reported to have said, ‘Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.’26 Such as this is what we do in autobiography, even if we strain every fibre to ‘tell it like it was’. ‘Storying’ generally is seen as a key educational process from pre-nursery to the kind of MA that Peter Abbs (see 1974 and 2003) runs for personal and professional development at the University of Sussex.
In summation; our internal model of the world is shaped by experience, beliefs, values and dispositions. Our lives, including our professional lives, are thus shaped. But we are shaping as well as shaped. We construct wilfully as well as absorb influences unwittingly. Passively and actively our beliefs, values and dispositions are open to development, evolution, or even Pauline traumatic change. We are always some specific set of characteristics, and at the same time we are ‘in process’, becoming more and better, (or less and worse). The challenge with all experience is what to do with it. First there is the need to understand. For this we do well to enlist the help of others to assist our own reflections in the struggle to articulate – in my model I join with Bushrui (1994) and Abbs (2003) to urge that we resist the more insane extremes of free-floating relativism in post-modernist stances, and instead stay connected in a living relationship with the matrix of our spiritual heritages. In enlisting the help of others we enter dialogue, dialogue that is face to face, or, less satisfactorily, a kind of dialogue in reading other’s thoughts in the form of books.27. The process of introspection and autobiographical writing helps make ‘tacit knowing’ explicit, helps make potential manifest, and thereby, develops what eventually becomes our model of the world, in this case our model of spiritualizing pedagogy. Perhaps most powerfully, of all that we teach, ‘We teach what we are, and we are what we teach’ (see Palmer 1993 and 1998).
Storying experience is one way to give a foundation to practitioner’s theory creation, and to self-driven, professional development. From this inevitably flows the continuum of choices we make, great and small, from the philosophies we espouse to the micro-decisions in conducting lessons such as the one I taught which started with:
“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.”
These things he said in words. But much in his heart remained unsaid. For he himself could not speak his deeper secret. Gibran (1975)