A Conceptual Framework
– based on elements gleaned from
The holocaust didn’t teach us what it is to be Jewish. It
taught us what it means to be human.
The Chief Rabbi ITN News 26th Jan 2001
Contents of Chapter 2
2:1 Introduction – including further 90
2:2 Conceptual gleanings from Holistic Education 97
2:3 Conceptual gleanings from Baha’i teachings 101
and perennial philosophy
2:4 Conceptual gleanings from being a teacher of English 113
2:5 Conceptual gleanings from Philosophy for Children (PFC) 121
and PFC applied to the teaching of English
2:6 Criticism of current education – 132
some holistic education perspectives
2:7 Sifting the wheat from the chaff – three levels of 136
concept-elements around as a conceptual
framework for a spiritualizing model of pedagogy
2:8 Conclusion – only the blindingly obvious is difficult to see 143
D 2:1 – Conditioning of the cognitive, and of meaning, 94
as a virtuous circle
2:1 Introduction, including Further Methodological Considerations
In Chapter 2, following an Introduction, that presents some further methodological considerations, each of the four discourse communities is explored, as a source of concepts, with which to construct a conceptual framework for a spiritualizing model of pedagogy. Examples of criticism of contemporary education are given, along with a description of how the concepts were put into three levels of importance.
In ‘left-brain’, conceptual, terms the model is seen as being built from elements, each of which is also a concept, hence the use of the term ‘concept-elements’. An overview of these so as to form a conceptual framework version of the proposed model is the subject of this Chapter. The simplest complete form, the organizing elements, is in the ‘one sentence’ version on pages one and two of the Introduction. The version in this chapter is made up of most of the concepts in the middle, or second level, of sifting (see next section and Appendix C). The terms left-brain and right-brain are here partly metaphorical, but also have some basis in brain research, particularly the association of the left hemisphere with the analytical, mathematical, verbal, linear and literal, and the right hemisphere with the metaphoric, imaginative, non-verbal, holistic (non-linear), spatial, musical, artistic, emotional, sexual, spiritual and dreams (see Craft: 2000).
The term concept-element is intended to suggest more than just ‘concept’. A concept could be seen as just a naming language and/or cognitive item, but ‘concept-element’ is intended to suggest a dynamic component in a dynamic system. The concept-elements are from within accounts of the discourse communities, through which the four autobiographic epiphanies were experienced. Some concept-elements could be introduced via more than one discourse-community – I chose whatever seemed natural in the given discourse-community. The ‘gifts’, as I see them, from the four discourse communities are brought together eventually into the ‘inter-disciplinary field of discourse’ in and around the SunWALK model.
Cortazzi as mentioned in the Introduction, (personal communication 2003) has suggested that the methodology of ‘applied autoethnography’ may be original, but the thesis may well be original in other respects – no one, to the best of my knowledge, has brought ‘concept-elements’ from these four discourse communities together using an autobiographic context and developed therefrom what, I hope, is a ‘new’ model of education.1
Three levels of ‘sifting’ of the concept-elements from which the conceptual framework is constructed
Over the decade of developing the thesis, concept-elements were continuously collected, explored and ‘weighed’ to determine their importance. Eventually I had a list of more than 200 concepts that seem to me to be significant in evolving a (spiritualizing) model of education, particularly its pedagogy (see Appendix C).
The main criteria for selection was that I chose concepts, and the issues that the concepts represent, as,
a) important in any model of education – for example ‘curriculum’, and ‘process/es’, and ‘content’ and/or
b) of particular concern to a pedagogy that was to be spiritualizing, and
c) concepts that felt right in helping express the model that was implicit in my person and experience.
No doubt I will continue to accept additions to the ‘master’ list, which is far too long to deal with here.
Gradually I separated what seemed the most important from the important, according to my own established, and emergent, values and perspectives. Eventually I separated from the most important those that seemed to be so important as to represent principles around which the other concepts should be organized. At the level of values four emerged as paramount: justice, truth beauty and goodness. Key questions also helped classification, at various stages. As an example there was the gradual realization that the question that I wanted at the centre of the whole process was, “What is it to be, and become, human – positively and fully?” This axis for the thesis gradually emerged, in answer form, as ‘development in caring, creativity and criticality, in community, (the 4Cs) – in the light of higher-order values’.
The ten organizing principles combine the ‘what’ of SunWALK and the ‘how’ of the 4Cs as the human spirit. The 3Cs are seen both as faculties, or ways of engaging, as viewed from within the person, (or as viewed by an outsider such as an observing teacher). The 4Cs are also the primary processes for the teacher to present educative challenges, using the highest quality, higher-order, content. The intrapersonal 3Cs can, of course, only be developed in the fourth C, community, in which both nurturance and stimulating interaction, especially forms of dialogue, are the means of development.
The weighing and sifting of concepts generally, and the use of the ten most important as organizing principles was established via objective comparisons and by what I chose to call ‘subjective resonance’. The objective comparisons were between general notions, or my interest in those notions. The term ‘subjective resonance’ I use to describe the process of ‘weighing’ a concept, or a viewpoint, against known, or emergent views. Through these two means I have made my selections. In the case of subjective resonance I have striven to articulate that which most rings true:
1) as an expression – by an other, or by my self (that demands a change or development in what is held to be just, true, beautiful or good)
2) in the developing form of a/the model of education,
3) about what I am as a person – subjective resonance is also seen as part of seeking to apply more fully values, established, or emergent, in being and becoming.
‘Subjective resonance’ thus has some elements of currently recognized criteria for qualitative research in education such as plausibility and credibility (Denzin 1997; Smith 1994) and what Lincoln and Guba (2003) term ‘catalytic authenticity’ (it stimulates participants to action – in this case development of the model), besides the autoethnographic element of explicating the being and values of the self.
The organizing concept-elements in the ‘one-sentence’ version of the model are seen as ‘magnets’ around which all other concept-elements are organized. Here I should mention the origin of the adopted ‘magnet’ metaphor. I recall very little of the science I was required to study at school, but one event is perpetually clear and speaks to this notion of subjective resonance. That was the little experiment in which we were asked to sprinkle iron filings on to a sheet of paper and then draw a magnet underneath, as a way to demonstrate the beautiful harmony the magnet created in the previously chaotic and un-related filings. Metaphorically, I also see the individual’s soul, particularly its meaning-making ability, as a magnetic influence in organizing experience, principles, values, opportunities etc. Such harmonizing is, in effect, the making of meaning. From a spiritual point of view, the more that the ‘magnetism’ contains within it higher-order values, the more the harmonizing of elements will reflect the spiritual, as well as lesser concerns. This is to argue that the spiritualizing impetus may well enable development in the conceptual domain, at least in qualitative terms. (Of course we can ‘resonate’ negatively, as well as positively – through inner or outer influences.)
This harmonizing depends on the values that we embody and how free we are to act according to higher motives, an indication of maturity that some religions refer to as ‘detachment’. Man is condemned to be free said Sartre in his principal work L’ être et la néant. (Being and Nothingness) (see Groot 2003). Sartre sees man as a being condemned to be free but unable to easily give that freedom substance. I see my work here as a struggle to give substance to the freedom to which I am condemned in the uniqueness of being human, and in particular the uniqueness of being me! We each have that responsibility, in addition to other responsibilities. There is a traditional Jewish story that says that when we stand before our Maker we will not be asked, “Why were you not Moses (or Christ, or whoever)?”, but we will be asked, “Why were you not ……. (insert here your own name)?”.
An important part of the freedom2, for all of us, is in the choice of what to reflect, and of whether to pursue the virtuous, or stay in a state of neglect. We are ‘condemned’ to be not just free, but also to be just and caring and creative and critical – and all of the other names and attributes of God, because as Heschel says (1965 p.2), a chief characteristic of being human is to know what might be, as well as what is!
Every human being has at least a vague notion, image or dream of what humanity ought to be, of how human nature ought to act. The problem of man is occasioned by our coming upon a conflict or contradiction between existence and expectation, between what man is and what is expected of him. It is in anguish that man becomes a problem to himself. What he has long disregarded suddenly erupts in painful awareness.
Commitment, spiritually, to sources that give us strength, through our own striving, to pursue that which is virtuous, is therefore vital, including vital for the quality of our intellectual development – our efforts are always serving one ‘god’ or another. But does virtue enhance the intellectual?
A hint of the quantitative as well as the qualitative, in the effect of ineffable experience upon the conceptual, is found in this comment from Heschel (1959 p. 20):
The sense of the ineffable is seen as an intellectual endeavour out of the depth of reason; and as such it is seen as a source of cognitive insight.
I would prefer to say it thus, ‘the quality and depth of our relationship with the transcendent, (the Whole/Mystery/God) conditions our reading of reality, and the meaning we can make of the parts, including the concepts that we use’. Thus those, who through their actions, and dedication to higher-order values, condition how they ‘read reality’ enhance their means to ‘see’ clearly.
The ‘pursuit’ of justice, truth, beauty and goodness may well lead to transcendent experience, and from such experience can come the potential for refinement in the conceptualization of, as well as sharper and deeper insight into, reality. Commitment to such core virtues is what keeps us true, more or less, in how we ‘resonate’ and therefore in the quality of the meaning we make from the ‘iron filings’ of life’s fragments. This conditioning of the cognitive, and of the meaning made, I see as a virtuous circle:
Diagram: 2:1 – conditioning of the cognitive, and of meaning, made as a virtuous circle
pursuit of virtue
clarification of the conceptual
further development of desire to pursue justice, truth, beauty,
This ‘virtuous cycle’ also demonstrates the indispensability of such dualities as head and heart, ‘left-brain’ and ‘right-brain’, art/religion and science.
However there is a more dramatic possibility, suggested in this case by the Baha’i writings – that innate knowledge and insights are a result of being more or less in continuous relationship with God, whether or not we acknowledge that, or are conscious of it – the process is continuous, God-given, and the majority of what we know is simply ‘a gift’ (Abdu’l-Baha 1978 pp. 85-86). Similarly Baha’is see art as a gift of the holy spirit.
All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the Light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvellous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose, when showing forth the praise of God.
(Blomfield: 1954 p.167)
I return later to this possibility that knowledge is an outcome not just of intellectual efforts and book-learning, and genetics, but to a third function, that is of being human in the world, as part of God’s Creation.
The notion of subjective resonance will seem to some as risky. Tochon (1994 p. 1) raises the issue of risks in a narrative view of teacher education if related to the ‘I’ tradition of Subjective Idealism. The Self-constructionist perspective in education (p.239) might lead to dogmatism and indoctrination. His suggested solution (p.243) is the complementary use of constructivist and deconstructivist aspects of knowledge.
Both for the individual, and for the observer, risk is diminished through ‘internal’ efforts, and through the processes of open dialogue, in community. Tochon’s views also echo the whole emphasis in this thesis on keeping balanced the three forms of knowing ‘social-others-centred’, the ‘subjective-creative-mystical’ and the ‘objective-reasoning-scientific’ – the three voices of I, We and IT – all cultivated in the light of higher-order values.
The notion of subjective resonance is linked to the educational goal of enabling development of the authentic self, through the individual achieving her/his authentic voice. I don’t see this as ‘self-indulgence’, nor do I see it as in conflict with the service ethic that is at the core of the interpersonal. Religiously we can say that it enables God to manifest Himself more fully through the realization of each authentic voice (compositely the 3Cs). Psychologically it seems to me that the person who speaks without their authentic self is less likely to be of help to others than if they function authentically – just as a work of art has the best, unique, form in which to be, to resonate, to ‘speak’ – when created authentically. In any case each subjective expression is open to acceptance or rejection, and to examination via all the means possible for ‘verification’ – via any combination of a) the empirical, b) reasoning, c) tradition, d) intuition, e) consultation f) Revelation (see Diagram 3:2).
The connection with authenticity I see as flowing from, or corresponding to the notion of authentic education. Peter Abbs (1993 pp. 3-14) sees authentic education as requiring eight characteristics:
1) commitment to understanding;
2) seeing education as inherently valuable;
3) experiencing education as existential in the sense of the individual taking responsibility for something which cannot be bought or transferred but which can be released by the right agent including a teacher;
4) level of engagement (being utterly absorbed) – not just the mind but the whole personality;
5) recognising that education is open-ended and that of necessity we live with uncertainties with scientific theories only being provisional explanations;
6) being collaborative (in dialogue) both in the sense of wisdom passed down the ages, and as the trust and relations within the group or class or seminar;
7) recognising diversity including plurality in modes of understanding, ways of knowing;
8) acknowledging transcendence – moments in which one can sense abiding value and a sense of the ordinary self surpassing itself, seeming to be fully alive but in another realm.
In this thesis the means to the development of the authentic voice isseen as the use of SunWALK and the 4Cs. The more we as individuals mature, the more these forms of being and knowing authentically become personal goals – as well as the goals of one’s (enlightened) teacher.
I turn now to the concept-elements, that together constitute a conceptual framework for the SunWALK model, here presented as characteristics found within the discourse-communities, out of which came the four epiphanous, turning-point, experiences in my life as a would-be educator.
2:2 Conceptual gleanings from Holistic Education
The sub-field of Holistic Education – some definitions, and a tale of two Millers
This thesis I see as situated in the sub-field of education known as holistic education, and consequently I am presenting some issues concerning this particular discourse-community first, whereas in Chapter 1 the epiphanies were presented in chronological, order.
The two terms ‘holistic’ and ‘education’ as used here give rise to a tautological possibility in that, for me, they refer to the same thing; true, balanced, human development. That is, education that isn’t holistic isn’t truly and fully education. It would be more accurate to call mainstream education ‘less-than-holistic-education’, and then simply call holistic education ‘education’. However concern for connectedness, and for balance, is probably a safer way to approach the contrasting of mainstream education with holistic education. For example, it is unlikely that a child will go through mainstream education with no spiritual education, so the contrast might be better drawn in looking at the higher place for spiritual education that a holistic school might want to include in its curriculum.
Holistic isn’t in the dictionary (Collins Concise) but holism is: ‘any doctrine that a system may have properties over and above those of its parts and their organization.’ There is no mention of holistic education – the field is very small! The more general field of holistic ‘philosophy’ that contributes to thinking and practice in holistic education is larger. It ranges from more respectable voices such as the physicists Bohm (1980) and Capra (1982) and even Einstein (Calaprice 2000), through to a plethora of relatively fringe voices.
A weakness of educational development is the paucity of alternatives. Outside of comprehensivisation itself, and the recent move of creating some specialist schools for children with particular talents, very few truly radical experiments in education have been conducted by any UK government. Internationally the only one in the private sector that is well known is A. S. Neil’s Summerhill. Yet if every government since the turn of the last century had kept going, in ten year cycles, a dozen ‘laboratory’ schools that were truly different in important ways, backed up by academics as partners, we might know more, and the evidence might be more lucid and accessible, at the ‘chalk-face’. Chief amongst the issues that might be explored would be ‘what does it/can it really mean to educate the whole child?’, and ‘from this what can we learn about moral education and spiritual education that are integral, rather then ‘bolt-on’ extras?’
The term holistic education then can be seen as a restoring or re-balancing perspective. The term holistic is relatively new. I had to wait until I met a Japanese professor of education in Mexico before I knew that it is generally considered that the first use of the term holism was by General Smuts (1926).
Most recently Ken Wilber (1998a p.67) has taken understanding of the holistic, and therefore holistic education, forward, including in his discussion of the term ‘holon’. For Wilber, a holon refers to an ‘entity’ that is itself a whole and simultaneously a part of some other whole. Things and processes are not merely wholes, they are also parts of something else. They are whole/parts: a holon has to maintain both its wholeness and its ‘partness’ (examples below). These are all wholes, but also include subparts – but they are much more than their subparts. One reason he uses this term is to circumvent using the notion of hierarchy. He explains this whole-part view of the universe further as:
THE WHOLE/PARTS CONSTRUCTS
All the lower is in the higher, but not all the higher is in the lower. Examples:
1. Cells contain molecules but not vice versa
2. Molecules contain atoms but not vice versa
3. Sentences contain words, but not vice versa
4. A whole atom is part of a whole molecule, and the whole molecule is part of a whole cell, and the whole cell is part of a whole organism, etc.
It’s the ‘not vice versa’ that establishes a holon – an order of increasing wholeness.
Therefore ‘the Whole’ is that which contains all other holons, beyond which there is no other holon of which it is part – some use the term ‘God’, or the Whole, or Mystery.
From such thinking, I have developed the process term ‘holization’ to mean realization of connectedness that enables, and constitutes, the raising of consciousness, toward realization in wisdom and spiritual maturity. The realization of connectedness is assisted by many factors. For example effort by the individual, but also factors such as the quality of the classroom atmosphere, and the quality of the challenges to learning that the teacher sets. It is also a descriptive term for the development the learner ideally undergoes. Holization is seen as substantially synonymous with spiritualization and humanization, the terms being different ‘takes’ on the same whole-person, human development that I believe is, at one and the same time, true (full and complete) education generally, and spiritual education in particular.
Probably no one has done more to nurture the development of the contemporary global holistic community than Jack Miller. Holistic education and holism are, says Miller (1992 p. 6):
a person-centred perspective concerned with the fullest possible development of authentic personhood. ….holism is a recognition of interconnectedness, context and meaning in all phenomena; it is a radical critique of the reductionism, technicism and Cartesian dualism that have alienated modern consciousness from the natural world and from a deep existential sense of meaning and wholeness.
For the other major voice in holistic education, Ron Miller (1992), holistic education is not any one technique or curriculum. Holistic education nurtures the development of the whole person. It revolves around relationships between learners, between young people and adults. It is concerned with life experience, not with narrowly defined “basic skills.” Education is growth, discovery, and a widening of horizons; it is an engagement with the world, a quest for understanding and meaning. It enables learners to critically approach the cultural, moral, and political contexts of their lives.
Holistic education, says Ron Miller (1991 pp.1-3), does not focus on determining which facts or skills adults should teach children, but on creating a learning community which will stimulate the growing person’s creative and inquisitive engagement with the world, nurturing healthy, whole, curious persons, who can learn whatever they need to know in any new context.
Of Ron Miller’s many contributions in addition to his writings, his launching of the journal, Holistic Education Review, now renamed Encounter; education for meaning and social justice, is possibly the most important, along with his publishing of books (see http://www.great-ideas.org/ ).
The contributions by the two Millers have enabled the development of a community of theorist-practitioners in the US, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Australia and the UK, and elsewhere. Some are predominantly theorists, some predominantly practitioners, the majority are both. They hold regular conferences, regionally, nationally and internationally. In Canada and Mexico, you can study for one, or more, of the following in Holistic Education; short courses, first degree courses, MAs and doctorates. However the number of theorist-practitioners in the field of Holistic Education is still very small. In addition there are those who contribute to books, even though in academic terms they are probably situated in one or more other fields. The deafness of mainstream authorities is extreme in the US, as in the UK.
There is that larger field that concerns the theory of holism, and then yet another whole set of fields that includes the ecological and environmental, teacher education, religion and spirituality etc. from which people draw in order to build up the philosophical and pedagogical underpinnings for holistic education. Roger Stack’s diagram that maps the intellectual influences that have resulted in the Holistic Education community is very useful (see Appendix D) in obtaining a broad overview of some of the field’s influences and contributory writers and practitioners.
The two Millers have continued as the two faithful mainstays of the development of the North American, and now global, holistic education community, and are its two most important theorists, Jack for the breadth of overall conceptualization, established in some dozen books and more than 50 chapters and papers. His university Department, Toronto, has also supervised more than 50 doctorates in holistic education, art education and allied subjects.
Ron a free-lance educationalist, with a shorter list of publications, is a comparable figure because of the depth and quality of his philosophical underpinning, and his all-round support of the movement.
The notion of ‘ holistic education’
There are a variety of reasons why someone might reject the notion of holistic education. Some see education as rightly having a largely utilitarian purpose. Some fear the whole idea of the spiritual dimension of education – indeed America continues to be virtually paranoid about the issue. Others simply see moral and spiritual development as the responsibility of the home.
I have found few serious evaluations of holistic education but one by Terry McLaughlin (in Best (ed) 1996 pp. 9-19) is particularly useful. In a complex review of what ‘whole’ and ‘holism’ and ‘spiritual’ might mean, McLaughlin says the following:
Although there is some substance in the descriptive claim that education is as a matter of fact, of the whole child, the prescriptive claim that education should be of this kind is not redundant.
Similarly I also have come to the conclusion that education is inevitably and invariably holistic in one sense: the child is whole. However the teaching may not be. Consequently ‘whole’ aspects of the ‘whole’ child may be undernourished, and atrophy. These might include the moral, the spiritual, the social, the political and so on.
McLaughlin (ibid.) suggests support for the ‘should’ line of argument under the ‘desire for comprehensiveness’ value. e.g. including critical questioning of memorization. This inevitably focuses on skills. Without rejecting this desire for comprehensiveness of skills, I want the comprehensiveness to be focused on those central issues within the being and becoming of the person, which is to say that the 4Cs are more than just concern for skills. My view here is summed up by saying that no reasonably normal child is ever less than ‘whole’, even if s/he has sustained some damage, or lack of development in some areas, but the educational experience s/he is receiving may be ill-suited to balanced development of all of the (positive) dimensions of being human.
The need for whole-person sub-models and processes
We need to ask which elements are necessary for something to constitute holistic education. How many are necessary, without which a claim would fail? I also suggest that the question, “What is it that makes of the parts a whole?”, is essential in evaluating anything that claims to be a holistic model of education. My answer is SunWALK and the 4Cs, and I suggest that for the model as a whole my answer, is ‘consciousness’. By this I mean staying conscious of the whole, and of the parts, what some people mean by mindfulness. We could also answer, ‘love’, or ‘wisdom’, or ‘realization of connectedness’ or ‘concern for the needs of others’ – by ‘consciousness’ I mean to include all of these.
Holistic Education and moral education
Given the perspective that sees spiritualization, holization and humanization as three ‘takes’ on a single process, the view of education presented here sees moral education as fully integrated, and a natural outcome of true, balanced, education.
SunWALK is both a general model of education, particularly its pedagogical process, and at the same time a model of moral education. Moral education, like holistic education requires development in all of the following: caring, creativity and criticality, and being, and serving, in community – all undertaken within an ability to draw inspiration from spiritual sources, and thereby to have the will to act morally. Caring is seen as providing opportunities for the development of moral sensibility in the form of the ability to empathize, to have a conscience and to have a sense of solidarity. Criticality is seen as contributing abilities in sorting distinctions and applying logic. Creativity is seen as contributing the same qualities as caring but via artistic expression. The community is seen as contributing the arena in which we are challenged morally and in which we act morally, if we have the will so to do. We often need a reason to be good, which is why I see ‘will’ as something that can be increased if we have an increase in what we are attracted to through loving and knowing.
2:3 Conceptual gleanings from Baha’i teachings and Perennial Philosophy
The model presented here, at least as a framework, is intended to be inclusive, and open to use in a wide variety of settings, and perhaps cultures, and to be inclusive of a diversity of individuals. Of course, it includes some non-negotiable principles – it could not for example accept racism, it could not accept bullying, it could not accept sexism.
Central to the need for antidote, or prophylactic to negatives, is the notion of the need for a ‘Sun’ in any model that intends to be holistic. The ‘Sun’ is intended as a symbolic representation of the source of inspiration, illumination and guidance that a person gains, particularly for answering the great existential questions, and for matters such as moral guidelines, for nurturing the will to act morally, and to act in other good ways. But such guidance doesn’t have to be just the Messengers of God – footballers who make a stand against racism, e.g. are functioning as part of many a youngster’s guiding light. The symbolic meaning of ‘Sun’ in the model lies in Sun as both the external source of values, e.g. the Humanist canon of relevant writings, or a body of religious scripture, but it also refers to the internalization of those influences that gave rise to the person’s conscience, values and moral sensibility.
My own source has been Baha’i teachings, and what in more general terms is known as ‘perennial philosophy’. The next section describes how some principles apparent in my reading of Baha’i teachings, are important for the SunWALK model.
To provide a reading of all of the extensive available primary and secondary Baha’i literature3 is not possible, since it is vast. For reasons of space I have developed a compilation of relevant extracts from Baha’i writings and placed them in the Appendices (see Appendix E).
My solution to the difficulty of summarizing oceans of writings is to do two things. Firstly, the above-mentioned compilation. Secondly I here present a ‘reading’ of a particular passage from Baha’i teachings. This ‘take’ on Baha’i teachings, relevant to education, is a view based on my own forty years of reading those writings, whilst working in various kinds of education. The view, a process and dialogic view of reality, also contributes powerfully to the need to find a notion that unites the three or four epiphanies from within my autobiographic first chapter. By ‘unites’ I mean answers the question, “What if anything do those epiphanies, and their relevant communities of discourse, have in common?” This unity is also important in answering the question, “What is it that makes of the parts a whole?” My answer which I present in the final chapter is that to raise consciousness they are all dialogic, and dialectic, and I therefore coin the term Dialectical Spiritualization (see section 5:1).
I now present a particular passage translated from the writings of Abdu’l-Baha (1976 p.79)
A reading of principles, evident in a passage from Baha’i teachings, relevant to the creation of a spiritualizing pedagogy
I have chosen the particular passage since it seems, in just a few lines, to indicate principles for almost a complete model of education, the spirit of which is I believe not only true to a wide reading of Baha’i writings, but also to the spirit of the SunWALK model.
I added numbers and section headings, but have not otherwise altered the original text. The passage reads:
1 GOAL = HUMAN DEVELOPMENT – Among these children many blessed souls will arise, if they be trained according to the Baha’i Teachings.
2 DEFINING METAPHOR – If a plant is carefully nurtured by a gardener, it will become good, and produce better fruit.
3 AIMS = GREATER INSIGHT, AND SPIRITUAL RECEPTIVITY These children must be given a good training from their earliest childhood. They must be given a systematic training which will further their development from day to day, in order that they may receive greater insight, so that their spiritual receptivity be broadened. Beginning in childhood they must receive instruction.
4 METHOD 1 = PLAY, NOT BOOK LEARNING – They cannot be taught through books. Many elementary sciences must be made clear to them in the nursery; they must learn them in play, in amusement.
5 METHOD 2 = THE PRIMACY OF THE ORAL – Most ideas must be taught them through speech, not by book learning. One child must question the other concerning these things, and the other child must give the answer. In this way, they will make great progress. For example, mathematical problems must also be taught in the form of questions and answers. One of the children asks a question and the other must give the answer.
6 ONE MEASURE OF SUCCESS = Later on, the children will of their own accord speak with each other concerning these same subjects.
7 REWARD PROGRESS AT ALL LEVELS – The children who are at the head of the class must receive premiums. They must be encouraged and when any one of them shows good advancement, for the further development they must be praised and encouraged therein.
8 SAME PRINCIPLES FOR RELIGIOUS EDUCATION AS FOR ‘MAINSTREAM’ EDUCATION – Even so in Godlike affairs.
9 QUESTIONING EACH OTHER = DISCUSSION (NOT ONE ASSUMES PRE-DIGESTED DE-CONTEXTUALIZED INFORMATION) – Oral questions must be asked and the answers must be given orally. They must discuss with each other in this manner.
These nine principles are now discussed in a little more depth.
1 GOAL = HUMAN DEVELOPMENT – “Among these children many blessed souls will arise, if they be trained according to the Baha’i Teachings.”
The social goal of the Baha’i Faith as a movement is seen as the same as any other manifestation of the Holy Spirit, via the other Messengers of God, that is to increase human potential through which the process of spiritualization, and higher forms of civilization, can be taken forward. This is related to a range of practical concerns such as the abolition of extremes of wealth and poverty, a world monetary system, environmental sustainability, establishing agencies for global action etc.
The personal goal for the individual is to acquire virtues, that is to manifest qualities, or Names and Attributes of God, that are inherent in her/his nature. But this personal goal is not something to be pursued selfishly. Instead it is pursued through participation in service to humankind, as part of the interpersonal. As in John Dewey’s My Pedagogic Creed (1897 p.3), the service ethic is seen as vital. Most people who work with youth in the Baha’i community place emphasis on the service ethic, and it has also become a recognized form of learning in the wider community, where it is known as ‘service learning’.
2 DEFINING METAPHOR – “If a plant is carefully nurtured by a gardener, it will become good, and produce better fruit.”
The gardening metaphor is frequently used by Abdu’l-Baha and is central in his approach to education. The use of the term ‘nurture’ within the gardening metaphor is particularly interesting since I see as a ‘feminine’ term, but not a gender specific one. I associate nurturing with the influence of Nel Noddings in Caring; a feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (1984), and The Challenge to Care in Schools (1992) and Gilligan’s (1998) approach to a morality based on recognition of needs, relation and response.
Perhaps ‘nurturing’ might have served Noddings better, to avoid the snidy account of her work in Winch and Gingell (1999) in which they say (pp. 97-98):
she seems to be trading upon an ambiguity in the concept of ‘care’. So in one sense to be told to care for another is simply to be told to take them fully into account. Such a sense is recognizable in Kant’s injunction to treat everyone as ends in themselves and not merely as means…. In another sense ‘caring’ characterises the special relationship between friends or members of a family…if she is.. suggesting that what we need is the second sense of care applied to everyone… such a proposal seems to empty the notion of ‘care’ of determinate sense…(If we) treat everyone as friend how are we supposed to treat our friends?
You can feel the sense of smug and small-minded satisfaction lifting off the page from these two men. Within narrow logic they are right, but the whole point about the feminine, and feminist approach, is that care, ethics and education, needs to be based on more than logic and reason – if we are to create balance, in men and women. The point about nurturance, is that it is about person to person responding, and other-centredness, in the Buber (1958) I-Thou sense. In nurturance we recognize being and becoming, we are not simply after information. A personal example is a boy in a Year 7 class who was a brilliant cartoonist – almost at a professional level. Generally in English he was a bit talkative, and didn’t produce work of the calibre that I though would do him justice. So I kept up the pressure on him. But upon reflection, and based on what he gave me in Year 8, he was doing what a chrysalis does before it emerges as a butterfly – he was going through a growth stage. Now thankfully the pressure I put on him was not dis-proportionate or unkind, but I only realised what was going on after the event and it taught me a lesson.
I take the gardening metaphor, and nurturance, to be apposite to both the Baha’i view and also to the model that I develop here. Nurturance isn’t an argument for the illogical, but it is an argument for logic being insufficient because it doesn’t admit other ways of knowing. However Winch and Gingell (p.134) also say something I never expected to hear from such men, and which states beliefs central to my model:
Those who argue that it (learning) is social, affective and dependent on circumstances are themselves making a kind of generalization. But even they, it could be argued might be missing something easily missed in the scientific temper of our times, namely the possibility that there is an element that is utterly mysterious about our ability to learn, something that is hinted at in our everyday understanding of the power of love to transform both the lover and the object that is loved. If we fail to grasp this, it might be argued, we fail to understand how learning is also concerned with the pursuit of excellence or perfection. One needs to go back to Plato for such an insight.
In SunWALK I refer to the fact that mystery is at the heart of the model, because being human is at its heart. At the heart of being human there is, for Baha’is, and many others, the mystical feeling that unites us with God, that is the core of religious faith (see Lights of Guidance p. 507). That we are mysterious at our centre, as well as God transcendentally being Mystery, is suggested in the Koranic saying to which Baha’u’llah refers:
Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.
(Baha’u’llah: The Kitab-i-Iqan, Page: 101)
Correspondingly learning, in all the ways that really matter to this spiritualizing pedagogy, is as much a mystery as something known – in the sense that the ‘knowledge’ in automotive engineering is known. More correctly, learning in being and becoming human is a mixture of the known and knowable, and the unknown and unknowable – but contemporary education4 makes little use of ever-present mystery – which is a bit like being a stage lighting designer and not recognizing that darkness, as well as lights, are part of the medium that is being used.
3 AIMS = GREATER INSIGHT, AND SPIRITUAL RECEPTIVITY “These children must be given a good training from their earliest childhood. They must be given a systematic training which will further their development from day to day, in order that they may receive greater insight, so that their spiritual receptivity be broadened. Beginning in childhood they must receive instruction.”
From my perspective this is the most problematic passage because of the term ‘training’ when applied to the (holistic) education of children, at least in the sense currently the global Baha’i community doesn’t seem to want to distinguish between education and training. At worst it seems to want to lay aside the former in favour of the latter, as in the currently widely-used ‘Ruhi programme’ in which people are taken through passage after passage of scripture and have, automaton-like, to complete cloze procedures, something which seems to be in complete contradiction to a range of teachings (see Appendix E).
There are many references in Baha’i Writings to training and trainer as well as educator, but I am not sure that trainer carries quite the same import as educator when presented by Baha’u’llah (1949, pp. 189-190) as one of the names and attributes of God:
Consider, for instance, the revelation of the light of the Name of God, the Educator,
If the two are supposed to be synonymous why does Abdu’l-Baha (1991) distinguish between the two, and ‘teacher’ in the following?:
Christ was an Educator, a Teacher and Trainer of nations
Whether they are or are not intended to be synonymous then the principles as laid out in the passage upon which this section is based still indicate principles more akin to education than training.
It is possible that training and education in the Baha’i writings do not come with the same baggage that they carry in Western education, and there may be issues to do with translation that have yet to come to light. Training in the West is also a highly politicised term (see Abbs: 1993a)
Training tends to be something arranged for you and designed to get you to comply with what someone else has previously decided is correct and desirable, as in army or police training. Education is about manifesting the ‘gems’ that are within as in Baha’u’llah’s (1946 p.260):
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.
In the second Arabic Hidden Word (see discussion of justice in the Introduction) we can see that true spiritual knowing cannot be achieved unless we have become God’s confidant, unless he ‘speaks’ to us so that we know our own knowledge, not the opinions of others. However the error-prone subjectivity of our ‘hearing’ brings with it the responsibility to compare what we think we have ‘heard’, to Baha’i scriptures, using reason and justice. I see this as a matter of self-knowledge, (“He hath known God who hath known himself.” (Baha’u’llah: 1946 p.178) but also of recognizing the God within, Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting. (Baha’u’llah 1932/1975 p.13), and then of using all available means to evaluate what is knowingly felt. Of course there is a resolution and that is the one central to SunWALK. Recognizing that training is appropriate in certain cases, the issue is how it relates to education. SunWALK argues for the technical to take place within the context of education, that is therefore for training to be seen as a sub-set of education.
4 METHOD 1 = PLAY NOT BOOK LEARNING – “They cannot be taught through books. Many elementary sciences must be made clear to them in the nursery; they must learn them in play, in amusement.”
I suspect that the term ‘sciences’ here is best understood as ‘subjects of systematized information and skills’, rather than what is termed physics and the like, though concepts within the former became the foundation of the latter as in, play is the mothers’ milk of the intellect (The Observer newspaper 4.7.99 Dr P R Rowland). It is clear that in the early years play is the medium of learning. We might understand ‘elementary sciences’ as concepts, procedures and processes that are fundamental to later forms of learning, that can be learned via games and structured play. (Concepts, such as ascending order and descending order, can be learned through a game, as can forms of sequencing, in different kinds of stories).
These are extraordinary statements given the time and circumstances of Abdu’l-Baha’s life. They echo the best practice of the best early years education of children – steadfastly ignored by the UK government with its obsession with control, and forced early reading, etc.
5 METHOD 2 = THE PRIMACY OF THE ORAL – “Most ideas must be taught them through speech, not by book learning. One child must question the other concerning these things, and the other child must give the answer. In this way, they will make great progress. For example, mathematical problems must also be taught in the form of questions and answers. One of the children asks a question and the other must give the answer.”
For decades concern with the primacy of the oral has been an issue within the teaching of English. In general the importance of oral work and verbal facility as the foundation of mature thought and writing has never been sufficiently recognized – particularly by some outside of the teaching of English.
Excessive reliance on forms of group work, some dubious, coupled with worsening behaviour has meant that many teachers had not been able, willing or skilled to do whole-class teaching – until forced to reform through the National Literacy Strategy. Philosophy for Children is an answer to this problem, but is difficult to make it work with badly behaved, or over-large classes. Correspondingly good critical work on literature is also vital in oral development, and therefore in thinking and writing capability.
This is not to set aside the importance of books, but more a matter of how to establish the best foundation for later learning through books. The appropriate sequence very often is, speech – reading – writing.
6 ONE MEASURE OF SUCCESS = “Later on, the children will of their own accord speak with each other concerning these same subjects.”
One reason for supposing this to be true is that middle-school children, in my experience, will come up and say something like, “You remember that yesterday we were saying that such and such is true, well I’ve thought of another argument….” Another is that children have been willing to give up both their play break, and their dinner break, in order to pursue themes that were running during a preceding lesson. I can’t think of a better indicator of success in teaching, but finding a humane way for OFSTED to police it isn’t easy – almost by definition that which is most important in education is difficult, or impossible to measure.
“What was educationally significant and hard to measure has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So, now we measure how well we have taught what is not worth learning!”
Costa: (1988 )
7 REWARD PROGRESS AT ALL LEVELS – “The children who are at the head of the class must receive premiums. They must be encouraged and when any one of them shows good advancement, for the further development they must be praised and encouraged therein.”
Nothing succeeds like success, the best should have rewards, but everyone should receive encouragement. To encourage is to give courage to help children to dare in small ways. To us such challenges are small, but might be major for the child – like putting forward a view in a discussion class.
Here I recall the occasion, on the CD, when I gave a ‘Recommendation’ (10 merit marks), to the girl who came up with, “We must first ask what is a story,” in answer to my question, “What is the question we really should be asking?” She had sat and listened silently all through, engrossed in the discussion, and the additional challenges that I was throwing in, and she only spoke when she had the answer that no other boy or girl had worked out. She was the girl who the previous year, when she was twelve, had sent me a Christmas card saying, “Thanks Mr P. for showing me that I can do anything in English.” This was the greatest single reward I ever received in four decades of teaching. Encourage – it even works both ways – and unwittingly.
The boys, who had been making all the running and contributing magnificently, (but who never came up with that answer) howled, not very seriously, at what they protested was an excessive, unfair, reward. She never bothered to pick up this extrinsic reward – in Year 8 there is a mixture of childhood and adulthood, and consequently a mixture of interest in extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.
8 SAME PRINCIPLES FOR RELIGIOUS EDUCATION AS FOR ‘MAINSTREAM’ EDUCATION – “Even so in Godlike affairs.”
From this I take the view that the methods and processes of religious education should be the same as the principles, and processes that Abdu’l-Baha has described for general education. But within this thesis I go further and point out that the dialectic, and dialogic, is not just a principle of educational process but the way that human beings best function in relation to themselves, their fellows and their God – this can also be seen as the way that God functions, via Logos and Mythos, Yin and Yang, etc. in relation to the ongoing expression of His Creation.
9 QUESTIONING EACH OTHER = DISCUSSION (NOT, ONE ASSUMES, PRE-DIGESTED, DE-CONTEXTUALIZED INFORMATION) – “Oral questions must be asked and the answers must be given orally. They must discuss with each other in this manner”.
Fundamentalists, might interpret this question and answer method as – teacher asks, “When did the Baha’i Faith start?” Boy Number 11, “1844.” Girl Number 17 stand up, and ask Boy Number 4 that question!” ……… The antidote can be found between the lines in the message of Dickens’ Hard Times, and the slim volume by the philosopher A N Whitehead, called The Aims of Education (1961), but I am still not sure how to open the heart of such a ‘black-and-white’, reductionistic, fundamentalist thinker or more importantly, prevent them, in some legitimate way, from rising up power hierarchies.
For me, the Philosophy for Children programme is the greatest expression of the spirit of the above passage by Abdu’l-Baha and it is directly in line from Socrates, about whom Baha’u’llah said:
He is the most distinguished of all philosophers and was highly versed in wisdom. We testify that he is one of the heroes in this field and an outstanding champion dedicated unto it…… Methinks he drank one draught when the Most Great Ocean overflowed with gleaming and life-giving waters.
(Baha’u’llah: Tablets of Baha’u’llah, MARS database, p.146)
These principles found in this single passage by Abdu’l-Baha are taken up and built into the SunWALK model, not least is the emphasis on the discursive and dialectical which ultimately is expressed as Dialectical Spiritualization (see Chapter 5).5
I turn now, in 2.4 to examine some relevant issues in ‘teaching English’, which along with dance, drama and the fine arts, is seen as a primary source for the creative.6
2:4 Conceptual Gleanings from Being A Teacher Of English
Introduction: the four ‘C’s, SunWALK and English as the source of creativity
The 4 Cs combine the intrapersonal (‘caring’, ‘creativity’ and ‘criticality’) and the interpersonal (‘community’ – that is ‘within social relationships’). Education is seen as nurturing and challenging development in ‘technical’ abilities, everything from functional literacy to advanced engineering, but within the 4Cs framework of positive development of the human spirit. In English the 4Cs need also to be related to
a) the content that is chosen,
b) the processes that are used and
c) the person of the teacher and the ambience and ecology s/he creates. SunWALK is the what of the model and the 4Cs are the how, the processes.
I developed the name SunWALK, since it serves as both a mnemonic and an acronym. It encapsulates the following:
1) the aim of the model, of developing people toward being Willing, and Wise, Loving and Knowing ‘actors’– who at least will do little harm and at best will be agents of unity, peace, justice and positive development for others.
2) the aim of the ancient virtue of wisdom as in;
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom:
and with all thy getting get understanding. – Proverbs 4:7
Make wisdom your life’s goal. (Proverbs 4:20-22)
Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. (Greek Proverb)
….set then yourselves towards His holy Court, on the shore of His
mighty Ocean, so that the pearls of knowledge and wisdom, which God hath stored up within the shell of His radiant heart, may be revealed unto you…. (Baha’u’llah: Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, pp. 8-9)
Within SunWALK, by wisdom I mean; the state of maturity in which one can think and feel and act from a ’large picture perspective’, informed by sufficient experience, and by love and knowledge, and other such virtues of heart and mind.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1955 pp. 68-9) helps make the link between understanding of reality, wisdom, and the making of meaning:
To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.
3) the view that Will, rather than being some separate psychological ‘organ’, is best seen as an outcome of inner integrity of the cognitive and affective, that is the consequence of what we Love and what we Know – where the life-force, as drives, are directed to worthy forms of attraction, thereby giving us high motivation.
When we are able to know and love that which is just, and true and good and beautiful then we have the motivation to act. We are, positively, what we love and what we know, minus whatever negatives are holding us back. (Darkness is seen as the absence of light.) Progress in education and personal development is a reduction of darkness and an increase of light. Will, and motivation, are functions of the strength (and virtue) of what attracts us, in addition to in-built drives. Increasing our love for, and knowledge of positives, can also enable us to ‘let go’ of attachment to negatives, that reduce our will to achieve.
When we learn to feed ourselves with the ‘fruits’ of wisdom, and the core virtues, we can increase our will to achieve. These are unfashionable views in a post-modern world but here I argue that we need not only to re-establish a living relationship with the wisdom, and ‘virtues’, of the past but also that that same wisdom, re-applied in a post post-modern perspective, is what is needed. That perspective is seen in the answer given to the post-modern view that there are no longer any meta-narratives. The answer here is, “Yes there is, and that meta-narrative is in the fact that we all, more or less, are struggling in being and becoming positively human (as set out by the great Teachers of the past), here in the world with others and our happiness lies in recognizing that we need to serve each other in support of that struggle.” That central reality has not changed, and out of it we must form solutions, or perish.
4) a broad notion of the interiority of the human spirit, ‘heart-mind’, in which the singleness of conscious human being, comes to engage with self, others or the world-at large, in caring or creative, or critical, ways. Creativity seems to arise from the ‘space’ between loving and knowing, affect and cognition, but is a mode separate to the caring or critical, largely synonymous with the mystical. Like a number of other aspects of being human, such as consciousness and the mind-body problem, it remains partly knowable and partly mysterious – creations come from we know not where, their origin, and their formation even, is a process not open to even the artist.
The model takes the view that both the outer world and the inner world will remain a mystery, even though continuous unfoldment into deeper knowing takes place.
Mystery is to be lived with – in ourselves, in others and in the world-at-large – and also, if we are believers, as the ultimate mystery, God. Mystery is not a puzzle to be solved but a reality to be lived (see Armstrong 1999 and 2000). Much literature, including the mythological, comes out of mystery, and it provides room for the non-rational, irrational, and part-conceived, to have a place to be. Creativity arises from human beings being human, and that is beyond the rational, arising from the sub-consciousness, even though consciousness and the rational are needed as supporting partners.
Creativity as English, but more than English
Creativity is one of the elements in the core model and my source of creativity is in English but, the arts generally are seen as means to developing creativity. Creativity here is seen as expression of subjective knowing, and viewpoint, via an art medium. With greater social purpose we could define it as disciplined expression of subjective engagement with reality, (preferably) for the good of the whole.
My view of English is shaped by a philosophy that was embedded in how I was taught at Bulmershe college and, although more recent post-modernist philosophy has modified my view, much of what I came to believe about English then, remains true for me now.
When I was at my teacher education college English was much shaped by F. R. Leavis, and T S Eliot’s notions of the Great Tradition of English Literature, in which great texts, over long periods of critical assessment, gradually emerged from their second and third rate peers. One of the later criticisms is that this predominantly pre-war view is elitist, and inescapably linked to the class system, and other such undesirable realities. I take the view that the Great Tradition is still the Great Tradition even if it was elitist. There is no point in judging the past with values that one might want to uphold in the present. A parallel exists in history. If the histories written in the past came out of an elitist and non-egalitarian society, as they did, are we to reject all insights, perspectives and accounts thereby generated? I prefer to think that we stay connected, but now accept the responsibility of seeing the ‘literary landscapes’, that Eliot talked about, from the vantage point of contemporary current values, in which other voices are now part of the whole song7.
The second reason for not rejecting the notion of the Great Tradition is that my answer to the question ‘what is the greatest literature’ is the reply that it is ‘the literature that nourishes best over the longest periods of time’.
The third reason is that the health of a society rests upon its ability to maintain a sense of identity, from a knowledge of its past, and, in particular, a knowledge of the best thoughts, sayings and deeds from the past. This of course is how Matthew Arnold defined culture. Culture is acquainting ourselves with the best that has been known and said in the world, and thus with the history of the human spirit.8
When we lose a living relationship with the best that has been known and said, we are lost, things fall apart, the centre will not hold, as Yeats says in his poem, The Second Coming. This bears resemblance to the human individual who has lost her or his memory – memory, to a large degree is who we are, and enables our functional integrity.
In my philosophy, English is also about the transmission of values and cultural frameworks through appreciation, but also through creative writing. These two, appreciating and creating, form their own essential dialogue in the development of abilities, and in the development of the person. Pressures from the National Curriculum have meant that not only has the time given to English been constrained, but the purposes of it have been seriously altered in a utilitarian direction. At worst English has been seen as simply a means to the end of ‘delivering’ other subjects. This seems to be more true in the primary sector, where specialist English teachers exist in smaller numbers. It is not the case that the utilitarian has no importance, but it is the case that it is not a worthy primary organizing idea for arranging learning challenges. The utilitarian concerns develop best as a by-product to high motivation in the expression of the creative. One creative challenge I used with 12 year-olds was, “Go and write the thirteenth episode of ‘Fawlty Towers’. I want the scripts close to BBC standards. The best five will be acted and videoed,” had, I found, astonishing results in terms of motivation and ‘by-product’ learning.
In addition to creativity via the appreciation of and the writing of poetry, stories, and drama, I have always been interested in the more visual arts and have tried to include them, in the teaching of English. These have included Film and TV Studies in which I was trying to respond to the neglected, but now 40 year old argument, that children should be taught a) ‘visuacy’ and b) ‘discrimination in popular culture’.
In the two concerns of appreciation and creativity, English brings together the two modes of criticality and creativity, and of objectivity and subjectivity. I choose to narrow the notion of creativity in the model to ‘subjective expression via an art’, firstly because I want to save it from the ‘tricky-Dicky’ view of creativity, as often taught on management training courses – ‘how many uses can you think of for a telephone directory’. Secondly, I want to give emphasis to what I shall call ‘feminine’ or ‘right-brain’ factors, so as to redress what I see as a current imbalance – (see appendix for ‘Balancing Dualities’). The third reason is that creativity as art starts as feeling that is synonymous with the spiritual.
Creativity in the model is seen as expression, as another of way of ‘reading’ and communicating reality. This narrower view of creativity is also intended to ensure a redress the imbalance between left-brain criticality, (itself not taught well in many schools), and ‘right-brain creating’, via the arts. I am aware that broader claims for creativity are made.
Howard Gardner describes creativity as “an interactive dialectic” and defines it in terms of a lively process that occurs between individual, domain and field:
The creative individual is a person who regularly solves problems, fashions products or defines new questions in a domain in a way that is initially considered novel but that ultimately becomes accepted in a particular cultural setting. (Gardner, 1993, p.35).
This, curiously, is precisely what I mean by ‘learning through a whole person dialectical process’ – so Gardner’s definition of creativity is actually my definition of learning, and knowledge development. But here creativity is the ability to assemble images, words, dance etc., to express subjective knowing, to explain what it is like to be that person, to have lived her or his life. I include the non-visual arts, but I particularly want to emphasize the imagistic. Dance is important because it keeps ‘heads’ and mind connected to the body and to the earth. I would see it as a daily activity for children – a way of processing and exploring and expressing, and consolidating, what is learned as ‘Geographical knowledge’, or ‘Historical knowledge’ etc.
In SunWALK, then I focus on creativity as subjective expression, via an artistic medium, in order to ensure a place for subjective expression, subjective knowing and a subjective connection to reality. This is much more than novelty and invention – although I recognize the need for innovation in technical areas such as product design. My emphases derive from the view that we want the child to express the subjective, the imagistic, and to have a balanced amount of time working in this way so as to create, along with the critical and the caring, learning in depth, realization of understanding in connectedness, the raising of consciousness – for whole-person learning, not just utilitarian learning, This creative teaching is to develop the authentic via, the ‘I’ voice.
The Creative Voice as one of Wilber’s three voices – in SunWALK (SW)
The expression of the subjective self, via the arts, (using the right-brain, as well as left-brain) – is the ‘I’ voice in Wilber’s triad of voices (Wilber 1999 p. 50-52). The other two ‘voices’ he describes as ‘We’ and ‘It’ voices:
‘I’, ‘we’ and ‘it’. Or the aesthetics of ‘I’, the morals of ‘we’ and the ‘its’ of science. The Beautiful, Good and the True; first-person, second-person and third-person accounts; self, culture and nature; art, morals and science.
Wilber’s insights correspond with the three intrapersonal ‘primary colours’ of the human spirit as presented here: the Caring, the Creative and the Critical.
Subjective expression, first person ‘aesthetics’ as Wilber refers to it, is the means by which the individual is able to express, “This is how it is, or has been, for me,” or “This is how I see it, and experience it.”
This subjectivity, in SunWALK, is also taken to the ‘forum’ of philosophical inquiry and there, in dialogue, is exposed to other subjectivities, and to established ‘objective’ public perspectives, e.g. as in, “Tillich holds this view of X – how far do we agree with that?” Having dialogue with other subjectivities, or with established objective knowing, creates the antitheses that makes the process dialectical. From such encounters we may create new syntheses, new ways of construing the given issue.
*Art, literature and islands of knowledge and shorelines of mystery.
Art is seen as the cultural means through which individuals develop their subjective ‘voice’ and thereby develop one way to gain insight into reality. Two definitions that I find helpful in relation to the educational model presented here are, firstly,
Art is culturally significant meaning, skilfully encoded
in an affecting, sensuous medium.
Richard Anderson quoted in Freeland (2001 p. 77)
Secondly there is the idea that art is an emotion controlled by an idea, another way of talking about spirit and form, which the Rabbi Cardozo9 links to life itself, where he says:
Life, after all, is an art, and art is an emotion controlled by an idea.
I see teaching as an art, and the teacher as an artist – one that works with the human spirit, her/his own, and the spirit of those taught – hence SunWALK, and the 4Cs, is centred on the human spirit as the flow of spirit-as-energy. The image is more of the teacher as dancer, poet or Tai Chi master, rather than of technician, or machine-minder, or ‘banker of information-as-cash’ dispenser. S/he enables the 4Cs to dance in beautiful, meaning-full ways.
English gave me the means to be critical and creative and to pass those capabilities on to children, although the ability to nurture the critical progressed a great deal further when I discovered Philosophy for Children. It also, when including PFC, gave me depth of experience that was spiritual. This came through putting together experience through English on the one side, and philosophical inquiry on the other. From this intensification came the beginnings of an understanding of how the public-objective and personal-subjective discourses come together in metaphor. Recently, I came across this wonderful definition of metaphor in a paper by Iris Yob (1995 p.1):
symbolic structures that give cognitive and affective access to domains of experience and knowledge which otherwise would remain enigmatic.
This wonderful definition helps link how objective and subjective forms of knowing can both be celebrated – resolving that which is apparently un –resolvable. However I would alter the definition in one respect. That is to say that the domains, at least on the side of subjective making of meaning, remain enigmatic, because they are intensely personal and never exhausted. To use the example I always use with children: Her eyes were shining diamonds presents two levels of meaning. The first is objective – we don’t mistake eyes for ears or vice versa. The second is subjective – and here the reverberations of meaning making are intensely personal, and virtually infinite in their possibilities. Consider just one possible point of difference and its implications on that side of the metaphor. Imagine I have had no contact with diamonds and that they hold no interest for me, and I see them as the toys of the despicable rich. Alternatively imagine communicating with someone who has loved diamonds all her life, and has traded in them and has constructed jewellery for various clients. The two people will reverberate in the meaning they make in wholly different ways.
The other major source for examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the objective and subjective truth positions is Lakoff and Johnson’s ‘classic’ text Metaphors We Live By (1980). Objective knowing and subjective knowing, and their coming together, is for them, via metaphor. The metaphor is the language in which the definite, objective, public meaning is yoked with infinite possible subjective, private meaning possibilities. This links to the ‘shoreline-mystery-island-of-knowledge’ metaphor, and to my personal myth Island, Shoreline, Ocean (see page 35, and beginning of Chapter 3). Metaphor is not only the language of spirituality, it also demonstrates how the objective and subjective, the public and the private can come together in an interchange.
English, via literature, my own writing and the joy of teaching children also gave me pathways to and from the ineffable. Such two-way paths within the strands of all three discourse-communities came, for me, into dynamic confluence in the late nineties – which enabled me to articulate the model here.
The criticality that I learned as the practical criticism of literature was greatly expanded, and placed in a philosophical context, when I saw the 1992 BBC television programme Socrates for Six Year Olds which started me on the path of becoming a teacher in, and of, PFC.
2:5 – Conceptual Gleanings from Philosophy For Children (PFC) and its Application To The Teaching Of English
Philosophy for Children – The Matthew Lipman model
Philosophy attempts to clarify and illuminate unsettled, controversial issues which are so generic that no scientific discipline is equipped to deal with them. Examples would be such concepts as truth, justice, beauty, personhood and goodness. At the same time ….. philosophy attempts to unsettle our minds with respect to those matters that we tend to take for granted, insisting that we pay attention to aspects which we have until now found it convenient to overlook.
The aim in Philosophy is to cultivate excellence in thinking.
Lipman M: (1986 p.3) Kio and Gus Teachers’ Manual
Next I present an introduction to Philosophy for Children, which I present as the exemplary programme for the ‘criticality’ part of my model.
Philosophy for Children is a programme developed by Professor Matthew Lipman (1991a, 1993), and colleagues, at Montclair State university during the 1980s. Lipman argued that for children to be reasoning and reasonable, as ‘graduates’ of an educational system, they had to be taught via a system that was itself reasoning and reasonable. To do this he wanted to make the philosophising process a major part of educational process. He knew that philosophy was taught as an elite subject to student elites, mainly at universities, and often in an historical way that taught ‘about’ the subject rather than teaching in it, and through it. His programme, then, is experiential in philosophising, and develops from an early age the capacity to think in the way that a philosopher thinks. It is directly in line with a tradition that includes Dewey, and starts with Socrates, and engages children in the search for meaning. It sees the class as a community of inquiry – that is a safe place to test out views, a place where students can take risks in their thinking, and build on the views of others, logically and via reason and reasonableness. The concern is listening, thinking, challenging and changing view-points, if so persuaded – a process that is the very basis of democracy. It is about exploring sets of ideas in a range of intellectual landscape, thereby clarifying concepts and values, and questioning and exploring problems encountered in the contexts of real life.
1.is the reconstruction of the discipline of philosophy to make it accessible to pupils, students and teachers
2.is a series of dialogues
3.aims to lay foundations of reasoning, and reasonableness, for life
4.is about connecting thoughts and ideas with others
5.is about thinking in different ways and at different levels
6.is about looking at the middle ground – between hard facts (closed questions) and personal opinions, held with no justification
7.is about the providing of a safe place to try out new ideas
8.teaches respect: valuing the ideas of others while encouraging the search for reasons – for what they, or you, think, say or do
9.allows students to understand the resources of their own mind and therefore build self esteem
10. encourages students to discover ideas, construct ideas rather than absorb the ideas of others and give back the ideas of others
11. demonstrates the value of reasoned discussion for improving understanding and resolving conflict
12. encourages students to seek problems to try to resolve, through asking open ended questions
13. focuses on the value (and values) of dialogue
14. encourages students to think for themselves, and accept responsibility for their own views
15. teaches for cognitive proficiency: logic, high order thinking and critical thinking.10
Lipman and Sharp (1982) say that PFC is a holistic approach to teaching thinking skills, training judgement and facilitating comprehension. My experience is that children love to do philosophical inquiry (see video). My explanation is that all of the 4Cs represent activities that are ‘naturally’ human; philosophising, being one of them. Traditionally the view was that no one was fit to do philosophy below university level. The problem was seen as being the abstractness, and generally demanding nature, of philosophical language. Lipman’s brilliant solution was to use narrative (1981, 1991b) as the ‘bridge’ that gives children the means to discuss philosophically. An example is discussion about whether X or Y are inventions or discoveries (an example X would be the discovery of America and an example Y would be the invention of the video-recorder). Although this example is mainly a matter of exploring and clarifying concepts, and their application, there are many other skills being learned by the class using PFC – the following is a taxonomy of such skills (and/or dispositions):
* reading for meaning * understanding arguments
* problem seeking * detecting fallacies
* questioning * being consistent
* seeing what’s relevant * making connections
* sticking to the point * classifying
* giving reasons * formulating and using criteria
* making distinctions * seeing consequences
* seeing broader perspectives * using examples
* analyzing statements * exploring and analyzing concepts
* using analogies * seeing assumptions
* constructing explanations * drawing inferences
* advancing counter arguments * developing hypotheses
* exploring alternatives * generalizing from particulars
* (active listening) * fair-mindedness/being just
* verbal-confidence and fluency * being reasonable
* sharing *seeing different perspectives
* open mindedness * respecting others
* intellectual courage * self-correction
* finding evidence and using it to support an argument
* (being empathic)
I suspect that many schools would not do very well if they were to evaluate their pupils’ abilities against such a list.
Such qualities and skills are developed intrapersonally via the interpersonal, and dialogical. Lipman (1991b) advanced the idea that the teacher’s relationship with the class needed to change, to being much more that of a facilitator, and secondly he saw the class as ‘a community of inquiry’. This phrase refers to how the class and teacher should be, and behave, as a group. The chief characteristics, which the process should engender, include co-operative philosophical inquiry, with the teacher facilitating the process, whilst using an agenda created by the children – in an atmosphere of reflectiveness and mutual respect.
Criticality and PFC as necessary but insufficient in SW
Criticality, as shown in the taxonomy above, is necessary in being and becoming human generally, and in the teaching and learning processes in particular, including in the moral and the spiritual, at least in their reflective dimensions. Such abilities are developed particularly in philosophy, Eng. Lit. Criticism, science and maths. These abilities are seen as predominantly ‘left-brain’. PFC is the exemplary programme for SunWALK, and is seen as absolutely essential. However criticality, or critical thinking, or PFC, is far from sufficient because in the view of the SunWALK model it doesn’t get out of ‘left-brainness’. What in PFC is termed creative thinking or caring thinking are in reality different forms of critical thinking. In the view of SunWALK, there is the need to shift not to a different ‘flavoured’ form of critical thinking, but to a different mode of being and acting. Being in caring mode, or creative mode, is not the same as shifting to a different form of critical thinking – being in caring mode, is seen as being active in serving others. Creative mode, is seen as subjective expression, via an arts medium. Such modes of being and doing are seen as distinctly different, and the teachers’ job within the model is to manage the balanced and dynamic development of all three modes – via forms of dialogue, in community, in the light of higher-order values. ‘Dynamic’ includes ‘interactive’, that is how the products of philosophical inquiry can provide the means to move into creativity, or vice versa – the caring being either a) the content, b) the way the process is conducted, or c) subsequent action as service – or a combination of all of these. My sense is that we can only be in one mode at a time, though we can on occasions switch back and forth rapidly. When in a mode the other two modes are working in the background (or in the sub-conscious?). A clear example is when a painter, engrossed in her work, without consciousness of object and subject, steps back and starts to look at the work critically, the work then being seen as object.
For me PFC is a programme of genius – Lipman ought to have a place with the greatest in education. PFC is absolutely necessary, but not sufficient – the other two modes are necessary partners, not minority shareholders.
Clearly most of the above listed reasoning skills, and/or dispositions, are general requirements. The list is a taxonomy for the ‘criticality mode’. But it is not of itself holistic without extensive and deep experience in the two other modes of caring and creativity. Eventually we need taxonomies in respect of the creative mode and the caring mode as well as the ‘criticality’ mode, abilities that correspond with Wilber’s (Wilber 1999 p. 50-52 ) three ‘voices’ of ‘I’, ‘WE’ and ‘IT’. We might well start a taxonomy of caring with the qualities of empathy, compassion and the sense of solidarity – and, of course, virtues generally, and for the religious many of the names and attributes of God. Shallcross (1981 pp 10-1), in Craft (2000 pp.13-14) provides some of the most commonly identified traits11 associated with creativity as:
openness to experience, independence, self-confidence, willingness to risk, sense of humour, playfulness, enjoyment of experimentation, sensitivity, lack of feeling of being threatened, personal courage, unconventionality, flexibility, preference for complexity, goal orientation, internal control, originality, self-reliance, persistence, curiosity, vision, self-assertion, acceptance of disorder, motivation, inclination to the off-beat.
Lipman and colleagues spent roughly the first 12 years on developing PFC with a focus on the critical, then, perhaps through the influence of Ann Margaret Sharp, Lipman’s chief collaborator, came to focus on the creative, and later they gave attention to the caring. But in all three stages, in my view, the participants stay in critical mode. Consequently the learner is asked, in effect, to treat the caring or creative critically.
To make clear the differences clearer I will give a ‘domestic’ example. Imagine a parent is sitting with a young child and they have with them a pet cat, Jimmy, that has just had an operation at the vet’s surgery. If the parent says to the child, “Ahh poor Jimmy, he needs us to look after him. Do you want to stroke him very gently?” This is putting the child into caring mode. If the parent later says to the child, “I wonder why we should be extra loving to pets when they feel poorly?” This is to put the child into critical mode – even if one answer is, “Well we like to be loved if we feel poorly!” If later the child tells a story, imagining themselves to be Jimmy, and saying how nice it was to be looked after when he was poorly, then this is creative mode. The three are here seen as distinct states of being, and distinct ways of relating to self, others, and the world at large.
It is suggested that all of the 4Cs contribute to the core activities in constructing and de-constructing meaning. The ‘critical’ supports, and is supported by, the other two. They also overlap, not least because they belong to the same singleness that underlies their trifurcation – the heart-mind or consciousness. In PFC at its best one senses creativity, and creativity inevitably leads to the conceptual – the sculptor Anthony Gormley’s wonderful work, such as the Angel of the North12, or most of the work by the artist Andy Goldsworthy13, inevitably leads to criticality, including philosophical distinctions, about being human, about community, about nature, about change and social justice.
Thought at the ‘front’ (or ‘top’) of the mind is critical – it involves making distinctions, evaluating, making judgements and so on. But beneath that there are processes, what Guy Claxton (1994) might call ‘noises from the darkroom’ (perhaps ‘engine-room’ is even better). The deeper processes are largely mysterious, but from those depths come the seeds, or images for creativity, as well as much that seems to be detritus, residues and thinly, or thickly, cloaked desires.
We know from daily experience whether we are in critical mode, creative mode or caring mode – they feel distinctly different. Different tasks, and relationships, demand that we switch modes – “John you’re not listening to me, look what she’s doing!”
Because caring is different to criticality, thinking about caring, or caringly thinking about caring, are also in SunWALK seen as different – and so with creativity. In any one mode, the other two or three modes can be in support – consciously so, or unconsciously. We can switch rapidly but not I suggest be in more than one mode at one time. The meditative is, in its initial stage (see Chapters 3 and 4) the same as the creative. In my chosen use of the terms contemplation is about something from one of the 4Cs, deep meditation is a settling of the human spirit to a level below chatter, below that at which the human spirit trifurcates into the primary colours of the 3Cs.
In conducting PFC the central concern is criticality. Caring comes in as content, and also in how the teacher and pupils treat each other, such as respecting the person, whilst disagreeing with the argument. But the school needs to promote a range of other caring actions to ensure that caring has full, not short shrift – such activities as that which the Americans call ‘service learning’14
A transcript of a Year 5 PFC lesson, along with explanation and commentary can be found in Appendix M.
Integrating PFC within the task of teaching of English
PFC was designed by Lipman as a stand-alone ‘subject’ and a close study of the 6 inch thick teachers’ manuals that accompany each of the novelettes shows that Lipman covered most aspects of philosophy and most areas of the curriculum including Maths and biological sciences – although his programme does not cover every subject at every age level.
English is concerned with speaking, reading and writing in relation to a wide variety of texts, especially English Literature. PFC reinforces capabilities in reading, but also extends out into the development of a wide range of thinking, and improved command of concepts, and the use of those concepts in all of the subjects of the curriculum.
If I was applying my model fully I would conduct the whole process round 8 X 5 week units, each with a theme. What are called ‘subjects’ would be more integrated. However, this is where I have to go back to the dictum of the first Head of Department that I worked for, in Theale Grammar School: “Roger, teaching is the art of the possible!” The issue then, is that outside of a private school, the extent to which we can be holistic or use systems such as PFC and SunWALK is limited. However, in English in a doomed Catholic middle school, I had for five years, freedom, and the deathly hand of the National Curriculum, and more to the point OFSTED, never had us in its icy grip.
The Teaching of English and the moral and spiritual dimensions – using PFC
Moral education, …., (if there is such a thing), is certainly not just a matter of ordinary facts and techniques. (Hey, I used to know the difference between right and wrong was, but I seem to have forgotten. Can I borrow your notes for the weekly test?”)
Moral development concerns deep underlying habits of action and feeling, habits which arise out of a particular social context and are closely linked with tribal loyalties. Parents and close relatives unavoidably determine the shape of these. …this original can be changed …But we have to start by believing in those around us.
Benjamin Franklin (as does Matthew Lipman’s PFC) used serious thought, helped by serious discussion. This in fact is the only way in which either children or adults can hope to relieve the stress of confusion in a changing, pluralistic society … it involves treating the children’s views with a quite new kind of respect….
Mary Midgley in The Guardian newspaper 23.3.93
SunWALK takes the view that moral and spiritual education need to be integral to all ‘subjects’. Assuming that subjects are a necessity. I here briefly describe how I see that to be the case in English. Other subjects might be more difficult, but not impossible to frame within the context of being and becoming human – one head teacher I know ‘storys’ mathematics – that is teaches the subject within the story of those who made particular contributions, and also as a series of applications in the ‘real world’.
All of the organizing concept-elements in SunWALK and the 4Cs are seen as necessary to a model of moral education. English should include the caring, the creative and the critical as ways of being and acting, as well as just thinking. English provides opportunities for approaching the moral via the thoughts and actions of characters in literature. It is even a source for values, and as such can be spirit that inspires the will to act morally (though ‘it ain’t necessarily so’). In English, coupled with PFC, by going back and forth between appreciation (critical studies) and creative writing (subjective expression) we have the means to intensify the learning process because the learners need to switch modes, and, experience in one mode can be used to intensify and deepen experience in another model. However the curriculum for this should be organized around frameworks that flow from SunWALK and the 4CS, or ideas central to it, rather than from, for example, historical perspectives.
To create an entirely new curriculum I would start with the question, “What does it mean to be human, fully and wholly human? My answer, of course, is that it is to be Caring, Creative and Critical – in community etc.
In teaching the teacher needs to shift focus between the 4Cs, and get the children to engage with each in turn in sequences that are determined by the flow of energy-spirit that s/he sees in the children – and ‘by what leads to what’. For example a head teacher had been introducing PFC to her school and like me was interested in the ‘dance’ that the creative and the critical might make. She showed me some poems her children had produced, one of which is below. The original poem, called The Magic Box, by Kit Wright, is to be found in Robert Fisher’s book, Poems for Thinking (1997 p.104):
The Magic Box
I will put into my box
A giggle of a baby
A dog’s bark
A giant’s foot print
A pair of flies wings.
I will put in my box
3 mystical but magical wishes
I shall put a crash of thunder in my box
I shall put the fire of the sun in my box
I shall put a witch eating cat food and
a cat flying a broom stick.
I will put in my box
A flippin of fish
The power of the mind
The heart pounding
The sounds of ghosts
A leap from a tiger
I will put in my box.
Of course criticality was used before and after the writing of this poem, but insofar as it is a piece of true creativity the tiger leapt from engine room unbidden, the fish flipped, and the giant’s foot impressed with a life of its own. Imagination as pictures created by the creative impulse is the rising of an energy from the ‘engine room’ of the sub-conscious. I have found no greater expression of this than in Heaney’s poem Personal Helicon (see Page 47).
Like the work of professional artists all creative work by the children, or by the teacher, becomes a text that can take us deep in to new philosophising, deep in to the conceptual realm, which in turn can give new impulses to creativity. I asked the head teacher Jean Wilson (personal communication):
RP: Why do you think doing philosophical inquiry stimulates not only left-brain thought but the creative side as well? I don’t understand why.
JW: I don’t know really…. It just touches them somewhere where no one has been before.
RP: Why should what is cognitive and left-brain release the creative as well?
JW: It’s expanding their minds and in so doing its raising their creativity…tapping into something that’s in everybody…… we’re touching depths within them that don’t otherwise get tapped into.
Assuming the head teacher’s insights are true, which I do, the critical and the creative lead to each other, or to deeper experiences of the other. This is the antidote to the curse of shallowness, which is what I think induces alienation from learning. Depth is intensification of meaning made, and it is in this that I think spirituality as (processes of) the 3Cs, spiritualization as development of the human spirit, and spiritualization as the divine come together. Here it is that human realization, and divine realization, can be the same – the meaning of the subjective, and ‘ultimate meaning’ come together – providing self realization doesn’t fall into self-centredness, and providing we stay mindful of others, and of the mystery that is beyond all of our makings. How far the teacher can support children in realizing deep (positive) meaning is helped or hindered by the ethos of the school, including how it approaches the whole area of the spiritual and its development. The best general description of spiritual development in schools that I have come across is in a Times Educational Supplement (18.12.92) article by Mark Halstead.
He says that whatever is to be agreed about the nature of spiritual development it must (RPs underlining):
take account of the values of the broader society,
avoid the divisive and idiosyncratic interpretations which plague much discussion about spirituality, and, must
promote an openness which leaves no room for indoctrination or the unjustifiable promotion of specific religious beliefs.
It must not be isolated artificially from other aspects of children’s development, such as (the) moral or physical…………….
Halstead says that it (spiritual development within schools)should cater for ‘looking inwards’ thereby enabling development of a sense of personal identity and individual development. This he lists as:
developing a sense of self and of identity within a group
personality and behaviour
educating the emotions
developing qualities of character
developing the conscience and the will
Co-equivalently, Halstead says, there should be a looking outwards to learn about some spiritual responses to life. This he sees as enabling:
creativity (the practical exercising of the imagination, which often involves drawing on one’s inner spiritual resources.
contemplation (prayer, worship, meditation, silence, reverence, awe, a sense of the sacred).
commitment (the act of the will which ties one to one’s family, to one’s beliefs, [community?] to one’s profession or to abstract principles like truth and beauty, indeed any for of loyalty).
quest (human struggle and achievement, the search for meaning, the search for something beyond ourselves; for some this may involve ceremonies and rituals, for others personal religious or quasi-religious experience, or the search for meaning through metaphor, ambiguity and myth).
Halstead takes the view that children should be encouraged to consider each of these elements as significant dimensions of what it is to be human, and to explore the resonances, if any, within their own lives. He says that one would expect to find such learning going on in the informal curriculum, including the school ethos, pastoral structures and learning by example, in structured activities like sport or circle time, and everywhere in the formal curriculum, particularly in art, literature, music, health education, drama, dance, PSE, collective worship and RE. Often, however, such work in the spiritual domain is haphazard and uncoordinated.
Part of the brilliance of Halstead’s brief model lies in the fact that it is inclusive to the two main views, as mentioned in the Introduction to the thesis, concerning religious and/or spiritual education – should such education be experiential and about personal development, or should it concern learning ‘about’ faiths, and spiritual sources? It also, and here I take inspiration for my SunWALK model, centres on what it is to be human, and sees itself as a dimension of all of the child’s school experience.
Halstead’s model however is based on schools being as they are. SunWALK seeks to go much further in simplifying education to a model that could even accommodate a radically different form of schooling, or home schooling, as well as providing for schools that are integrated in their curriculum, and integrative in their teaching and learning, with the spiritual implicit, or explicit in all the work the children, and their teachers, undertake.
2.6 Criticisms Of Contemporary Education – some holistic education perspectives
The following quotations, from two of the greatest minds of recent times, the first from Albert Einstein, the second from Charles Darwin, show implicitly as well as explicitly, problems concerning education as it then was, and to too great an extent, as it still is;
The crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship material success as a preparation for his future career.
(Calaprice 2000 p.69)
If I had my life to live over again, I would have made it a rule to
read some poetry and listen to some music at least every week…
The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly
be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to
the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.
Charles Darwin (quoted in Christian [1994 ] p.611)
The variety, and number, of criticisms of contemporary Western education, and of the social realities that give rise to them, are many and varied, and all of course, as I have already argued, come back to beliefs and values, assumptions and dispositions. The number and variety are far beyond the scope of this work to cover in any comprehensive way. Examples are: John Taylor Gatto (1991 and 2000) argues that the crippling ‘dumbing down’ of education is due to the domination of industrial interests via centralized government; Peter Abbs (1994) thinks similarly but argues that education has fallen into a ‘black whole of unmeaning’ and has lost the benefits that flow from the Socratic-modelled view of the relationship between teacher and taught; Thomas Berry (1988) argues that the universe ‘can be seen as a single, if multiform, energy event’, and that Western religion has obsessively stayed focused on redemption rather than on the unfolding energy-process of Creation, with earlier mythic cultural forms having no current equivalents – that is we, including education, have a particularly arid state of affairs because we have no appropriate binding myths; Postman (1995) similarly argues for ‘new’ meta-stories with which to make of the parts of education one whole; Shlain (1998) argues that the invention of writing, and its disproportionate stimulation of masculine ‘left-brainness’ made us unbalanced; Eisler (2000) argues that a ‘dominator’ model of being human still prevails, in society as a whole and in schools, with such dreadful symptoms as the Columbine High school massacre; Adcock (2000) sees the current system as not using its enormous expenditure well and suggests a hybrid system including computer delivered education and some home tuition as an alternative; Saul (1997) says that we are locked in the grip of an ideology – corporatism, an ideology that denies and undermines the legitimacy of the individual as the citizen in a democracy. Saul also says that this particular imbalance leads to a worship of self-interest and a denial of the public good – corporatism creates in the individual passivity and conformism in the areas that matter and non-conformism in the areas that don’t; Barzun (1991) complains of a deification of the new, indiscriminate valuing of a way of doing something just because it is an innovation, or equally just because it is a tradition (Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living, as the theologian Jaroslav Pelikan  says).
These criticisms are just a tiny sample, and are not necessarily consistent – but one thing is clear the dissatisfaction with education as it is, is deep and wide.
Old Myths, new wine – the problem of untested assumptions in the existing paradigm
One way to look at the situation where an existing paradigm is showing signs of not coping with current and developing reality, or a new set of needs (or is clashing with a set of values being advanced), is to dig for the, largely, hidden assumptions that underpin the current system. This is precisely what Watson and Ashton, do in their book, Education, Assumptions and Values (1995). In fact they use the metaphor of archaeology – they dig for layers of hidden assumptions that underlie society, and education, in the UK. Others refer to the ‘problems’ as myths, for example O’Hagan and others (1999) and Hinchcliff (1996).
Gatto (1992, 2000) considers that ‘government monopoly schools’ cannot function without the set of myths, to which they unthinkingly subscribe. The effect is a dumbing down which he sees as being for the benefit of big business. Gatto is a teacher. Each year from 1989 to 1991 he was named New York City Teacher-Of-The-Year. In 1991 the New York Senate named him State Teacher Of The Year.
He confesses to being, when teaching in the system, a 7-lesson schoolteacher (1992 p.1-12). These are those wholly destructive ‘lessons’ that Gatto considers teaching in the system, implicitly or explicitly, conveys:
The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach disconnections. I teach too much….
The second lesson I teach is class position. I teach that students must stay in the class where they belong.
The third lesson I teach kids is indifference. I teach children not to care about anything too much, even though they want to make it appear that they do.
The fourth lesson I teach is emotional dependency. By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors and disgraces I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestined chain of command.
The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency. Good people wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. It is the most important lesson, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives.
The sixth lesson I teach is provisional self-esteem. If you’ve ever tried to wrestle a kid into line whose parents have convinced him to believe they’ll love him in spite of anything, you know how impossible it is to make self-confident spirits conform.
The seventh lesson I teach is that one can’t hide. I teach children they are always watched, that each is under constant surveillance by myself and my colleagues. There are no private spaces for children, there is no private time. Class change lasts three hundred seconds to keep promiscuous fraternization at low levels. Students are encouraged to tattle on each other or even to tattle on their own parents.
Gatto is clearly very angry, and has no doubt to whom to point the finger of blame – governments who are complicit with large companies in what benefits those companies against a range of other interests. Much of what he presents in contrast to the current system is consonant with SunWALK, the organizing elements of which, it is suggested, might indicate some of the features of the needed new paradigm.
Perhaps the situation in the UK is not quite so bad, perhaps Gatto is overstating the case in an attempt to get some action from the authorities, as well as admiration from teachers. In the UK in spite of everything millions get well educated, both in terms of technical education, that is to earn a living, and somehow, miraculously so it seems, in terms of being a decent person.
We can see views of failure, as concerning technical competence, or as concerning being a person in roles such as spouse, parent, friend, citizen etc. This thesis is concerned with placing the former, technical education, in the context of the latter, and with being a person in the fullest and best ways possible. The thesis is suggesting that spiritualization, as the raising of consciousness via the dialogic, is the chief answer to the most challenging question for those who would make education holistic, “What it is that makes of the parts a whole.”
This section presented just a few of the critical viewpoints of contemporary education. To cover all criticisms is impossible, and to cover all criticisms of the chosen critics is also impossible. However identifying and countering criticisms is seen as one way of identifying aims for a new model of education.
SunWALK, I hope, is a fundamentally different model of education. It includes a view that being and becoming human is the true axis for developing education. As such it takes the view that the technical should be developed within the implications of being human – the need to be, and to receive, caring, creativity and criticality – in community, and in the light of higher-order values. The best answer I ever heard to the question, “What is the origin of human rights?” was, “Human needs.” (from another participant in a philosophical inquiry session). Our problems and our answers lie in our humanness.
The thesis takes the view that we are essentially spiritual, not just material, and it takes the view that unity, derived from dialogue and respect for diversity, is the only way to have a future worth living. It takes the view that education must not be fragmentary but, instead, must maximise children’s opportunities and abilities to decode and create positive connections, and meanings, via all dimensions of SunWALK and the 4Cs.
2:7 Sorting the wheat from the chaff – three levels of concept-elements as a conceptual framework for a spiritualizing model of pedagogy
Firstly I briefly present a little more about the naming of SunWALK and the two components of the name.
More on the ‘naming of the beast’.
As mentioned above, during the course of the last ten years it has become necessary to call the emergent model something. Some years ago a name came to me as a result of thinking about of education as a life-journey – to whit ‘SunWALK’, and over recent years its significance and purpose has been refined. The name embodies two of the model’s central ideas and metaphors – namely education as a journey, and teaching as supportive accompaniment for part of the way along that journey.
The ‘WALK’ in SunWALK
‘WALK’ in the name stands for ‘wise’ and ‘willing’ action through loving and knowing’. Originally it was just willing, but reading around the subject of wisdom in both Sternberg et al (1990) and in Heschel (1965) and Hart (2001) and most recently Abbs (2003), I realized that wisdom ought still to be afforded one of the highest positions in the educational firmament. Wisdom I see as the topmost link in the chain that connects the states of awe, and wonder and amazement (which relate to the transcendental) with the human activities of thinking (the conceptual) and acting in the world.
Will is still there, but after Rollo May (1969), it might be best seen as a function of what we have come to love and to know. If we teach someone to love good things, and to know good things, sufficiently, they will inevitably have the will to go on. However there is one very important, distinct, meaning and importance of will, and that is that we have to ‘plug in and switch on’. This is used in the religious sense of willing to be in relationship with God, as in Baha’u’llah’s ‘hidden word’:
Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no
wise reach thee. (Baha’u’llah: [1932/1975] Arabic Hidden Words, p.5)
From an educational point of view children have also to plug in and switch on, and the extent to which they are willing, and able, to do this is dependent on a range of factors, including the person of the teacher, and such qualities as calmness, orderliness, kindness, purposefulness etc. ‘Wise and willing’ are not intended to correspond to creativity, in the way that love does to caring, or knowledge does to criticality. The 4Cs are a) modes of being, b) modes of engagement with reality as other people, self, and things and c) they have corresponding ways of knowing, and consequently of pedagogical processes. SunWALK is seen, ideally, as a) the ‘what’ – the goal that is expressed in ‘wise and willing action via loving and knowing’, in the world, and, b) the inner spirit attunement that enables such ‘attuned’ action in the world. It is the opposite of what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, and indeed of other ‘leakages’ of the life-force through neurotic dispositions. What we love and know is seen as what determines will, supported by the letting go of energy-sapping neurotic negatives. The best way of letting go of such negatives that I’ve seen is to arrange a massive increase in meaning and purpose – as in the case of a woman who was crippled through agoraphobia but who was transformed by the intense need to fight the closure of coal mines. Not only did she move freely, she addressed meetings.
Wisdom as defined above is seen as a chief goal of education, but it is seen, along with focussed will and love and knowledge as an integral part of the flow of spirit, not as an item on a check-list. Of course all of the vicissitudes of life can mitigate against such an ideal.
Will, Love and Knowledge, I very recently discovered, are also three of the four valleys in the Sufi-like treatise by Baha’u’llah called the Four Valleys (1991). The Baha’i scholar Julio Savi, in his essay on the Four Valleys (15p.3) says:
The first Valley, which is the station of the “self,” may be viewed as the spiritual path wherein knowledge of God is being searched through a correct use of will.
The second Valley, which is the station of the “primal reason,” may be viewed as the spiritual path wherein knowledge of God is being searched through a correct use of the capacity of knowing.
The third Valley, which is the station of the “beauty of love,” may be viewed as the spiritual path wherein knowledge of God is being searched through love. Thus these three different kinds of spiritual wayfarers may be seen as three different aspects of any human being in his/her process of learning how to use inner capacities of willing, knowing and loving respectively, while pursuing the purpose of life: the knowledge of God. And these three Valleys may be viewed as descriptions of what is required for these inner capacities to be developed and of what happens while they grow within the hearts of the seekers.
The Four Valleys, like the better known Seven Valleys, are both treatises about the stages of spiritual progress of the soul. In relation to SunWALK the issues include the view that balance is needed in development Savi’s reading of the three valleys, ‘self’, ‘primal reason’ and ‘beauty of love’ also correspond to I, WE and IT voices, or in this case to I, IT and WE – (and I am astonished!)
About the fourth valley Savi says:
The fourth Valley, describing as it seems to do, the lofty and unattainable condition of the Manifestations of God, could also suggest a hint of the glory of the goal of perfection towards which human beings should strive, albeit assured that such a perfection will never be theirs.
Perhaps this fourth valley could relate to the Sun in SunWALK, since the virtues, or names and attributes of God, glimpsed through the stories around the great and the good who manifest those qualities, are for us to aspire to, recognizing that we will never achieve (Absolute) perfection.
The ‘Sun’ in SW
The ‘Sun’ in the name SunWALK is a metaphorical way of referring to:
a) the source/s in a person’s life of spiritual nourishment and moral guidance, that, more or less, illumine (a matter of their own choice) the path of that person’s life, thought and action, as a whole, and,
b) the internalization of such sources, including as sensibility and resonance to, and espousal of, higher-order values (or, for the religious e.g. the internalization of the names and attributes of God). Evil is seen as the consequence of poor nourishment spiritually, and the failure to internalize such spiritual food. This can be both personal failing, and the failing of others in their responsibilities to care for that individual. We never know what pain a person has suffered, which is why we should always condemn the crime and not the perpetrator, even if s/he is rightly removed from society, or otherwise punished.
For a person of religion the source/s might be a Messenger or Messengers of God. For someone else it might simply be a family member or friend that the individual holds in high regard, or several such people.
At a very late stage, after gigantic struggles with structure, I had the insight to structure the thesis using SunWALK to stand for the goal and the ‘what’ of the model, with the 4Cs standing for the processes, that is the ‘how’ of the model.
The concept-elements as a framework
At the beginning of this chapter explanation was given of how accumulated concepts were sifted into important, very important and most important. The most important are the concept-elements in the ‘one-sentence’ version on pages 1 and 2 of the Introduction.
Inevitably, in all theorising and reflective practice we have to deal with concepts, clarify them, sharpen them, bring them into creative juxtapositions and contexts. These three levels of concepts were drawn out of experience, reading and reflection and then became the means by which my model was ‘constructed’. Since they were the elements out of which I constructed the model, or at least the conceptual framework, I chose the term concept-elements.
But concepts are not all that there is, nor all that we experience. Justice as a concept has always been very important to me, even before I found out that Baha’u’llah (1932 pp. 1-2), says that it is ‘the best beloved of all things’ (see Introduction). As a concept-element, however, it is seen to act dynamically with other concept-elements – for example justice provides a way to view truth, beauty and goodness. But models, based on being and becoming, and on spiritualization, have to be about more than just concepts. Heschel (1971, 1965) is right, concepts are just snacks in relation to the spiritual – he points particularly to ‘amazement’ and ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’. Concepts, to return to our metaphor of island-shoreline and ocean (see pp. 33-34), are our little bits of ‘garden designing’ on our tiny islands of knowledge, when we ‘return’ from experiencing the whole, as we stare out from the shoreline. All this is the subject matter of the first part of Chapter 3. Ironically, of course, in trying to communicate about that which is beyond the conceptual all we seem to have for communication is – concepts! But of course that is not so – what we also have is being and doing, and they, as I discuss in Chapter 3, go further and deeper than our concepts, just as we go further and deeper than our concepts. We are more than our thinking, indispensable though our thinking is.
From the process of collecting and sifting of concepts, nothing seemed more important than loving. Knowing had to be there, wisdom I realized later had to be a chief goal. I gradually came to a sense of what the model should be, and do, and the benefits it might bring. Of course during most of this time I was with classes daily as a full-time teacher. Now I occasionally work as a teacher educator in schools, and teach children as well as youth and adults from time to time.
The concept-elements provide in the background a skeleton overview, and a series of fixed points to which to return, or with which to make comparisons. In Chapter 3 I try to present a view of the spiritual, the Sun in the SunWALK model, that can be said to breath life into the merely ‘left-brain’ conceptual framework. But before going on to this ‘right-brain’, transcendental side of the model I want, via a set of criteria, to summarize some of the model’s most important features.
Of course, the model as it is used by the teacher, can be taught initially in a much simpler way – as simply managing balance between the concerns of each of the 4Cs. However this is achieved through the teacher’s skills, and depends on her/his consciousness as, minute by minute, decision by decision, s/he conducts (makes interventions in) the flow of lessons and courses.
The consciousness of the teacher as s/he manages balance in what it means to be human
The consciousness of the teacher is the well-spring of the teaching process that is conducted on behalf of the children. This out-flowing is the human spirit devoted to the cause of learning. The consciousness of the teacher is both the background to the teaching, and is the source of the decisions as s/he manages the process. Everything I suggest needs to be undertaken against the individual’s version of this kind of generalized inner dialogue:
I am nurturing the development in these pupils of Caring, Creativity, Criticality abilities, and I am seeking to get them to do this with the deepest possible sense of being in, and achieving in, ‘ Community’, as well as achieving individually, and I am doing this in the light of higher-order values (that, on the whole, I, the school, the parents and wider community share). The rest is information (historical, geographic, literary, physical etc), the fuel for the fire – what does the confluence of the various forms of dialogue indicate that I should do next?
This piece of imagined, generalized, teacher inner dialogue, provides the basis for evaluation and planning, and is supported by such questions as:
“Did that lesson focus entirely on one C or did it do work for the
other 2 or 3 as well?”
“Which other C can lead on from the work that we have just done?”
“Am I, during this half-term, maintaining a balance between the
“How can I find a way to deepen engagement with X or Y…?”
“How can I present that ‘text’ in a more exciting way?”
“What do individual pupils need that is different to the average?”
“Are there pupils who are dodging challenges in one or more C’s?”
Even If SunWALK doesn’t fulfill all of the challenges of the Design Criteria at least we have a set of challenges for others to conduct more practice and theory, and strengthen further the work on this approach to holistic education.
For me the model is non-negotiable only about a small range of points. These include the importance of the organizing elements, in the one sentence version (see first two pages of the Introduction), along with the following:
1) the core values of the 4Cs and SunWALK – justice, truth, beauty and goodness etc – (from this flows the need for respect and the non-acceptability of bullying, and racial and other forms of prejudice)
2) that the proper focus for education is being and becoming fully and positively human – the technical needs to be taught within this as the conditioning influence (the more the technical is taught outside of human considerations the worse will the problems of humankind become)
3) that we are part of a whole that is Mystery, we can only understand parts, (as in the traditional Indian story of six blind men who experience an elephant through touch – each consequently believing something different about the elephant).
4) teaching is an art, supported by a range of sciences (because being human is much more than our rational selves)
5) science, and its conceptuality, is vital, providing we understand that this produces just islands of knowledge in an infinite and mysterious sea, (and that human island-building is not going to cause the sea to dry up!) Science is not the co-equal partner, but simply, at least in the forms of empiricism and reasoning, the servant of the, ultimately, transcendental art of teaching.
Mystery in the model is used in two senses:
a) mystery at the centre of being human, including the immanent Divine, and unrealized potential that, via the dialectical, is made manifest or explicit. The dialectical is seen as the problem posing in PFC and the flow of thesis, antithesis and synthesis as the dialogue develops
b) the omni-presence of God, behind the infinitely unfolding process of His Creation – mystery as the transcendent.
The two kinds of mystery are implicit in the Baha’i teaching: Man is
My mystery, and I am his mystery. (Baha’u’llah:  Gleanings p.177)
Although the ‘sea of Mystery’ is presented as a conditioner to the whole process of learning and teaching, it is a mistake to think that holistic education should simply be completely unfettered free-flowing spirit with no framework. Resistance to this point is at the heart of my response to the most serious criticism of the model so far, levelled at it by Ron Miller. Ron in effect suggested that my SunWALK and the 4Cs amounted to a ‘rigidification’ that prevented the free flow of the spirit of holistic education. My answer is that spirit needs form. I seek to deal more fully with this criticism in Chapter 5.
2:8 Conclusion – only the blindingly obvious is difficult to see
If the last eleven years have taught me one thing, it is that only the blindingly obvious is really difficult to see. The model presented in this work was slowly, intuitively, formulated through much reflection and praxis, and reading, and only comparatively recently, I came to realise that the 4 epiphanies of my life were the main ‘rivers’ of the model that had been evolving in me, and in this piece of work. To slowly work out the importance of Caring, Creativity and Criticality and then find out that the same 3C triad (see Triadic forms of the Self in the Appendix B) was upheld by the ancient Greeks as Truth, Beauty and Goodness, or more correctly speaking Goodness, Beauty and Truth, was pleasing – Jeffrey Kane in a personal conversation (2000) said that he believed that the Greeks had seen the three as interior ‘modes’ as well as exterior behaviour and artefacts, but that the interiority had been lost and that what my model was doing was restoring that interiority. Be that as it may, current teaching would seem to need to teach more with, and about, interiority – preferably as part of developing the 4 Cs. It was also simply astonishing to find from Wilber (1998 pp. 50-52) that the model also corresponds, as discussed above, to a range of triads that structure our discourses (see Appendix B).
From the autobiography, the criticism of contemporary education and the four epiphanies come the following paramount elements; caring, creativity, criticality, loving subjectivity combined with delight in the objective, knowing as meditation and dialogue, all for what is seen as the quintessential human activity – the making of (positive) meaning – meaning made in a balanced way between the concerns of the individual and the concerns of the groups to which s/he belongs. Individual and group meaning is ‘traded’ in the process of dialogue.
An even more astonishing discovery took place very recently. No less a figure than Howard Gardner has been giving interviews under the heading of Truth, Beauty and Goodness in order to promote his book The Disciplined Mind: Beyond Facts and Standardized Tests, the K12 Education that Every Child Deserves (1999). This is astounding considering the vast sums of money that have gone into his Harvard university 8 intelligences programmes (see Gardner 1993) – Gardner actually thinks that some of the applications of his ideas, up to this point, may have done harm. Now he is turning to truth, beauty and goodness!16
In Chapter 2 I have shown how I drew on the four communities of discourse, out of which the epiphanic experiences came, to discover concept-elements out of which to construct the conceptual framework. But to be human is more than that which we capture in our concepts. The transcendent, that which lies beyond the limits of the conceptual must be part of a spiritualizing model of pedagogy – this because it is part of our nature and, some would say, part of Creation.
Chapter 3 therefore concerns my chosen two dimensions of a generalized model of the mystical – the sensing of the ‘the whole’, and of how we need to restore heart-knowing. This concern with transcendent being is the other wing of the bird of human being, and is as vital and integral to SunWALK as the wing of concepts, and its framework.