Conclusion: the model as a whole
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
– T. S. Eliot Four Quartets (1942)
‘Little Gidding’ lines 245-8
Contents – Chapter 5
5:1 Dialectical Spiritualization as the unifying 233
ground of the four ‘discourse-communities’.
5:2 A summary of SunWALK, including a diagram 239
of the model
5:3 Evaluation Issues 241
5:4 Suggestions for further work 245
5:5 Overall conclusion 245
D 5:1 – The Model as a Whole – 240
SunWALK as a spiritualizing model of pedagogy
D 5:2 – Reflexivity in self and others in SunWALK 243
This chapter consists of five brief sections1; firstly a description of Dialectical Spiritualization as a possible unifier of the four discourse communities, secondly a summary and diagram of the model, thirdly some comments on evaluation, fourthly some suggestions for further work, and fifthly an overall conclusion.
5:1 Dialectical Spiritualization (DS) as the unifying ground of the four ‘discourse-communities’.
What if anything unifies the ideas drawn from the four discourse-communities? The answer developed here lies in the notion of ‘Dialectical Spiritualization’ which provides a two, and possibly three, level model of the dialectical-dialogical – through which we grow and spiritualize.
The dialectical and spiritualization
DS is seen as the process in which both human and ‘divine’ spiritualization take place, as a consequence of internal or social dialogue, in which the pattern of thesis, antithesis and synthesis may be apparent. DS is seen as a product of home, school and community.
Human spiritualization is seen as development in the 4Cs. Divine spiritualization is seen as being inspired by one or more spiritual sources, with the consequent internalization of higher-order values/virtues. This view is seen as in contradistinction to the Marxist idea of dialectical materialism which holds that change takes place through the struggle of opposites. I suggest that dialectical spiritualization is similar, but has three vital differences. Firstly focus is on agreed forms of positive development, as opposed to just change.2 Secondly ‘struggle’ always attracts justification for violence, whereas in DS the emphasis is on consultation/philosophical inquiry, and co-operation if at all possible. Thirdly great emphasis is placed on the need for participants to be nurtured in acquiring the virtues that will prevent the breakdown of relationships – starting with justice, truth, beauty and goodness. Other differences, of course, lie mainly in the contextualizations, and the assumptions with which we start – the ‘givens’ with which we start.
My set of ‘givens’, includes the idea that there needs to be dialectic between subjective statements about reality – like the six blind men in the traditional tale who experience an elephant, and who spoke very differently about the experience – and that the solution was to pool their subjective experiences via dialogue (recognizing that even then the reality of the elephant would still be something of a mystery).
Dialectic here is the pattern in which, with good will3, we participate, in conversation, dialogue, or consultation. In the dialectic process we hear a thesis, present another thesis, up to and including the exact opposite of the first thesis. As a result of further exchanges, one or more of the participants has, ideally, a viewpoint changed to, or better still, a developed – compared to the one with which s/he started. The dialectical is seen as the structure within dialogue in which opposites confront each other, and through which, at best, new understanding is achieved.
Sometimes truths are re-contextualized so that they become sub-parts of greater truths – such is the reconciliation of opposites, as opposed to the need to try to destroy an opposing thesis. Instead of class warfare, the idea is that through the clash of differing opinions, via the openness of dialogue, developing truth can emerge. In Baha’i writings this is presented as:
The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions. (`Abdu’l-Baha: SAB, p.87)
My argument is that all human development, at least outside of ‘automatic’ maturation, is via dialectic means. Let me root this in everyday domestic life. Skilled, parents provide for their offspring a ‘rich’ early environment, especially in language. The young child that is talked and sung to is lucky, because s/he is receiving their most important birthright. But gradually the games and songs and other forms of talk need to elicit more challenging responses and choices; “Shall we do this or do this?”, “Do you prefer this or this?” and so on. Enriching the ways of elicitation of responses is vital to the inner development of the child – it is literally, causing the young soul ‘ to reveal its treasures’ – as well as on occasions its nastiness!
From parents who understand the importance of such talk, the simplest of phrases can be the basis of so much. Consider, the simple question, “I wonder what we should do when mum/dad gets home?” left hanging in the air. In ‘I wonder’ is the first step of poetry and of philosophy and of religion. It doesn’t matter whether the child responds, or not, in an adult kind of way. Providing the question was heard and, one hopes, internally considered, then that is all that matters. Later the child can make suggestions and here we have the basis of service to others, of acting in a loving way, of helping build family and later community.
Perhaps a writer to help bridge the gap between the vital importance of talk within the family and the place of talk in education is Michael Oakeshott. Here is Oakeshott’s (1962 pp. 198-9) view of education as conversation:
As civilized human beings, we are the inheritors, neither of an inquiry about ourselves and the world, nor of an accumulating body of information, but of a conversation, begun in the primeval forests and extended and made more articulate in the course of centuries. It is a conversation which goes on both in public and within each of ourselves. Of course there is argument and inquiry and information, but wherever these are profitable they are to be recognized as passages in this conversation, and perhaps they are not the most captivating of the passages…. Conversation is not an enterprize designed to yield an extrinsic profit, a contest where a winner gets a prize, nor is it an activity of exegesis; it is an unrehearsed intellectual adventure.….
….Education, properly speaking, is an initiation into the skill and partnership of this conversation which, in the end, gives place and character to every human activity and utterance.
Oakeshott of course, like Abbs (1993b), is reminding us of the tradition of a ‘conversation’ that started with Plato’s Academy, and probably earlier, and one that, as Bushrui (1994) says, we should re-connect with, in order to re-find our balance and sense of proportion.
The dialectical and the dialogic in individual and collective development as ‘dialectical spiritualization’
Dialectical spiritualization then is a term for effective, positive, spiritual change through dialogue. I will briefly relate this notion to all four discourse communities, starting with the Baha’i one.
My reading of Baha’i teachings is that they support the idea of dialectical spiritualization. At the group level this could also be called, as the Baha’is do, ‘consultation’. But I want to suggest a way of applying the idea of DS to two other levels. The first is intrapersonally and the final, more challenging idea, is at the cosmological level.
The first line of argument at the intrapersonal level concerns ‘tests’. Baha’i writings place emphasis on tests as the means to spiritual progress: ‘Tests are benefits from God, for which we should thank Him’ says Abdu’l-Baha ( Paris Talks p. 50). This makes clear the idea that the untested soul doesn’t develop. We tend to think of tests as major events – such as a once in a life-time temptation to murder. However it makes sense to see tests on a smaller scale, including those that come as challenges within dialogue, which might stimulate us to pass beyond our current thesis, and current state of being.
The second line of argument at the intrapersonal level concerns the view of one level of meditation as being ‘inner talk’, as evident in Abdu’l-Baha’s description:
It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed. (`Abdu’l-Baha: Paris Talks, p.174)
We can view this statement in relation to Baha’u’llah’s statement that man is a mine ‘rich in gems of inestimable value’ (Baha’u’llah: Gleanings, p. 260). Education is therefore what enables development, via tasks or challenges, that include the stimulus of question, that arise intrapersonally as well as interpersonally.
The interpersonal level at which dialectical spiritualization is seen to take place is via PFC/philosophical inquiry or consultation. The intrapersonal level is the inner talk at the level of meditation to which ‘Abdu’l-Baha refers (see above). Questions are put and responses elicited, and in the right spiritual framing, i.e. in the ‘presence’ of higher-order values, development occurs, or the potential for development-via-action occurs.
In education, the terms corresponding to ‘test’, in this spiritual sense, are ‘problematization’ and ‘task-setting’ or ‘challenges’. Problematization is a term developed by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1985), and includes the notions that challenges need to be set that arise out of the lives, concerns and life-goals of the learners. Task-setting of course is a more general term but is one of the most important of all skills in teaching. Learners need challenges that make them ‘reach’ up, but which are not so difficult as to be overwhelming. This reaching up, a real stretch without it being, through excess, disabling, derives from the work of Vygotsky (1962) and his notion of the ‘zone of Proximal Development’. His theory also includes the idea that the teacher can ‘scaffold’, i.e. support, levels of performance that the learner could not independently achieve. This underlies SunWALK as spiritualizing pedagogy, especially in the teacher’s roles in the various forms of dialogue that the model includes.
PFC/philosophical inquiry is dialogue per se so there is no need to discuss it further. Its process, supposing virtues are also in play, means that a frequent outcome must be development4.
The teaching of English concerns both appreciation and creative writing. In appreciation I see the participants having dialogue with the text, and each other. In creative writing the pupil/student is challenged to dialogue with the germ of an act of creativity, and the product is the result of that dialogue.
Growth comes from tests5 and the dialogic. The ‘other’ in a dialogue, in presenting a question, or a statement is presenting a test, albeit a mild one – and so is the individual who with her/his own self asks a question.
Perhaps the philosopher David Hume6 was saying the same thing as Oakeshott, Abbs and Freire when he said; Truth springs from argument amongst friends.
Dialectical Spiritualization as key process
The teacher is seen as using dialogue, in a variety of forms, as the chief process, and does so by setting tasks that appropriately challenge learning. The challenge and the thesis are one and the same in that they present the initial stimulus, the beginning of the opportunity for growth.
In caring we grow through the self-sacrifice of ‘other-centredness’. In creativity we ask for the Muse to flow and then have ‘dialogue’ with what comes, with the initial seed, or with the material with which we are engaging. In criticality we are challenged in philosophical inquiry to examine and re-examine our own statements, and those of our fellow-students. Within the individual the active form of meditation, in which one asks a question and one’s spirit answers, is seen as a level of DS. Within a group, philosophical inquiry or consultation is seen as dialectical means to spiritualization. All of these forms together are seen as Dialectical Spiritualization.
But there is one even greater possibility, at the cosmological level – as in this idea, contained in a passage from a Baha’i author;
All created things, whether tangible or intangible, come into being as a result of the intercourse between two elements which assume the functions of male and female. This pattern is followed throughout the whole of creation and the birth of a religion is no exception.
Consider a table which comes into being when a carpenter chooses a piece of wood to work on. In this operation, the piece of wood assumes a female role and is shaped to the carpenter’s design. The table–the child born of the intercourse between the mind of the carpenter and the piece of wood–combines within itself the characteristics of both its parents. Its style, its beauty and proportions, its shape and construction all represent the art and craft of its father, the carpenter; whereas its colour, quality and consistency are inherited from its mother, namely, the piece of wood.
A similar principle governs the birth of a civilization whose founder, by imparting his ideas and principles to a society, plays the part of the male. The society, the recipient of his teachings, acts on the other hand as a female agent. The child of this mystical intercourse is a new civilization which reflects the characteristics of the founder as well as those of the society within whose womb it was conceived.
Religions are born as a result of the spiritual intercourse between God, on the one hand, and the person of the Manifestation of God, on the other. In His inscrutable wisdom, God chooses one of His servants from among humanity and makes Him the recipient of His Revelation. He releases within the soul of His chosen One the spiritual forces of His Revelation, while the person of the Manifestation, emptying Himself of self and human qualities and submitting Himself entirely to the will of His Creator, becomes a worthy recipient of these spiritual energies.
Once this relationship is established, as a result of the interaction between God and His chosen Mouthpiece, the child of a new religion is conceived and the Manifestation of God, in the fullness of time, by declaring His mission gives birth to this child and presents it to humanity. Adib Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh vol 1, p. 3
One reading of this passage is to say that, the Holy Spirit as Word impregnates Creation, and humanity in particular, with new possibilities, and, consequently, a new civilization is born. This is seen as the same ‘dia-logos’ through which, in questioning our Selves, in meditation, or in questioning each other, in philosophical inquiry, new understandings, and new achievements are realized. If this is true then we have a three-level model – the individual level (internal dialogue – philosophical and ‘contemplative’), group level (philosophical dialogue) and cosmological level (dia-logos in terms of the Word and the Creation [as mythos?] )
Be that as it may, dialogue, the dialectic pattern, is seen as the means through which we grow, and nurture growth in others.
I now present a summary and diagram of what I have so far realized, what, so far, constitutes the SunWALK model.
5:2 A summary of SunWALK, including a diagram of the model
The SunWALK model of spiritualizing pedagogy sees human education as the storied development of meaning, constructed, & de-constructed, physically, mentally and spiritually, through Wise & Willing Action via Loving and Knowing – developed in Community, via the Dialectical Spiritualization of Caring, Creativity & Criticality processes, all undertaken in the light of the ‘Sun’ of chosen higher-order values and beliefs, using best available, appropriate content.
The three intrapersonal Cs correspond to the ‘I’, ‘WE’ and ‘IT’ voices and are seen as constituting three ways of knowing; subjective, moral and objective. The teacher or school’s task is seen as providing an appropriate sequence of challenges to enable growth, in abilities within the 3C, plus the fourth C, that of being in community with others. A longer summary has been placed in the Appendices (see Appendix O).
Diagram 5:1 – SunWALK as a spiritualizing model of pedagogy – showing how each of the 4Cs has corresponding ‘I’, ‘WE’ or ‘IT voice, core value & form of knowing
I turn now to some final comments on evaluation, and methodological, issues.
5:3 Evaluation issues7
This section looks at some important criteria produced by other writers, that I have striven to uphold.
Denzin (1997) says that an ethnography should be:
Plausible and credible
He also says that such work should have ‘narrative truth’ and be internally reflexive.
Smith (1999) says that we should look in qualitative research for:
Lincoln and Guba (2003 pp. 253-291) in ideal qualitative research point to the qualities of:
Fairness (in representing a range of realities)
Ontological authenticity (to help those studied to develop a more complex understanding of a topic)
Educative authenticity (to help those studies to appreciate others’ views)
Catalytic authenticity (to stimulate those studied to some form of action)
Tactical authenticity (to empower those studied to act)
Hammersley (1992) argues that research should be ‘value relevant’ but not ‘value laden’.
For space reasons I don’t intend to comment on all of these, but just a few interesting, and particularly relevant, points.
I have tried to achieve narrative truth not simply via the autobiographic sections, but also through writing my Island, Shoreline, Ocean personal myth, and the other pieces of creative writing. While an autoethnographic account cannot guarantee its own trustworthiness, credibility, plausibility or dependability, I have iteratively returned to my accounts with these criteria in mind, in a sustained attempt to adhere to them. Others of the above criteria are inherent in the design of the SunWALK model. ‘Fairness’ and ‘educative authenticity’ are built in by the inclusion of four discourse-communities to represent more multi-faceted realities. The key notion, that the model functions through central placement of higher-order values, from a wide range of faith communities or philosophies, provides a strong encouragement for each community to critically reflect on the selection and realization of chosen values in the SunWALK framework – should they be so disposed. The ability to ‘critically reflect on, and appreciate, others’ values could be greatly enhanced by seeing how the model works using the core values of another faith or discourse community. Parker Palmer, for example, in his To Know as we are Known (1993), places particular emphasis on humility, faith and reverence. The model might therefore facilitate comparative understanding.
I take reflexivity to concern both the roles of 1) the research process and 2) the researcher ‘self’ – in the research process, and in relation to that which is researched, and about how this changes during the research, (see Jary and Jary 1991). The theory of SunWALK and the 4Cs is reflexive, including in the ways that it sees the role of the teacher in her/his goals in the development of the pupils or students.
I present these ideas in diagrammatic form in Diagram 5:2:
Diagram 5:3 reflexivity in self and others in SunWALK
Reflect on self Reflect on others ( pupils/students)
1) Teacher 3) Teacher
Develop 4Cs in me Assist & enhance the development of
(as a person and teacher) 4Cs in those I teach
2) Pupil/Student 4) Pupil/Student
Develop 4Cs in me Assist & enhance the development of
(as pupil/student) 4Cs in the teacher and/or fellow learners
The concerns of the teacher include the four Cs within her/him self, their development in pupils/students, the students’ self-understanding within their self, and their concern with development in others.
The lower part of the diagram suggests a reciprocal creative-caring for the critical development and enhancement of reflection on the self, showing the possibility of developing a 4Cs oriented reflexivity jointly between teachers, and between teachers and students in a community. There is thus the vision of the 4Cs being reflexively developed, iteratively, internally, while developing the model in an externally oriented way in the learning community.
Given the core ethic in the model – that of how can I relate to this my friend/teacher/sibling etc in such a way as to help her/him ‘be and become’ most positively and fully –the four quadrants give us a vision of an ideal future in which the learners function so as to help the teacher, as well as vice versa.
I believe that there were evidences of such reciprocity in the RC school in which I taught. My own small step along the way was to discuss concerns that I had and then to invite the pupils to advise me. I also frequently wrote what I asked them to write, and invited them to critique my work, as well as their own. This procedure I hope strengthened credibility and plausibility, besides classroom reflexivity and ontological and educative authenticity.
Reflexivity, almost by definition, changes as research develops and my understanding of episodes in my own life, and the interactions I had with particular children, or classes, is not now what it was at the outset. In SunWALK and the 4Cs, the subject researched includes the researcher’s self, but he is also concerned to make the development of the authentic self of the learners integral to the model that has evolved. The term suggested for this self-study is auto-ethnography – here applied to the development of spiritualizing pedagogy. The autobiographic, the reflexivity, the goal of self-understanding and (self) transformation, can all be seen as part of that single, but multi-level, process of dialogue that I call Dialectical Spiritualization.
Lincoln and Guba’s four forms of authenticity would make an interesting comparison with Abbs’ (1993) eight characteristics of authentic learning (see Chapter 2, page 96) – as a future project.
I have tried to adhere to the principle evident in Hammersley’s (1992) argument that research should be ‘value relevant’ but not ‘value laden’ in the following ways. I have tried to use values from my own belief system as illustrative examples rather than statements of ‘the last word’. Users of the model place their own core values in the model. There remains, of course, the possible criticism that the 4Cs are value laden in themselves, but at least they have been made explicit and discussed in some depth, and their realization in the model in action would be infused by a participating community’s own values, not just mine.
Ron Miller’s criticism of SunWALK as a form for Holistic Education
In some respects the most important criticism of the model so far was the view expressed by Ron Miller. He had heard my presentation entitled ‘The Ineffable in Everyday Teaching-doorways to spiritualization as ‘that which makes of the parts a whole ’(see http://www.neat.tas.edu.au/HENT/world/rp/ineffable.htm). I had included an overview of SunWALK in the presentation. Ron’s concern was that in suggesting the SunWALK framework I was going against the very holistic spirit that I had talked about as ‘the ineffable in everyday teaching’. In a nutshell my view is that holistic education should not, indeed cannot, be viewed as formless process.
Form without spirit is dead, and spirit without form is effete, diffuse and incapable of realizing goals – like free energy versus focused light I believe that there must be form, and that the answer to form that is disliked is to argue for different form. SunWALK as a model enables the widest possible incorporation of beliefs and spiritual sources – including the humanist and the eclectic – it recognises that people believe what they will – and even what they haven’t willed!
Ultimately, to argue for spirit without form is to mistake holistic education for Mystery, the Whole, or God. This, I think, is the ‘category error’ that anyone makes when they argue against a form, such as SunWALK. To talk about the ineffable and then present SunWALK is not a contradiction, because the former is concerned with the perception of the limits of form. In the case of the ineffable the discussion is about that domain where the expressible spirit, and the inexpressible spirit, come together, and in the case of the model it shows one way of shaping spirit, involving all those elements that need to be present, for something to constitute holistic education. SunWALK learners and teachers explore and chart the shoreline of mystery in appreciation of the ocean of the ineffable, but with a framework that enables the known and knowable, and the unknown and unknowable to be brought together in creative juxtaposition.
5:4 Suggestions for Further work
Suggestions for further work could be legion – I have placed a suggested list of papers/chapters to be written by this, or other, writers in Appendix N.
5:5 Overall Conclusion
In the story of SunWALK and the 4Cs I have shown how one teacher has striven to live more fully his values in his teaching, and theory-making. Consciously my story started in a world of tulips, earth not to be eaten, the womb-like cupboard under the stairs (where the mouse traps were set – a new detail just re-covered), bombs that fell about us, and whispered conversations between my parents, as we waited sleepless on the mattress in the living-room, or in the Anderson shelter, for that night’s Nazi bombers. It, and the translation of it, into a model of education, continues to unfold. Except that now in the unfoldment, and with each new experience, or piece of research discovered, I have articulated a model, based on a notion of the human spirit, through which to make sense, and meaning, of each item. It is a personal construct, it is a subjective expression, but its seems that in its triadic structure is, at least in the West, more than just subjective. The three modes of the 3Cs, and their attendant virtues of truth, beauty and goodness seem to have been part of Western consciousness, and to have had many earlier expressions.
Any spiritualizing pedagogy, based on being and becoming human, in the world with others, requires, I have concluded all of the principles, processes and forms of knowing indicated by ‘SunWALK’, and the ‘4Cs’ – representing as they do, the human spirit’s development both intrapersonally, and interpersonally in the various communities to which we all belong – from our own families, to humankind as the global community. The framework of SunWALK and the 4Cs is one that can be used, I suggest, in virtually any piece of teaching, certainly where the teacher wants her/his work to be holistic and spiritualizing.
But however ‘highfalutin’ the expression of theory goes, I hear over my shoulder not just time’s winged chariot, but the voices of the children who taught me, in my teaching of them, and so it is to one of them that I give the last word:
“Mr P, I’ve been thinking…………”