Monday, 14 June 2010

Culture, upbringing, teaching and learning

Institutional and family Conductive Education

Lord Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth –

The Harvard leadership guru Ronald Heifetz makes a fundamental distinction between a technical challenge and an adaptive one. A technical challenge is one that can be solved by an expert. You're ill; you go to a doctor; he prescribes a pill. Your car breaks down; you call a mechanic; he replaces the broken part. They're the easy problems.

An adaptive challenge is where we're part of the problem, and it's we who have to change: when the doctor tells us that if we're to avoid a serious condition we're going to have to change our lifestyle, or when the mechanic tells us the problem isn't the car: it's how we drive it. Most of us don't like having to change, so we're constantly tempted to look for a technical solution. Let somebody else fix it, not us.


Jews and others

András Pető was a Jew

So were L. S. Vygotskii and A, R. Luriya

So is Reuven Feuerstein.

(And for the record, Mária Hári I was 'half-Jewish', Jewish enough under the Hungarian emulations of the Nûrnberg Laws to be destined for transport to Auschwitz)

Is there something particular within Jewish culture that creates a propensity for belief in the transformative power of education and upbringing?

People ask this question about other cultures too – about all sorts of 'ethnic' groups whose children perform well in given educational systems at a particular time (whereas those more biological inclined seek their explanations in eternal, unchangeable 'race').

And of course, within-group variation makes the whole matter all the more complex – viz. the present differential school performance of boys and girls of Caribbean family background in England.

Cultures and sub-cultures

In the United Kingdom, and in other countries, there is a substantial sub-culture of families who embrace he transformative understanding of education and upbringing – when it comes to their own children. These are families of every social class and every ethnic allegiance. And they structure their lives round this belief. Conductive Education is one such approach to the education and upbringing.

Such families may find themselves confronting many in the public services who subscribe to a totally contrary understanding of the power of pedagogy, the 'anthropogenic' force of culture, education and upbringing.

And some families may on the cntrary subscribe to the view that problems of upbringing are best construed and Ronald Heifetz calls a 'technical challenge', rather than an 'adaptive' one:

An adaptive challenge is where we're part of the problem, and it's we who have to change...: Most of us don't like having to change, so we're constantly tempted to look for a technical solution. Let somebody else fix it, not us.

There are some conductors who might go along with this.

The future of Conductive Education.

If 'institutional Conductive Education' is pushing its limits, then much of that future may have to rest with 'family Conductive Education', a matter for cultures, subcultures, or even the private, individual cultures of particular families.

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