Sunday, 3 October 2010

Against conventional wisdom

That's mind set, mind you, not brain-set!

Perhaps a major underpinning factor in Conductive Education's problems of getting 'accepted', never mind actively taken up and even exploited by other than a minority in so many contemporary societies, is that it is so contrary to conventional wisdom, so against the grain of most people's thinking, so outside the current governing paradigm of what constitutes the very nature of physical disability – and therefore irredeemably opposed to the conceptual hegemony within today's professional/academic and indeed popular thinking

If you like academic explanations, here is one way of looking at this problem, sociological and social-psychological.

One way to construe the life of society is as a conversation. All that we know of social reality comes from the unending stream of social conversations. How else could this be, since we never hear or learn anything else? Except for a few strikingly original individuals, we view our world in a manner that reflects our society's conversations about it.

Cognitive models

Much of what we hear in this way we do not notice. Almost all our culturally shared 'cognitive models' – our beliefs, viewpoints and values, which may or may not be explicitly articulated – serve to structure society's conversations.

Cognitive models 'typically consist of a small number of conceptual objects and their relations to each other', and inform our understanding of all aspects of our lives, our world, our practices. In making our choices about all sorts of matters, public as well as private, we are guided by culturally shared cultural models of which we may be only dimly aware, if at all.

When a society's conversation is monolithic or near-monolithic on certain points, including on unstated, underlying cognitive models, then members of that society incorporate its features into the organisation of their minds, into their fundamental axioms used in perceiving, understanding, analysing and responding to all social phenomena.

The tenets of a society's conversation, that is the fundamental ways in which a culture conceives of and represents the order of the world and the orders and patterns of social existence, become reflected in individuals' minds as they grow and develop – because that is all that is available for them to draw upon. And for many, the mind becomes set.

Not the brain, mind you!

I do not know how fashionable today are the formulations of Rom Harré, Roy D'Andrade, Erving Goffman and and co. I like this approach, and its kinship with the eminently (but currently unfashionable) Sapir-Whorff Hypothesis. I enjoy the notion of the sociology and the social psychology of professionals and researchers, their institutions and their knowledge..

Specifically, it amuses me to think what it might reveal if turned upon disability establishments, not just upon paediatricians and other doctors (along with their various, dependent minions), not just medical and medical-style evaluators (with their staunchly defended reductionism), but other disability establishments as well.

What is not so funny is recognition of the enormous, reactionary power of the present social conversation on 'physical disability'. Change peoples' minds? Of course one might (to think otherwise would be to believe that they are 'hard-wired', which is 'their' concept, not ours!). But this will be an enormous job, probably dependent for its ultimate outcome  upon 'our' view's holding out obvious tangible, personal benefits to individuals on the other side.


The gist of this item comes from a book that I am reading. Over the last fifty years I have read and heard many attempts to understand the subject of this book, of which this explanation is proving the most compelling yet, despite some of the academic and political panning that it has received (one can be highly critical of a book and its specifics without rejecting the central thesis on which it stands). I will not say what this book is, or the monstrous, hideous evil that it is trying to understand. If I do then some people might misunderstand and say something like: 'Andrew Sutton says that the ...s are just like the ...s'. I am not saying that, exactly. I say simply that in respect to social-psychological mechanisms involved, perhaps they are.

Why not?  If valid, such explanations apply to all people, in all societies. Those paid to be 'experts', even in physical disability, are as human (and therefore fallible) as are all the rest of us.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this.

    I do not know what book you are reading, but I have been catching up with newspapers and magazines, old and new, all weekend. Many articles in these have filled my mind with wandering thoughts that if caught and ordered could probably come together in a similar way to yours in this posting. Thanks for capturing yours and ordering them so well for us to read here.