Monday, 10 June 2013


Lisa likes to tease, and provoke

Received this morning, from conductor Lisa Gombinsky –
Potential, Disability, and Human Worth
You'll want to read this...
I replied –
Not a lot!
Actually, I do think a little more than that. I think that it is a wonderful blog that Lisa refers to, beautifully written and demonstrating so clearly that, however glibly so many professionals trot out the word 'potential', with no idea of what they are saying, or its effects, there are many parents who find this word deeply unsatisfactory as they struggle to make sense of their world.

In the blog posting that Lisa sent me, a mother calling herself just Jisun (sorry, I could not find her full name) poses common but fundamental questions –
So what is potential? Is it a bottle that we fill, predestined to be a certain size at birth? Is it a balloon that stretches and deflates according to our circumstances?What, specifically, are we discussing here? Potential for what? Happiness?  Wealth? Influence? Raw ability? What kind of ability?
I think of how parents are so poorly served by what I think might be described as post-modernist, relativist explanations of disability (Lisa will most certainly correct me if I misuse these words). Whatever the term that I am searching for, however, Jisun sums up this position perfectly –

Disability and a person’s potential are defined by the world’s ability to interact meaningfully with them, and not the other way around.

I do not blame Jisun for writing what she does, for she lives in a world where the position that she conveys is well-established amongst right-thinking people, and frequently expressed as 'progressive'. Ultimately, however, it is an inherently weak position that she has been offered, hardly a firm bulwark against modern eugenics.


Jisun continues –
Potential is simply a mirror, reflecting the world’s biases, but having nothing to do with an individual himself.
L. S. Vygotskii lived in a society manifesting very different suppositions. Indeed, its very founder had written of human consciousness's being a 'reflection' (отражение) of objective reality – but a material (not an ideal) reflection. 

Conductive Education was born and permitted to survive (indeed to thrive) in an outpost of that world – and even in 2013, this shows. It is therefore hardly wonder that even many of its advocates in the West fail to grasp its essence.

Children's potential is created (not defined) not by 'the world's inability to interact with them but out the material transactions between children and their worlds, particularly their social worlds. There is a vital distinction here.

Is that what you wanted me to say, Lisa?


Au, W. (2007) Vygotsky and Lenin on learning: the parallel structures of individual and social development, Science and Society, vol. 71, no 3, 273-298 (esp. pp. 273-280)

Kimchi (2013) Potential, disability, and human worth, Kimchi Latkes, 7 June

No comments:

Post a Comment