Saturday, 4 October 2014

TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION

Three ancient principles
Psychologists tend to make heavy weather of explaining fundamental human principles. Reuven Feuerstein for all his virtues was no exception. Humane outsiders may do it more succinctly for them. Johnathon Sacks, former Chief Rabbi in the United Kingdom, who knew and admired Reuven Feuerstein for years, has done just this for Reuven, describing him thus 
...one of the great child psychologists of the world, a man who transformed lives and led severely brain-damaged children to achievements no one else thought possible.

But first of course, as Radio 4 regulars will expect, a little anecdote, one that was told to Dr Sacks by Reuven's son Rafi 
Feuerstein had been working with a group of Native American Indians and they wanted to show their gratitude. So they invited him and his wife to their reservation. They were brought into the Indian chief’s wigwam where the leaders of the tribe were sitting in a circle in full headdress.
As the traditional welcome ceremony began, the professor, an orthodox Jew from Jerusalem, was overwhelmed by the incongruity. He turned to his wife and said to her in Yiddish:
'What would my mother say if she could see me now?!'
To his amazement, the Indian chief turned to him and replied in Yiddish:
'And what would she say if she knew I understood what you just said!'
 To read the rest of this little story, you will have to go to:
Attention and empathy now established, Dr Sacks proceeds to the gist of his message  
I tell his story because he was a deeply spiritual Jew. His methods were elaborate and his theories complex, but seeing him at work you knew that there were three reasons he achieved miracles.
First, the basis of his work was love. He loved the children and they loved him.
Second, he had transformative faith. Under him children developed skills no one thought they could because he believed they could. He had more faith in them than anyone else. 
Third, he refused to write anyone off. He insisted that children with disabilities should be included in society like every other child. They too were in the image of God. They too had a right to respect. They too could lead a full and meaningful life.
I learned from Professor Feuerstein that faith really does change lives. The one thing that can rescue us from despair and failure to fulfil our potential is the knowledge that someone believes in us more than we believe in ourselves.

More succinctly still...
As remarked before on Conductive World 
And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity
I Corinthians, 13, 13
One need not subscribe to Judaeo-Christian faiths to believe in human potential and to consider the material facts of what has to be done to create this as a matter of vital social and scientific concern.
Reference
Sacks, J. (2014) Op-Ed: G-d's faith in us, Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, 3 October


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