01 August 2005

Levels of Learning

Last night we had a family dispute. Well, as usual it was a parents vs. child dispute (or row). I'm sure it fell into one of Minuchin's categories, but my knowledge of family therapy is a bit rusty and in any case that is more "knowledge about" rather than "knowledge by acquaintance". As is the way with these things, there's a lot of tacit taken-for-granted knowledge involved and it was conducted in a restricted code.

(Who is this guy? Are these theoretical perspectives more important to him than the feelings engendered in a family row? Far from it, but this blog is about reflection as a disciplined practice—take all the rest as given.)

Our son is 24 and living again at home after graduating while he finds a permanent job, so that he can move out and on; this is an aspiration for all parties. The point, for present purposes, is that he lived away from home as an undergraduate, and learned a certain life-style which is not really compatible with our middle-aged grumpy conservative daily routine. So, as often happens, his mother threw at him a series of accusations:
  • You wake me up coming in late!
  • You leave your dirty clothes lying about!
  • You don't clean the shower!
  • You're so inconsiderate!
  • etc. There's nothing special about the content. [Note for any readers who have not yet got there—it's routine.]
To be frank, such things are not a big deal to me. There are various ways to construe that view, but they are germane to this discussion.

My professional reflection was: what kind of learning does CJ have to undertake to deal with this?
  • At one level, he could learn all the prescribed "rules" for living in the house, one by one; this is acceptable, this is unacceptable—a sort of domestic rule of St Benedict.
  • But this is not what his mother was talking about, despite her accumulation of violations. Her primary concern was that he should be "considerate".
That is a different order of learning. It is not about following rules, as much as "putting oneself in the shoes of the other" and considering the potential impact of one's actions. It is a much taller order, and (in the face of other baggage which students—and sons or daughters—carry) a much more difficult task.

This is learning 2; the ability to put individual bits of learning into a context. Eventually, most of us acquire it, but how the blazes do you teach it?


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