2019-01-21 Pete to Jerome

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Locating a question that will help us to develop an understanding of our 'New Curriculum'

Dear Jerome

It seems that I always begin my emails to you with an apology for the length of time it has taken me to reply - and this one is no exception. However, I have been thinking a great deal about our Living Theory enquiry, meeting weekly with Jack and Marie for our Thursday conversation. I video-record each meeting and then transcribe the soundtrack (with some editing). I have recently been looking at the transcripts of the past four conversations (20 December; 3, 10 and 17 January) and would now like to share my thoughts with you.

The starting point

At the end of your last email to me (1st December 2018) you said:

“… we have enough reading matter to critique for us to come up with a curriculum that blends both oral and literate aspects as a possible solution to world challenges.

I think we need to look at:

  • Traditional education/Ubuntu
  • Global challenges
  • Critical Cross Field outcomes
  • Certain aspects of UK education
  • Schumaker (2018) The Personality crisis. …

I believe these provide sufficient information for us to work and finalize our paper for review.“ I have copied below extracts from the transcripts of the four meetings that I think refer to the points you raise. They also show how my thoughts are developing with the help of Marie and Jack. When you have finished reading them, you will have formed your own conclusions. I have added my conclusions as a summary at the end. At that point, the question will then be: Are your conclusions and mine sufficiently close together for them to act as a springboard for the future of our enquiry?


Pete-Marie-Jack Thursday conversations: partial transcripts

P-M-J 20th December 2018

P-M-J 3rd January 2019

P-M-J 10th January 2019

P-M-J 17th January 2019


Pete’s conclusions

Key words and phrases

Ubuntu; new curriculum; poverty; Millennium Development Goals; a good life; equality of opportunity; egalitarianism; the common good.

There has been a development in my ideas and perspective over the time since your last email. So far, our ‘We’ has been emerging from the literate tradition. Rather than asking what we should be looking at, the focus should be on what question do we both share? . . .

. . .  a ‘We’ question that is practically-focused, grounded in the relational values of Ubuntu and including social justice.

The new curriculum

I now view the idea of a ‘new curriculum’ as a ‘life pathway’, rather than a content and process list for formal education. I view it as an example of how two people from two different continents who didn’t know each other a year ago can actually get a sense and a feeling for the life of the other and can say “I know you; I understand you”. It is an example for others who are on their own life path.

Our current ‘We’ question is of the kind: “What are we now doing to live more fully our interpretation of the Millennium Development Goals?” The MDGs make an attractive focus: poverty is everywhere, including the UK, due to lack of equality, lack of opportunity, lack of equity. So the ‘We’ question stated above could be looking at a particular understanding of poverty and “What are we doing about this?”

Millennum Development Goals

At first sight, the MDGs link with the UN as a force for a global social movement. We also wish to work through the lens of Ubuntu as we attempt to contribute to the world becoming a better place. However, the MDGs look for a leveling-up rather than seeking remedies by inspecting the roots of a world-wide poverty that stems from global capitalism and the market place in which we are all reckoned as producers and consumers.

I see here a conflict between the capitalist-driven understanding of human existence and the values of humanity that we are struggling to live. Global poverty exists at an ontological level that engenders the crisis of identity that is prevalent in the world today. We need something else as a goal that comes out of our shared understanding, coming out of Ubuntu and out of the values that are motivating us both.

How shall I live a good life?

My attention then turned to the thought that the curriculum we spoke about earlier – as a course of life – is simply our response to the Socrates / Plato question “How shall I live a good life?” It then broadens to a question that all in the world can ask: “How can we live a good life? The good life is the opposite to poverty, which itself embraces a lack of equality, lack of opportunity, lack of equity. However, equality of opportunity is usually couched in the capitalist market forces terms of: ‘Can I get a good job? Can I get lots of money?’ I now think that a better focus would be the ‘Common Good’ and not each of our personal ‘Good Lives’.

Hope for the future of Humanity

There is a distinction between egalitarianism and equality of opportunity. Egalitarianism values each contribution that is made towards the common good. Making a contribution to the common good increases hope for the flourishing of humanity, which is the aim of Living Educational Theory research.

We are evaluating our pasts in relation to the present, in which we have come to a better understanding of each other. We are connecting to values that we are both sharing and we are now both wanting to act with a ‘We’ question – centred on what each of us is doing in our own communities but from the same values-base that is informed by the terms of Ubuntu.

Desmond Tutu said: “For me to be the best that I can be, I need you to be the best that you can be”. This leads me to suggest the following question that you and I could ask as our ‘We’ question that looks to the future:

A ‘We’ question that looks to the future

  • Can we make a better contribution to the flourishing of humanity through our understandings of Ubuntu that we have developed between us?

However, this question also suggests others:

  1. How can we make a better contribution to the flourishing of humanity through our understandings of Ubuntu that we have developed between us?
  2. What are we doing together to make a better contribution to the flourishing of humanity through our understandings of Ubuntu that we have developed between us?
  3. In what ways are we not making a better contribution to the flourishing of humanity through our understandings of Ubuntu that we have developed between us?
  4. In what ways are we not making a better contribution to the flourishing of humanity?

I need to understand what you are understanding. Perhaps it would help ... if you translate these questions into isiZulu, reflect on the questions in isiZulu and then translate these reflections into English ... Perhaps you could also look at these questions from the perspective of your oralate upbringing and tradition, including ‘artwork’ (e.g. drawing on traditional stories, poems, pictures or music) – either within your text or as hyperlinks to appropriate webpages.

I need to know if your conclusions and mine are sufficiently close together for them to act as a springboard for the future of our enquiry. It would be good if our joint analysis was made up for both oralate and literate forms and processes.

With best wishes

- Pete


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