Friday, July 27, 2012

Steps to Personal Development and Autonomy

Here is a quick look at Arthur Chickering's Seven Vectors approach to personal development in children and youth. It is a useful taking-off point for designing approaches to early life curricula for Dangerous Children.

Chickering's theory was based upon personal development during the college years, but if you want to raise a Dangerous Child, you had better not wait that long.
1. Developing competence. Three kinds of competence develop in college–intellectual competence, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal competence. Intellectual competence is skill in using one’s mind. It involves mastering content, gaining intellectual and aesthetic sophistication, and, most important, building a repertoire of skills to comprehend, analyze, and synthesize. It also entails developing new frames of reference that integrate more points of view and serve as “more adequate” structures for making sense out of our observations and experiences. Physical and manual competence can involve athletic and artistic achievement , designing and making tangible products, and gaining strength, fitness, and self-discipline. Competition and creation bring emotions to the surface since our performance and our projects are on display for others’ approval or criticism. Leisure activities can become lifelong pursuits and therefore part of identity...

Students’ overall sense of competence increases as they learn to trust their abilities, receive accurate feedback from others, and integrate their skills into a stable self-assurance.

2. Managing emotions. Whether new to college or returning after time away, few students escape anger, fear, hurt, longing, boredom, and tension. Anxiety, anger, depression, desire, guilt, and shame have the power to derail the educational process when they become excessive or overwhelming. Like unruly employees, these emotions need good management. The first task along this vector is not to eliminate them but to allow them into awareness and acknowledge them as signals, much like the oil light on the dashboard.

Development proceeds when students learn appropriate channels for releasing irritations before they explode, dealing with fears before they immobilize, and healing emotional wounds before they infect other relationships. It may be hard to accept that some amount of boredom and tension is normal, that some anxiety helps performance, and that impulse gratification must sometimes be squelched....

3. Moving through autonomy toward interdependence. A key developmental step for students is learning to function with relative self-sufficiency, to take responsibility for pursuing self-chosen goals, and to be less bound by others’ opinions. Movement requires both emotional and instrumental independence, and later recognition and acceptance of interdependence.

Emotional independence means freedom from continual and pressing needs for reassurance, affection, or approval. It begins with separation from parents and proceeds through reliance on peers, nonparental adults, and occupational or institutional reference groups. It culminates in diminishing need for such supports and increased willingness to risk loss of friends or status in order to pursue strong interests or stand on convictions....

4. Developing mature interpersonal relationships. Developing mature relationships involves (1) tolerance and appreciation of differences (2) capacity for intimacy. Tolerance can be seen in both an intercultural and an interpersonal context. At its heart is the ability to respond to people in their own right rather than as stereotypes or transference objects calling for particular conventions. Respecting differences in close friends can generalize to acquaintances from other continents and cultures. Awareness, breadth of experience, openness, curiosity, and objectivity help students refine first impressions, reduce bias and ethnocentrism, increase empathy an altruism, and enjoy diversity....

5. Establishing identity. Identity formation depends in part on the other vectors already mentioned: competence, emotional maturity, autonomy, and positive relationships. Developing identity is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, remodeling a house, or seeking one’s “human rhythms,” a term that Murphy (1958) illustrated by photic driving. A person watching an instrument that emits flashes at precise intervals eventually hits a breaking point–the point at which the rhythm induces a convulsion. If, for example, the number is sixteen, the observer may rapidly lose consciousness as this number is presented in the standard time interval. Seventeen and fifteen, however ,are safe numbers. It is not until thirty-two or some other multiple of sixteen is reached that a breakdown recurs. Like the piano wire that hums or like the glass that shatters, we all have our critical frequencies in a variety of areas. Development of identity is the process of discovering with what kinds of experience, at what levels of intensity and frequency, we resonate in satisfying, in safe, or in self-destructive fashion.

Development of identity involves: (1) comfort with body and appearance, (2) comfort with gender and sexual orientation, (3) sense of self in a social, historical, and cultural context, (4) clarification of self-concept through roles and life-style , (5) sense of self in response to feedback from valued others, (6) self-acceptance and self-esteem, an d (7) personal stability and integration. A solid sense of self emerges, and it becomes more apparent that there is an I who coordinates the facets of personality, who “owns” the house of self and is comfortable in all of its rooms....

6. Developing purpose. Many college students are all dressed up and do not know where they want to go. They have energy but no destination. While they may have clarified who they are and where they came from, they have only the vaguest notion of who they want to be. For large numbers of college students, the purpose of college is to qualify them for a good job, not to help them build skills applicable in the widest variety of life experiences; it is to ensure a comfortable life-style, not to broaden their knowledge base, find a philosophy of life, or become a lifelong learner.

Developing purpose entails an increasing ability to be intentional, to assess interests and options, to clarify goals, to make plans, and to persist despite obstacles. It requires formulating plans for action and a set of priorities that integrate three major elements: (1) vocational plans and aspirations, (2) personal interests, and (3) interpersonal and family commitments. It also involves a growing ability to unify one’s many different goals within the scope of a larger, more meaningful purpose, and to exercise intentionality on a daily basis....

7. Developing Integrity. Developing integrity is closely related to establishing identity and clarifying purposes. Our core values and beliefs provide the foundation for interpreting experience, guiding behavior, and maintaining self-respect. Developing integrity involves three sequential but overlapping stages: (1) humanizing values-shifting away from automatic application of uncompromising beliefs and using principled thinking in balancing one’s own self-interest with the interests of one’s fellow human beings, (2) personalizing values-consciously affirming core values and beliefs while respecting other points of view, and (3) developing congruence-matching personal values with socially responsible behavior. _Chickering's Seven Vectors

The ideas have to be adjusted as appropriate for different ages and stages of development, of course.

One of the most important strengths adolescents should develop -- as part of developing identity, purpose, and integrity -- is to build a healthy resistance to propaganda and ideology.

In modern life, schoolchildren are immersed in propaganda and ideology -- as is anyone who is in contact with popular or news media. If one cannot separate his own identity, goals, and purpose from the prevalent propaganda and ideology in which he happens to be immersed, he cannot develop an autonomous self.

What are some differences between ideology and philosophy?

1.Philosophy refers to a pragmatic approach of looking and analyzing life. Ideology refers to a set of beliefs and rules belonging to a particular group or set of people
2.Philosophy aims at understand the world as it exists whereas ideology is born out of a vision for the future and aims at changing the current state to that particular vision
3.Philosophy is objective whereas ideology is dogmatic and refuses to participate in any discussion that does not agree with that ideology
4.Philosophy does not have as much impact as an ideology would have on the world ‘“ for ideology aims at spreading the beliefs and imposing them on the rest of the society irrespective of its relevance
5.All ideologies have some underlying philosophy but it is not vice versa. _Difference Between

A broader look at differences between ideology and philosophy
(Note: The link above goes to a chapter in an online book on philosophy. The link to this chapter is not an unconditional endorsement of the entire online book. But several of the book's chapters are useful as general introductions to various topics in philosophy.)

PDF slideshow looking at different modern political ideologies

Dangerous children will learn to avoid propaganda and ideology, as a general rule. But they need to be exposed to the phenomena in order to recognise and become relatively impervious to them.

The above is in the way of background information, to prepare the way for a discussion of an important societal transition which is underway. This transition will serve as the springboard for a more important transition -- of which The Dangerous Child movement is but a part.

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