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Vol 2013 no 2

Religion || Education || Public Issues


'Free Imaginative Variation' and the Idealization of Meaning:  The Loss of 'Wisdom' in Reductive Definitional Teaching 
John Roemischer, City University of New York, Retired.

The process of enculturation, initially a mimetic matter, was raised to the level of 'the art of teaching' when methodology made its first appearance. As R. G. Collingwood noted in his 1933 An Essay on Philosophical Method, it was Aristotle who first proclaimed that "Socrates was essentially the inventor of method." Socrates' philosophical method was his dialectical/dialogical teaching method; his interest in unfolding meanings through an expansive idealization of presented concepts, and his ironic declaration of personal ignorance, precluded any involvement with Sophistic teaching-as-debate. However, with Plato's preference for truth over meaning hanging over Socrates, Socrates used mathematics as a model; he settled for definability rather than expansive conceptual idealization. Instead of expanding his use of the allegorical story form, he resorted to a more mechanical teaching method, as in his Geometry lesson demonstrated in Plato's Dialogue, Meno. This more mechanical approach to teaching haunts Western Education—the preference for conceptually underdeveloped definitional learning.
It was the later teacher, the non-aristocratic Jesus of Nazareth, who attempted to invest teaching with meaning by an expansive idealization process: his Parable of the Vineyard embraced an implicit critique of the institutionalization of religion and education. Locking 'teaching' into a language of restrictive definitions limits the imagination and restricts the unfolding of Wisdom (Sophos)—the recognition that, ultimately, irrationality is non-existent. Pervasive school phobiais due to a superimposed demand for unimaginative rationality. As Mary Warnock (1994) noted: "I believe that the current insistence on the primacy of problem-solving in education may lead to a marginalizing of what ought to be at the centre, the imaginative grasp of the continuity of history."


Lying as a Sign of Individual Evil in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
Vera B. Profit, Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures, University of Notre Dame

Prior to M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil (1983), the diagnosis of evil had never entered the psychiatric lexicon. In this volume, the then practicing psychiatrist proposes the radical notion that, despite their disparate natures, science and theology could inform one another, could both illuminate the same question. To allow for this designation within the medical sphere, Dr. Peck’s case histories illustrate the salient characteristics of individual and group evil, though he stops short of naming them. Based upon his clinical findings and corroborated by copious ancillary materials, I identify the signs of both phenomena. For the purposes of this inquiry, only the eight cardinal aspects of individual evil require referencing: victimization of body and/or spirit, failure to recognize the separateness of others, depersonalization of others, unmitigated narcissism, the unsubordinated use of power, scapegoating, lying, and the total inability to tolerate legitimate criticism.
Though not every evil person necessarily exhibits all eight of these characteristics, all such individuals lie. Without exception. Dr. Peck could not have chosen a more appropriate title for his treatise. These individuals, either in word or deed or both, attempt to hide something. They willfully dissemble and repeatedly so. While analyzing Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), this essay will elucidate Dorian’s incessant efforts to deceive others about the state of his soul in the hopes of maintaining a positive self-image vis-à-vis society. When viewing his lies as a continuum, a triple-faceted and striking progression (or more accurately regression) reveals itself. 1. At critical junctures, the young nobleman makes the decision to continue along this path of deception. Dorian doesn’t fall into evil without his cooperation. No one ever does. Over and over again he elects not to mend his ways. 2. As the lies accumulate so does the gravity of their consequences, until these can no longer be reversed. 3. Simultaneously Dorian’s mental state deteriorates; he begins with suspicion and progresses to fear and then terror, then madness, until the self splits and even he realizes that he leads a double life. Yet he considers himself powerless to reverse or cease his fall from grace. Initially he wishes to exercise absolute control over his own fate, in other words, to be free at all costs. Gradually and inexorably he becomes driven. The supposed master evolves into the slave. Therein lies one of the paradoxes of evil.

‘Friendly racism’ and white guilt: midwifery students’ engagement with Aboriginal content in their program
Rosalie D Thackrah and Sandra C Thompson


Since 2011, all first year students in a health sciences faculty at a university in Western Australia complete a compulsory (half) Unit titled Indigenous Cultures and Health.  The Unit introduces students to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, diversity, cultural protocols, social structures, patterns of communication, contemporary policies and their implications for health professionals.  It also invites students to reflect on the own social and cultural backgrounds and consider factors that shape their worldviews.  The broader intent of the Unit is for students to commence the journey towards ‘Indigenous cultural competency’. This paper focuses upon findings from 12 weeks (24 hours) of classroom observations conducted in July-October 2012 with midwifery students enrolled in this Unit.  It also explores data from comprehensive pre-and post-Unit questionnaires, together with findings from student and staff interviews.  Observations, survey and interview data form part of a larger, mixed method study investigating culturally secure practice in midwifery education and ultimately service provision for Aboriginal women.  Findings draw attention to strategies employed by teaching staff and students to create a safe learning environment, emotional responses and indicators of receptivity and resistance by students to Aboriginal content, the development of sophisticated critical thinking, and the uneasy, unnamed tension that hovered in the classroom and remained unresolved throughout the semester.


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