NUMBER 262• 6 MAY 2003 • PHILOSOPHY
INDEX OF QUOTES
Our accommodations to staff difficulties can easily have a cumulative effect on the links between our philosophy and our practice. In simple terms, we know what we should be doing; practical exigencies cause us to modify this vision; our efforts are then spent on supporting the modified version of our goals, which then become solidified into our working philosophy which is different from — and often inferior to — our original philosophy. This is reminiscent of George Santayana’s reflection that “fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim”. Because principals always have someone “up there” (management committee) or “out there” (the community) to satisfy, the direction of this philosophical shift tends to be toward the conservative. Our thinking is often: “With the constraints, I can’t achieve my higher goals; since I am seen as the responsible person, at least I can prevent any major screw-ups”.
The emphasis is in danger of becoming negative (avoiding culpable disasters) rather than positive (reaching out creatively for higher achievements). The impact on educative communities of philosophies, which become in this sense defensive or conservative, is seriously counter-productive. Rigid philosophies are notoriously closed and unamenable to new learning. By their very nature they seek to preserve the status quo and resist change, and this is a position exactly opposite to growth and learning.
The subtle effect of this is the denial of new learning, both on the part of child care workers and children, which challenges this status quo, with a resulting sense of powerlessness within the system. Child care workers are frustrated when their own new learning, for example from their reading or courses, is not permitted to impact on their own practice or that of their agency; children are frustrated when their only approved learning is of formal schoolwork.
The important point to be made here is that we need to find ways of preventing our child care philosophies from becoming subverted by the practice difficulties we encounter.
Gannon, B. (1988). The empowerment of child care workers. The Child Care Worker. Vol.6 No.6 p 3