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World Healing

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Tradition widely calls for schooling in ‘three Rs’ - reading, writing, reckoning. In our budding world citizenship roles we need extra Rs: reasoning, reconciliation and responsibility

Brock Chisholm, the first World Health Organization Director General, called on all concerned with global and social harmony to push for widespread primary and secondary education in simple psychology. He stressed the need for understanding of emotionally charged self-image defence mechanisms and prejudice formation. He stressed widely and deeply embedded cultural traditions perpetuating guilt and fear, as in common interpretations of the Garden of Eden story. This problem area is well understood by professionals but too often hidden in technical terms.

Conflict resolution techniques are promoted by Dr Stella Cornelius of the Conflict Resolution Network, which provides courses, kits and mediation.

Our most deeply ingrained ‘memes’ (cultural elements or community customs) include our first language, accent, speech rhythm, body language, etiquette and courteous priorities. These develop with our earliest feelings towards people, sentiments hard to change and largely unconscious, particularly those laid down in our first three years when our developing relationship and communication skills are most flexible. We distinguish people by scent, sound, shape, social stance, haunts, affiliations or manners as members of ‘us’ or ‘them’ groups. We ‘justify’ such choices often by hunches, learned intuition or plausible reasoning more than by logic.

Perhaps more importantly, we develop mainly in the pre-kindergarten learning ‘window of opportunity’ habits of balancing two opposing ways to approach others and communicate. This balance I see as a ‘babbler scaffolding’ for supporting and steering later character, cultural, ethical and esthetic development - a ‘meta-meme’ or way of dealing with later memes by rejecting, incorporating or modifying them. Most of this scaffolding withers away as the age of babbling and toddling becomes largely unconscious and becomes overshadowed by other skills - running, dancing, climbing etc. Education professionals traditionally leave to parents this crucial pre-kindergarten learning. We can distinguish these contrasting approaches to ‘babbler scaffold building’ thus:

• Flexibility. One parent, mentor or authority proposes an opinion - a ‘thesis’. This is discussed, deliberated or amended by another parent or authority figure - a different opinion or ‘antithesis’. Constructive interaction of these two ideas - demonstrating, for the child or other audience, ‘flexibility’ - encourages initiation of views within the child's, or the audience's, developing capacities - reconciling, discussing, cooperating - producing a consensus or compromise, a ‘synthesis’. This thesis + antithesis --> synthesis process is also called ‘dialectical development’ or ‘triadic convergence’. It lets us develop our maturing critical abilities, reasoning and fairness to others including minorities and those outside ‘our’ groups, avoiding destructive clashes of views.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2007

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