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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: January 23, 2006
Latest Update: January 23, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Good Faith Listening and Using Theory as a Building Block
This is the second in a series of posts about teaching and therapy. Because I have taught for more years than anyone cares to count in a public state univesity campus ensconced in the middle of a large metropolitan area, I have become acutely aware of the fact that life in a modern urban area often means there is little help available for many of the crises that occur in the course of our learning years.

I share this set of contingencies with my students. Crises in my life began occurring when I was two years old. First thing I learned was that the adults in my life, though loving (for which I thank God), were almost totally dysfunctional in terms of dealing with both criminal justice and social justice systems. My parents were completely isolated from and out of touch with their large families of procreation. They were pretty much out of touch also with local and extralocal infrastructure. i.e. They didn't know how to get or maintain jobs. They didn't know how to get or maintain a daily home environment. But these were the 1930's, and that probably wasn't unusual in those days. There was only the beginning of "safety nets," and I don't think we fell into the areas where the early safety nets were beginning to make a difference.

So I started out having to learn to cope with out-of-touch parents and an infrastructure (about which I didn't have a whole lot of information) before I was three. I coped I guess, because here I am. But these early contingencies shaped most of my perceptions about "safety nets," protection of the "have nots," and the very real contingencies when access to information and stable infrastructure are blocked. I share this because I think it's a lot easier to engage in illocutionary dialog about validity claims we espouse when we have some understanding of the contingencies that led to our perspectives.

Habermas doesn't deal with the problem of establishing governance discourse. He seems to think we grow up with it and, maybe that we learn it in our educational sphere. But Habermas had a whole different set of contingencies. As a German professor his circle of contacts is enormously different from mine, and from the infrastructure in which my students developed their discourse and validity claims. Habermas does regret the loss of governance discourse skills in the world he has known. But not until I discovered Maria Pia Lara's illocutionary discourse did I begin to see how us ordinary folks could make up for the skills we have decidedly not been exposed to our own educational sphere.

I'm not writing this with all my sources in front of me. This isn't a text. This is a shared experience with a learning guide who's had a lot more exposure to social theory than many ordinary folks, and who has tried for over 30 years of university teaching to find ways to guide us to those governance skills that I agree, with Habermas, are so important to peace in a global future. I'll site all the resources. I won't make any of them up. If I forget where something came from, we'll hunt for it together, for I believe, along with Robert K. Merton (On the Shoulders of Giants) that theory, not in the academic sense of scholarly production, but in the everyday need to understand and participate in governance discourse, helps us work through both relationships and learning needs.

We maybe can't all afford therpists to help us over the tough spots. We maybe can't afford schools where the counselors have more time with us than the few moments in which they segregate us into "tracks," determining whether we go on to "good schools" or training schools. I never ever saw a "counselor" in all my years of public schools. I didn't even see one in college. Colleges in the 50's presumed that you knew what to do with the education they provided. Jason just wrote on transform_dom that the counseling and advising he received at out university was so inadequate he was considering going to a different school. I suggested he talk to Pat, who teaches with me and was the only academic advisor I ever met who knew her way through our infrastructure. Of course, she retired with me, five years ago.

When resources, like help in sorting out how to manage the many conflictual demands of today's urban life style, are simply not available unless you're highly competitive in the world of jobs out there, theory and knowledge go a long way to helping you help yourself. Not with inspirational and "how to" books. Inspiration ain't gonna cut it, folks. We gotta know how to cope. We gotta understand what to learn and how to learn it, to help ourselves and our relationships find a path that works for us.

We can understand and be inspired by religious belief, by a burning need to get ahead in life, by curiosity and the sheer joy of doing and learning. But the constraints of the infrastructure are going to limit our ability to realize our inspirations. Contingencies and a solid knowledge base about how the world works are essential to getting through everyday living and still being able to love and smell the roses, whatever loves and roses mean in your own life.

I never went after a psychologist's license, though it was always an alternative suggested to me. I preferred teaching. But the contingencies are the reason. Practice as a counselor or therapist has been separated, perilously, I believe, from the everyday practice of living and learning. Relationship issues are seen as "touchy, feely," when I see them as knowledge we simply need to gain to be able to make reasonable decisions to ensure "the pursuit of happiness."

Come pursue happiness with me. Not as frivolous as seeking entertainment, but with all the discipline with which we pursue any knowledge, and bask in the pleasure of learning to make choices and avoid barriers to access with the confidence born of both a solid knowledge base (as in Trivial Pursuits) and process learning (as in critical thinking) and creative solutions. You'll still need your inspiration. But we can teach you the rest. I hope. If I'm right about this. And I'm basing my theory on Thomas Szasz. Pat's an authority. Ask her if you want to know more about The Myth of Mental Illness and The Manufacture of Madness.


  • Psychotherapy in Scotland
    This is the site made open to all: Same material without being addressed to counselors and therapists themselves. I originally referenced the professionals' version of the site because of my participation on a list of professional postmodern therapists.

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