Not just black.not just white. And not just some indiscriminate mish mash of colours that take away from the original vibrant hues.

Actually, I am not talking about colours at all. But what I perceive as the unfortunate tendency to view any situation, any event from just one angle. Whether it’s the relationship between countries, or individuals, whether it’s history as “we know” it… Or a book, or the way a festival is celebrated, a life lived. We are quick to draw conclusions and rigid ones at that.

One of the reasons I have appreciated training in the social sciences is the emphasis on tentativeness. It gave me the ability to view different situations, different people and say (atleast to myself) – “With the information I have available at this point in time, and in the way I am able to understand that information as I connect it with other bits of information I already have, this is the conclusion I arrive at “. It has worked well for me. It enabled me to take into consideration not just bits of information but their contexts. It facilitated acknowledging varied sides to an argument. It enabled me to search for additional information, for yet other views, differing from those I had already come across. (Perhaps it didn’t always work in terms of other people who came away from me thinking I had no opinion… But believe me, I do. Strong ones at that!) But none so rigid that I was unable to consider any fresh perspectives that might be put forward.

It bothers me to see extreme views presented, voiced, irrespective of whether the platforms are public or private, political, social or personal. The inability to recognise or acknowledge that nothing is “all good or all bad”, nothing is plain right or wrong … Nothing is just black or white. Whether it’s the vitriolic currently being spewed out on social media by both sides of the argument about colonial rule , the changing names of cities, roads, even symbols or the waxing lyrical about the virtues of individuals and eras or putting up statues to national leaders… 

 I see that happening at personal and familial levels too… Either someone is a ‘hero’ who can do no wrong or a ‘villain’ with nary a quality to redeem them. It bothers me that this keeps us from plurality… From being able to see the contributions of many different people and situations that have led us to where we currently find ourselves. 

Back in the days when I ‘taught’ a course on Theories of Child Development, I enjoyed presenting and exploring with my students not just the principles that underlay each theory, but the life experiences of the specific theorist that might have led to a certain way of perceiving human development. It is why the essentials of Open Education appealed to me. It is why I felt ‘inquiry’ and ‘discovery’ needed to be encouraged in any educational system. It is why I saw potential in Granny and SOLE sessions. But it implies that we take our own search at least a few steps beyond our present understanding each time we embark on a new question, issue or exploration of events with children. We need to ask ourselves what might they come up with? How can I encourage them to go beyond what they (and I) know or understand about it at this stage? How can I ensure that there will be several differing views presented so we go beyond the surface?

Our role as facilitators is crucial. How do we phrase these questions? How do we encourage examining different levels of those questions? How do we add to our information…? And then how do we connect it all together to make a new whole? How can we revisit an issue, a question and go to still further depths… ?

Perhaps it will help us be a little more open, a little less judgemental, a little more tentative about our conclusions, a little more reflective, a little more respectful of differing views.

Parents, teachers, Grannies… Facilitators all… Any takers?

PostScript: I wrote about this specifically in the context of Granny sessions just a few days ago [18th Sept2022].

But it is a topic I plan to return to again and again…focusing on different aspects and different strategies in the context of our work with children…. So bear with me  🙂