From Cybernetics to Family Therapy to Future Education
With my passion for patterns that connect, I will draw patterns that connect family therapy to cybernetics and to education. I will remind the audience of Bateson’s conceptualization of learning where an active organism learns by poking its environment from which the organism receives feedback that redirect its next action (Bateson, 1972; McWinney, 2005). The circular process of learning resembles loop learning (Argyris & Schön, 1974). On this backdrop, I will describe clinical assumptions of problem formation and resolution from a relational approach (Flemons, 2002; Flemons & Green, 2004) to family therapy. A relational therapist assumes that when you are faced with an intra-and/or inter-relational issue, especially when it bothers or threatens you, you would push away, control, or turn away from it – forms of “othering.” Ironically, your effort to take in charge of your experience would be likely to worsen the experience since “all experience is fundamentally relational” (Flemons & Greens, 2004, p. 128). As a result, it would create short-circuit interactional loop with the issue (Flemons & Green, 2011). With that understanding and an assumption that all behaviors and thoughts can be usefully understood in context (Rambo, 2004), a relational therapist aims to allow clients to connect with the issue in the form of empathic curiosity toward and legitimization of the issue. By virtue of establishing the legitimacy of the problems in their idiosyncratic intra-and/or inter-relational contexts, clients become able to connect with them safely, thereby inviting a shift in their experience of the issue. As a result, the clients engage in long-circuit interactional loop with the issue (Flemons & Green, 2011). I will illustrate some strategies for this shift in clients’ relationship to their issue in therapy using case examples.
With some of the principles of a relational approach laid out, I will propose their potential application to future education. I will first point out issues of the current education system in which students are taught for numerical exams. In the current culture of education, the shortest path leading to a desired outcome is valued over its process, which creates short-circuit loop of learning. As a result, the wisdom of system of ideas seems to be undermined. In addition, education seems to be geared toward single value, purpose, and ideology, without a consideration of context, which continues to allow educational “othering” in the form of pathologizing, blaming, or de-humanizing of anyone or any ideas that fall outside of the emphasized ideas.
I will argue that what may be needed in future education is to reform the culture of education, from an outcome-based curriculum with a de-contextualized singular value, purpose, or ideology, to a more process-oriented approach with contextualized multiple values, purposes, or ideologies. In order to cultivate the change in the culture, I will argue that a potentially useful pattern that connects a relational approach to family therapy to the education is its process of re-orientation toward presented problem: Its process of legitimization of problem in presented situations through empathic curiosity could facilitate trial and error learning in that students learn to appreciate errors, which would activate long-circuit loop of learning with the presented problem. Consequently, the students would appreciate the ecology of ideas that embeds a desired outcome. In practice, those who are involved in education would perhaps encourage students’ efforts in resolving presented problems, as much as the results. In addition, educators may want to encourage empathic curiosity and an appreciation for multiplicity of truth at different levels of contexts (M. C. Bateson, 2005). By zigzagging with students between different contexts, and exploring how a truth is legitimized within each context through wondering and questioning, educators may be able to cultivate with students an awareness of multiple levels and an appreciation for multiple truths.
- 5) Education and conversation
- 6) Family therapy; anthropology