Last week I posted a compendium of some of the things I had found over the Christmas holiday that I thought might be interesting to people interested in all things critical. Here is another post pulling together some interesting loose strings and ephemera from the last 3 or 4 weeks.
Uncertainty is a major theme for me in the pursuit of a more critically-informed physiotherapy. It seems to me that the ability to embrace uncertainty will be a vitally important capability for future practice – a point made in this post from the ever reliable and interesting Steve Wheeler.
David Warlick once said ‘for the first time we are preparing young people for a future we cannot clearly describe.’ In a fast changing world where everything technology touches grows exponentially, we really are in serious trouble if we cannot prepare children for uncertainty. And yet that is exactly what many school curricula are failing to do.
One critique often missing from the physiotherapy literature surrounds it’s strongly Western heritage. Physiotherapy is a very white, European, some might even say male and Judeo-Christian profession. Part of the support for this statement comes from its affinity with the Western idea that individual autonomy is good and collectivism is bad. This recent paper by Thaddeus Metz (How the West Was One: The Western as individualist, the African as communitarian) provides a good background to these ideas.
There is a kernel of truth in the claim that Western philosophy and practice of education is individualistic; theory in Euro-America tends to prize properties that are internal to a human being, such as her autonomy, rationality, knowledge, pleasure, desires, self-esteem and self-realisation, and education there tends to adopt techniques focused on the individual placed at some distance from others. What is striking about other philosophical–educational traditions in the East and the South is that they are typically much more communitarian. I argue that since geographical terms such as ‘Western’, ‘African’ and the like are best construed as picking out properties that are salient in a region, it is fair to conclude that the Western is individualist and that the African is communitarian. What this means is that if I am correct about a noticeable contrast between philosophies of education typical in the West and in sub-Saharan Africa, and if there are, upon reflection, attractive facets of communitarianism, then those in the West and in societies influenced by it should in some real sense become less Western, in order to take them on.
The article provoked a set of questions for me: How did physiotherapy become so ‘western’, and what has been gained and what has been lost in the pursuit of Westernism?
Over the next few months I’m going to be doing some work into the concept of luxury (see link) to think about how this idea has influenced the history of physiotherapy. Luxury is related closely to the idea of surplus which, in turn, has played a big part in the development of things like trade and commerce which have profoundly shaped global culture over the last 500 years. In some ways physiotherapy is a product of luxury. The modalities of treatment we claim as our own don’t require a physiotherapist to perform them – or else they wouldn’t have existed until we came into being as a profession at the end of the nineteenth century. Instead, they became ‘ours’ at a point when there were enough people able to afford our services (they had surplus income). I wonder how this idea will affect how the profession develops in these post-welfare days where people will be expected to use their own disposable income again to pay for our care. And what will it mean for those who have no surplus?
And on the theme of surplus and uncertainty comes this from the site Explore.
How can creativity be associated with all of these things: openness to experience, inspiration, high energy, impulsivity, rebelliousness, critical thinking, precision, and conscientiousness? … Creativity involves many different stages. Those who are capable of reaching the heights of human creative expression are those who have the capacity for all of these characteristics and behaviors within themselves and are flexibly able to switch back and forth between them depending on the stage of the creative process, and what’s most adaptive in the moment.
So much of this speaks to the shifting attitude we are all now required to adopt if we’re going to prepare our students for work in the 21st century.
And finally, if you’re a Twitter fan, the #physiotalk tweet-chats start again today with the first of the year co-hosted by Anna Lowe (@annalowephysio) and Rachael Young (@physioyoung) from my old alumni at Sheffield Hallam Uni. The chat runs on Monday 12th January 8pm (GMT) – about an hour away. So hopefully see you there.