I feel slightly mean, but only slightly, about what I said about my visit to Manchester. My philosophy on life that nothing is ever wasted means that there are things I will have gained from it, but at the same time I aware how readily we collude with things by our polite niceness. The balance between naming as poor that which is poor whilst affirming the worth of the individuals involved is a tricky one to get right, and I can't help feeling that nice Christian people are particularly bad at it - why else do we end up with people fulfillig roles for which they are clearly not skilled? I'm not entirely sure this 'niceness' is consistent with what Jesus did, and certainly not the way it has been throughout history. Is this a post modern phenomenon? I have not a clue. Is it helpful? Somehow I doubt it. Yet I collude. Mia culpa (or however that is spelled).
So, some thoughts about the weekend.
I noted that maybe Ken Leech is so adept at theolgical reflection that it is now entirely intuitive. Maybe the inconsistencies I detected are more about my understanding of what he was saying than his work? Back in the days when I did a 'real' job I went on a course to learn how to assess the likelihood of human error invarious different scenarios. The reality is, in case you ever wondered, that, in so-called hazardous industries, the disasters get caused by people not technology. People who are under pressure, people whose world view influences them for good or ill, people who are tired, people who are inadequtely trained... you get the drift. Anyway, part of what we were taught was about stages in learning to do something, and somewhere at the back of a cupboard I still have the notes. Essentially there are three stages: first, a person has to be shown/told each stage of a task and effectively follows instructions; second, the person can perform the task independently but has to think it through; third the task becomes intuitive and the person performs it without thinking about it. Since driving a car is one of the most complex tasks we learn as adults, this is the usual example given: stage 1, the driving instructor talks you through every gear change step by step.... stage 2, you can change drive but are still totally conscious of what you are doing (and likely to crash if you try to change gear and steer at the same time!).... stage 3 you drive along merrily and simultaneously hold a conversation, tune in the radio and notice the speed camera ahead... maybe Ken is so much at stage 3 that we lesser mortals are not equipped to grasp what he's doing, and he has forgotten long ago what it is like to be at stage 1 or 2. Or maybe I was just looking for clear evidence of a method/process because that is the nature of my research, and would need more information/time to uncover it?
One big theme that emerged for me was the subjectivity of what was shared. Being born into a certain place at a certain point in history had been of immense significance - but also became a set of blinkers though which the world was viewed. I was intrigued by the potential for lifecycle factors (e.g. Shakespeare's 'seven ages of man') to colour not only our expereince but our research. Some of my fellow students recongised and empathised with what was said, for those of us under 50, it was not so straight forward. Having a father who idolised a certain Mrs Thatcher, and clear recollections of the impact of 1970's 3-day week and power cuts under Labour, well my outlook is a bit different. Mrs T was certainly no saint, but the devil incarnate as some seem to suggest... no it's too simplistic. Teen years are times of 'absolutes', middle years more times of reflection and uncertainty - all reflection is subjective, and every researcher has an agenda: self awareness is of key import. Maybe later years are the time of reminisence and tale telling?
My final thoughts are on 'learning styles' and the way things get delivered in these courses. Back in my industry days it was simple - you went on a course, they gave you a programme and they delivered it. Sessions started and ended on time, you had some definite input and then some sort of exercise to check you had understood it. In the last few years thinking about education seems to have undergone a major shift and everyone uses buzz words like 'learning styles.' There has been a big shift to make things more appealing to kinesthetic and visual learners, ignoring the more traditional auditory methods; in experiential learning which uses four catgories of 'reflective,' 'theorist,' 'pragmatic' and 'activist' it often feels that the needs of reflectors and theorists are neglected in favour of the other two. Whilst the greater accessibility to knowledge is to be applauded, the potential for alienating those of us who are (apprarently) auditory reflective-theorists (albeit with pragmatic tendencies) needs to be recognised and addressed. Rightly or wrongly, at higher levels of education the proportion of adults (i.e. those over abour 25) who are involved are likely to be those who thrived in the auditory regime of the older educational models; whilst we need to be challenged and stretched, and taught how to engage with others who work differently, we also need to be indulged, just a little bit - please!
This all still sounds a bit negative, but I feel that be recording it I can put it down and move on. Hopefully I have also learned some tings that will keep me a bit more self aware in my research as I seek to identify ways theology has been 'done' by Baptists and to be a 'critical friend' of my own tradition.