Beautiful Consequences

Last week, my friend Chris Blantern, told me about Dr Stephen Brookfield and I’ve been learning more about his work online. I am finding his views about critical theory and pragmatism fascinating!

Brookfield believes that the Western education system is one of the primary contributors of the modernist way of thinking called logical rationalism, i.e., a sbdeductive way of seeing and knowing the world. He refers to this a scientific hypothetical-deductive way of thinking, where what counts as knowledge involves the generation of hypotheses and then trying to disprove these. In this paradigm, whatever we can’t disprove through scientific means, is knowledge that we can have confidence in.

Brookfield encourages us to widen our perspective (and indeed subvert this worldview) through critical thinking and pragmatism. I love his explanation of these terms and I’m very interested to see how I can incorporate them as research methodologies in my doctorate research.

For Brookfield, a critical thinker is someone who is able to discern that our ‘taken-for-granted assumptions’ of how the world works, not only shapes but also reinforces what we believe to be normative.

For change to happen, therefore, we need to be alert to how power works in society as well as in the micro realities of family, peer groups, communities and workplaces.

He really struck a chord with his assertion that critical research has the potential to illuminate social processes that make inequality seem normal. For me, this is the starting point for the co-creation of better social worlds.

Brookfield’s view of a pragmatist is someone who sees knowledge as something that is constantly emerging, re-invented and re-interpreted. Someone who is open to new and creative ways of thinking, and to changing what we do (and believe) based on new information. He famously said,

“Pragmatism is the pursuit of beautiful consequences, such as democracy, inclusion and connections”.

Check him out for yourself. This clip is an hour long but well worth it!



2 thoughts on “Beautiful Consequences

  1. Pragmatism and beautiful consequences such as democrary? Well I am not sure. It seems rather shapeless and bland.
    For knolwledge to be meaningful we need universals, Democracy is not a universal because if is too undefined. We seem to think of it a voting. Pericles, in Pericles, defined it a power deriving from the people, the demos. Even that is too vague though he did give some more practical points. Pragmatism itself is similar to Utilitarianism in that you do not find the goods it aims at until afterwards when what was deemed to be good turns out not to be.
    Post Modernism seems to rely on Nietzsche and constructing your own values and willing them into being. This ends up with totalitarianism with governments telling people to do what is good for them. Governments all over the world are trying to legislate for virtue, that is what they think of as virtue which may change from day to day.
    Power needs to be restricted and controlled by morality and for that we need absolutes. Post Modernism has no absolutes so Government tries to make them often overturning centuries of moral agreement. The West has taken on a Darwinist Survival of the Fittest. Even if that were all we had who is to say what is ‘the fittest’? It seems to me that many forms of P.M. with evolution rely on a Platonic elitism. So we have Grammar schools and Public schools for the Middle and Upper classes respectively. The assumption is that what is, is right. As usual the lower orders come off worst. They have the Sun (rag) they have television and computer games, they are still unhappy and feel cheated but do not know what to do about it except have the occasional riot.
    At present we are well into a new phase o the world’s history where Capitalism is becoming global with the rich and powerful predators becoming fewer, richer and more powerful and predatory.
    Islam has pseudo absolutes and pseudo universals with peace and happiness defined in an Islamic context of a worldwide Caliphate. They may come near to achieving this but whatever, the global capitalist system will win and rule the world. For a short time until it collapses under the weight of its own bloated bureaucratic system and the need to keep the masses quiet with more Olympics, World Cups and World’s got Talent shows.
    The world is a Geselschaft not a Gemeinschaft. It never will be and celebrities act as a front for the Capitalist tentacles intruding into every aspect of life.
    What say you to a parliament of pensioners, chosen for one year at a time by lot from each county in turn. In this you will note a combinations of Periclean Athens and the Book of Ruth. Why not? Since the Elders are the most experienced and if we closed all the schools we might have a decent educational system. Eauality may only be obtained when every man has “his vine and his figtree,” to live with and each village a Gemeinschaft, Few if any tonws. .
    The power of government has increased, is increasing and ought to be severely diminished.

  2. Great to have your comments Roger. Hope you are well!
    I’m hesitant to speak on behalf of Brookfield but I think when he refers to democracy it’s with a small ‘d’ – i.e. being mindful (and equalising) of marginalised voices in the everyday episodes. In which case I can see how the use of the term is problematic.
    All the best!

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