Cultural Capital – Problematise
In my conversations with people about action research, the common disagreement I have is the idea of action research being a process that solves problems. Of course there are perfectly legitimate reasons for wanting action research to solve problems, why wouldn’t you want to find solutions to problems, right? But the thing with problems, especially in education, is that one problem usually reveals another, and another and so on… so being in the mode of needing to solve problems constantly becomes a pressure of its own because when and where will the problems end? When I try to re-frame the notion of problem-solving, I often refer to the notion of problematising.
To problematise a situation is to give it the necessary framework of thinking, the vital ways of questioning and the overall vocabulary with which to work through the problem. Accelerating towards an answer isn’t the concern of this process because the discovery of multiple facets to a problem and the ultimate balancing out of interests takes on too important a dimension. We want more questions and not answers. And when we find answers, we turn them on their heads and see how these answers work from different angles.
Sound and robust problematisation is perhaps the most essential skill for anyone engaging with criticality. And moving away from the question-answer, problem-solution modes that are so encouraged in our environments, towards a mindset-process, nature-nurture understanding of how we work and when and why we don’t work, can bring about highly positive change that isn’t dependent on isolable answers.
All too often we talk about the failures of the education system, we discourage our bright young minds from becoming teachers because that is not how they will have successful lives and happier futures.
In the future, our roads won’t be cleaner if we hire more people to sweep them. But they will be cleaner if children are educated on an awareness of the environment and serious problems that waste (mis)management causes. Educating is more difficult than hiring a road sweeper.
In the future, we will not all be rich because we all have better education. There will be lots of people in some parts of the world with smartphones and lots of children still in Tantalum mines who help them have smartphones. But we in the developed world can learn to moderate our romance with an excessive consumption of electronic devices if we understand the bigger picture of what goes into them. Educating is of course more difficult than just providing.
In the future, politicians may work out the imbalances of wealth and vote to arrive at a more peaceful world where every day civilian security didn’t feel as compromised as it does now. But the only way we can make sure our politicians are good thinkers, visionary philosophers and people who reason confidently and independently of their speechwriters, is to catch them while they’re in school. Educating from the start is a lot more difficult than hoping it’ll all work out in the end.