Wise in hindsight

My article on the failure of for-profit competition in human services included a hook to the recently published Productivity Commission report recommending more of the same. I haven’t had time to go through the report in detail, but I was struck by reports that the PC mentioned the FEE-HELP fiasco in the VET sector as an example of the way not to go about things.

It’s good to see some recognition of this but what matters here is foresight, not hindsight. So, I thought I’d check back to see what the PC was saying a couple of years ago, when the disaster was obvious, but was still being denied by those in charge of it. Here’s a quote from their submission to the Harper Competition review

The Commission’s study into the vocational education and training (VET) workforce (2011f) found that there had been a rising trend to harness market forces in the allocation of VET services, with principles such as user pays and user choice increasingly underpinning VET policy. The Commission suggested that, as the VET sector becomes increasingly competitive, a move towards greater managerial independence for public providers would give them the autonomy and flexibility they need to respond.
The Commission (2011f) also noted that opening up of the VET sector had not been a complete success, with some stakeholders raising concerns about quality assurance, monitoring and enforcement (especially in the international student sector).

Going back to the 2011 report, there is indeed a box referring to problems with international students, which drew a lot of attention at the time. But there’s nothing to suggest any awareness of the broader problems, which were already apparent*, let alone any capacity to predict them using the PC’s analytical framework.

* I wrote a report for the National Council on Vocational Education Research in 2012, making many of these points, and drawing on several years of evidence from Victoria. I was roundly derided for my pains by the private provider lobby.

50 thoughts on “Wise in hindsight

  1. # @ 25 J-D
    The answer to the question ‘Was Freud a psychologist?’ is, as jrkrideau has already explained, is ‘No, he wasn’t — at least, not in the modern sense of holding an academic or professional qualification specifically in psychology

    I would also suggest that Freud looks more like a medical man seduced by his own ungrounded theories.

    My impression is that most psychologists back then actually liked to have some data to support their theories—poor as the data sometimes was and wacky as some theories may have been.

    This view is almost certainly fuelled by my prejudice that clinical psychology is a minor component of psychology, useful as a trade–like much of medicine as practices by the majority of doctors or engineering as practiced by the majority of engineers—but does little or nothing to advance our knowledge of human behaviour.

  2. @jrkrideau
    Your #24 and #26

    I’ll need to think a little more before responding to Ikono, however a quickie response to you:

    Freud, to my recall, was most ‘famous’ for his ‘topographical models’ of the human psyche: initially conscious-preconscious-subconscious and later id-ego-superego. My simple understanding was that Freud was the first to bring the idea of the subconscious into consciousness [haha] and that nobody much pays the id-ego-superego thing much attention nowadays – other than Freudian psychoanalysts, I guess.

    So, where stands thinking about the ‘subconscious’ and would that concept be part of the beginnings of psychology, thus giving Freud at least some part to play in its genesis.

    Otherwise, Binet I know something about, Spearman’s name I have at least heard of, but know nothing of Wundt or Thorndike. Does Havelock Ellis have any part in this pantheon (died in the same year as Freud, I believe) or is he just a continuation of the Freud-Jung-Adler ‘axis’ ? As to good ol’ B.F. yes, of him I know, especially Beyond Freedom and Dignity of which I still have a mostly unread copy. But if B.F., why not Pavlov ?

  3. Therapists of any ideology are our western way of trying to make up for the friendship of others that would exist if we lived in a functional society. In a functional society nobody would have to become a misanthrope and avoid their neighbours.

    The methods that the therapist use are irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things; it is the interaction between you and the therapist that creates a space in which the possibility of examining your own self becomes possible and one develops the motivation to change.

    Before psychology and psychiatry, there was philosophy and religion and astrology which was as effective as medicine in the C17 before the medical fraternity got together and created the belief that male doctors were superior to female astrologers and then, based on that, medicine went on to become so much more effective than astrology, thanks to the information about how the body functions from war wounds.

    But imagine what could have happened if all the work and effort that has been expended on the medical model had been expended understanding human dysfunction/illness physical and mental, behaviour in the more holistic way that astrology offered. How healthy would we be if our knowledge about ourselves had been from the beginning, situated in, and committed to understanding how people work within their environment, rather than examining the human body divorced from the brain/mind and the way the person ‘is’ in their world.

    The natural dynamics of small groups self-organising is sufficient to keep people as sane as they needed to be to fit in. n various societies that were too large for the natural group dynamic of small groups to work there were wandering monks with begging bowls, nuns in convents and the wise old woman in the next village. Back when we lived without madness

    In Madness and Civilisation, Foucault explain in his own idiosyncratic way of writing, that madness is not a natural, unchanging thing, but rather depends on the society in which it exists. Various cultural, intellectual and economic structures determine how madness is known and experienced within a given society. In this way, society constructs its experience of madness.

    I thought that the movie “A Dangerous Method” was an interesting examination of Freud and his personality and problems. Jung comes across as a far more intelligent and insightful investigator of human functioning and I have always been impressed by Jung’s ability to think outside the culture of the day that captured Freud, and be able to appreciate other cultural knowledge systems.

    Karen Horney is the antidote to Freud. Horney believed neurosis to be a continuous process—with neuroses commonly occurring sporadically in one’s lifetime. This was in contrast to the opinions of her contemporaries who believed neurosis was, like more severe mental conditions, a negative malfunction of the mind in response to external stimuli, such as bereavement, divorce or negative experiences during childhood and adolescence.”

    Horney also understood the fundamental importance of the early years of childhood for the development of the adult person and that all dysfunction in adults arises from poor socialisation of the adult as a child.

  4. @J-D
    Your #25

    Thanks for that very literalist interpretation, J-D, however I did fully understand the question I was asking and I am well aware that there was no formal qualification in psychology available to Freud, even if he’d wanted to pursue one.

    Though apparently the word ‘psychology’ began to be used in its modern sense after Christan Wolff’s two works Psychologia empirica (1732) and Psychologia rationalis (1734) – which I didn’t know, even though Mons Wolff on the moon is name after Christian, until I looked it up just now.

    Learn something new every day, don’t we. Or maybe it’s just like Monkey: “Daily, the clever man learns something. Daily, the wise man gives up some certainty. Perhaps.”

  5. @26 Julie Thomas

    Much better exposition than I could ever present.

    I must say I know nothing about Foucault and never heard of Karen Horney but my undergrad department were 75% behaviourists and/or learning theorists. I don’t think we had anything like a Freudian or Rogerian around. I totally missed anything about Freud as I was not in class that day.

    @
    But if B.F., why not Pavlov ?

    I really don’t know but I think probably for two reasons. One, Pavlov was a physiologist I believe and it is likely that classical conditioning just was not his prime interest and two, operant (Skinnerian) learning is just a much more powerful and useful paradigm. Once you get the dog to salivate or a conservative politician to bark at the term “free market” there is not a lot more you can do with classical learning as far as I am aware.

  6. @jrkrideau

    It was just an idiosyncratic run down of the way I see that things fit together and make a story that makes sense. I never mean for my pronouncements to be taken as the truth; just one truth among many.

    I was incredibly lucky in the timing of my time at uni in the quality of the teaching staff, their interests and also my fellow students both the mature aged men and women and the younger people. The universe lined up to provide so many amazing experiences with people I had never known before. I came across ideas that I did know about but couldn’t integrate with what I knew and ideas that I hadn’t heard of.

    Mostly I learned how to do research and analyse things rationally and find out from libraries and later during my PhD, from the internet, what I want to know. It has always been part of my problem or the problem that other people have with me, that I want to know things that most other people do not care about.

    It cracks me up now when people talk about how society is too political correct when the political correctness that applied to someone like me asking questions in the past was so rigid and unquestioned.

    In my degree during the ’90’s there was freedom and support to explore all aspects of psychology and I suppose I was very motivated to go further than other students were, but some staff members were always willing to provide the support for me to go off in all directions. I didn’t notice the importance of that support at the time but I see it now.

    I was able to pull together so many loose threads of ideas and assumptions, expectations etc that underpinned my previous dysfunctional behaviour.

    I think that Rogers and his “unconditional positive regard” is a koan that all western practitioners need to consider.

  7. @jrkrideau
    Your #30

    But, but … Pavlov did have the idea of ‘reinforcement’ (though in a slightly under-developed way) and he did (albeit in Russian) coin the term ‘extinction’ which shows he was actually investigating the phenomena of conditioning in an empirical sense.

    Now human beings had been ‘training’ animals for tens of thousands of years before Pavlov without apparently discovering, or at least articulating, what Pavlov was finding.

    A journey of 1000 li (and the li is now standardised as 500m btw) must begin with a single step, and surely Pavlov was one who took some of these initial steps ?

  8. @Ikonoclast
    Your #22

    Hmm, welll I can’t dispute your account of psychoanalysis and analysands – it sort of accords with what I thought I once knew about it.

    When you say “It sounds like half a medical science and half a proto-science (at best) which is more or less what it is. At the same time, it also a craft and a kind of ethos.” I think that about covers it completely. However, i have read the odd critique of Freud over the years so I’ll probably give Richard Webster’s book a miss this time around (“so much to read, so little time”). But Freud (and Jung and Adler and Havelock Ellis and John Dewey and ….) are, thankfully, somewhat jaded subjects these days, and they don’t get splashed aound the general media as they did say 40 (and more) years ago.

    As to modes of therapy, well I try to adopt a simple “what works” approach – even some fairly simplistic recrafting of self-talk can help. But not with real sickness such as clinical schizophrenia, I’d say.

    But I am impressed by someone so close to ancestral fame – the nearest my very plebeian ancestors ever came to fame is that one of them may once have sung to a king. Perhaps … or maybe at a village fair or Passion Play.

    You have been very forthcoming with descriptions of your life and your travails – far more than I could be. But then, despite having my own episodes of teenage male anger and angst, I don’t think I ever climbed the escarpments you did. Some fairly standard Aussie binge drinking – and some fairly big binges at that, starting at age 16 – but I never went on to full blown alcoholism and eventually I just got sick and tired of waking up like that (and I think you’d understand what I mean by “like that”).

    My high point was an attempted suicide – so bloody asinine that I won’t embarass myself by recounting it. Suffice to say that though the psyche was willing, the brains (and the gas oven) were out to lunch. Just as well though that I didn’t live in an American ‘open carry’ state with a keen NRA father.

    But anyway, by way of just a little self confessed exposure, I thought I would post my one and only venture into poetry – from about 20 or so years ago:

    Timor Mortis Conturbat Me

    Will the darkness close upon you
    As a sweetly cooling rain;
    Will life go gentle from you.,
    Or will you swcream your pain.

    Did laughter fill your living
    And love your life entwine;
    Or did hurtings still your giving,
    Futility, your lonely sould enshrine.

    Did sweet music fill your lifedance
    Or was your singing but a mime;
    And were gods to grant the chance,
    Would you walk here one more time.

    Did you walk in happiness, strong amd pur[ose filled,
    Or bitterness your bev’rage, o’er brimmig every glaqss;
    Now all you’ve been and done and thought and willed.
    Is nothing piled on nothing, this too will pass.

    Yeah, I know; the scansion could do with a fair bit of improvement, but it does sort of say what I thought I felt.

  9. @GrueBleen

    Yep, you got it all about right. I mean about Freud et al. I also agree, if each person were to recount their “one darkest time” I doubt there would be many who did not have a “very serious event” to recount of either endogenous or exogenous origin. But we all have to pretend we are OK in general society. It’s de rigueur.

    Ah, juvenalia! We all wrote it. I had several exercise pads full which I had never shown anyone, thank goodness. Fortunately, I burnt it all one day at about age 19. Later I wrote a bit more and burnt that too. It became a theme. I was right to burn it all, it was really bad. I can remember some lines, won’t quote them.

    There was a great little book by Anthony Burgess Wilson who also wrote as Anthony Burgess – eg “A Clockwork Orange”. It was book on poetical form, discussed all the metres, rhyme forms etc. and then went into other topics. I can’t for the life of me remember the title and I can’t even find it on his extensive Wikipedia bibliography, but it is real… unless it was “English Literature: A Survey for Students” and I only read the sections covering poetical forms.

    It wasn’t a textbook of mine. Maybe my brothers had it. It was common for me at school and university to rapidly read all set books and then read many other tomes often on topics unrelated to any of my subjects. Indeed, I think I spent more time on autodidact projects than I ever did on any set subjects. Yet I passed well enough. Looking back, I have no idea why I didn’t formally study stuff I really liked. I think people told me those things wouldn’t get me a job plus what I liked changed every six months.

  10. GB

    “Now human beings had been ‘training’ animals for tens of thousands of years before Pavlov without apparently discovering, or at least articulating, what Pavlov was finding.”

    But what is the purpose and ultimate use of information about what dogs and humans do when in strange and unnatural environments? Some of the things he did to the poor dogs were truly barbaric and the results hardly worth finding out; they haven’t led to anything significant have they?

    lol Even the group Pavlov’s Dog only did one good tune.

    They have MRI’s for dogs now and have found some amazing things that dogs can do.

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/08/dogs-recognize-both-words-and-tone-to-know-when-theyre-good/

    My dog is better at training me than I am at training him. He is more consistent and motivated and much less easily distracted than I am.

  11. @Julie Thomas
    Your #35

    Hmm. As to what use Pavlov’s experiments were, perhaps I should mention the (apocryphal) meeting of the Royal Society attended by His Majesty, and sundry other ‘nobles’ as well, when Faraday was demonstrating some of the things he was finding out about electricity. “But,” His Majesty interjected, “of what use is this electricity ?”. “Ah, Your Majesty,” Faraday replied, “of what use is a baby ?”. Of course, i you were American, you’d swear on a stack of copies of the Constitution, that it was really Franklin who said that.

    Were Pavlov’s experiments as such very useful ? Yes and no: he did start off a field of study (IMHO, anyway) which kinda culminated in the work of B.F. Skinner without whose expertise a lot of Hollywood movies wouldn’t have had the meticulously performing animal stars that they frequently had (Skinner was a master at rapid training of performing animals – that’s any animals, birds, whatever – and did a lot of work training them for movies, apparently).

    Though yes, I’d agree that certainly some of what Pavlov did would never have gotten past a modern ethics committee. Skinner didn’t need to do any of that, of course, but then, Pavlov had already done it for him.

    As for you and your dog, well ‘mutual conditioning’ is how it always works. There’s some quite interesting material on how Skinner was ‘conditioning’ his young daughter, only to realise that she was conditioning him right back.

    The interesting creatures these days are crows and ravens (actually the whole corvus genus, apparently). Perhaps you’ve heard of the crows that drop nuts onto roads so that they’ll be run over by cars and cracked open ? Yes, well the really cute thing, apparently, is that some crows only drop the nuts on pedestrian crossings, then wait for somebody to use the crossing so that they can retrieve the cracked open nut in safety.

    The return of the sauropsids, and we synapsids better look to our laurels or we might be overtaken yet again. 🙂

  12. ““But,” His Majesty interjected, “of what use is this electricity ?”. “Ah, Your Majesty,” Faraday replied, “of what use is a baby ?”.

    Zed Hogan would call that type of question trolling. I think back in my hippie days we called it cultcha jamming, meaning that if you ask questions that critique assumptions that are so basic to a persons ‘self’ the cognitive dissonance created stops them thinking in their usual culturally determined and ‘straight’ way.

    But I did find that most hippies were the same as the straights they criticised; they just conformed to a different set of confused and irrational assumptions.

    it is difficult to answer these equivalence questions because there are so many possible responses but perhaps they will all lead to the same meeting point on the path to some sort of wisdom that has to begin with a focus on the baby and how that baby becomes an adult and who or what can reasonably be held responsible for the many failures we see around us in politics particularly.

    We all know what use a baby is, we can see it, we feel it. We are programmed by evolution to feel that way or we wouldn’t survive as a species. Our babies are so expensive and dangerous to produce and to raise.

    We need babies but we do not need light to continue to exist and it is only in the realm of imagination that electric light could have been understood to be valuable or the negative long terms effects could have been seen or felt.

    But perhaps these things are equivalent in that a baby can be a good or a bad thing. Did you ever read the adult stories by Roald Dahl? One is about a baby that goes through a lot to survive and right at the end, we learn the baby is Adolph Hitler.

    We do know now, and for sure there were groups of humans in the past who without written psychology knew enough about human development to avoid raising babies even those with the psychopath gene, who grow up into mad, bad or sad people.

    “Were Pavlov’s experiments as such very useful ?”

    I’d say you are trying to be unnecessarily ‘rational’ by ignoring the negative effects of the pain the animals suffered or you are assigning this factor a low score when you assess the value of the experiments.

    Have you heard of Temple Grandin and the way she can imagine being an animal and understand how they think. I’d say Skinner was on the autism spectrum and his success with animal training was because of his ability to understand animals and human babies without any need of the small minded trivial information that Pavlov acquired.

    And if Skinner noticed that his child was conditioning him, he was failing as her teacher if he didn’t understand that as the adult in the relationship he has a responsibility to make the effort to out think her and direct her behaviour so she will grow up to be a functional adult.

    The interesting thing for me is the way other cultures who do not regard themselves as masters of the universe as we western people do, think about their world. We have grown up with the belief that we should have the power to do what we like with the earth and it’s creatures and I can’t find any rational reason for that assumption about our ‘rights’ to be a good thing.

    I think we will only be overtaken by sauropsids if rich old white men – and the women who support them – with their patriarchy and all that ideology entails including capitalism are able to keep control.

  13. @J-D
    Yep, and furthermore was a strict materialist and reductionist – he believed those concepts of id, ego, superego etc would in time be found to have physical (anatomic or chemical)correspondents within the brain. Very unlike Jung.

  14. @Ikonoclast
    Your #34

    “Pretending” we’re ok ? Thing is, lots of us are mostly ok – as I usually was between binges and such. We can also be turned on by the ‘grand gesture’ betimes. But yes, I think many might have a “one darkest time” amongst their memories.

    As to your “juvenalia”, well it’s alright for you: when you’ve got heaps of exercise pads full of it, then of course you can burn it. But when you’ve got only one … actually it all happened because I accidentally rediscovered an old prinout, and there it was.

    Can’t help you with the Anthony Burgess Wilson book unfortunately, though what you’ve said does ring a very faint and distant bell in my fading grey matter. Experience shows that attempts to recover such phantoms never succeed, but I’ll have a bit of a look around later anyway – for my own curiousity if nothing else.

    Autodidacting is good – I’ve always believed that the best ‘teachers’ don’t ‘teach’ – if you take that to be an active interventionist pursuit – but act as mentors and auditors, allowing us to get on with the business of learning while providing us with an intelligent and sympathetic audience to try our our thinking on.

  15. @derrida derider
    Your #38

    You mean the triune brain where the ‘reptile brain’ is the id, the ‘mammal brain’ is the ego and the ‘human brain’ is the superego ?

    Well yes, that would explain everything, wouldn’t it. And it was certainly beloved of Arthur Koestler in his sillier moments.

  16. @Julie Thomas
    Your #37

    Ah well, I don’t think I’ll accept any responsibility for how Zed Hogan (any relation to Hec ?) applies his intension driven deconstruction of what people may say. Just advise him to reread his Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida Derider.

    Now “culcha jamming” sounds very positive to me – though your follow up critique of the “hippies” kinda belies that. But never mind, intellectual (as opposed to physical) shock therapy can’t be all bad … unless it motivates some to go in a vengeful killing spree, which is what I guess it does do quite often in the USA. Anyhow, being “conformed to a different set of confused and irrational assumptions.” is just the homo sapiens sapiens way, isn’t it ?

    Re “coming to a meeting point”, are you a Tielhard de Chardin fan ? I have to confess that I am not. And I wouldn’t want to live in a Noosphere, either.

    However, I believe that the meaning of the ‘Faraday question’ is just that a baby may have great potential, but you’ll never know unless you allow it to grow and learn and mature. Likewise electricity – and incidentally, Faraday was experimenting with electromagnetism, not light: he basically gave the world the electric motor which had simply enormous impact on the world and its citizens. As for babies, well Faraday was around in the mid 1800s which is quite a while after the times of John Graunt and the fact that approximately 60% of children born live were dead before the age of 16. The comparable figure in Farady’s day was that about 1/3rd of children were dead by the age of 18. So maybe children were either more, or less, precious back then, depending on your values and emotions. Incidentally, I understand that at the present time approximately 3.9 per 1000 of “quick” children are dead before their 1st birthday.

    Re “Pavolv’s experiments”, I rather think I was trying to answer the question “Were Pavlov’s experiments as such very useful ?”, not the question “What moral judgement should be passed on Pavlov.”. Frankly I’m not an expert in Pavlov and don’t want to become one, so basically, I can’t honestly answer either question – though I still think his work was ‘useful, even if not much more than a ‘conversation starter’.

    Yes, I had heard of Temple Grandin and even seen her on tv a couple of times – but not for quite a while. Whether she really “can imagine being an animal and understand how they think” I know not, but she does seem to grok them quite well. As to the autistic spectrum, I’ve always thought that we’re all on that, just that some of us are much closer to one end than the other.

    There are cultures that “do not regard themselves as masters of the universe” ? Which ones are they then ? Basically all of the cultures I’ve ever seen have some kind of belief that they can do what they need and/or want: hunt, fish, herd, slaughter, enslave, kill – whatever it takes. However, I agree that our “Judeo-Christian European Civilisation” (so-called) has a more arrogant view of this because our culture is the first to actually have a significant degree of mastery. A state that many other cultures are now working hard to catch up with. So I excpect that in the not too distant future, the rich old white men – and the women who suport them – will be significantly outnumbered by rich old not-white men – and the women who support them.

    So it goes.

  17. @GrueBleen

    “Anyhow, being “conformed to a different set of confused and irrational assumptions.” is just the homo sapiens sapiens way, isn’t it ?”

    I don’t think so. Saying meh that’s just what happens get over it is a great attitude for you and the Bourbons but like them you don’t have to live with the peasants.

    “are you a Tielhard de Chardin fan”

    I have never heard of this person and I’m not usually a fan of things.

    “I believe that the meaning of the ‘Faraday question’ is just that a baby may have great potential, but you’ll never know unless you allow it to grow and learn and mature.”

    I assumed that was the point you were making and I’m sorry it was not obvious that I was critiquing that simplistic and totally last century point of view. But meh, so it goes.

    It is disappointing that you cannot imagine a world in which Faraday never lived and yet something better than the electric motor was developed. Imagination is something I’m good at apparently, and I’m not really into stumbling and mumbling.

    “As for babies, well Faraday was around in the mid 1800s which is quite a while after the times of John Graunt and the fact that approximately 60% of children born live were dead before the age of 16. The comparable figure in Farady’s day was that about 1/3rd of children were dead by the age of 18. So maybe children were either more, or less, precious back then, depending on your values and emotions. Incidentally, I understand that at the present time approximately 3.9 per 1000 of “quick” children are dead before their 1st birthday.”

    I have no idea how this information is relevant to any of the things I was thinking were relevant to the conversation we were having lol. There were many many other cultures raising children in Faradays’ time and I’m quite sure that there were groups of people in places around the world who were providing their children to have better and longer lives than the poor people in western countries even when the rich in these countries had electric motors.

    I think your assessment of the benefits of things for people in general or in the abstract is biased by the things you like. But it doesn’t matter much to you that other people don’t find those particular things impressive and you find it difficult to accept that there are things that were once thought to be good for people have turned out in hindsight to be not so good or to have unintended negative consequences.

    There are cultures that “do not regard themselves as masters of the universe” ?

    Of course there are. It is incredible that you don’t know this.

    Only the Bible, the Torah and the Koran say that their male God gives them dominion over the animals and the earth. The many god religions do not make this claim and their prescriptions for living always provide for worship and appreciation of the power of nature which is usually female over people.

    “because our culture is the first to actually have a significant degree of mastery.”

    Your view of mastery is not my view of mastery.

    Let’s hope it doesn’t go.

  18. @Julie Thomas
    Your #42

    I am sorry, Julie, that I tend to forget that people “on the autistic spectrum” are just completely unable to recognise irony. My bad.

    However, I do enjoy the way you wander off down the byways and laneways of your own ‘universe’, always believing that you have taken the morally, if not intellectually, superior position.

    But I do have a couple of points of curiousity: firstly: so the idea that a baby may have potential that may not be appreciated unless it is allowed to grow and learn and mature is “a simplistic and totally last century point of view”. Ok, well what’s the complex and totally this century view of such in your universe ?

    Secondly, what makes you think that people pay any attention to what their “holy” (or other) books say when that conflicts with what they want to do. I grant that, for instance, some of the south Asian Indians have objections to taking animal lives at least some of the time – especially, I understand, the Jains. But has that ever stopped Indians killing, raping and enslaving ? Is this likely to ever matter to you ?

    But otherwise, yes, always a pleasure talking with you. One of these days maybe we’ll even try communicating too. I have a very good book on the skills of interpersonal communication that I can recommend: ‘People Skills’ by Robert Bolton. I have to warn though, that I once actually seriously tried the skills and techniques from the first part of the book, subtitled ‘Listening Skills’, and they really worked. But it wasn’t very successful because it was so one-sided: using Bolton, I found I could listen to people quite well, but they, not having the benefit of the book, couldn’t listen to me. So I gave up, and now I just yell my words into the growing incoherent hubbub like everybody else.

  19. @GrueBleen

    “Ok, well what’s the complex and totally this century view of such in your universe ?”

    babies do not just grow into people who automatically fit in to the society in which they are born. If the society is simple and the rules are clear most children will grow into good citizens but there will always be the outliers.

    But if you take the view that a human life is the most valuable source of wealth – human capital – then raising every child into a citizen who makes good choices, is the only way to change the world. Understanding the laws of human behaviour and before that accepting that there are laws of human nature – every life theoretically can be represented as an algorithm – and understanding these laws requires a different type of ‘intelligence’ and imagination than the intelligence and imagination that is sees landing on the moon as mastery – and what about mstrery .

    Some things can only be obvious to those of us who do lack social skills and more importantly do not want to acquire them. I think that the DSM diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder is relevant here. Not having to have bourgeois social skills is why I like living among my poors; they don’t judge me for this failure. 🙂

    Sometimes and with some people I can do irony but your communication style quite often grates on my irrational sensitivities and prejudices about men who patronise me – were you ever told by a outraged and angry man that you were too clever for your own good? it’s a bit scary for young girls and women.

    “what makes you think that people pay any attention to what their “holy” (or other) books say when that conflicts with what they want to do.”

    Living among poor people and reading a lot of anthropology and psychology. It seems obvious to me that most human beings want and need a religion or a philosophy that provides them with a somewhat systematic set of rules that govern their behaviour. Most people do not want to be free.

    Do you really not grok the difference between a philosophy that advocates owning the land as opposed to one in which the land owns you? Do you think that the Aborigines are making it up that their relationship to their land is the way they understand and create their ‘selves’?

  20. @Julie Thomas
    Your #44

    Hmm, well lots of people have a touch of ODD in their makeup, even if it only ever surfaces as ‘dumb insolence’ now and then. Anyhow, I don’t care if you do or don’t have “bourgeois social skills”, Julie because I don’t have to socialise with you, nor you with me.

    But I do have some confusion: I was talking about babies not being able to reach their potential unless they are allowed to grow, learn and mature. You respond by branding that as a “simplistic and totally last century point of view” and then you proceed to go on about something that is esentially a matter of allowing children to “grow, learn and mature”. Paticularly when, for instance, you talk about “raising every child into a citizen who makes good choices”. Now yes, I am not a genius, but for the life of me I cannot see how that objective can be achieved without the child going through a process which involves growth, learning and maturity.

    But I am all ears (err, eyes) Julie. Please tell me what exactly it is that you would subject children to instead of a process of growth, learning and maturity ? Degeneration, ignorance and permanent juvenescence perhaps ?

    As to my “communication style” grating on your “irrational sensitivities and prejudices” I’m not quite sure what I can do about that. From my point of view, I say what I think to be quite quotidian (not in the malarial sense) things and you react as though I’ve said something else entirely – or so it seems to me. Nor am I “outraged and angry” nor trying to tell you that you are too clever for your own good. I have no idea how clever, or otherwise, you are, but I am quite at home with clever people of all sexes and genders. Of course I do think you have some weirdo ideas, and you most likely think I have a lot of old, boring, plebeian ones … or something. Such is life – or so “they” tell me.

    But just let me illustrate with a Goonshow dialogue:

    G: “Do you like Kipling ”
    N: “I don’t know, I’ve never kippled.”
    G “Err, it’s Rudyard Kipling.”
    N: “Yes, I expect it is.”
    [You’ll possibly need to audibly recite it to get the full effect]

    So when I say: “Anyhow, being “conformed to a different set of confused and irrational assumptions.” is just the homo sapiens sapiens way, isn’t it ?”
    and you respond: “I don’t think so. Saying meh that’s just what happens get over it is a great attitude for you and the Bourbons but like them you don’t have to live with the peasants.” it is clear that you’re busy kipling, and that maybe it is ruddy hard to kipple.

    But when I’m presenting the proposition that children cannot reach their potential unless they can go on to grow, learn and mature, and then I present some numbers regarding the one way of absolutely guaranteeing that a child will not be able to do that – ie early death – with a view to thinking about what effect that kind of early death rate would have on people at the time, and you just respond by lecturing me on how in some other places kids lived ‘longer and better lives”. Of course they did – why would you think I didn’t know that ?

    Just one last small thing: “It seems obvious to me that most human beings want and need a religion or a philosophy that provides them with a somewhat systematic set of rules that govern their behaviour. Most people do not want to be free.”

    None of that implies that people actually take any notice of their “holy” books when the “set of rules” conflicts with what they want to do. Maybe you live among people who are perpetually reading their “bible” just to make sure that breathing, drinkinng and eating are ok and permitted by their god(s), but the people I know – mostly, but not exclusively Christian – have never read their “holy” book in their entire lifetime, and nor do they consult their priests as to what is within or outside the ‘set of rules”. Mostly they just do what they want to do, and hope to rationalise it later – just a kind of .”meh that’s just what happens get over it”, I’d say.

    In short, just “making it up” is the human way.

  21. The whole art of reform is controlling the default, the burden of proof. The PC quote is so telling. Yes, there can be problems, but competition is (other things being equal) a Good Thing. So you don’t really address things on their merits, the presumptions have all been set up, the direction of ‘reform’ has been specified. So it’s now just down to pesky ‘implementation’ questions as to whether it works out. If it doesn’t work out? Well it was just bad implementation. So then you have another go!

  22. @Nicholas Gruen
    Your #46

    Is that irony ? Or are you really turning into a late-life Pollyanna ?

    The only place that competition is, unequivocally, a “Good Thing” is on a sporting field. Everywhere else it’s a handicap race between the limited benefits, and the considerable costs, of competition. And often, it’s just not possible – or do you think that Einstein should have waited until he could dig up some competition in producing the theory of General Relativity because competition is always a “Good Thing” ?

  23. I’m going to delete the last few comments. Please Grue and Julie, take a break and don’t interact with each other for a while.

  24. @John Quiggin
    Your #54

    Acceded, of course. But will you please either moderate or do something with my #62 in the Homemaking thread – I really would like to see if Ernestine has any response to it. Merci.

  25. Re Nicholas Gruen, this sounds like the “Rasputin Option”.

    Eg, try poisoning the target. If that fails, go to the stabbing option. If the cutlery doesn’t work, repeat with strangulation, then to guns etc.

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