PHILOSOPHER: Well, where should we begin? YOUTH: The problem that requires my urgent attention right now is education, after all. So, I’ll expose Adler’s contradictions with a focus on education. Because there are all manner of aspects of Adler’s ideas that, at their roots, are incompatible with education. PHILOSOPHER: I see. That sounds interesting. YOUTH: In Adlerian psychology, there is a way of thinking called ‘separation of tasks’, right? All sorts of things and events in life are regarded from the viewpoint of ‘Whose task is this?’ and divided into ‘one’s own tasks’ and ‘other people’s tasks’. Say, for example, that my boss doesn’t like me. Naturally, it doesn’t feel good. It would be normal to make some effort to be liked and approved of by him somehow. But Adler judges that to be wrong. What kind of judgement do other people (in this case, my boss) pass on my speech and conduct, and on me as a person? That is the boss’s task (other people’s tasks) and is not something I can control. No matter how much I try to be liked by him, my boss might just continue to dislike me. On this point, Adler says, ‘You are not living to satisfy other people’s expectations.’ And further, ‘Other people are not living to satisfy your expectations.’ Don’t be afraid of other people looking at you, don’t pay attention to other people’s judgement and don’t seek recognition from other people. Just choose the path that is best for you and that you believe in. Furthermore, you must not intervene in other people’s tasks, and you must not allow others to intervene in your tasks, either. To those who are new to Adlerian psychology, this is a concept that has a great impact. PHILOSOPHER: True. Being able to carry out the ‘separation of tasks’ dramatically reduces one’s interpersonal relationship problems. YOUTH: You also said that there is an easy way to determine who has which task. I should think, ‘Who ultimately is going to receive the end result brought about by that choice?’ I’m not getting it wrong, am I? PHILOSOPHER: No, you are not. YOUTH: The example you used then was that of studying for a child. A child who does not study. His parents are anxious about his future and yell at him to hit the books. But who is going to receive the end result brought about by not studying—that is to say, that he won’t be able to get into the desired school or that it will be more difficult for him to find a job? No matter how you look at it, it’s the child himself, not the parents. In other words, studying is the child’s task and is not an issue in which the parents should intervene. Am I doing okay so far? PHILOSOPHER: You are. YOUTH: Now, this is where a major doubt arises. Studying is the child’s task. One must not intervene in the child’s tasks. But if so, then what is this thing we call ‘education’? What is this occupation we are engaging in as educators? Because if one abides by your line of reasoning, we educators who push children to study are just a gang of trespassers who intrude on their tasks! Now, how can you answer that? PHILOSOPHER: Okay, well, this is a question that comes up on occasion when I discuss Adler with educators. Studying is certainly the child’s task. No one is permitted to intervene there, not even the parents. If the ‘separation of tasks’ Adler speaks of is interpreted in a one-dimensional way, all forms of education become interventions into other people’s tasks, and thus reprehensible conduct. In Adler’s time, however, there was no psychologist more concerned with education. To Adler, education was not simply a core task—it was also the greatest hope. YOUTH: Hmm. Can you be more concrete? PHILOSOPHER: For example, in Adlerian psychology, counselling is thought of not as ‘treatment’, but as a place for ‘re-education’. YOUTH: Re-education? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Counselling and childhood education are essentially the same. The counsellor is an educator, and the educator is a counsellor. It is fine to think of it in this way. YOUTH: Ha-ha, I didn’t know that. I had no idea I was a counsellor! What on earth is that supposed to mean? PHILOSOPHER: This is an important point. Let’s straighten things out as we continue the discussion. First, what is the intended objective of education, both at home and at school? What is your view on this? YOUTH: It’s not something I can convey in just a few words. The cultivation of knowledge through scholarship, the attainment of social skills, the development of human beings who respect justice and who are sound in mind and body . . . PHILOSOPHER: Yes. All these are important, but let’s look at the bigger picture. What does one want children to become as a result of one’s providing them with an education? YOUTH: One wants them to become independent adults? PHILOSOPHER: Right. The objective of education, in a word, is ‘self-reliance’. YOUTH: Self-reliance . . . Well, I guess you could put it that way. PHILOSOPHER: In Adlerian psychology, all people are regarded as beings who live their lives with the desire to escape from their helpless conditions and improve themselves. That is to say, in the ‘pursuit of superiority’. The toddling baby learns how to stand on two legs, acquires language and becomes able to communicate with the people around him. In other words, what all people are seeking is ‘freedom’, from their helpless and unfree conditions, and ‘self-reliance’. These are fundamental desires. YOUTH: So, education is what promotes this self-reliance? PHILOSOPHER: Exactly. And for children to both grow physically and become socially self-reliant, there are all manner of things that they need to know. They need the social skills and the sense of justice you mentioned, and they probably need knowledge and other things, too. And, of course, the things they do not know must be taught to them by other people who do. The people around them must give their assistance. Education is not intervention but assistance towards self-reliance. YOUTH: It sounds to me like you’re desperately trying to rephrase things! PHILOSOPHER: For example, how would it be if one were thrown into society without knowing any traffic rules; without knowing the meaning of red lights and green lights? Or, if one had no car-driving skills and found oneself behind the wheel? Naturally, there are rules to be learned here and skills to be attained. This is an issue of life and death and, moreover, of putting other people’s lives in danger as well. One could also put it the other way around and say that if there were no other people left on Earth and you were the only person alive there would not be anything you would have to know, and education would not be necessary, either. You would not have any need for knowledge. YOUTH: It’s because of other people and society that there is knowledge that should be studied? PHILOSOPHER: Yes! ‘Knowledge’ here refers not only to scholarly studies but includes the knowledge that people need to live happily. In short, how one should live within a community. How one should interact with others. How one can locate one’s proper place in that community. To know ‘me’ and to know ‘you’. To know the true nature of a person, and to understand the way in which a person ought to live. Adler referred to such knowledge as ‘human knowledge’.YOUTH: Human knowledge? I’ve never heard that term before. PHILOSOPHER: I don’t suppose you would have. This human knowledge is not the kind of knowledge that is gained from books—it is something that can only be learned by actually being engaged in relationships with other people. In that sense, one could say that the school, in which one is surrounded by large numbers of other people, is a more meaningful place of education than the home. YOUTH: So, you’re saying that the key to education is this thing you call human knowledge? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. It’s the same with counselling. The counsellor assists the client in gaining self-reliance. And they think together about the human knowledge that is necessary for self-reliance. Do you recall the objectives put forth by Adlerian psychology that we were discussing last time? The behavioural objectives and the psychological objectives? YOUTH: Yes, I remember them. There are the following two objectives for behaviour: 1. To be self-reliant 2. To live in harmony with society And there are the following two objectives for the psychology that supports these behaviours: 1. The consciousness that I have the ability 2. The consciousness that people are my comrades So, briefly put, you are saying that these four things are valuable, not only in counselling, but in an actual education setting? PHILOSOPHER: And they are no less valuable to us adults, with our general feelings of how hard life is. Because there are so many adults suffering in social settings who are unable to attain these objectives. If one has left behind the objective of self-reliance, whether in education, counselling or job coaching, very quickly one will end up forcing things. We must be aware of the roles we are playing, whether we are letting education fall into a kind of trap of compulsory ‘intervention’ or limiting ourselves to a self-reliance-stimulating ‘assistance’. It is something that depends on the approach of the person performing the education or counselling or coaching. YOUTH: It would certainly seem so. I get it, and I agree with these lofty ideals; I really do. But, look, you’ve already tried that trick on me, and it won’t work anymore! Whatever we talk about, it always turns into abstract idealism in the end. It just turns into me listening to these big, feel-good words of yours and thinking I understand. But my issues aren’t abstract ones—they’re actually quite concrete. Instead of all these empty theories, let’s hear a grounded, practical theory. Concretely, what sort of step can I take as an educator? That most important, concrete first step—you’ve been dodging that point all along, haven’t you? What you’re talking about is such a faraway thing. It’s as if you’re always going on about some landscape far in the distance and trying not to look at the mud at your feet!
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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