Resilience, popularly understood as the capability to ‘bounce again’ from antagonistic circumstances, appears to be in all places proper now. Work is commissioned on put it on the market, conferences are convened to debate it (ostensibly, a minimum of), assume tanks and worldwide organisations spotlight its significance in ‘constructing again higher’, and policy-makers search methods to foster it via schooling, significantly in faculties however more and more in grownup schooling. Issues have been unhealthy, we’re informed, and are unlikely to enhance a lot. In truth, it’s possible that issues will worsen, maybe a lot worse. We have to be sturdy. We have to maintain going, regardless of all of it – for whereas we could not have the ability to management the fast-changing, messed-up actuality round us, we are able to a minimum of management how we really feel about and react to it.
In a method, it’s troublesome to argue towards this, which, I suppose, helps clarify the present pervasiveness of the language of resilience. It has appreciable floor plausibility. Life is unpredictable and precarious, and folks needs to be ready for it. It stands to purpose that if we are able to enhance individuals’s capability to manage and mitigate the inequalities they expertise, significantly with regard to schooling, we should always do it. It’s a part of the function of schooling to help learners in changing into extra resilient and adaptable, in order that they will flourish in an atmosphere wherein change is a continuing. Thus far, so cheap. Nevertheless, there may be additionally one thing problematic about this concentrate on constructing resilience that makes me uncomfortable and which, I feel, ought to give us concern. It appears to me to be a part of a wider development in approaches to drawback and exclusion that draw the attention away from the fundamental issues at hand and that ought to, subsequently, be approached critically and maybe resisted.
First, it’s a idea oddly quick on substance, under no circumstances nicely understood or elaborated (significantly in schooling), which appears to be used to cowl a variety of meanings and intentions, typically pretty obscure. We needs to be cautious about attaching as a lot significance as we at the moment do to an idea that’s so poorly outlined, and so carelessly thrown about. What does it imply, for instance, to get better shortly from adversity? How can we perceive restoration or measure it? What counts as adversity? What do we all know in regards to the prices of psychological toughness or the long-term penalties of putting up with issue that is likely to be handled or addressed in different methods? How nicely does resilience predict success in schooling in comparison with different components, comparable to vital considering or creativity? It appears to me that a lot of those that advance the case for foregrounding resilience in schooling are far too comfy with this type of obscurity.
There’s a extra essential situation although. The decision to resilience, whereas ostensibly altruistic, appears to me additionally to be a kind of injunction to passivity and acceptance, encouraging resignation and coping the place empowerment and collective motion, two of the standard aims of grownup schooling, are extra applicable. As Paulo Freire wrote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, ‘the pursuits of the oppressors lie in altering the consciousness of the oppressed, not the scenario which oppresses them; for the extra the oppressed might be led to adapt to that scenario, the extra simply they are often dominated’. Now we have seen, lately, a form of privatization of misery that misappropriates blame and duty and militates towards empowerment and dialogue for change. Now we have pathologised the signs of drawback as if they have been one thing that might be cured by treating the deprived particular person (and likewise, subsequently, one thing for which the deprived particular person might be blamed and really feel accountable for). And whereas the worldwide psychological well being disaster is severe and needs to be not be ignored; nor ought to we ignore that incontrovertible fact that it’s partially, and in lots of locations, the UK included (or particularly), pushed by a high-pressure high-stakes schooling system which favours the wealthy and privileged and stacks the percentages cruelly towards the poorest, all whereas spewing the deliriously misplaced rhetoric of meritocracy.
There’s a darkish aspect to resilience. It may be harmful and debasing. It may possibly encourage us to just accept issues that shouldn’t be accepted, to knuckle down and make one of the best of it after we needs to be resisting and pushing for change. It may possibly encourage us to place up with unfair or abusive therapy, and to search out options within the issues that maintain us down. That is one thing I encountered a number of years in the past when, in a second of private disaster, I began to fulfill with a specialist in cognitive behavioural remedy. He helped me determine patterns of damaging conduct and to see how mechanisms I had developed to deal with psychological misery had grow to be a part of the cycle that, to cite Philip Larkin, saved my wheels spinning ‘an inch too excessive to chunk on floor’. Methods of coping that had as soon as been helpful, or served some goal, a minimum of, have been now heavy, albeit stabilizing, weights round my neck, preserving me near floor, endlessly navigating a maze with no method out. Trapped within the amber of years-ago, I spent many years managing a grief I believed was illegitimate, that got here with caveats and explanations, that was someway frivolous. I used to be resilient. I saved going. However I wasn’t completely satisfied.
My expertise makes me sceptical about someway equating resilience with success. Resilience can imply not more than placing one foot in entrance of the opposite. This isn’t nothing. Holding going might be an act of heroism or of riot. It may be every part. Nevertheless it can’t be confused with happiness or success. We have to keep in mind that the goals of schooling are a lot broader and way more precious than merely getting ready individuals to maintain preserving on, from faculty on to varsity, into the office, out of the office, right into a relationship, right into a household, onto retirement and loss of life. We’re life’s non-combatants, barely taking part in our personal lives, not to mention impacting on different individuals’s. Now we have grow to be so good at dwelling on this distracted state we hardly discover we’re doing it. Far too many people stay lives of absence and anxiousness, paralysed by worry and uncertainty. Holding on is one of the best we are able to assume to do, and an achievement at that. We ‘bounce again’. We maintain at it. And, for essentially the most half, we put to the again of our minds the (most often unlikely) prospect of something higher. However we are able to do higher and be a lot, way more, and that, I really feel, is what schooling, and grownup schooling specifically, is all about. It should help human flourishing within the fullest sense, and allow us to stay lives which are artistic, collaborative, compassionate and important. Human beings, I imagine, have to construct, not solely their resilience but additionally their capability to impact change and make neighborhood. Schooling that doesn’t foster our capability to impact such change is not more than an affordable knock-off, undeserving of the identify. Quite than serving to individuals get via robust instances, schooling ought to give individuals the means to alter an unfair and dysfunctional world. As a substitute of asking individuals to place up with all of the shit that’s thrown at them, we should always think about throwing much less shit.
None of this, in fact, is to say that we should always not think about make individuals extra resilient or that resilience is unimportant. However there’s something philosophically unsatisfying about reorienting schooling to handle this situation and attaching such overweening significance to it. I feel it is because whereas resilience is about dealing with situations as we discover them and making one of the best of antagonistic circumstances, schooling’s vital operate is to provide individuals hope of one thing higher and empower them to pursue that hope. Resilience might be an admirable high quality however resilience with out hope might be debilitating, demeaning and, finally, soul-destroying. Resilience is just too typically a give up, a giving up on hope, an acceptance that issues can’t and won’t get higher. It’s additionally a form of evasion, obscuring and perpetuating elementary issues. Thousands and thousands of individuals stay with hopelessness; it has grow to be second nature for a lot of, even within the wealthier components of the world. Their resilience is exceptional, hewn out of rock. However they deserve extra. They shouldn’t be anticipated to take duty for political failure, to passively settle for the blame for wider systemic failings. Human beings can’t simply be creatures to whom issues occur. It’s a part of our nature to affect, to make change on this planet, to be activists and agitators. That’s what we’d like, now, on this second, greater than at any level in human historical past, I’d say. However it isn’t attainable with out hope, and hope is what schooling, at its best and most admirable, fosters.