C-43. “Stages” of development

When we observe behavior via particular behaviors, as we so often have done, focusing on situational problems and behavioral solutions (I:Psit and Sbeh), under the influence of the BPO bias (emphasis on bodies, particulars and the order of things), some conditions become more apparent than others. For example, technological changes with accompanying changes in situational behaviors — the sort of condition which has people speaking of eras and epochs, of an “Information Society.” The appellation confers a stage marker, a remarked advance, but also a convenient (for observers) gathering together of particulars.

Much the same can be seen at work in observer characterizations of human development (e.g., Piaget) and evolution (e.g., the oft-illustrated body images ascending in stature from ape to human). Stages also find employment as giant step concepts, grouping many steps – taken or to be taken – in (at least ostensibly) progressive units. The K through 12 grades in schools are such stage markers, each with a designated curriculum of instructional particulars.

These characterizations chunk, in sometimes very big chunks, portions of behavioral particulars, of history made and to be made. But only portions. Historical ignorance is well known, though too often laid to lack of records. (But given the way we have made observations of and about behavior, records would not help that much. Interestingly, fiction is making its way into historical accounts. Fiction has always provided an attractive and productive window on behavior.)

Historians note developments. They see events, but not into events all that well, and between events even less so. They see relatively little of developing – the process. New, consequential behaviors are seen as developments, to be marked as eras or periods – some variant of stages. The practice of the historian, if it is seen as historical reductionism (analogous in procedure tool [App. VII] to physical reductionism with respect to bodies) has not been able to establish much about the behavioral units within the also poorly defined (molecularly speaking) units of behavioral solutions.

Stages are no excuse, though substitute they may be, for poorly understood developmental progress from needs through practices to productivity. Consider a point made by the Behavioral Manifold (V): As we develop capabilities along each of the many behavioral lines required (Topics VI-XI), each improvement can legitimately be seen as a stage (i.e., as a mark of progress). Thus so widely employed, the concept of stage is discredited, revealed as a gross measure. It doesn’t begin to tell us about the developmental context of life.

We need a theory OF, ABOUT and FOR behavior (C-40) that is responsive to the rueful admonition that, “The devil is in the details.” The details of process, not just of products and producers. Problems make themselves known, but the behavioral problem not so well as the situational problems (C-41). Yet the development challenge is more a matter of coping with the behavioral problem than with this or that situational problem.

Life/living needs that developmental context. For example: Educational policy desperately needs a developmental context. Not just to redress its imbalances (e.g., of elementary over basic, of ADOPT and ADAPT [e.g., to sit still for learning via instruction] over ADEPT), but to redirect its investments toward enhanced capability – not just to respond to political assessments of responsibility.* Parenting needs that same developmental context. And after formal education (see “continuing education”), we all still need it. Development has to be humanity’s consuming passion. Not just to solve the situational problems still confronting us (O: quality of life), but because the behavioral problem is the essence of the Nature of Things (C-41).

When we look to our individual and collective investments in the future, as for matters of needed infrastructure, we need to do as well by the step’s minding development as we have done by its moving (e.g., transportation). We haven’t. Developments have occurred, but the picture is more one of defacto evolution than of a development metastrategy.

(* For all the management concern [see XI: efficiency/effectiveness balance] about evaluating teacher and student performance, that emphasis on responsibilities has biased the discussion far more toward (instructional) valuation than (developmental) evaluation [C-31]. This at the expense of process and capability improvement. The latter emphasis would be speaking more often of accidents and less of failures. [See VI and App. IX]. It would also take note that the best teachers have always been those who embody the developmental context, complementing and sometimes even substituting for parental and/or other parties. Some of any superior instructional capability they possess and/or are accorded should be interpreted as being in consequence of that humanity. If a society were to be serious about education as an infrastructure investment, then it might consider staffing on the order of one instructor per 15 pupils plus one special education person per 15 pupils – because special education would entail fully implementing the developmental context, far beyond assistance to the instructionally disadvantaged, to working with newly coined principals toward providing principled assistance [i.e., basic, not just elementary, education] to the developmentally disadvantaged – i.e., to fellow faculty as well as parents and students. When it comes to capability development, we have all been, and still are, disadvantaged. That the next generation might not be so weakened would be a fine investment.)

(c) 2012 R. F. Carter