Perhaps to clarify my thinking about education as self-development, I should state—although I find lists tedious—several propositions concerning the developmental process.
Proposition 1. All developmental steps must be phase appropriate. When it is a phase appropriate for a child to crawl she will; when it is phase appropriate for a child to walk she will; when it is phase appropriate for a child to talk, she will.
Proposition 2. Developmental phases build upon and incorporate skills and goal setting established in previous phases. A later phase does not wipe out or obliterate an earlier phase; rather had the earlier phase not occurred the later phase would not occur either or if it does so occur, it occurs as a compensatory structure.
Proposition 3. One phase is not “superior” to another. An adult is not superior to an infant. An adolescent is not superior to an adult. If as Wordsworth said, the child is father to the man, which is “superior.”
Proposition 4. The movement into and out of a phase is necessarily attended by momentary disequilibrium or de-stabilization. One needs only to remember puberty to understand the kinds of destabilization attendant upon development. One used to speak of “growing pains.
Proposition 5. The frustrations attendant upon destabiliation must be optimal. If the frustrations prove either traumatic or chronic, the challenges of the developmental move may not be met. That particular impulse towards development will remain undeveloped in an unconscious and archaic form.
Proposition 6. If frustrations prove traumatic or chronic, the individual may be forced off the developmental path. His or her psychological energies go into erecting defenses against possible self-fragmentation and de-stabilization. As the psychoanalyst, D.W. Winnicott has said, there may exist in our society a gap greater than that between the social classes and that is the gap between those capable of continuing development and those who are not.
Proposition 7. The possiblities of development are most likely to be realized if they occur with an overall “empathic milieu.” This fancy phrase is intended to suggest that development is most likely to occur if the trials and tribulations of the person undergoing destabilization are recognized, affirmed as necessary, and understood.
Proposition 8. Currently, institutions of higher education, while they serve to destabilize the individual, do not recognize the potentials for development implicit in higher education and do not afford students an “empathic milieu.”
I think I could write more propositions. But these afford a rough outline and eight is a round number.