Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Appropriate Literatures for Appropriate Psychological Levels

If people go through different stages of psychosocial complexity, it would make sense for our schools to teach whatever literature is appropriate for each of those levels. While there are different cultures throughout history at different levels of complexity, more complex societies also contain the less complex levels within them, usually among the younger people who are moving through the psychological levels themselves and creating local subcultures at that level.

For example, the world of ancient Greece around the time of Achilles and Odysseus was at the same psychosocial level as are the middle school children in countries like the United States. This doesn't mean that the ancient Greeks were more childlike; rather, it means that our society is so complex that movement through the levels are compressed. While the adults during the time of Achilles behaved like our middle school kids, the teens of his time would have not acted at all like our teens, but likely would have been more docile (of course, teens at the time were adults, so nobody would have thought them rebellious for acting like Achilles, either).

In our society, we therefore find levels of complexity that resemble tribalism (younger children, home life in general), the world of Homer (middle school kids and gang members), the Medieval period (older teens and social conservatives/Religious Right), the Enlightenment period (late teens to early twenties, most libertarians), and the postmodern period (the rest of adulthood for most, the egalitarian left). There are also integrationists and holistic thinkers, but society hasn't caught up with them quite yet.

This would suggest that certain works of literature would be most appropriate for different levels.

Grade schools should teach fairy tales, fables, and works that generally have animism as a theme.

Middle schools should teach the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad, and the Odyssey. There are of course contemporary works that are at this level, such as the Harry Potter series. These are stories the students can relate to.

The ancient Greek tragedies were written when the Greeks were transitioning from an ancient world view to a "Medieval" world view. Thus, works such as these ought to be taught in that transition (8-9th grades).

Early high school ought to be taught Medieval works such as the works of de Troyes and Dante.

Late high school ought to be dominated by Renaissance literature and early Enlightenment works.

In college, students ought to be taught later Enlightenment works and Modernism.

Postmodern works ought to be reserved for the end of college, perhaps even grad school.

Integrationist and holistic works, like the works of Milan Kundera and Frederick Turner, are certainly grad school works, though many would have to get them on their own, since the only grad school programs providing such readings would be English and humanities programs. 

This sequence would allow students to read works with which they can, psychologically and socially, relate, while at the same time moving students through each of the psychosocial levels, allowing them to reach more complex psychological and social levels. Among the benefits is the fact that the more complex your psychology is and, as a consequence, the social level in which you can interact, the more successful you will be in life (by any variety of measures).

We could and should do the same thing with things like philosophy (which is also easily divided into these periods, with very good reason). Ways of teaching the sciences, social sciences, and other humanities would have to be developed to fit these levels of psychological complexity. But my areas are primarily in the humanities, so I'll leave the development of other areas to others.
Post a Comment