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Educating the natural Self: Analysis of and amendments to the theory of recognition

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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Recognition is an important concept that needs to be practiced at both private and public levels. In this dissertation, I look at the concept of recognition from a psychoanalytical perspective and emphasize the role of recognition during childhood. I present a re-description of recognition that focuses primarily on recognizing the natural self, as defined in the work of Eric Berne, during the early years. This re-description includes both recognition that occurs in the child’s home, where the parents or significant others can offer or deny the child recognition, and recognition of a child in the public domain during the first years of schooling, where recognition can again be offered or withheld by teachers or other authority figures in school. I argue that if a child’s natural sense of self is misrecognized in the family or during the early years of schooling through controlling conditions and dialogues, the child can feel not-OK and become conditioned. The child’s not-OK feelings will then be extended through all of school and into the adult world of his or her life in society. Currently, theories of recognition tend to address the importance of recognition when the self is already in the public domain. While I highly support the idea of public recognition of self throughout this dissertation, I argue that the public self may have already been denied recognition. Such an already misrecognized self needs affirmation when the self enters the public space and struggles for recognition. Thus, an alternative way of looking at recognition could be through a self that has not yet encountered misrecognition. Finally, I discuss social mechanisms and educational practices that reinforce the conditioned self in students. Panopticism, alienation, and stultification are mechanisms that can lead children to experience conditioning or misrecognition. In order to foster recognition of the natural self, I draw on emancipatory education and advocate the type of learning that unfolds naturally rather than the one that includes explication. Recognizing children’s natural selves needs to be attended to and practiced in school. It is not only a duty but is essential for all humanity.
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Thesis advisor: Bingham, Charles
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