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David G. Blumenkrantz, Ph.D. M.Ed.
Paradigm Shift © 1
A knight returned from battle and went directly to the nursery to see his infant son. Upon entering the nursery he found blood all over. The walls and floor were covered. He ran to the bassinet. A quick look revealed a mass of blood. He looked over at his dog lying in a corner. Over come with grief and anger he took out his sword and slay his dog, figuring it killed his baby.
He returned to the bassinet and upon closer inspection saw a wolf lying on top of his infant son. When he lifted the wolf from his son he realized his son was alive. It then came to him that his dog had killed the wolf and saved his son. He had killed the dog that saved his son.
We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
First appearances can be deceiving. They are a result of what we believe to be true from past experience. This creates our paradigm, which influences our decisions and actions. More often than we’d like to admit we don’t always make the best decisions based on our past experiences.
Paradigm shift is the first element in the architectural structure for youth and community development through rites of passage. What do we mean by paradigm?
(n) A radical change in underlying beliefs or theory
(n) A fundamental change in approach or assumptions
(n) Acceptance by a majority of a changed belief, attitude or way of doing things
World-view or mindset are other terms for paradigm. Our personal history and knowledge form the filter through which we see and make sense of the world. Our decisions are made based on how we see the world. The knight, in the story above, seeing blood all over and his dog lying in the corner could only think that his dog killed his son. That was how he made sense of the world. What would you have done?
Why is paradigm shift important to rites of passage? In a word, misunderstanding (Blumenkranz & Goldstein, 2010). The term rites of passage has been used to name thousands of situations with just as many different meanings. The different uses of the term may represent a first or otherwise special experience for the individual, a moment with meaning, but they are not necessarily rites of passage.
For example, particular behaviors such as college binge drinking, adolescent drug and alcohol use, smoking tobacco, tattooing, a first kiss or sexual encounter, perhaps surviving some kind of physical ordeal are just a few of thousands of experiences labeled rites of passage. They could be moments with meaning, but are not complete rites of passage. A rite of passage is a process that involves many elements, among them are learning new values that are aligned with a child’s culture and community.
Most experiences people call rites of passage don’t really educate a person, transmitting values and ethics that inform and guide behaviors helpful to themselves or others. Nor does it change their perception except in the most trivial way, “Hey, I’m no longer a virgin, that’s cool.” And, they do not occur in or strengthen the culture or community that the child lives in.
What questions might test whether an event was a rite of passage? How about these?
“What did you learn from it? How can you put what you have learned in service to yourself and the highest good of others, the community and nature?” Or,
“What is different now that was not different before? How has your relationship with the community changed as a result of the experience? Has the community witnessed, affirmed and celebrated the experience?”
Might it be that the degree to which we equate rites of passage with a particular moment with meaning relieves the greater community of any obligation to meet and plan more extended experiences that are the basis for potent, life transforming and community strengthening rites of passage?
1 © D.G.Blumenkrantz, Ph.D.Posted in ROPE
It’t time for a Paradigm Shift – a fundamental change in beliefs, theory and approach – in developing community-centered responses to the challenges faced by today’s Youth & Community. More here>>