Readiness to NOT Learn Outside of Safety
All Educators know about readiness – what Vygotsky called the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’. The point of ‘readiness’ in education is often spoken about in relation to ‘readiness to learn’, most often in reference to the acquisition of language and reading.
Teachers know that children develop in learning at varying pace according to ‘readiness’ and their ability to ‘play’. Play is about unstructured discovery, the ability to risk, take a leap of faith and not fear the unknown or what is uncertain (https://safetyrisk.net/the-primacy-of-play-in-learning/ ). Safety has been taught to fear play because unstructured play allows discovery, faith and a lack of control. No wonder the favourite word for safety is ‘controls’. Look how much power I would lose if I allowed others to learn through play!
Readiness is about a psychological place and space where people can suspend what is known, unlearn dogma and entertain doubt.
In Safety doubt has been made the enemy, just as the myth of objectivism is the indoctrination for safety investigation methods. Safety not only loves controls but makes the ‘hierarchy of controls’ its method. The hierarchy of controls is just one of many nonsense constructs (https://safetyrisk.net/there-is-no-hierarchy-of-controls/ ) of an industry that fears risk. The ‘hierarchy of controls’ is just one more sacred cow that cannot be suspended in order to consider the nature of learning.
For all of those who have children we know the variation in child development according to ‘readiness’. Teachers also know that social history and Socialitie are the context that creates readiness. Part of the job of an educator is to ‘help’ (facilitate) people come to readiness. This is done though ‘scaffolding’ and cognitive dissonance (https://safetyrisk.net/scaffolding-readiness-and-zpd-in-learning/ ). When someone is ‘ready’ to learn they can become ‘educated’. The opposite of learning and education is indoctrination and propaganda and much of what poses for learning in the safety industry is just that, propaganda, indoctrination and ‘schooling’. If you want to learn about learning perhaps start here: https://firstliteracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/How-Learning-Works.pdf
You know when someone is ‘ready’ to learn when they ask genuine questions of enquiry. Many questions in Safety are not asked for enquiry but for confirmation to confirm schooling and indoctrination. This is what LinkedIn does indeed, most social media does, it’s the place to go to argue and confirm what you know. The questions asked are NOT about learning but most often about ‘gaslighting’ and setting up the other to return with what you know. There is no learning unless one can suspend agenda, doubt and have the desire to learn.
The safety curriculum is anti-learning (https://safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/; https://safetyrisk.net/knowledge-and-curriculum-for-risk-and-safety-people/; https://safetyrisk.net/curriculum-and-bodies-of-knowledge-as-instructional-affordances/ ) and trains people to remain insular in its schooling. The mechanisms of the safety curriculum ‘teach’ Safety that it knows everything and this justifies waltzing into any environment and ‘telling’ others what to do. The safety curriculum is oriented towards ‘schooling’ not education and learning.
Once indoctrinated and schooled in the safety mindset then all open questions cease. In this way Transdisciplinarity can be excluded and so goes the unlearning cycle of the industry. This is all beautifully fostered by the psychology of zero and compliance. For example, just look at all the disciplines excluded from the AIHS Body of Knowledge, it’s breathtaking. What really is the teacher of the ‘hidden curriculum’ in safety? Everything in safety is referenced to systems, the law, regulation and compliance. If this is your starting point, as it is too with so called ‘safety differently’ then the language of ‘learning’ will be cosmetic and there will be no movement from stasis. Zero is the dogma of stasis.
Just read any document in the safety industry on any topic (and this is so for every chapter in the BoK ) even mental health, and its starting point is always about obligations under the Act and Regulation (https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/psychosocial-hazards ), it never starts with the nature of persons and an ethic of risk. When your starting reference point is systems nonsense language such as ‘Resilience Engineering’ (RE) is normalized as if somehow this is innovative and ‘different’. This is also why RE likes the notion of complex adaptive systems rather than Wickedity, so that it can maintain the mythologies of control, measurement, engineering and systems.
I’m not the slightest bit interested in the resilience of systems and the ‘engineering’ of making a system resilient. I am interested in persons, the collective unconscious and the ecological and ethical well-being of persons in community.
Without an ‘exploration’ into disciplines rejected by Safety, there will be no learning and nothing professional. Unless Safety can move away from its deontological ethic of ‘duty and control’ (https://safetyrisk.net/methodology-and-an-ethic-of-risk/; https://safetyrisk.net/what-brand-of-ethics-is-safety/ ) it can never become professional and certainly won’t embrace learning. How fascinating this industry that loves to assert the language of ‘safety professional’ when its only declared ethic is anti-professional (https://safetyrisk.net/three-lessons-in-how-to-be-unprofessional/; https://safetyrisk.net/a-professional-ethic-of-risk/ ).
Readiness for learning comes by ‘letting go’ and rejecting dogma, by embracing doubt and asking questions of genuine enquiry about what is unknown. It is why Safety is afraid of radical uncertainty (https://safetyrisk.net/radical-uncertainty/ ), indeed is afraid of any uncertainty (https://safetyrisk.net/the-certainty-of-uncertainty/ ), especially any conversation about consciousness or mystery, paradox or ambiguity. Confirmation bias is the fuel for Safety and provides every reason not to step outside its confines: systems and controls.
For example, Safety has a great deal to ‘learn’ from Early Childhood Education, not just because of its expertise in play but because as a Discipline it best understands and has the best expertise in understanding ‘readiness’. However, even in Early Childhood Education we find recently the politics, ethic and ideology of ‘measurement’ and Technique are beginning to take hold and what a sad development this is. This is what happens when education is translated into a commodity and politicians (who know nothing about learning) dictate the funding of the system. NAPLAN is a great example of political interference in schooling to stifle learning.
The ideology of Measurement is also the antithesis of learning, the love child of Safety. Don’t forget that useless aphorism ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’ recently regurgitated by Cooper (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0925753520304446 p. 5) in his paper against Safety Differently. This is how such mythology is reproduced, by regurgitating ideological mythology un-challenged by an industry fixated on systems, measurement and controls. If you want to know why Measurement is anti-learning read anything by the late Ken Robinson (https://www.sirkenrobinson.com/store/ ) or watch his TED talks on learning (https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity; https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_learning_revolution). What a sad loss when Ken died last year.
Just think of what might happen is Safety embraced engagement with disciplines outside of itself? Just imagine what could happen if Safety moved away from the ideology of STEM knowing and embraced doubt in Transdiscplinarity? Just imagine if the thirst for discovery and creativity, imagination and play were a part of the safety curriculum. Just imagine if Safety wanted to learn? Just imagine if safety was able to welcome a state of ‘readiness’ to learn? Unfortunately, without a disposition towards learning, Safety will never become professional.
Brent Charlton says
Rob – if you could add one thing to the university safety curriculum, what would you add? I know there are far more than one, but I just got on a curriculum committee which creates an opportunity for change. I would redo the whole works, but since that’s not likely to happen where should I start?
Rob Long says
Transdisciplinarity, the validity of non-safety ways of knowing. The beginning of learning in safety is to step out of its own indoctrination and propaganda.
simon cassin says
Thank you for your article I believe you have raised interesting and important questions about common approaches to learning found in the H&S industry.
One of the points I would like to add to your article is how we rarely ask people what they need or would like to learn. I’m not saying that all workers have a full grasp as there is to know about their profession but surely the user of the learning/knowledge should be consulted before designing the learning sessions.
H&S learning opportunities could benefit from adopting a dialectic method such as that adopted by Socrates. We have this obsession with telling facts rather than sharing, exploring, developing meaning and wisdom.
Rob Long says
You are spot on. It’s not just the style of questioning either but the whole worldview of Safety that propagates such arrogance and superiority about learning. I see some of the safety differently crew pushing learning with no expertise in it. It seems safety entitles one to such knowledge. When you don’t know much about something its easy to sell. So sad. As for Socratic learning, that is pure anathema to the ideology of compliance, zero and controls.