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Resisting Home Economics Philosophy Sue L. T. McGregor Professor Emerita Seabright NS Canada B3Z2Y1 IFHE Council.

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Presentation on theme: "Resisting Home Economics Philosophy Sue L. T. McGregor Professor Emerita Seabright NS Canada B3Z2Y1 IFHE Council."— Presentation transcript:

1 Resisting Home Economics Philosophy Sue L. T. McGregor Professor Emerita Seabright NS Canada B3Z2Y1 IFHE Council Meeting, London Ontario July 2014

2 Home economics IS a mission-oriented profession A mission is a statement that clarifies the present state or purpose of a profession or organization; it answers three questions about why the profession exists: –WHAT it does; –WHO it does it for; and, –HOW people in the profession should do what they do. Note that the mission (what we are now) is connected to the vision of where the profession sees itself going in the future

3 Mission versus vision Mission - desired level of performance and our responsibilities to our ‘clients’ Vision – where we are going in the future - A source of inspiration

4 Mission of Home Economics Our accepted mission is to “enable families, both as individual units and generally as a social institution, to build and maintain systems of action which lead (1) to maturing in individual self- formation and (2) to enlightened, cooperative participation in the critique and formulation of social goals and means for accomplishing them” (Brown & Paolucci, 1979, p. 23).

5 Mission-oriented In a mission-oriented profession, knowledge is generated for the sake of doing something with it; knowledge is needed in order to accomplish any practice that (a) has moral overtones (i.e., someone could be harmed) and (b) benefits society as a whole (Brown & Paolucci, 1979) Inner, self knowledge and knowledge about the belief-anchor of the profession is central to a mission-oriented profession – that means practitioners have to reflect on their philosophy of practice Indeed - in mission oriented professions, practitioners are expected to be both academically AND philosophically qualified to assume the responsibilities of their practice (Ellie Vaines)

6 this means getting philosophical If a profession is oriented toward a mission, those in the profession have to carefully consider how their practice serves, impacts and influences others’ lives –

7 What is philosophy? from philo- "loving" + sophia "knowledge, wisdom" and from sophis "wise, learned” Philosophy is Greek philosophia "love of knowledge, pursuit of wisdom; systematic investigation” Philosophy comprises beliefs, which are ideas accepted as true (includes set of rules, statements, doctrine, valued ends, and principles) Philosophies are ideas about what is important in order to achieve high quality, ethical, and normative practice –normative means standards of correctness - what should be done; it is based in norms, which are standards of behaviour that are considered normal; also norms can refer to a required level of achievement or performance – standards of professional behaviour

8 Role of Philosophies A philosophy of practice helps practitioners make decisions that lead to the formation of ethically consistent, morally defensible practice Without a philosophy of practice, home economists cannot know what is motivating them to make very large decisions with moral overtones (people can be harmed if the wrong decision is made).

9 Philosophy con’t Contributes to professionalism because it offers goals, values and attitudes for which to strive Helps practitioners be aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it; helps them better appreciate and understand their professional actions Can be used to help interpret, organize and use information and perspectives while making decisions about practice and taking particular actions (or not)

10 A home economics philosophy has two parts - form and substance FORM our focus how we come to know about them, and what values and ethics shape our practice with and for them SUBSTANCE The unique perspective (viewpoints, outlooks, ideas, standpoints, beliefs) from which we work with and for the form of our philosophy; this part of our philosophy sets boundaries to our practice and gives meaning to our work.

11 Current, Accepted Philosophical Form of Home Economics Individuals and families (alone and as social institutions) are our focus (reality). We come to know about them by studying their day-to-day lives lived out in their homes and households, shaped by internal and external factors (knowledge). The intent is to improve, optimize and enhance their well-being and quality of life (values and valued ends).

12 Long standing substance of home economics philosophy

13 Evolving substance of home economics philosophy

14 WHY does home economics philosophy matter? We are making professional decisions (ethical and moral) about problems facing humanity (lived out in families) that may not have solutions in our lifetime. We need deep-rooted ideas about what should guide our mission-oriented practice, which is focused on morally laden, practical, perennial problems faced by families, problems that span generations, but need different solutions.

15 Philosophical engagement It is the act of constantly improving one’s understanding of the world and one’s place within it by way of improving one’s thinking and skills for critical reflection, discussion and dialogue. means always considering how one’s practice might need to change to reflect the insights gained from constantly improving one’s wisdom, defined as deep, thorough and mature understandings of life and the world.

16 Philosophical unawareness Practicing from a state of philosophical unawareness and disengagement is irresponsible because it can result in irrelevant, unethical or harmful practice; at worst, it can lead to uninspiring and boring practice that is behind the times and not invigorating.

17 Why do home economists seem to resist engaging with the idea of philosophy?

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19 Resist has two meanings To struggle against something Refrain from doing something by refusing to give in to temptation No philosophical lens Lack of reflection Lack of deep insights into practice Unaccountable and irresponsible practice

20 Five reasons people resist or fear philosophy Feel intellectually inadequate or are intellectually disengaged Intimates there are crises Threat of exposure of intellectual indolence (inactiveness) Fear of revelations about self or profession Indifference (apathy- lack of courage, energy and determination)

21 Feel intellectually inadequate or intellectually disengaged Philosophers think above the general level of thinking (they examine the world and their relationship with the world, and how that affects their work and life) Perhaps some home economists to not feel elevated to this level of thinking ALSO – in today’s world, people do not think anymore – they let others think for them, meaning they become intellectually disengaged Perhaps some home economists have fallen victim to this aspect of our consumerized world

22 Myth that philosophizing means there must be a crisis within the profession Ironically, philosophy finds its very life in crises –Only in the constancy of questions and reflections can a profession and its professional members grow and evolve Paradox complicates things as well: –By their very nature, questioning and reflection mean constancy of doubt and the unknown, which can present as a crisis unless people realize that all professions and professionals under go their own crisis of confidence and will succeed and flourish if they learn from the process

23 Threat of exposure of intellectual indolence (inactiveness) Philosophy concerns itself with questions about existence and what it means to be human (the meaning of life and one’s work); this is called existentialism Some home economists may be afraid of intellectually exerting themselves to this level of thought because it means coming to grips with the deeper side of their practice (so they become intellectually inactive) They may shy away from philosophizing because they fear others will discover they have become intellectually and philosophically indolent (inactive)

24 Fear of self revelations Philosophizing means thinking deeply about issues and how one’s approach to practice might change with the resultant insights Some home economists may fear and resist philosophizing because of the revelations about themselves or the profession that might emerge –They may feel their personal and professional integrity could be compromised if they were to learn something about themselves they did not know, did not like, or did not know how to deal with –To avoid this discomfort, they resist philosophizing

25 Indifference In addition to fearing philosophy, some home economists may simply be indifferent to the role philosophy plays in their professional life! Indifference means lack of concern Indifference also means apathy (lack of interest or enthusiasm) and apathy cripples professional growth Apathy also means spiritlessness, which equates to lacking courage, energy and determination. Apathy and indifference do not bode well for a healthy profession(al): –We need courage to move forward, energy to sustain the forward momentum and determination to keep going in the face of adversity

26 Another reason.... To be fair, perhaps we are not so much philosophically unwell or languid, or fearful or resistful as we are philosophically naive, meaning we lack experience, wisdom and judgement as it pertains to how important philosophy actually is to our practice. After all, most home economists leave university without ever taking a philosophy course (myself included). This means they embark upon their career without the basis for critically reflecting upon the philosophical aspect of their practice, to balance their solid grounding in theory/knowledge and skills/competencies.

27 Regardless, home economists need to be able to answer these questions: –Why am I doing what I do? –What is the impact of my actions? –Do my actions harm anyone? –Do the people affected have a say in my decisions about how to help them achieve well-being?

28 They cannot answer these questions without a professional …

29 SUGGESTION … Professional Philosophization Consider the merits of public philosophization, conversations focused on the validity of certain ideas, beliefs, meanings and values (these sorts of public conversations have been interrupted in today’s modern culture) These public conversations would entail thinking together publically about the role of philosophy in home economics and how it shapes our practice (overcome fear, resistance and indifference) These public conversations could bring comfort and inspiration – we would be thinking together professionally about home economics philosophy

30 References Allan, B., & Branton Shearer, C. (2012). The scale for existential thinking. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 31, 121–127. Behar, D. M. (2012). Existential issues. Pelham, NY: Westchester Purpose-Driven Therapy. Retrieved from Brown, M. (1993). Philosophical studies of home economics in the United States: Basic ideas by which home economists understand themselves. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press. García-Düttmann, A. (2011). Who is afraid of philosophy? Enrahonar, 46, Retrieved from Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed. New York, NY: Basic Books. Kieren, D., Vaines, E., & Badir, D. (1984). The home economist as a helping professional. Winnipeg, MN: Frye Publishing. Max Planck Institute of Economics. (2006). Discussion papers. Jena, Germany: Author. Retrieved September 4, 2006 from McGregor, S. L. T. (2004). Philosophical well-being. Kappa Omicron Nu Human Sciences Working Paper Series, McGregor, S. L. T. (2006). Transformative practice. East Lansing, MI: Kappa Omicron Nu. McGregor, S. L. T. (2009). International conceptualizations of a 21 st century vision of the profession. Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM, 18(1): McGregor, S. L. T. (2010). Locating the human condition concept within home economics. [McGregor Monograph Series No ]. Seabright, NS: McGregor Consulting Group. Retrieved from McGregor, S. L. T. (2012). The role of philosophy in home economics. Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM, 19(1), McGregor, S. L. T., & Goldsmith. E. (2010). Defogging the professional, philosophical mirror. International Journal of Home Economics, 3(2), Messick, F. (2004). Not Virginia Wolfe [Review of the book Who’s afraid of philosophy?: Right to philosophy 1, by J. Derrida]. Retrieved from Amazon.com website: Aesthetics/product-reviews/ /ref=cm_cr_dp_see_all_btm?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending Nemes, L. (2011). Salons, cafes and pubs: The European tradition of doing philosophy in public. In European, National, and Regional Identity Conference Proceedings (pp ). Retrieved from ResearchGate. (2013, October 10). Do you think that people like philosophy?[Web log post]. Retrieved from Think piece. (2013). In Merriam-Webster's on line dictionary. Retrieved from Vaines, E. (1980). Home economics: A definition. Canadian Home Economics Journal, 30(2),


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