Presentation on theme: "Caregiving. In this lecture I will explore Noddings’ arguments about social caring and occupational caregiving. Historically nursing and teaching have."— Presentation transcript:
In this lecture I will explore Noddings’ arguments about social caring and occupational caregiving. Historically nursing and teaching have been associated with a sentimental view of women’s nature. How does Noddings conceive of caregiving given her arguments about the distinctive nature of women and the maternal instinct?
In opposition to the traditional view of female nature many feminists have argued that women should be discouraged from entering the caring professions. How can women find equality given the caring trap? For Noddings there is a more attractive alternative: elevate our sense of value and recognize how these professions contribute to human well-being.
Indeed, who would argue against the importance of caring in health and other social services? Care is essential to promoting human welfare, especially for the most vulnerable. It is also a necessary component of education at all levels. And, on the most general level, it should surely pay a part in community life. We are all givers and receivers of care.
Throughout history the most obvious caregiving roles have been the province of women. With the rise of modern society feminine duties within the home were projected into vocational occupations.
Supported by a powerful religious and moral ideology, the “cult of domesticity” women have embraced gendered professions as a means to social service and personal fulfillment—women’s work was a pathway to some degree of independence and life outside the household. But as every teacher and nurse knows, this was not an escape from masculine authority. The patriarchy of the school and hospital replaced, or rather was added to, that of the home.
For feminists concerned to escape the injustices of patriarchal power these sites of service are naturally read as instruments of oppression that perpetuate the limited lives of women under the rule of men. A central task for feminism is thus to demystify the sentimental image of women as nurturing beings created by God or nature for all the familial and social duties of care.
It is not surprising then that so many feminists would greet Gilliagn’s work with hostility. In article after article she was lambasted as a fifth columnist, a conservative apologist justifying the continuance of women’s work on the basis of their innate nature.
The result is that caregiving, an activity so central to many women’s lives, has become a political minefield where few scholars fear to tread. The same may be said of scientific studies of gender differences. Fearful of essentialism, there is a palpable sense of biophobia.
On the other extreme are feminists who embrace the distinctive nature of women. If the first orientation ignores sexual identity and reduces gender to a social construction, the later exaggerates it through the postulation of incommensurable sex-specific traits.
One danger of such essentialist arguments is a tendency toward separatism and anti-male philosophy. On this account if nursing and teaching are truly female professions then women’s work must be protected through the exclusion of men. Such matriarchal attitudes are not only scientifically unfounded, they frustrate the task of reconciling care and justice.
Noddings seeks a middle path that unites equality with difference. As Gilligan argues, care is not only a female; all humans care. Moreover, a sense of justice is not only the province of men; women also understand rights and equality. Not all men are competitive and aggressive; many women are. Moreover, men can be nurturing and cooperative. Or at least made more so.
Feminists have been so keen to undercut the arguments of Conservatives such as Bennett and Bloom they have missed the complexities of Gilligan’s and Noddings’ positions. Their backlash arguments have been as painful as they have been unfounded. In “against Caring” Nelson (1992) warns that Noddings’ attempt to articulate a feminist ethic only serves as an “apology for traditional women’s work of mothering, tending the family, gardening, and cooking.”
But the defenders of women’s work also embrace the ethic of justice. Care and justices are not binaries, except in a parochial society. In working to secure rights and justice Noddings claims that feminist critics have forgotten the importance of caring. The question is how these orientations can be integrated in community life and professional practice.
In the caregiving roles of nursing and teaching we should note that caring is not just an emotional response, it is as much a cognitive as an affective task. Empathy demands social understanding, critical skills, technical knowledge, and communicative abilities.
This level of expertise, implicit in Benner’s concept of involvement, is not captured in the ANA code of ethics. It comes with the situated capacity to exercise wise and compassionate judgment. The same reasoning applies to the school teacher.
The notion of care is a little broader than the virtue of phronesis discussed by Aristotle. It certainly has different roots. For caring is not a character trait, as argued previously, it is a form of social life embedded in the essential experience of familial relations. The task before us then is how to extend care from its natural context to enrich community life and professional work in a manner compatible with the ethic of justice.
The Structure of Caring The concept of caring is not about an individual moral agent, but the relational dyad; the carer and the cared-for. This is not always an equal relationship. The mother- child, the teacher-student and the nurse-patient bonds are asymmetrical and dependent.
In many relationships— friendship and marriage, for instance—we do have a mutual exchange. But caring can also extend beyond the dyad. A person might “care about” others (even care about the well being of animals) who cannot reciprocate emotions. This is clearly the case for those who care about the suffering of others in distant lands.
A caregiver often cares about children or patients who do not or cannot reciprocate their emotion. In such cases it is the essential responsibility of the community to provide extra emotional support the caregiver’s necessary work.
In a natural caring situation the carer is attentive to the needs of the cared-for. Here attention to verbal and non- verbal cues is essential. Originally Noddings chose “engrossment” to characterize this form of involvement, but this lead to misunderstandings. She now uses the term “receptive attention.”
As for the cared-for, they must accept the care. Again, this may be verbal or non-verbal. Their response then informs the carer and this often initiates new, adaptive behaviors.
Let’s take a more detailed look at Nodding’s phenomological analysis of the caring relation. She identifies three different kinds of caring: instinctual, natural, and ethical. This is not a stage theory, rather an account of expanding domains. In the final theoretical phase the ethic of caring merges with the concept of justice providing moral guidelines for ways to ensure one another’s rights and meet one another’s needs.
Instinctual Care Nodding’s analysis of caring starts with the experience of instinctual care. Hopefully all humans are born into such relationships. For the child this includes the fierce bond of maternal love.
If there is any essential in the female character it is surely this: without it the human species would not survive. A mother who feels no love for her child is considered abnormal, ill, or defective. A child born without a mother has to be placed into care. The same cannot be said of other “female” traits. Unfortunately, Noddings claims, that the paternal instinct is not universal.
So fierce is the caring instinct that women will stand by the family and community even when they know they are in the wrong. Allegiance to the group is paramount, Noddings observes, and often overrides the sense of justice. How many women stand by their husbands and children despite their infidelities and crimes.
Natural Caring Natural caring emerges from instinctual caring, and grows in the familial context of family and friends. Here our emotions are at home, and it is from this secure harbor that we find our moral compass in life.
How do we move beyond instinctual bonds to construct caring relations with family and friends? There is evidence that we have an innate sympathy for the suffering of others, even infants try to console other infants when they cry. Evolutionary psychologist, you will recall, argue that we are keyed to praise he nice and sanction the naughty. This suggests the importance of sociability ned group bonding.
Noddings also thinks the experience of being cared-for is necessary to learning how to care. In most, but not all cases, this happens naturally during childhood. On occasions elementary school teachers must compensate for poor parenting and show children that they are cared for, by recognizing and meeting their emotional needs.
Importantly, the carer becomes the model of caring. He or she instructs the child in how to become empathic to others. “How does x feel about your act?” “Why is y unhappy?” Sometimes pets become a means to develop caring skills. And of course girls especially, play at mothering with dolls.
When dialogue accompanies caring it becomes more instructional. This can be seen in the development of manners. We explain why we behave in ways to support the needs of others with consideration, respect, and care. Good parents develop empathy by discussing the effects of children’s conduct on others, rather than simply threatening punishments they will receive for disobeying their authority.
Often gender stereotyping gets in the way of preparing children to care. Boys, for example, are asked how will people think of you if you do x, not what will be the effect of x on the other. This has to change, boys need more emphatic training not less.
Moral judgment and character education programs focus on the individual, their ideas and their behavior. Empathy has a different focus, the needs of the other. For example, where justice and virtue ethics invoke the shame and remorse an agent may feel after a wrongful act, care ethics looks to the task of restitution.
The key imperative is maintenance of positive relations by meeting the needs of others.
Such caring is natural in the sense that it is spontaneous, not driven by rules or principles. “Male” theories leave the biological and familial context of life behind for abstract constructions of right. Even conventions are rooted in a history defined by the male experience. Yet familial and working relationships constitute the primary contexts in which the most of our ethical behavior plays out.
Noddings levels the same criticism against evolutionary psychologists. Rather than trying to identify intuitive moral judgments, they should explore the female maternal instinct. She also points out that there are few biological studies of caring. Why is this? Is woman’s nature such a politically dangerous topic?
Note how Noddings slips from ethical differences in gender to gender differences in ethics. The “male” way of viewing the world and morality situates the individual at the epistemological center. It is built upon the logic of fair exchanges and reciprocity. But we are not individuals, we are creatures embedded in social relationships— oftentimes with deep emotional significance.
In such caring relationships reciprocity is not always an issue. Caring is based upon the needs of others, it is unilateral. It does not demand an exchange. The male created Golden Rule does not apply; women do onto others as they need. One popular book claims that men are from Mars, women from Venus. Replacing Gods and planets with political economy, in the realm of morals men are capitalists, women socialists!
Ethical Caring Caring relations occur pretty naturally in close communities. The problem emerges when we move beyond the familial to the larger population. Here Noddings suggests ways in which natural caring can be extended by constructing an ethics of care—a moral theory that generates ways in which we can understand and meet the needs of those who are not part of our familial community.
Take a simple example. If our natural sympathy fail us, can we not be guided by the ideal of care? Can we not ask “what would my best caring self do?” To illustrate Noddings presents a family situation in which a father and mother learns to accept a daughter in- law they do not like too much. They decide to be more caring despite their feelings.
How can education and parenting help children develop the intellectual and affective skills necessary to sustain such a caring society? How can we learn to understand and respond to the needs of more distant others?
According to Noddings the first problem to note is that that male and female brains have evolved differently and are suited to different tasks. This is a hard truth for many feminists, because difference is seen as an admission of male superiority.
Avoiding this conclusion, Noddings argues that we should use such tendencies to benefit everyone. Sometimes this means reducing innate differences by culture. Here, for example, we might temper male aggressiveness by helping boys to develop empathy.
Alternatively we could address the gender gap with programs that compensate for girls’ lack of ability in mathematics. More radically, Noddings favors restructuring the whole patriarchal curriculum of the public school to reflect the needs of a caring society. Waxing philosophical she even believes such cultural changes might influence the course human evolution, thus defeating claims of essentialism. Frankly, this argument seems implausible. How can enculturation meaningfully influence our genetic nature given the historical pace of the selection process?
But in the short term, what can schooling do? Perhaps we could teach the horrors of war rather than glorifying it in history. Consider our chronicle of heroes and stories of progress. Much of what we tell children about the past is associated with militarism.
Think about the use of reading material that deals with the realities of war to challenge political rhetoric and jingoistic patriotism. Students could study the effects of combat on the population and indeed those soldiers who, forced to engage in savagery, suffer mental torment for the rest of their lives. Is this unpatriotic?
For Noddings patriotism should not be used to incite aggressive emotions against others, but rather a metaphorical tool by which to understand the lives of different peoples—they love their country as we love ours. In this vein she challenges the national anthem and its military subtext. Why not use “America the Beautiful?” Written by a woman, this pacific song has embracive themes about common purpose and collective spirit.
For Noddings the concept of caring-about is key to the establishment of a good society. It helps intellectually to extend natural caring from the familial community to the broader community.
While less intense, caring- about (like caring-for) is also moved by empathy. Here she points to the power of stories and film as instruments of narrative imagination to help us understand and empathize with others.
Most importantly boys and girls could be given caring tasks within the community as part of their schooling. And more men should be encouraged to join the caring professions—including early childhood education, nursing and elder care. This would not doubt improve the professional standing of such occupations, it would also serve as an incubator of moral values teaching men how to attend to the needs of others.
More broadly Noddings would reorient the entire curriculum from abstract male knowledge—math and science—toward more female, socially compassionate subjects. Indeed, Noddings envisions schools as social centers much on the model of the settlement house run by Jane Addams, which sought to help immigrants and foster the interchange of cultural life in early Nineteenth Century Chicago.
Why should girls struggle some much with algebra when there are so many other useful skills for them to learn. “If women had been involved from the start in the development of the school curriculum, courses on parenting, home management, child development, life’s stages, meal planning, gardening, healthy lifestyles, and food handling would certainly have appeared in our schools. All these topics have a rich intellectual dimension as well as immediate practical importance.”
How about the caregiving professions themselves? How can teaching and nursing embrace the ethic of care and the ethic of justice? Certainly through the elimination of patriarchy. Here Noddings is particularly severe on the influence of religion that presses women into caring on the grounds of spiritual service. She also points to a political reevaluation of the social importance of caregiving. We should come to understand just how important such professions are to society.
But there are also changes that can be made to the culture of nursing and teaching. And at this point I pass the baton to you, and your experience of professional practice. The question to explore, how can the ethic of care and the ethic of justice can be combined more effectively in nursing, teaching, and other gendered professions?
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