Rainer Kokemohr A locstandards of conductgful curriculum

Rainer Kokemohr
A locstandards of conductgful curriculum –
some observations on its practical meaning
In former times, children were seen as unfinished adults.
Figure 1: A painting from 1555 – the children’s faces bear the traits of adult faces
(Sofonisba Anguissola)1
About 500 years ago, in European painting children were painted small, but their faces
painted adult. Accordingly, education was seen as a way to make finished adults out of
unfinished children. For doing so, educators were asked to transfer knowledge and
standards of social behavior onto the next generation. Even today, a curriculum in the
conventional sense is still kind of a collection of knowledge and standards of behavior to
be transferred onto the next generation in favor of a stable society.
But children are not unfinished adults. Centuries later the idea of what children are has
changed significantly. A painting from 1805 (by the romantic painter Otto Philip Runge)
shows the difference. These kids look like we nowadays imagine children:
Figure 2: A painting from 1805 shows children as children
(Philip Otto Runge)2
The painting of the three children is an important step in developing the modern
concept of childhood. You know the names of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Froebel,
Maria Montessori or Jean Piaget from whom we learned that children are different.
Children as we see them today go straight and open-minded into the world:
Figure 3: The painting represents the idea of an open education
In the painting there is no parent, no teacher. The children have left behind the house
and the well-protected area of the garden. The picture represents the idea of an openminded development.
Children conquer the world with all their senses from the very beginning of their lives.
They interact with the world and develop on their own account. Using ideas from
Chinese culture, one could say that from the very beginning they are part of the eternal
dynamic game of Yin and Yang. Educators can only help children on this path.
Knowledge and standards of behavior are welcome, but they are no sufficient response
to the children’s real needs.
However, children cannot re-invent the world. They must learn, and adult people want
them to take over the social stock of knowledge and of behavioral standards.
Figure 4: The painting represents the idea of a closed education
The Painting represents the idea of a closed education. It is a closed scene in that the
persons are bound to each other. The girl in black attentively follows the mother. The
mother, although looking out of the picture, is mastering the chess. The little girl looks at
the older sister. The grandmother critically observes the overall scene. Through their
looks, the three generations are arranged in a hierarchy. As chess symbolizes clear rules,
the painting represents the idea of a closed education by focusing on a well-established
Simplifying we get two opposite approaches.
Figure 5
On the one hand, there is the instructional approach. It can be schematized in the
following way.
Figure 6: instructional approach
The educator or teacher is asked to transfer knowledge and standards of conduct to the
next generation. The basic idea is that children develop well if they are educated
through rules and standards of conduct when entering the world. This idea presumes
that the natural world itself is formed by rules and the social world by standards of
conduct. Accordingly educators believe that children are well prepared for their life if
they interpret the world in the light of the acquired rules and standards of conduct.
We can illustrate that idea. The instructional approach was developed at a time when
people learned to love an orderly arranged nature. According to the instructional
approach they introduce the children to rules and standards of conduct, and the children
are requested to interpret the world through the application of these rules and
standards to the world.
Figure 7: Historical royal garden of Hannover, Germany
This painting shows a historical royal garden surrounded by a wall. Inside, the nature is
clearly structured. The raw nature is excluded. The garden expresses the desire of
people to dominate the world by transforming nature into a well-ordered space. They
want to pass on this settled world from generation to generation.
Figure 8: structure of the instructional approach, simplified
In this way children are expected to perceive the world as a system of rules and
standards, what practically means a system of dos and don’ts. In this context, people
tend to forget that the world such as presented through established rules or standards
has been created by preceding generations. They tend to forget that the established
world isn’t but a small part of the whole world with a lot of surprising phenomena worth
to be discovered. Forgetting it they also forget that in this settled world there is no space
for the children’s own experiences or discoveries beyond the boundaries of the already
known world.
On the other hand, there is what often is called the situational approach. More and more
kindergartens follow this approach. They invite children to make interesting
experiences with raw nature.
Figure 9: situational approach: Open minded children experience the world.
Here, stimulating situations such as a beach, climbing natural trees or an open fire are
offered where children can develop their sense of balance and physical agility or explore
interesting, strange and even dangerous phenomena of the world.
E.g. the scenes on the left side of the chart show children experiencing fire. The older
boy on the upper picture is about 2½ years old, the younger one only 1 year old. Of
course, adults take care that the children are protected from real danger. But the
educators won’t exclude all risks. They trust in the children’s own attention growing
with their own experiences. They believe that in this way children become more
sensitive, more attentive and more creative in dealing with the phenomena of the world.
The situational approach takes into account the fact that children are eager to directly
experience the world with all their senses, to develop their skillfulness, their capacities
of handling objects and animals, and to increase the prudence and courage of mastering
dangerous activities. Thus the children learn how to do things or how to socially behave
without explicitly knowing why. They get a lot of tacit knowledge including experienced
rules and standards of conduct.
So we get a first summary:
The world to be known
as a system
of rules and standards
The world to be experienced:
rules and standards are generated through experience
or connected with experience
Figure 10: instructional approach <–/–> situational approach
On the one hand, according to the instructional approach, children are equipped with a
system of knowledge, of dos and of don’ts, and own experience is almost excluded. The
standards and rules that preceding generations have developed are likely to be more
important than the world itself.
On the other hand, according to the situational approach, children are invited to
experience real situations. They are asked to cope with challenges for being rewarded
by a self-experienced development of skillful rules and intelligent standards of conduct.
In short: The instructional approach is motivated by the desire of a stable world, whereas
the situational approach is motivated by the desire of creating a better world.
To cope with the relationship of closed and open education is the real challenge of
education, and a modern curriculum must comply with it.
Starting from this opposition we can turn to the following points:
(1) A remark on the importance of the instructional approach
(2) The situational approach - a close look at a case.
(3) The importance of case studies
(4) Primary experience.
(5) Primary and secondary experience.
(6) How to interpret the children’s unknown inner world?
(7) Proposition of an open curriculum
(8 A localized and meaningful curriculum
can invite educators to help children to enable
the tight interplay of primary and secondary experience.
1. A remark on the importance of the instructional approach
Within the instructional approach learning is a function of teaching. The educator or
teacher is supposed to make the children learn. In this context knowledge is more or less
taken as an object that simply can be transferred from generation to generation.
Figure 11 : A caricature of school in former times:
The world isn’t presented but in pictures and books
(in the hand of the teacher).
Still today, this approach rules the education in many societies from early childhood to
high school.
Figure 12 : a teacher-centered class
The instructional approach is inherited from traditional societies. In traditional societies
people believed that, for keeping the world stable, future generations must copy the life
of previous generations.
Consequently, a curriculum in its traditional sense is a closed collection of carefully
chosen knowledge and carefully chosen standards of conduct to be transferred to the
next generation in view of a human, harmonious and well-organized society. According
to this approach, educational administrators often appreciate the curriculum as a tool
for the production of good citizens.3
Figure 13: A closed curriculum: The Education Administration decides
on the educational goals and the educators are expected to realize these goals.
They are likely to believe that the application of a curriculum by transferring of “proper”
knowledge and of “proper” standards of conduct will make the type of citizen they
Although modern curricula are more complex the basic idea of instruction is still
operational. The main difference is that the traditional goal of good conduct has been
replaced by skills and competencies that match the economical requirements of
worldwide competing societies. However, the idea of simply applying a curriculum by
instruction fails.
This idea fails because of two reasons. The first one: The instructional approach in its
simple version is not aware of the fact that from the very beginning, education is an
active interaction, and mutual understanding is indispensable. Parents know that it is
nearly impossible not to respond to a crying baby. They strive to better understand their
child. The more they interact with the baby the more it is a mutual education of the child
and the parents as well. Parents learn what a child really is, and the hungry baby learns
that help can be called. During the years, parents and teachers are challenged to
understand the children, and children are challenged to understand the parents and
teachers. A curriculum simply following the instructional approach fails in pedagogical
The second reason: In modern societies, people are constantly being challenged by new
situations and problems for which no answers in the traditional stock of knowledge and
of standards of conduct can be found. Challenging issues are the climate change, the
growing world population, international migration, economic competition or unequal
distribution of wealth and their impact on daily life. They undermine the confidence in
traditional ways of life. Therefore, educational goals are not to be set dogmatically. They
must be open to dynamic interpretations by educators and children. The more the world
is changing, the more creativity is asked and educational paradigms must turn from
instruction to interaction.
Fortunately, children are eager to increase their natural creativity. They are eager to
learn because they perceive the situational suggestions and challenges of the world in
which they are embedded with all their existence. Here, educators are to be cooperative
partners of the children in positively responding to challenges. Since creativity cannot
be taught by instruction, parents and educators only can offer situations inviting
children to develop their natural curiosity and creativity.
In early childhood the creative desire is particularly strong. Here, according to the
situational approach the educational administration should offer open curricula. An
open curriculum provides topics that can be interpreted in many ways.
Figure 14: An open curriculum is pedagogically complex and more dynamic.
Since it is open to different interpretations it stimulates creativity.
Different topics stimulate the joy of discovery and creativity of the children and of the
educators as well. They increase their interpretation capacities and promote their
interaction and understanding. Within an open curriculum experimental fields of
intergenerational cooperation are offered and early childhood teachers can be
cooperative partners of the children by sensitively observing, interpreting and positively
supporting their activities.
2. The situational approach – a close look at a case
Let us look at an example from early childhood. Since the parents can’t always be
present, a baby may feel lost. The father may tell the baby that mom will come back
soon. But the child at this age does not yet understand the meaning of ‘coming back
soon’. It has not learned yet that a person can be present in one moment and absent in
the next. However, it must cope with its anxiety by learning that the mother will come
back. How can the baby learn what ‘coming back soon’ is?
We cannot simply teach a baby what coming back is. ‘Coming back soon’ presumes a
concept of presence and absence. The child can’t cope with its anxiety unless it creates a
concept of presence and absence on its own. In other words: it must create a concept of
space including the difference of here and there and a concept of time, including the
difference of now and soon.
Let me show you a video of our granddaughter at the age of 14 months:
Figure 15: The 14-months-old girl Gesa “playing” with a stone
(The photo replaces the video that will be shown in the lecture)
The girl named Gesa buries a stone and digs it out again. At one moment the stone is
under the shoe, at another moment it is upon the ground. Under the shoe it is invisible
and upon the ground it is visible. She repeats this action during some minutes again and
again. (Since the camera wasn’t at hand, I took my iPhone and caught only the very last
What is the situation? The parents and we, the grandparents, are there. After finally
digging the tiny stone out she presents it to her father and then to her grandma. Backed
by the presence of adults she experiments with the stone and makes it present or absent.
Using her hands, her feet, her eyes, her sense of touch, in short: her body she is creating
a concept of presence and absence. By means of the stone and her bodily experience into
she can create a symbolic concept of space and time. The concept of presence and
absence, of space and time is not simply a mental construction. It is created in the
interweaving interaction of physical actions, sensitive perception and mental formation.
Making the physical experience into an abstract concept is the miraculous power of
human intelligence. Similar to our
granddaughter, in close observation of
each child we can learn what scientific research has discovered only after many troubles
(cf. the cultural-historical school and the work of its protagonists Vigotsky, Leontiev and
Luria and the supplementary research by Piaget).
3. The importance of case studies
The situational approach asks us to perceive situations very carefully and sensitively.
Case studies are a good way. Instead of following simple general statements about the
child's development, we should observe individual cases repeatedly. What may happen
when the child buries and digs out the stone? First, we do not know what really is going
on in the child’s mind. However, remembering similar cases we notice that the child
repeats the action again and again. And I can add that for several months Gesa invented
a lot of similar games. There must be a strong interest.
Regarding this interest we can share our observations with other parents or educators.
Sometimes, scientific literature can also help. The case of our granddaughter reminded
me a famous example presented by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.4
One day, Freud observed his 1½ year-old grandson who was standing inside his bed,
unable to leave it. He repeatedly threw away a wooden spool hanging on a thread:
Figure 16: A boy throwing away a wooden spool (illustrating photomontage, R.K.)
Then the child accompanied his actions with sounds meaning ‘gone’ and ‘there’. Freud
interprets that the baby was marked by the mother’s threatening absence:
Figure 17: the mother’s threatening absence
Freud argues, that by throwing off the wooden spool and getting it back, the baby
symbolically gains control of the mother’s absence and presence, her appearance and
disappearance and overcomes his anxiety by symbolically mastering the gap between
the mother’s presence and absence.
Figure 18: The spool symbolizes the mother; she may be present or absent: The narrative
construction of a mental order of disappearance and appearance supports the boy’s
orientation in the world.
According to Freud the boy used the wooden spool for constructing a concept of absence
and presence. This concept is linked to an object that the boy himself can manage. The
spool helps him to symbolically rule the mother’s absence and presence. Often we forget
how we organize presence and absence, time and space. However, symbolic
representation is also our way as adults.
4. Primary experience
Let us come back to our granddaughter. Her case is not as clear as that one of Freud’s
grandson. Her stone was just a tiny stone she found by coincidence. Throwing away and
retracting it by a thread was not possible. However, she explored the stone as a
situational element. How that? A little stone can be used differently. It can form a row
along with other stones. It can be thrown away. It can go unnoticed. The girl’s way was
The days before, after a long winter period, she ‘helped’ her mother plucking weeds in
the garden. There, she learned to manage the soil. Enabled by this experience she
explores the stone as a situational element and lets the stone disappear and reappear.
We saw how she was experimenting with the stone making it absent and present again.
All her senses are involved in the creation of a concept of presence and absence. This is
what can be called a primary experience.
A primary experience cannot be taught. It cannot be taught by instruction. A primary
experience can only be the result of the child’s own experience. As parents or educators
we can only observe and try to support the child’s activity by sensitive interpretation. As
soon as we have an idea about what the child is doing we are ready to follow him with
Possibly the girl playing with the tiny stone is inventing a game of disappearance and
reappearance. It is just an interest, triggered by the situational context and profiting
from a preceding experience. Through the invention of this game she makes a primary
experience. It is new in that the stone in the soil symbolically allows her to detect a
relation of disappearance and re-appearance. It is a primary experience in which the
stone symbolically represents presence and absence of an object or a person in time and
Henceforth, the result of this primary experience can be used for interpreting similar
5. Primary and secondary experience
Primary experience is not yet worded experience. Besides primary experiences, there
are secondary experiences. Secondary experiences originally were primary experiences
that are translated into worded forms. As worded forms secondary experiences can be
detached from the concrete original scene and the bodily experience. They can
linguistically be communicated and offered to others. That is what preceding
generations try to do when teaching the next generation. But we should never forget
that a good understanding of secondary experience depends on the living basis of
primary experience. A real understanding of secondary experience requires that its
worded form is getting in mental touch with the imagination of its preceding primary
experience. If primary experience is not activated, secondary experience remains dead
The girl’s example can illustrate this transformation from primary to secondary
experience: Her father often has to go to his office in Berlin, and he is absent for a couple
of days. Some weeks after the video, the girl started using words. Since then she likes to
point at the garden’s door uttering the words “Papa Berlin”.
Pointing at the garden’s door and uttering the word “Berlin” symbolizes the father’s
departure and her expectation of his return. So she masters her anxiety by using a word
as a symbol of the father’s actual absence and his future presence.
Figure 19: The word “soon” can’t be understood
unless a mental time spatial extension
(represented by the brown arrow) is created.
The child cannot understand words such as “now” or “soon” unless it has created in
primary experience a concept of time and space, of presence and absence. We can
generalize: Any instruction is a secondary experience transfer. It presupposes the creation
of appropriate concepts by virtue of primary experience.
Another example: If we tell a child “This is our family”, we use a word that in different
cultures has different meanings. Secondary experience means objects that the members
of a culture have agreed to interpret as units of consciousness. Normally we take topics
of secondary experience as natural issues. But we have just forgotten that primary
experience has become secondary experience by its symbolical wording.
This also applies vice versa. We don’t really understand what a family is unless we go
back to primary experience i.e. to the special feeling of being together that we have
experienced in early childhood. Thus our feeling of being together is linked to the family
that we are. Is it a small family of parents and one child or two children? Is it a large
family including grandparents, aunts, uncles etc.? The relationship between primary and
secondary experience is culturally shaped. This is true for all knowledge. Even scientific
knowledge is culturally shaped. It is related to a more or less successful and finally
worldwide dominating culture.6
The relationship of primary and secondary experience also applies to social standards of
conduct. Let us return to the video.
Figure 20: Gesa showing the stone to her father
The girl is acting with much energy. Obviously, a serious interest is working.
We don’t know her concrete interest. We only can observe and guess. A moment later
she proudly presents the tiny stone to her father and then to the grandma. Thus the
adults seem to be somehow included in her game. Regarding this fact we may only
assume that the girl’s game is a way to emotionally regulate her trouble with the father’s
absence. But she is likely to give the emotional trouble a first communicative form and
to ask for the others’ consent as if she wants to say: Look – you let me alone, but I can
manage the trouble.
6. How to interpret the children’s unknown inner world?
Education aims at the children’s inner processes, but how can we interact with a child
unless we know his inner world?
The more children of different cultures and languages come together in nurseries,
kindergartens and schools, the more communication becomes difficult and educators
are challenged. In a German project, parents, educators of some kindergartens, early
childhood researchers and curriculum designers come together to cope with this
challenge. They found two important conditions for the children’s good development.
First, a long-term perspective on the children’s life is asked. The long-term orientation
helps calming when dealing with ambiguities in child development. Secondly, the
interaction between children and educators must be a real partnership respecting the
needs of both sides.
Regarding these two conditions educators, parents and curriculum responsible officers
meet at regular workshops for studying together real cases. Since different minds
perceive more than one, they can complement or correct each other. They also can easily
refer to childhood development research. Thus they enhance their pedagogical
understanding of situations. Educators who are alone with children bear the full
responsibility. But within a team, they can share responsibility. They can more easily
avoid direct instruction and support positive aspects simply by recognizing them in the
children's own actions, and exclude negative aspects by disregarding them.
7. Proposition of an open curriculum
A curriculum in the conventional sense of the term is a closed collection of well-defined
secondary experiences. But how can a curriculum respond to the undeniable relation of
primary and secondary experience?
According to the situational approach the curriculum must be an open collection of
issues that invite children and educators as well to possible interpretations. Educators
should regard the curriculum topics as stimulating issues and encourage the children’s
desire to discover the world. Doing so further education in workshops can help a lot.
Let me refer to an interesting example of an open curriculum in which primary and
secondary experience interact7:
Figure 21: open curriculum (inspired by G.E. Schäfer)
Three elementary aspects are distinguished: A. Child potentials of self-formation (what
can children do on their own?); B. Basic orientations of educators in view of the children’s
self-formation (which ideas of child development do [or should] the educators have?; C.
Areas and contents of (self-)formation (in between [A] and [B]: what fields and what
contents are available?).
What do we get here? This curriculum is not a simple collection prescribing knowledge
to be acquired and standards of conduct to be adopted. However, the red, the green and
the blue columns show that a huge stock of knowledge and of behavioral standards is
included. But they are not to transfer as such. Situations are the starting point. (A) Child
potentials of self-formation (what children can do on their own?) are stimulated in view
of social relations, objects and meanings that situationally occur. (B) The educators’
basic orientations in view of the children’s self-formation play their role as elements of
the children’s social environment. (C) Thus, the children’s potentials of self-formation
and the educators’ basic orientations can meet and stimulate the children’s and the
educators’ perceptions and internal processing in the areas of movement, playing,
language and environment.
Playing in early childhood is the natural way of learning. It is an important process of the
children’s self-formation.8 Since regarding self-formation children need time for playing,
the schedule of the day cannot be organized exactly by the minute and ruled by the
educator. Children at this age learn the best when their play is inspired by a stimulating
situation. Therefore, situations (outside and inside) should be set up so that children can
use their body senses extensively. Materials usable in many ways should be available,
e.g. small and large stones to build fancy houses or towers or light and heavy objects for
spontaneous role-playing.
In phases of playing different perceptual modes such as eyes, the sense of touch and
molding, but also fantasy, linguistic and meaningful thinking are active. The educators
should not insist on what they think to be the “correct” handling of the materials. Often,
the material itself can help children to understand. Here, prefabricated materials
committing children to certain usages are not suitable. Materials such as loam, sand and
soil, small and large pieces of wood or industrially produced molding clay, plasticine or
objects or non-specific Lego bricks provide better conditions for the exercise of body
senses and imagination.
Let us have a look at situations with stimulating materials:
Figure 22: Situations with stimulating materials
There are a lot of inspiring objects. Children can easily move and develop their own
ideas. The children's crafting is a way to develop the potentials of self-formation. The
objects that they produce, as small as they may be, are steps on the path of their own
8. A localized and meaningful curriculum can invite educators to help children to
enable the tight interplay of primary and secondary experience.
Finally, let us come back to the title of this conference: “Localized and Meaningful
Curriculum”. It may be already clear what a meaningful curriculum is. But what is the
meaning of a “localized” curriculum? Of course, the word “local” implies that the
curriculum refers to experiences in the local environment. But there might be a
secondary meaning in that a localized curriculum differs from a globalized curriculum.
The content of a globalized curriculum should be the same for all people on this earth,
and in view of knowledge and skills all people are considered equal in principle. In this
sense, a global curriculum refers to a global identity. Accordingly, we can assume that a
localized curriculum has a secondary meaning, namely the meaning of focusing on a
local identity. In fact, the personal identity is a localized identity. It refers to primary
experience. Only later a local identity can connect to a global identity, just as primary
experience can connect to secondary experience. In other words: a global identity is
founded in a local identity.
For getting a concrete interpretation of this statement I would like to refer to another
case. It is our friends’ son at the age of 4 years. His name is Alvar. Once when visiting the
family, we brought as a gift a bin filled with small moldable chips. Made from corn the
chips easily stick together if slightly wetted.
Alvar’s first idea is to build a horse. But as soon as two chips stick together, he takes
them as a hairdryer:
Figure 23: The boy Alvar starts playing.
(The photo replaces the video that will be shown in the lecture)
Just like that it’s already a hairdryer, he utters. Taking the chips as a hairdryer is not
what we at first glance think them to be. The boy adds a surprising idea to what he is
It's not just a coincidence that the idea of a hairdryer comes into his mind. It is likely to
refer to a preceding situation where the hairdryer may have played an important role.
Hair washing was always a real drama for Alvar. Even when he was a baby he strongly
refused to get water on his head, and the parents had to invent a lot of strategies to
make him submit hair washing. The frightening feeling of water is likely to make him
wonder what might happen on the head. It is a primary experience of a process that
overcomes him without control.
In this context, Alvar’s actual play is likely to remind him the primary experience of
anxiety. But the chips stuck together to a hairdryer allow the boy to symbolically control
his anxiety. Like that the uncontrollable primary experience of the terrifying water is
becoming a secondary experience. The secondary experience is a worded experience.
The utterance “just like that it’s already a hair drier” refers to the anxiety as already
defeated, as just like that mastered. The worded experience enables the boy to share
with others.9
Figure 24: “just like that it’s already a hairdryer”
Living between anxiety and safety dominates us a lifetime. We can interpret the boy’s
hairdryer construction as an imagination of his feelings between anxiety and safety.
Successfully coping with these feelings will be a momentum of his personal, very local
identity. But since his local anxiety is symbolically banned by the hairdryer, he can
express his fear. Of course, at this stage, it is still an indirect expression. But he is already
on the way to communicate with others. If he goes ahead, he will be able to connect his
personal-local identity to a communicable, namely global identity.
Is this interpretation too sophisticated? A child is not yet a rational being able to be
aware of this process. Of course, for him, it just happens. But a detail may justify the
interpretation. The parents told me, that Alvar likes very much to use the hairdryer for
drying his little sister’s hair. Doing so he is repeating the struggle against his own
anxiety by projecting it onto the sister’s hair wash.
This is the idea that I wanted to develop: A localized and meaningful curriculum is a
good help for educators if it opens a broad field of interpretation to concretely activate
the tight interweaving between the children’s primary and secondary experience. The
more educators improve their ability of interpreting that interweaving, the better
teachers they are.
The Spanish painter Sofonisba Anguissola was known in her time primarily as a portrait painter and as a painter of
everyday and group scenes. The most famous image is Three Sisters playing chess, pain
ted around 1555. It is considered as the first representation of an everyday scene in Italian painting.
Philipp Otto Runge was a major painter of the early Romantic period. The early Romantic period is the period in
which people learned to see the child as a child. This view had been prepared by Jean Jacques Rousseau's famous
educational novel "Emile".
3 This is what actually is happening in Taiwan where the education minister of the ruling party KMT insists on a
history curriculum that is to make the students China-friendly.
4 Cf. Sigmund Freud, Beyond The Pleasure Principle, Volume 18, Standard Edition, pp. 14-17, quotation here:
5 Cf. Edmund Husserl, Erfahrung und Urteil, Hamburg (Claassen), 1964. Jean-Luc Marion, Die Banalität der Sättigung.
In: H.-D. Gondek, T.N. Klass, L. Tengelyi (eds.), Phänomenologie der Sinnereignisse. München (Fink), 2011, 78 – 98.
6 The worldwide domination of ‚scientific knowledge’ as secondary experience includes different types of secondary
experience that can be found. Indeed, different cultures as well as children develop different types of secondary
experience. This fact gets evident if we analyze concepts such as ‚power’, ‚life’, ‚death’ and many others in different
7 Cf. Gerd E. Schäfer, Bildung beginnt mit der Geburt. Berlin, Düsseldorf, Mannheim 2007, 217.
8 Cf. Schäfer, loc. cit., 233 – 267.
9 At this point, we could learn more from developmental psychology and enlarge the developmental context of Alvar’s
play if we had a little more time:
Probably the hair dryer refers to the boy’s fear of hair washing as a threatening experience in his early life. – During
the first months of life a baby is unable to coordinate the movements of the body. In case there is no help the child
feels lost.9 Yet at normal care he learns to remember his mother’s face and voice, to get a feeling of his hands, to
recognize some objects, to interact with other people etc. It is a way from the child’s being lost to increasing control.
On this way, the so-called mirror stage is an important momentum (cf. Lacan,…, Youtube …). The French
psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan was the first to analyze it. The mirror stage normally occurs between 6 and 18 months of
Probably you know situations like this one:
A child detecting somebody in the mirror
A child is facing the image in the mirror.
What does happen at this moment? The child gets aware that there is a person. He may try to touch the person.
Chimpanzees or cats show a similar reaction to the mirror’s image. But as soon as they learn that there is no real
animal, chimpanzees or cats lose interest.
Human children react differently. They more or less insist on grasping of what is going on.
Children in front of a mirror, turning to an adult person
Unable to get an idea the child can look with a questioning face at the mother or another adult person. In this
situation, adults typically answer that’s you! And sometimes you can experience how the mind of the child makes click,
the child may cheer and show his happiness.
What has happened? We may think that the child got aware of himself. But for the child, there isn’t yet any “self”. He
has not yet learned the meaning of the mother’s saying “that is you!” So, what is going on in the child’s mind?
The picture in the mirror shows a whole person with a coordinated body. And there is the saying “that is you!” If the
moment is favorable, the utterance stimulates the child to take the image as an expression of his self. It is a miracle of
the human mind. In psychology it is called the creation of a “Gestalt”, i.e. the creation of a shape forming a coordinated
whole. The child creates his self and henceforth, he differently refers to others.
The mirror stage is the momentum between anxiety and safety. It is a momentum between a closed and an open
world. It is important because the desire of creativity emerges. In favor of creativity, the mirror stage process can and
should be revived lifetime. Children tend to revive this process, when playing.