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Selected Readarounds in Child and Youth Care

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Intuition is not enough: Matching learning with practice in therapeutic child care

Paul Cain

The decision that philosophy should be an integral part of the MA in Therapeutic Child Care was, in some sense, intuitive. It was not clear, at the outset, quite how it might contribute to the students’ training; it was even less clear in what way it might exemplify the matching principle. It may be felt, even, to have been a surprising decision. After all, a common view of philosophy is that it is the most abstract of subjects, at one remove at least from the realities of practical concerns. Warren (1992), for example, refers to the dominant idea that, for the most part, philosophy is a relatively specialised exercise that is quite properly removed from ‘real life’.

The intuitive conviction of its importance had, however, some basis in current training programmes. Ethics, a branch of philosophy, was established as a component of many social work qualifying courses, both at Reading and elsewhere; and Donald Evans, at the University College of Swansea, had pioneered an MA in Philosophy and Health Care, the aim of which was to enable practitioners to work effectively on the ethical dilemmas arising in health care. This in turn reflected a move within philosophy away from highly specialised issues towards concern with practical problems.

We were not aware, however, of any moves to introduce therapeutic child care workers to philosophy that might provide us with guidance; there was not, to our knowledge, any body of specifically philosophical literature relating to this area of practice; and unlike, say, the Swansea MA, there was little time available – in a two-year, part-time degree, there was just one session a week in the first year. This lack of time was, and is, further compounded by the nature of therapeutic child care: the demands of their work on practitioners leave little time for reading and study.

Within these limitations, the course has developed in ways that appear to justify the decision that philosophy should be an integral part of the training programme; also, it can now be seen to exemplify, in various ways, the principle that there should be a match between training and practice.

Warren, B. (1992). Back to Basics: Problems and proposals for Applied Philosophy. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 9(1), 13-21

Cain, P. (1998). Learning through philosophy. In Ward, A. and McMahon (Eds.) Intuition is not enough: Matching learning with practice in Therapeutic Child Care. London: Routledge

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