Identity, Praxis, and teaching: Prospects for a Canadian
(Multicultural) Psychology*

Randal G. Tonks
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University

* Paper originally presented at the Canadian Psychological
Association Annual Congress, Penticton, BC, July 1, 1994.


In attempting to integrate concerns from the first two papers of this symposium, the present paper discusses the Eriksonian (1964) concepts of identity and generativity with respect to the praxis of psychology in Canada. As such, it examines the identity commitments that are made to the "worldviews" of both traditional "ethnic" communities and, as outlined by Kuhn (1970), traditional "scientific" communities. In considering the roles that teachers and academics play in the passing on of values, ideologies and identities through the ritual practices of their profession; prospects are made considering the confluence of the Canadian values of multiculturalism, pluralism, and tolerance with the praxis of a multicultural pluralistic paradigm of psychology. A brief review of the history of identity issues in C.P.A. as well as a discussion of naturwissenschaft and geisteswissenschaft is also presented to provide a context for the establishment of a Canadian multicultural psychology.


I would first like to discuss the role of teaching in the theories of Erik Erikson (1964) and Thomas Kuhn (1970). Following this I will consider the communalities of these two paradigms of teaching as seen through the perspective of John Berry (1987). In so doing, I will examine issues of identity, generativity, and enculturation as they pertain to the lives of both psychologists and students of psychology in Canadian universities. As such, I will consider the academic and civilian identities of these people in the context of possible ideals of Canadian Identity (Tonks, 1992).

Teaching as Praxis (Action) in Erikson and Kuhn

The Role of Teaching in Erikson's Mutual Activation

To begin, teaching is not explicitly discussed in Erikson's work, however, care and generativity, two qualities of good teachers, are an integral part of his scheme. For Erikson, the life cycle is marked by a series of potential crises or turning points where certain "virtues" (qualities of the ego) emerge (or fail to emerge) in response to these normative events. Two such qualities, "fidelity . . . . the ability to sustain loyalties freely pledged in spite of the inevitable contradictions of value systems"-(Erikson 1964, p. 125, italics omitted) and "care . . . . the widening concern for what has been generated by love, necessity, or accident; it overcomes the ambivalence adhering to irreversible obligation" (1964, p. 131, italics omitted), will presently be discussed following a presentation of some key processes involved in the development of such virtues.

Mutual activation or "mutuality" is a central process in Erikson's scheme where it represents the "interliving" or "cogwheeling" of one person's psycho-social being with another's. As such, the interconnections between persons is in the mutual (reciprocal) activation of one person with another. To illustrate this relationship one may consider the relationship between parents and their children. While the (adolescent) children are confronted with issues of "identity" or fidelity (deciding upon occupational and ideological commitments) the parents are confronted with issues of "generativity" or care (deciding upon what and how to nurture their children in the forms of passing on family and community values to the next generation). For Erikson these issues are resolved through the partaking in various "ritualizations" and "ritualisms" of mutuality.

As teachers of psychology we are continuously engaged in various rituals of generativity and identity where we become sources of care and guidance for the establishment of fidelity to various ideologies in the hearts and minds of our students. Like parents, we teachers have various options available to us in respect to both the forms and contents of our courses; courses which may have varying types of influence upon the academic (scientific) and personal (including cultural) identities of our students. As we make choices of both style and curriculum we prove to be sources of ideology and identity, both explicitly and implicitly, for our students. In making selections of text-books and course topics we explicitly communicate preference for the "proper relationships" between culture and psychology in the forms of the discipline that a "scientific" psychology must follow. All the while, we may, as teachers, implicitly express preferences for different conceptions of psychology (e.g., as a unified natural science or as a pluralistic social science) through our styles or treatments of legitimate psychological praxis (e.g., pure and applied) in the course curricula.

The Role of Teaching in the Kuhnian Paradigm

Although Kuhn (1970) does not directly discuss issues of identity, he provides a social psychological account of scientific communities and the role of teaching in the passing on of such communities' values. In his historical account of the development of sciences, Kuhn emphasizes the notion of the "paradigm" as world-view or "weltanshauung". This perspective on the activities of scientists takes note of the "passing on" of paradigmatic perspectives or ways of looking at the world through textbooks and exemplary activities. According to Kuhn, the writers of textbooks provide truncated histories and constructed accounts of what the world is like and how to understand it. Through the use of such books, and through classroom exercises, students ritually work through exemplary problems and models of the paradigm(s) provided where they learn to see the world through the paradigmatic perspective.

Viewed as such, the students of a given discipline are nurtured through ritual practice which provides a certain "gestalt" of disciplinary activity and understanding in the form of "viewing the world" in a particular manner. Consequently, a "disciplinary matrix" of "tacit knowledge" is established which includes numerous unstated (and often unconscious) assumptions such as the value of alternative methodologies and epistemologies, as well as the value of various ontological and practical commitments. Following this indoctrinational process, these students then become 'community members' where they work toward the articulation and maintenance of their paradigmatic world-views. Kuhn (1970a, b) is clear that there are no "scientific" or "objective" criteria for choosing one paradigm over another, and that any choice between world-views is based largely on the values that the communities decide are best for themselves.

Enculturation and Traditions of Ethnicity and Science

According to Webster's dictionary, enculturation refers to the "process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values " (emphasis added. Against the preceding backdrop, it might be suggested that this process is common to traditions of both ethno- cultural and academic-scientific types, but how so?

Traditions of Ethnicity: Acculturation and Personal (Civil) Identity

Berry (1987), Berry, Poortinga, Segal, and Dasen (1992) have elaborated on research and theory on acculturation. Accordingly, acculturation refers to the processes arising from the coming together of two or more cultural traditions. In addition to integration, here arises the possibility for unilateral or bilateral assimilation of such traditions as well as the possibility of the separation or marginalization of them.

Berry further points out that acculturation may be viewed at the individual or the group level (each of which deals fundamentally with issues of identity). As such, it is expected that groups and individuals will have to make choices regarding the maintenance and rejection of various practices and values from any relevant traditions. In considering the work of Erikson, one can see the obvious acknowledgment of identity as it might pertain to individual acculturation; it is quite clear, however, that Erikson also states that issues of identity are issues of community and cultural concern.

Traditions of Science and Academic Identities

In a fashion similar to having to make choices among ethnic or cultural traditions, psychologists and students of psychology are regularly confronted with the task of choosing between various models, theories, or traditions of psychology.

As already noted, Kuhn (1970a, b) suggests that various scientific communities will adopt certain paradigms or world- views based upon the choice of particular values and practices for their works. Through various ritualized practices of learning to become members of scientific communities, it can be suggested, that both individual and group identities (as described by both Erikson and Berry) are formed, maintained, or left to become a part of history. An eloquent account of various factors involved in the construction of such professional identities has been provided by Danziger (1990) in his description of the beginnings of psychology as a scientific discipline, although its details are beyond the present scope.

Insofar as issues of identity pertain to both ethno-cultural and academic-scientific traditions, one can reflect on the relationships between them. In other words, one can ask: are these two types of identities to be kept separate, or are they to be integrated together?

The Relationship Between Personal (Civil) and Academic (Scientific) Identities in Two Informative Examples: The Traditions of Naturwissenschaft and Geisteswissenschaft

In answering the above question we can look to two prominent traditions in Euro-American thought which provide different world- views; including their views on the relationships between these two aspects of identity.

Key differences between natural science (Naturwissenschaft- NWS-) and socio-moral science (Geisteswissenschaft-GWS-) are seen in table 1. Such differences are earmarked by NWS being oriented towards knowledge as universal, objective, lawful, and value-free while GWS is oriented towards knowledge as particular, contextual, historical and value-sensitive. Additionally, NWS is typified by and instrumental concern of explanation and technical mastery while GWS is typically concerned with understanding and emancipatory ethical action (Bernstein, 1988). With respect to the relationship between civil and academic identities, NWS encourages the separation of the two identities, and demands becoming a depersonalized and disengaged observer. Conversely, GWS encourages the integration of these two identities along with a recognition of a personalized, and situated observer (Woolfolk, Sass & Messer, 1988).

Table 1:
Characteristics of the Traditions of Naturwissenschaft and Geistesswissenschaft

(Natural Science)
vs. Geisteswissenschaft
(Socio-moral Science)
Exemplary Theorists:

J.S. Mill

Theoretical Knowledge: Universal - etic
Permanent Laws
Erklaren (explanation)
Particular - emic
Historical Accounts
Verstehen (understanding)
Practical Knowledge (Praxis): Techne (technical mastery)
Phronesis (ethical-know-how)
Orientation Towards Self: Depersonalized
Disengaged Observer
Situated Observer
Relationship Between Civil and Academic Identities: Separated Integrated
Orientation to Meaning: Demonstrative
Theory Building: Reductionistic

Although Kuhn does not directly discuss the issue of the relationship between civil and academic identities, Bernstein (1988) extends Kuhn's work into a discussion of such issues. Bernstein suggests that we ought to take responsibility in getting involved in our academic and civil communities to the best of our abilities. Likewise, Erikson clearly states that the practitioners (or scientist's) clients (or research) will benefit from a certain "unification" of "temperament, intellect and ethics" (1964, p. 237) in him or her both 'as a practitioner' or scientist 'and as a person'. In view of this consideration, we might presently examine the academic and civilian communities or "living traditions" in which we currently find ourselves in an attempt to understand whether or not we are integrating our two identities or if we are keeping them separate. An ultimate purpose for performing such an investigation is to critically examine the state of affairs of the care or generativity that we provide for our students in order that possible action and guided praxes could be established as emerging standards of teaching psychology in our multicultural country.

Examining Our Living Tradition

Multiculturalism in Canada

Multiculturalism, as an official policy for the people of Canada, became a fact on October 8, 1971. This policy was designed around the "multicultural assumption" (Berry, Kalin & Taylor, 1977; Berry, 1984b) which asserts that by "assuring the cultural freedom of Canadians" a greater sense of confidence in individual identity and self esteem will emerge for Canadians. Out of this confidence is expected the growth of "respect for that of others and a willingness to share ideas, attitudes and assumptions" (P.E. Trudeau, 1971; cited in Berry, 1984a, p. 354, emphasis original).

Being based upon the contact hypothesis (Amir, 1976), the goals of this policy are the enrichment of the lives of all peoples through the sharing of "cultural expression and values" which in turn is expected to "help to breakdown discriminatory attitudes and cultural jealousies" (P.E. Trudeau, 1971; cited in Berry, 1984a, p. 354).

History of Identity Issues in the Canadian Psychological Association

Since its inception, the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) has experienced soul-searching and debate over the nature of the academic identity of Canadian Psychologists through discussion over the mandate of CPA (Wright, 1992). Beginning in 1940 with great concerns over the "advancement of psychology as a science" (Ferguson, 1992, p. 698) psychologists meeting at Opinicon Lodge (near Chaffey Locks Ontario) in 1960 expressed concern for the recognition of psychology as a profession in service to society. This amendment was made to the CPA mandate at Lake Couchiching conference in 1965 (Belanger, 1992).

In 1970 Wally Lambert, as CPA president, called on Canadian psychologists to "take stock of society" and to prepare themselves with procedures and tools to both diagnose and solve social problems. Following this, and the 1971 introduction of the multicultural policy, two studies relating to national concerns may be mentioned: (1) the "Non-Official Languages" study (O'Bryan, Reitz, and Kuplowski, 1976) and (2) the "Majority Attitudes Study" (Berry, Kalin & Taylor, 1977).

Shortly afterwards, at Opinicon II in 1984, the establishment of special interest sections in CPA ensued along with a change in the CPA mandate to recognize teaching along side of research and service (Pyke, 1992). Around the same time, Samuda, Berry, and Laferriere (1984) prepared a text on multiculturalism and education which encourages the pursuit of such multicultural ideals as greater inter-group harmony, mutual understanding and acceptance (Berry, 1984b) in the praxis of teaching. More recently, Josephine Naidoo (1991) discussed issues of multiculturalism in Canadian university education with an emphasis on research issues (e.g., the scientific racism of Philip Rushton), human rights and equality in university administration, and multicultural initiatives in community colleges.

Adding to this list a recognition of identity issues, Tonks (1992), also calls for the consideration of the extending of the study of social psychology lN and OF Canada (Berry, 1978) towards the development of a pluralistic methodology. The goal for such a project would be to encourage psychological practice which is consistent with the frequently expressed Canadian ideals of multiculturalism, tolerance and harmony. Further, in conjunction with concerns espoused by Paranjpe here and earlier (Paranjpe, 1992) over the marginalization of indigenous- or ethno- psychologies, as well as the benefits of such approaches (Paranjpe, 1993), serious consideration of the establishment, practice, and teaching of a pluralistic methodology needs to be made.

Towards a pluralistic methodology: The confluence of traditions, identity, teaching, and praxis

Following Kuhn's revolutionary work, much of the discourse in the philosophy of science has centred around issues of unity and pluralism (Popper, 1970; Lakatos, 1970; Feyerabend, 1988. Proponents of pluralism abound, justifying it upon rational grounds (Lakatos, 1970), democratic grounds (Feyerabend, 1988), and ethical grounds (Bernstein, 1988).

Recently, attempts at the articulation of the formal praxis of such a pluralistic discipline have been made by both Bernstein (1988) and Shotter (1993). The central point of focus for these theorists becomes the 'community', and 'its creations', including the mythological, epistemological, ontological and methodological grounds for the understanding of human psychology. These orientations focus on the sense of belonging and mutuality of such community membership where the actions (praxes) of these groups are understood as being driven by the collective dialogue or language-game playing of the community members. For the purposes of the establishment of community values and standards of praxis, such "joint action" (Shotter, 1993) or community participation (Bernstein, 1988) subsequently becomes self-guiding and self-perpetuating through the negotiation of such standards and actions.

From this perspective, communities separated in the past can potentially benefit from the sharing and acceptance of pluralism in their integration or appropriation of elements, orientations or common goals. Alternatively, communities which desire to remain distinct can continue to do so; without dialogue, without discourse or contact with other communities, keeping themselves in a separatist orientation towards others. In the pursuit of our potentially common ideals of confidence, harmony and peace in both academic and civilian identities we can draw from all traditions for the wisdom we need to develop such practices. According to Erikson, wisdom is exactly what is needed in the emergent cogwheeling of lifecycles. Through the mutuality of this time of choice and commitment, fidelity and care, "wisdom . . . . responds to the need of the on-coming generation for an integrated heritage and yet remains aware of the relativity of all knowledge" (Erikson, 1964, p. 133, emphasis added).

Contributions of teaching a pluralistic psychology

Against this backdrop, the recognition, articulation and teaching of a pluralistic psychology is what is needed by the current on-coming generation. If this is the case, we Canadian psychologists could be truly generative in caring for our students through our accepting of the responsibilities of care we are given as teachers. In this manner, we can be generative in both explicit and implicit fashions for our students as we make informed choices about the contents, forms, and values, that we support in the praxis of our teaching. In considering ourselves as academics and as citizens we might attempt to integrate our identities and convey support for the same in our students through the recognition of the values and contributions of ethno- and indigenous- psychologies to all traditional approaches to psychology. This can provide both personal satisfaction as well as a psychology which is scientific in service to Canadian society and is concerned with the effects of teaching on identity. Should this meta-methodology unfold, it may someday rise to the challenge of the multicultural assumption and help to provide a positive source of identity, esteem, and good-will towards all.

Conclusion and Future Prospects

In considering the roles of teachers, as scientists and as citizens, a sensitivity towards one's responsibility for others may follow. For some, the desire for an integration of cultural values and practices with academic work may also ensue through encouragement of the confluence of academic and civilian identities. The resultant flourishing and sharing of forms of identity and psychological praxis (including teaching) could benefit all Canadians. Perhaps we can now take stock and discuss, as a community, possible images that this mosaic could produce.


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