Discovery Talking

I’m doing a PhD on discovery writing. There are a few definitions of discovery writing, but a major theme is that talking and writing can bring forth new ideas, or give rise to discoveries.  The so-called Forster quote sums up the experience nicely:

How do I know what I think before I see what I say?

I’ve just been talking with my wife, and I said something that strikes me as a discovery speaking moment. What I said was:

Perhaps I should not base my views on my own experiences.

We had been arguing about the grammar school system. My wife did very very well at school. She got As for all of her GSCEs and A-Levels, apart from one B at GCSE which we never ever talk about. If grammar schools had not be supplanted by comprehensives, she would definitely have gone to a grammar school. But I failed school spectacularly. I can’t remember what GCSEs I took, let alone what grades I received. I definitely didn’t get a C or higher. I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to school. A huge chip! I’d go so far as to say I’m chippy. Very chippy! If grammar schools were around when I was at school, I would not have made the grade. So I feel that grammar schools were not designed to help me. They were designed to push me down lower.

I only later went to university. I found my academic mojo when I was 21! My wife thinks I’m an anomaly: someone who failed school and is yet an academic of sorts – a postgraduate!

So, we were talking about the pros and cons of grammar schools, and how grammar schools created a ‘new’ middle-class, and how this was partly meritocratic.  And I kind of agreed that it was a decent thing that people like Neil Kinnock and my wife’s dad had a chance at being middle-class, and even of running the country. And I agreed that that was better than the Bullingdon Boys having the whip hand over everyone. So I agreed in principle on the overall social progressiveness of grammar schools, even if my personal chipiness was screaming out that the grammar school system would have shut a door in my face. And then I said the discovery thing. I said:

Perhaps I should not base my views on my own experiences.

And that’s quite a thing to say!  I hadn’t realized my thoughts in quite that precision before having said that. But having said it, I thought ‘that’s right!’ And then it started to sink in quite how right that was. To realize that perhaps you should not base your views on your own experiences is quite profound really.  It’s to accept that your own experience is perhaps not representative of experiences generally. It feels like it’s to accept that my own experiences are even flawed in some way. It’s a harsh disconnect between experiences and views.


About rjheeks

From 2008 to 2013 I completed a PhD on Discovery Writing. I also love photography. I'm best known for photographing soap bubbles. I also like rock art (ancient art/markings on rocks). I live near Ilkley (Yorkshire, UK) where there are quite a few pieces of rock art.
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