POLITICAL CONTEXT ESSENTIAL
I was delighted to read about the development of a facilitator's manual "Survival Skills for Women," described in the Fall 1986 edition of WEDF. My understanding of life-skills training is limited to a week-long life-skills training for coaches which raised many questions for me. The program I attended was sponsored by a non-profit women's organization and was designed for people who wanted to lead life-skills training with both men and women.
The life-skills model that was presented seems to include so many aspects of life-self, family, leisure, employment and community; it's probably easier to define what the model doesn't include. It doesn't encourage the participants to reflect on the past and how that might be influencing the present. This would be too close to a group psychotherapeutic model. A life-skills course doesn't present political or systemic analysis of the world in which we find ourselves; perhaps this would be too close to consciousness raising or would lead to social action.
So we are left with an education experience which talks to women about career planning without any discussion about how women have traditionally been treated in the work-force and the current reality of underemployment and unemployment. Discussions of career planning, or for that matter, personal development, or family dynamics, without sociological, political or economic considerations continue a tradition of segmented teaching. It seems to me that if we isolate career planning, self-development, or family dynamics without at the same time considering the context of current pressures, by omission we begin to blame the victim. Without a context for our experience, the group is forced to accept personal responsibility for succeeding.
While I agree that personal responsibility is one component of maturity, I am suggesting that the odds against a woman succeeding need to be considered within a life-skills course. And let's not forget that success, too, is culturally defined.
I sincerely hope that this is merely my limited experience with one life-skills instructor who omitted what I considered the crucial context. Life-skills courses are a required component of many training programs funded by Employment and Immigration Canada under the Canadian Jobs Strategy which was designed for people disadvantaged in employment. I'd like to hear that not all the participants are having to accept society's failures as their own.
Patricia. Morris Vancouver, BC
The Portrait of Heather Menzies, interviewed on page 21, (Teleology in Women's Lives), is by Mary Ann Smythe, an Ottawa based photographer.