Saturday, 24 April 2010

Classrooms: Survival of the Fittest.

Having just drafted my thoughts for this blog, I realise that it will probably spread-out into two blogs....or even three!!

Let`s kick off with a nice bold statement:

Classroom learning doesn`t work.

What? you might say. Surely this is nonsense, many kids achieve GCSEs and "A" levels in a class environment, so this statement must be false. Isn`t it?

I think firstly, we have to think about what a claim of success for this form of teaching actually is. Is success measured by percentage? Or should it be measured by success for all? And why doesn`t it work for everyone ?

To get a grasp of this we need to bring in our understanding of both the way children learn and the psychology of groups.

A classroom environment is in very basic terms an example of "survival of the fittest". It is not a "help everyone to learn equally so that everyone achieves the best of their potential", as we are supposed to believe. It can`t be that, it can`t even claim to be that, because different children learn in different ways and at different speeds. Some children have help at home, some are at different stages of development and some have issues of shyness, various inadequacies and some are bullied. So to claim from the getgo that a classroom education is about educating everyone equally, has to be false. I suppose, tiny little concession here, there might be not just a little naivety, maybe selective blindness too, in those who uphold classroom education, but the truth is that in a survival of the fittest test-tube like a classroom, some children will succeed, some fail, with a limping-on group somewhere in the middle.

The classroom is a place where the fittest, most adaptable, most fitinable children do well. It is also a place where the teacher`s personal issues bear on which children he/she likes, which he doesn`t like and how he, subconsciously, disadvantages certain kids beneath others.

We all know the phenomenon of "teacher's pet", but this is rarely seen for what it really is: an enactment of group/animal favouritism, pushing the child that we love or like best into a strong position of superiority over others. In fact, one could argue easily that the classroom is a place FOR the strongest kids and not a place for the ones who don`t make the grade in terms of our wider social group. The classroom functions as a place where the kids who will be a success in our world are formed.
The class, in terms of the children alone, creates popular kids and misfit ones, uplifts some to inclusivity and happiness and others to bullying, exclusion and misery. These are manifestations of our inbuilt animal selection, our animal impulse to make happy groups for ourselves and sustain ourselves by creating misfits and victims. But children aren`t consciously doing this are they? No, of course not, no more so than adults do, but they are doing it, that`s for sure. They are learning this behaviour from their parents and people around them and are practising it on their fellow little-people. It is a miniature of our adult world, where children are learning to be like the adult world around them.

Bullying is a product of this..and one would expect it to be. The classroom/school is the training ground for all our good and bad devices, where some children fall and some shine.
I think we can prove the underlying forces of group psychology here when we see the outcome of state school education. There is always ...and will always be... a fall-out statistic of children who fail in this group-survival boiling pot. I don`t say that just because of the nature of class teaching, the way it creates hierarchy and pushes down its inferiors, although this of course is the method whereby it is achieved , I say it because this is our biological nature at work, it is something that we struggle to shake-off, endeavour to rise above, but we don`t because it is our undercurrent.

See you in my next blog on this topic........

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