Sunday, 2 May 2010

Classrooms: Survival of the Fittest, 4

If I told you to sit down at a desk and learn what I tell you to learn, would you do it?

How would you feel if I tell you to learn something that doesn`t interest you?

Then I tell you that I will examine you in this subject and make you a failure if you don`t get the marks I think are acceptable according to my requirements !!! How will this make you feel?

I am directing these questions at adults, of course, because I want you to ask yourselves how it would make you feel for me to force you to learn at my command, and whether you think that you would be turned-off learning if I made you do this?

Speaking for myself, I would not wish to learn something that I was forced to learn by the command of someone else. I would feel disrespected, belittled and irrelevant. I would certainly have difficulty assimilating knowledge where there was coercion and my particular way of learning may not conform to the way you expect me to learn.

Yet this basis for learning is the standard way that most children learn! Most people think that it is acceptable to tell children and teenagers to do as they are told, learn this or that subject for this amount of time, and that somehow the fall-out from education has got nothing to do with the enforcement of this method !!!!

It`s strange because children, just like adults, learn with an enthusiasm and a willingness where they wish to do. Their concentration is better and therefore their assimilation. We are all the same, we all become alert and attentive when something interests us or is relevant to us in some way. Children are no different, they are not a different species, there for us to treat in a way that we ourselves would not accept.

Fundamentally, we disrespect children in our societies. Like in the case of people who are weaker than ourselves, we push children around, opt them out of their autonomy, just like we do people we deem mentally incompetent. We do this BECAUSE children have less power than us, less facility and less comprehension than us and, basically, we take advantage of that.

I also take issue with "learn what I tell you to and for periods of time that I dictate". Come on, let`s have a real think about this.... I tell you to learn something, now, when the clock starts and then I tell you to stop when I dictate !!!!!!! Why oh why does anyone think that learning according to a timetable is going to work !!! Do we really think that children/teens are some kind of machine that we switch on and off when we choose? Good learning doesn`t work like that !

This is surely an abuse of one person, a child or teenager, by another, an adult. It shows no respect for young people, no understanding of the learning process and certainly no interest in the well being of a young learner. Of course, many kids fit in with this, they keep up with the pace in class, they adapt their attention-span to suite the bell-change and they survive a rote system that treats them no better than underlings that have to be trained to think in a prescribed way. Great. Well done them....But what about the kids that don`t fit in? Don`t manage in the "survival of the fittest" environment. Well, they fail. It`s that simple. They fail to varying degrees and are measured not on their abilities or potential because those have been subordinated as a sacrifice to the system, but on their runted* status within the classroom.

But isn`t there more to this than just what meets the eye? Apparently, at a glance, there is a system that works for some, the survivors, and fails for others, the victims. But what is going on here in terms of the dominant groups in our society? Well, there has to be a reason, a group reason, why schools are there and some kids fail and some flourish. It`s not just a coincidence.
For the answer we have to go back to the purpose of a group, what it needs to advance itself in terms of hierarchies and power, and what it needs to do to maintain for itself a strong and healthy position. I am afraid the answer is that groups need failures, victims, runts, the winners in our world rise up off the backs of their diminished counterparts. As a society we need a basic, rote, automaton-like educational system to furnish all our systems and institutions with people who think the same, have been through the same "initiation" and will propel these groups with the same thinking. Institutions want team players ...and the sure way to get them is to have children go through an educational system that produces conformists. And I don`t just mean educational conformity here, I mean group behaviour conformity..

I will be back on this subject soon.....I very much want to talk about how my experience at school has informed me about the purpose of our education system. Please join me later.

*runted: please see my previous blogs on this subject where I introduce this term.">">

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