Saturday, 12 December 2009

Erin and John Holt

Erin Brockovich and John Holt.

They would get along, I'm sure.

Erin is and was an individual. She didn't change her 'potty mouth' for anyone. She didn't change her rather uproarious clothes style to please others.

She had principles and she stuck to them.

John Holt in How Children Fail says this:

"After all I have said and written about the need for keeping children under pressure, I find myself coming to realize that what hampers their thinking, what drives them into these narrow and defensive strategies, is a feeling that they must please the grownups at all costs. The really able thinkers in our class turn out to be, without exception, children who don't feel so strongly the need to please grownups. Some of them are good students, some not so good; but good or not, they don't work to please us, but to please themselves."

Students working, not to get a reward from teacher or approval from the school, must be a nightmare for the state schooling system.

School is unmitigated stress for some children. Damned if they do well, they are told that they must do better. Slated if they do poorly, they must do better, even if that is better than their best and how can a person do better than their best? When Shelly is compared with Polly, who is the class genius, how can Shelly feel but inferior and how does that help Shelly or Polly. Shelly may give up trying for that non-existent approval from teacher. Polly may be coasting along not exerting herself because, after all, she is effortlessly clever.

John Holt again: "The trouble was that I was asking too many questions. In time I learned to shut up and stop asking questions, stop constantly trying to find out how much people understood. We have to let learners decide when they want to ask questions. It often takes them a long time even to find out what questions they want to ask. It is not the teacher's proper task to be constantly testing and checking the understanding of the learner. That's the learner's task, and only the learner can do it. The teacher's job is to answer questions when learners ask them, or to try to help learners understand better when they ask for that help."

I am interested in the way that teachers think because I make it a habit not to teach. I am not a teacher. If pressed, I would say I am a facilitator and an education enthusiast. I believe that all people should educate themselves, if they can. The key words there are 'educate themselves'. People can learn from me if they wish and I will impart my knowledge when they ask me for it, but they must ask me. I will not teach anyone voluntarily. I do not believe in teaching learners. I believe in empowering learners to find out for themselves and, if that involves finding out from me, that is fine.

I think there is something rather arrogant about another human being presuming to 'teach' me. It implies a one-way process. It implies that teaching leads to learning whereas we know instinctively that to learn one has to be ready, willing and able to learn.

As John Holt says: “The very natural mistake that Bill and I made was to think that the differences between the children in our class had to do with techniques of thinking, that the successful kids had good techniques of thinking while the unsuccessful, the 'producers,' had bad, and therefore that our task was to teach better techniques. But the unsuccessful kids were not trying, however badly, to do the same things as the successful. They were doing something altogether different. They saw the school and their task in it differently. It was a place of danger, and their task was, as far as they could, to stay out of danger. Their business was not learning, but escaping.”

I would respectfully suggest that John Holt has used an incorrect word there. I suspect that the word he might have used is 'surviving.'

We survive school to go on to our real lives having played the learning game or not, depending upon which survival strategy we adopt during our school years.

Wouldn't it be so much better if we were left to learn in peace, at our own leisure, untested and unmolested? Wouldn't it be so much better if children were all educating at home (and all the other places they educate themselves in?)

Or is that too much to ask?

1 comment:

  1. And wouldn't it be good if we could get away from competition and false scarcity, and realize that every human being has enormous potential and gifts to contribute, each in his/her own way? Isn't it sad that children in school learn to view other human beings as people they must beat in some fake race? I thank God every day that my kids haven't been programmed to think that way, as I was. It has taken me my whole life to get over it.