Tag Archives: Pedagogy

THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION

Standard
I wrote this in an email to an old teacher of mine and I liked it enough to just put it up here:
This is good but it’s not going far enough!
On the learning modules that come with the tablet:
“Content can be remixed for further personalization. The child is encouraged to rename characters and change clothing, colors, and other superficial details. In the future we expect to accomplish further narrative customization by recombination of story elements. Lebowitz [9] and Riedl [13] show how a planner can be used to recombine and adapt story fragments. We have less ambition than the cited work: instead of attempting to generate thousands of stories from tens of templates, we hope to select and then modestly adapt from hundreds of story modules created in a decentralized manner by teachers—and eventually by the students themselves.”
 
They’re still stuck in that bullshit student/teacher dichotomy! Teaching’s a thing that is done – I don’t think there’s any such thing as a “teacher”. The same goes for study! We are all of us teachers and all of us students – for none of us are. The librarian is a better model than the teacher – not a dictator but a partner, assistant.
And in that vein the library is a better model than the school! Why don’t we just give kids material and allow them to learn it at their own pace? Because we don’t want them having a mind of their own. We teach them to be idiots – we lobotomise them.
I am really sick of linking bullshit academic articles to people all the time though. It’s tedious bullshit written for idiots! Why is it they feel the need to spell everything out for an audience which should, by all rights, be the ones most capable of understanding it? I hate academics – introduce your terms and define them like you were speaking to an audience of the concussed, piddle over irrelevant bullshit semantics – university’s where you go to miss the forest for the trees.
This is on an old French professor who gave his students a bilingual copy of one of his books and, because he could not speak their language, had them teach themselves:
“Like all conscientious professors, he knew that teaching was not in the slightest about cramming students with knowledge and having them repeat it like parrots, but he knew equally well that students had to avoid the chance detours where minds still incapable of distinguishing the essential from the accessory, the principle from the consequence, get lost. In short, the essential act of the master was to explicate: to disengage the simple elements of learning, and to reconcile their simplicity in principle with the factual simplicity that characterizes young and ignorant minds. To teach was to transmit learning and form minds simultaneously, by leading those minds, according to an ordered progression, from the most simple to the most complex. By the reasoned appropriation of knowledge and the formation of judgement and taste, a student was thus elevated to as high a level as his social destination demanded, and he was in this way prepared to make the use of the knowledge appropriate to that destination: to teach, to litigate, or to govern for the lettered elite; to invent, design, or make instruments and machines for the new avant-garde now hopefully to be drawn from the elite of the common people; and, in the scientific careers, for the minds gifted with this particular genius, to make new discoveries. Undoubtedly the procedures of these men of science would diverge noticeably from the reasoned order of the pedagogues. But this was no grounds for an argument against that order. On the contrary, one must first acquire a solid and methodical foundation before the singularities of genius could take flight. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
 
This is how all conscientious professors reason. This was how Joseph Jacotot, in his thirty years at the job, had reasoned and acted. But now, by chance, a grain of sand had gotten into the machine. He had given no explanation to his “students” on the first elements of the language. He had not explained spelling or conjugations to them. They had looked for the French words that corresponded to words they knew and the reasons for their grammatical endings by themselves. They had learned to put them together to make, in turn, French sentences by themselves:
sentences whose spelling and grammar became more and more exact as they progressed through the book; but, above all, sentences of writers and not of schoolchildren. Were the schoolmaster’s explications therefore superfluous? Or, if they weren’t, to whom and for what were they useful?”
The school child is something that’s been manufactured. That and this horrible idea of the “lowest common denominator” with which it so often overlaps – but when you take that idea and you see how it’s spread throughout learner, consumer, worker, citizen, like the middle of a Venn diagram, you can see it’s just another iteration of the ancient idea that people are stupid or evil and they need orders – they need to be fed a steady stream of directives or else there’ll be chaos! Unrest! And these people who in making that judgement have declared themselves qualified to give orders – “I know people are stupid! Here from my perch I see chaos below me and thank heavens for my cage – a respite from coming and going! I must make them sit still – I must quiet this chaos, so from here my voice rings above all.” Caged birds making the whole world a cage!