Thursday, February 22, 2007

"nor quickly to assent"

posted by k

Maurice Papon, war-criminal, is dead. At his trial, he ascribed his willing assent to the arrest, internment and deportation of Jews, to the teaching he had received.

So what is education for?

Education must impart knowledge and habits of behaviour. But it must also do two things:

1. It must encourage questions and the testing of received wisdom.

2. It must provide pupils and students with an opportunity to build a world which goes beyond the imagination of their parents and teachers.

These qualities are not easily examined nor quantified for league tables. The current regime looks chiefly for the quantifiable which can be examined. From nursery schools to universities, the British government and educational establishment looks chiefly for results that can be measured and judged. Tick-lists and rote learning are valued above thought. Plagiarism, which infects schools and universities, grows from a demand that pupils and students replicate the ideas of others. Schools and universities celebrate the employment records of their students rather than their difficult non-conformity.

Independent, questioning and original thought is unpredictable in its results. It's dangerous. But it's also the best and only hope for the future.

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Anonymous dodo said...

I have to question the description of teaching as “providing pupils and students with an opportunity to build a world which goes beyond the imagination of their parents and teachers.” This defines the world as external rather than as an internally experiential condition of being. As for “habits of behaviour” is a conception which might be taken to describe habits of thought, attention, engagement and mutual regard as distinct from those habits which are convenient for social conformity, for creating people who are malleable to the whims of government and employers. Teaching might ideally impart “A way of being free” (Ben Okri).

Trust. Honesty. Tolerance. Gentleness. Generosity. Open-mindedness. Patience. Self-confidence. The ability to question. The ability to think for yourself. The introduction of the idea that in this personal liberation is not weakness but a strength which is extended by example. Teaching must seek to remove boundaries of limitation rather than seek to impose them.

Teaching is surely a demonstration. I suppose it is a demonstration of what you believe. It is not the content of the social, political and specific subject curriculum which requires the extension of conceptions of a constructed paradigm. It cannot come from a preconceived pedagogy. All teaching must involve an prospect for exchange in the meeting of teacher and pupil in which the teacher is open to learning from the pupil as the pupil might be to the teacher. It is an engagement which applies beyond the teaching profession which is only one specialised manifestation of what it is to teach and to learn. To teach without the conceptions of equality, of the love, the recognition of a common condition, reinforces the barrier of a separation, This is closer to a Pedagogy of the Oppressed than to the National Curriculum.

There is a sense in which teaching is a cry for witnesses to validate what you believe and demonstrate. In that sense, a curriculum arises from who and what you believe yourself to be. A central (or national) basis for curriculum is a denial – even a reversal – of that conception of what it is to teach.

We all teach. All of the time. It is of life, it can be of joy. It can be of death and of fear. In that sense, there are only two choices of curriculum. The curriculum of love. Or the curriculum of fear.

10:24 am  

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