Posts Tagged John Holt

Reader Story: I Quit My Passion and Took a Boring Job – Forbes

   

The message we are bombarded with is  do what you love (and the money will follow). But this story provides an interesting twist on it: Reader Story: I Quit My Passion and Took a Boring Job – Forbes.

It also provides more evidence that anyone who works in schools eventually is forced to

  1. become either a cop or an entertainer, and
  2. avoid the truth, to tell lies, to become a phony.

There’s more thoughts on this below the fold.

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Scenes from the Battleground responds

NEW YORK - APRIL 24:  Residents look on follow...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

OldAndrew, blogger of Scenes from the Battleground, took the trouble to comment on my earlier post (his comment is here, my original blog post is here). Thank you, OldAndrew.

I’ve been reading more of his blog posts. At first,  it was horrified fascination that kept me reading his stuff, kinda like rubbernecking a traffic accident. I kept asking myself how I would react in this or that situation; could I handle it? How?

Our situations are so different, it’s presumptuous of me to comment. I obviously have no idea what it’s like, and what works for me in my situation (with docile, well-behaved young adults for the most part, in a culture that avoids confrontation) would clearly not work in his.

Andrew wrote,

in many cultures young people in at least part of this range would be considered to be adults, so we should be very careful about excuses based on the idea that they are too young to behave.

I was not suggesting that children’s bad behaviour should be excused simply because they are young, nor that, because they are young, they are therefore likely to misbehave. I wrote that, the teacher is the (oldest) adult in the room, the master of ceremonies, and a representative of the institution (he belongs there more than the students do, at least), and therefore it seems more reasonable to expect the teacher to modify his behaviour if students are not cooperating or whatever. Modifying his behaviour does not mean capitulating; it means, “stop doing what isn’t working, or leading to escalation, and try something else.”

If you’re the adult in the room, the responsibility is on you; you are more likely than the students to act responsibly; you are the one who should act responsibly. That doesn’t let the students off the hook for irresponsible, rude, violent or whatever inappropriate behaviour, of course, but someone’s got to make the first move, take the initiative.

Stories about my successes would soon become stories about people who tried to stop me, or what I had to do to avoid being stopped. (Similarly, for the successes of other people I know.)… With regard to the claim of focussing on the negatives, I would suggest that this is how you change things. I am interested in improvement, and the biggest single obstacle to this in most schools is the attitude that it is “negative” to identify what isn’t working.

Well, is he changing things? Is focussing on the negatives working as a strategy? I agree that not looking squarely at what’s wrong is a huge hindrance to solving a problem.

I’m reminded of chapters in John Taylor Gatto’s book, in which he recounts, blow by blow, the mind-numbing stupidity, red-tape and petty-mindedness of administrators and bureaucrats that he came up against in 30 years of teaching in New York, at the end of which he quit:

An accumulation of disgust and frustration which grew too heavy to be borne finally did me in.

I read the Scenes from the Battleground blog for different reasons than OldAndrew writes it: I read it to learn, to put myself by proxy in new situations and try them on for size. When I read an article like the F… off Factor, for instance, I want to read OldAndrews wise words of advice on how to effectively deal with such a situation. Instead, I get a long-assed transcript of some such exchanges that he or a colleague experienced, followed by all the things the school didn’t do to penalize the student. OK. We got the picture. Bad behaviour where OldAndrew is, is often either unpunished or not punished effectively enough.

When I was a schoolboy, a large, rugby-playing tough-guy pupil, in the corridor waiting to go into class and with his back to the door, started an imitation of the teacher to amuse his friends. The teacher himself suddenly came out and stood right by Rugby Player, who, noticing everyone had gone quiet, turned around. The teacher promptly slapped his face, and while Rugby Player stood there, in shock or pondering which wrestling move to use on this teacher, the teacher snapped, “Well don’t just stand there or I’ll do it again!”

Now that’s a success story: an example of bad behaviour promptly and sucessfully quelled (leaving aside the question of whether the punishment fit the “crime”). It also worked well as a deterrent because there were about 30 students watching. That’s what I want to read.

OldAndrew does a great job of giving an alternative point of view to the dominant socialist one. His blog is up there on my “every teacher should read this” list, along withMelanie Phillips’  All Must Have Prizes, Gatto’s Underground History of American Education and E.D. Hirsch’s The Schools We Need (and why we don’t have them).

Only OldAndrew can tell what will work and what won’t in his situation. Looking at his situation from my armchair, thousands of miles away, my considered opinion is that, it’s hopeless. I see no way out left by OldAndrew’s stated views except increased coercion in some form or other. Maybe that will work. I’m not holding my breath.

OMG, one of Zemanta’s “related articles” below is to a Guardian article about infant drop-outs. It’s a strain to read this after Scenes from the Battleground. Have your paper bag ready in case you feel unwell:

With about 1,000 primary-age pupils now permanently excluded from schools each year, the programme aims to use early intervention to nip behavioural problems in the bud. The scheme, based in a vocational education centre for older pupils in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was launched this autumn at the request of a group of local schools. Each week, 12 pupils will spend a day here, learning a range of vocational skills including construction, hairdressing and catering… “We left this blank,” explains the regional support manager for the project, Sandra Ladapo, “so the children could make this their ‘feelings wall’.”… The thinking is that if children are unable to settle at school and are badly behaved or can’t communicate with classmates, there are probably deeper issues that need resolving. One of the jobs of the staff here is to give the children space to express themselves. “From our side, it’s giving these little ones self-esteem, self-confidence, to start engaging them so they can begin to read and write,” Ladapo says.  … Away from the melee, she produces some of the notes she’s received about her new charges: “Challenging – needs constant reminders about tasks and accepted behaviour; poor social skills; little respect for females both in class and at break; fights and chews his T-shirt; doesn’t feel the need to be in school.”.. the children will do real practical tasks. The construction students will make toys for them to paint and take home; cakes will be prepared to be baked in the centre’s main kitchen, and the tutors who supervise the older boys will teach them to make little brick walls…. Claire has settled down with Brad, five, Sam, six, and Neil, seven, to make a “happy chart”. The idea is to set out how they feel they should behave while they’re here

The scheme, based in a vocational education centre for older pupils in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was launched this autumn at the request of a group of local schools. Translation: Please take them off our hands, please!

their ‘feelings wall’ This just sounds manipulative: what child would feel a need for or an interest in his or her own “feelings wall”? Or are we talking PTSD here?

doesn’t feel the need to be in school.” What child does? Gimme a break!

“From our side, it’s giving these little ones self-esteem, self-confidence, Is it possible to give someone self-esteem?

children will do real practical tasks. The construction students will make toys for them to paint and take home; cakes will be prepared to be baked in the centre’s main kitchen, and the tutors who supervise the older boys will teach them to make little brick walls. Didn’t Montessori figure all this out about 100 years ago?

Claire has settled down with Brad, five, Sam, six, and Neil, seven, to make a “happy chart”. The idea is to set out how they feel they should behave while they’re here What’s a “happy chart”? And what’s it got to do with clarifying to these tots how they should behave?

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Something is destroying British education, says former Chief Inspector of Schools

Henry Hazlitt
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Chris Woodhead, a man many teachers loved to hate when he was Chief Inspector of Schools under the Conservative and then Labour governments, 1994-2000, has written a book in which he expresses his views about British education. An excerpt was published in the Times (online), May 10, 2009.

Fifty years ago the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch asked whether we could maintain educational standards while making education more “democratic”. The experience of the past 12 years has taught us we cannot.

John Holt, in Freedom and Beyond (1972), wrote about a fallacy of universal education: the idea that if everybody was equally educated, everyone would have a better job. (I don’t have the book, and could only find online this excerpt, which is not quite what I was looking for, but close).

Woodhead, in this excerpt, does not closely examine this fallacy, or delve too deeply into the possible meanings of “democratic”. He refers to Murdoch writing 50 years ago, which certainly predates Holt by about 25 years.

Woodhead goes a little deeper into what he means by freedom:

By freedom I mean an appreciation of what the greatest human beings achieved; a sense of what other people in other ages knew to be important and possible; a liberation from the tyranny of the majority view; a release from the monotony of the quotidian. I want every child, every “disadvantaged” child in particular, to walk as far as they can down that road to freedom.

Why “every disadvantaged child in particular“, and would this mean that disadvantaged children would be given preference (in an ideal, Woodhead world) to others? It’s impossible to tell from this excerpt alone, but leaving that aside, this concept of freedom seems rather threadbare: there is no suggestion, for instance, of the freedom to create new, exciting realities, only a typically conservative reliance on the past – “what the greatest human beings achieved… what people in other ages knew…” Nor is there any awareness of any form of tyranny other than “the majority view”. What about the tyranny of ruling elites, or of the state?

Woodhead goes on for a couple of pages which could easily have been expressed in a single word: egalitarianism.

I am reading a fascinating biography of Murray Rothbard, which mentions an essay of his on egalitarianism (pdf warning). Rothbard is an exciting thinker to read: highly knowledgeable, and with a flowing, readable style which leavens the erudition with a mordant wit. I am looking forward to reading Rothbard’s essay: I expect to learn much about the history of the egalitarian concept, as well as a barrage of solid arguments against it. Another great thinker whose essays and books are available on the Mises Institute website is Henry Hazlitt. In The Science of Thinking, Hazlitt makes this suggestion for choosing what books to read:

you should endeavor to get, in as short a time as possible, the greatest number of important facts and the main outlines of the best that has been thought. So if you sincerely intend to master any subject, the best way to begin is by the selection of the most comprehensive and authoritative work you can secure. … If you take up the most thorough book first you need merely glance through the smaller books, for the chances are that they will contain little that is new to you, unless they happen to be more recent.

I recommend Hazlitt, and Rothbard. If you want to learn about freedom and egalitarianism, reading Rothbard will be more profitable than reading Woodhead.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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