Educating for Nature - On Love, Home and Learning: A Personal Journey through Schooling
Through this journey I develop 4 major themes as a Vision for the education future, understanding the framework of the corporate paradigm, pedagogy and assessment through the wireless classroom of autonomous mastery and the processes of the quality portfolio, and then a human development context of natural development. Having worked in education I have seen so much knee-jerk policy implementation that if this approach has merit then some policy-maker could hold this book up and say "education panacea", throw it at the schools and say to the teachers "get on with it". Such implementation cannot possibly work but the policy-maker would be able to blame the teachers. My apologies in advance for the chaos if such happened.
A vision is what it is meant to me. I could imagine such a scenario working, it can work. But will it work with all the forces of the paradigm working against it? A vision is also what is needed in education, there is nothing in the practice manuals of education and the innumerable policy documents which is a vision of what education of our children should be. There is however a plethora of tinkering, idealistic, venture philanthropy, and knee jerk hopes for the future such as implementation of technology without thought for the support of educational theory. Education is a juggernaut careering from one political manipulation to another, pulled here and there by business interest with the ensured profits of state funding. The juggernaut is out of control and needs reigning by a sound education footing. This is a vision that could supply that footing, but if it ever sees the light of day it is so dangerous in the hands of these politicians and their backers. Whilst I need to write this, this fear holds me back, but it is done with a love that is needed to be the catalyst for education practice.
Ch 0 Introduction
Where to start? I could write about what is wrong with education, the way it has been hijacked by institution and career, the way it lacks any model or purpose and seesaws from one particular political manipulation to another. That could be meaningful but isn't it important to describe what education should really be about? For me this is the correct emphasis so through personal experience I will try to develop an educational model that would be of use. This is a personal journey that will avoid so-called academic integrity which would bleach the soul out of what is needed in education.
How can you talk about education in the West without talking primarily about the appalling behaviour of our children in schools? Why not compare the behaviour of these western children with children elsewhere who are poor, starving, sometimes travel for miles to schools, whose teachers can sometimes be limited, yet with children whose minds are still fresh enough to learn what is offered without question? No journey through education that has integrity can possibly avoid this issue, yet throughout the West this behaviour is blamed on teachers. And yet because of neo-colonialism this prevailing western "model" is what is sought throughout the world - how obtuse - how absurd.
To talk about education in the world today one can objectively only be negative, it is in such a mess. But I hope through this journey to be positive, to learn from where is positive and present an approach through this positivism that can form a core of where education could go if finance and institutional pressures were to allow it.
Ch 1 Motivation - Parent-Teacher Bond
In all discussions on education the first characteristic that needs to be examined is motivation. For teaching to occur the student has to be motivated, that is simple - they must want to learn. That is the starting point of education, a child comes to school or whatever institution to learn. Is it the case that students are motivated? And if not where has it gone wrong?
Understanding motivation is the key to unlocking the state of contemporary western education - and as a result the potential for exporting their problems in education globally. When a baby is born, what do they do? Instinctively they learn. Do they need motivation to learn? No, it happens. Or alternatively one can say that Nature gives babies the motivation to learn, and we call Nature's motivation instinct. This instinct is motivation, we do not supply the child with motivation. The mother does not tell the child to go and learn. In the home the baby is motivated to learn. In truth that is a bit stupid to say, more than a bit stupid, it is intellectual verbiage to use such words for what happens. Mother, baby and father grow together in the home and learning occurs - call it motivation, instinct, intuition or whatever. Learning happens.
But by the time western children go to secondary school learning does not instinctively happen. Most do not go to school to learn. Educationalists often say children at this stage have lost motivation, and equally often they say it is teachers who need to provide that motivation. As you might imagine I scoff at the notion that teachers should be providing the motivation, but at the moment I leave it at scoffing!
Students in secondary school have lost motivation. Above I stated that learning happens from birth, and that it is a natural process. Within the home parents provide babies with what they need to learn, what they need to survive, what they need to grow up. Few would dispute this but would they call it education? They learn what they need, and parents encourage them in this. It is a natural process all round. Here is the crunch, somewhere along the line this natural process breaks down, examining how this breaks down and how we prevent it from breaking down is the essence of this personal journey into education.
Key to the learning process in the home is familial love - mother, father and baby. All of these aspects of love create the environment that allows the baby to learn, and given Nature's instincts combined with this love the baby doesn't go wrong. Is there a loving environment involved in the process of education that is secondary school? Rather than just being able to say no, the situation is worse than that. If a teacher were to say they love their children they are more likely to be arrested than being considered as providing the appropriate environment for learning. Whilst it is important to protect our children from the few perverts, it is important not to drive out of education that which provides the appropriate nurture - love. Good education comes from love and a caring home, does the bond between parent and teacher in secondary school in any way correlate to this love and a caring home?
For me this is so sad, and again is a theme I hope to explore in this journey. If I am not arrested for perversion?
So the question of motivation is where has this natural motivation gone? How has love gone out of the process? In the UK it has become a self-fulfilling process. Various interests have intervened, and parents have stopped trusting teachers to provide their children with what is needed. Gradually the natural motivation in the children disappears, school becomes a chore and then eventually the students stop learning, some become ill-disciplined and some even more disruptive.
Let us consider schooling where that bond remains. Children in Africa, China and many parts of Asia go to schools where that bond is intact. Is it the quality of education? With all due respect that is not the reason. In Africa these children go to village schools with barely desks, a bit of chalk, and teachers who are comparatively untrained. It is not what is provided that is the problem which breaks the parent-teacher bond, fundamentally it is the social ethic which is missing. African education believes in the education it provides, western society doesn't. With that lack of belief, the parent-teacher bond disappears and with it the education environment of nurturing that can provide good education.
It is essential to see that the failing education in the West is not an objective factor of the institutions themselves only but the disappearance of the nurturing environment and this parent-teacher bond. In the UK this bond was intentionally destroyed by politics. It became politically successful to attack what was happening in schools. It was determined by the ad-men that the floating voters saw education as an important issue. The politicians then stepped in, and began manipulating education for votes. The poor behaviour of the students was not the cause of the failure to learn. Why? Because the parents of these students were voters. Which group of people could the politicians afford to lose the votes of? The teachers. The teachers became the scapegoat for the problems in education. In society it became acceptable to attack teachers, and the parent-teacher bond disappeared - and with it what remained of education.
I am not saying that at the time all was well in education. Far from it. The reason that education could be politically manipulated was that education was already beginning to fail the needs of the parents. But the politicians hastened this process because quite simply they had only one interest - the vote of the parents. That process of vote-grabbing has continued to this day. They talk of how much money is put into education but they never talk of the main cause of the bad education - the poor behaviour of the students. The primary fact that causes western education to fail is that the students do not go to school to learn, and the primary cause for this is the breakdown of the parent-teacher bond.
But this is not grounds for complacency on the part of educationalists. These usurping politicians only fed off the prevailing conditions, and these conditions cemented a building dissatisfaction amongst the parents. The politicians severed the parent-teacher bond in the west, society readily accepted the severing and education became the mess it is today. Elsewhere societies did not sever that bond, and education has not deteriorated. But there is no room for complacency. Re-establishing that bond takes more than just a recognition of the problem.
So we need to examine how the bond worked historically? UK education up to the 60s was working quite well in some senses. Students went to school, and came away with varying levels of qualifications. Because the bond was intact little was questioned. In the 60s, if I returned from school with a bad report or if the school reported me for ill-discipline my parents reinforced what the school did. My parents did not question the school, they might question me but it was never with a notion of attacking the teachers. There was a bond there. In truth I do not recall this bond as being close, I never had the feeling that my parents were 100% behind what the school did, but it was clear to me that my parents and the school were united. No matter what I did they were working together in a common interest.
Contrast that with today. Parent-teacher evenings are a battleground for teachers. Students cause problems in schools, blame the teachers, go home with their stories, parents believe them, and division between teacher and parent is established effectively ruining the education of the child. Has the quality of delivery of education altered? Maybe. Is it as bad as the desk, chalk and less-trained teacher in Africa? Absolutely not. Yet education remains in Africa because of the bond. And how much better off would western children be if the teachers were supported by the parents irrespective of blame and fault? In the home the unity of the parents provides a stable loving environment for nurturing the child. Children develop problems when they are able to cement a wedge between their two parents. Good parents see this coming, try to establish a working agreement, and so nurturing the child is effective. Where has this discipline gone in the parent-teacher bond?
The most important tool in dealing with this bond is recognising the common sense that if you allow the child to create a division between teachers and parents then education is reduced. How can learning occur when the teacher is considered the enemy? In loving homes is strictness a problem? Is punishment a problem? No, because in both cases love is the overriding factor. In good homes children bite the bullet, accept punishment from their parents quite simply because their parents love them. Why can't things similarly be accepted in schools? Teachers are trying to help the children, if things go a bit wrong so what? The children are learning. If the teacher genuinely cares about teaching then the child can learn irrespective of whether the teacher makes a mistake. Children need to tolerate those mistakes for the sake of their own learning, parents need to reinforce that toleration, and children can then learn.
Re-establishing the parent-teacher bond requires an acceptance of mutual interest between parents and teachers, and moving away from the conflictual position that has been established in the west. Is it always necessary to agree with the teachers? No, but it is necessary for the parents to support the teachers. But are the teachers and the educational establishment innocent in this? Far from it. Teachers have become increasingly career-orientated as the behaviour of the students has worsened. What happens to genuine teachers when they meet the hostility of student behaviour? How can a genuine desire to educate remain when all that is met is at best disinterest and often outright hostility? More and more working in western schools becomes a means for career and secure jobs rather than a desire to educate - a desire to be the elders of society passing on the knowledge to the next generation.
And how have teachers interacted with the parent-teacher bond? They have developed an aloof teacher speak. Rather than trying to unite with the parents they defend their own positions and attack the students, and then in the staffroom complain about the attitude of the parents. The parents encouraged by media denigration of the teaching profession go home and abuse the teachers. OK this is an exaggeration of sorts but the net result of parent-teacher interaction is an increasing division in the bond that is necessary for good education.
A staring point on this bond for teachers is a replenishment of the desire to teach, a return to the notion that a teacher has a vocation. I recently met a teacher colleague again after nearly 30 years. When we first worked together our approaches were similar, but our career paths were vastly different. Whilst he remained in UK education, for the latter half of my teaching life I have worked abroad - and now live outside the UK. For the latter half of my working life I have been in teaching situations where many teachers enjoy being teachers. They have complaints, who doesn't? But they believe in teaching, this has rubbed off on me. When I told my erstwhile colleague that a teacher needs to accept vocation, he described my position as absurd. Whilst it would be hard to maintain a vocational position in the UK, it is far from absurd. If parents met teachers at their meetings and saw a genuine vocation perhaps they would be far happier to trust them with the education of their children. Of course maintaining a vocation within a careerist institution where education matters little is extremely difficult even before you start to consider the poor behaviour of the students this vocation meets.
The parent within the bond needs to respect the professional. Over the last 30 years parental involvement has been encouraged but not parental respect for the teaching professional. The skills of these professional are belittled, and it is generally viewed that a parent's view of education is as informed as the teacher. This of course is complete rubbish. The teaching professional usually starts with a vocation, has completed a school education, has gone to university to learn to be a teacher for three or four years, and then has all the classroom experience as well as ongoing training. How does a parents' knowledge of education compare to this? It doesn't so why do parents feel this way? We need to examine the political process of parental involvement. In the UK this started in the late 70's, at the same time the politicians started to use education as a vote winner. Parents were rightly becoming disenchanted with education as a whole, and the government offered them the opportunity to be involved in institutional decisions. As a by-product there developed this sub-culture that parents could be involved in professional decision-making, and questioning classroom management became a parental prerogative. This is ludicrous, meddlesome, and very destructive. How do you form a bond with a professional whose decision-making is being questioned by someone who considers they have a right to question such decisions but have no professional experience to bring to the matter.
This brings us to the responsibility of the parents with regards to their children's behaviour. Most parents do not consider that I am referring to their children. They fall into the trap of comparing behaviour in much the same way as students do in class. A typical classroom scenario is that a child misbehaves. The teacher attempts to chastise that child, then someone does something worse. Rather than accepting responsibility for their own behaviour and ensuing punishment they start comparing their behaviour with the more disruptive child who is perhaps not being punished. They perceive unfairness and it all prevents learning from occurring. How can the teacher deal with the two disruptions at the same time? Most people blame the teacher for losing control but if two or more students are not doing what they are supposed to do and the teacher is trying to control the behaviour without the cooperation of the students, is that poor teaching?
Following this scenario through in consideration of the parent-teacher bond, the first student reports that the teacher is picking on them. They did action A but the other student did action B which is easily explained to their parents as far worse by the first student. Parents might feel outrage and rather than support the teacher supports the child. This type of scenario is significant in the breakdown of the parent-teacher bond, and could be obviated if the parent simply asked the child if what they were doing was right or wrong, and punished accordingly. How can the parent know about the class dynamics at the time? Why should they? They should trust the teacher - the bond.
But the teacher in general does not include the parent in this bond. Whilst their professional decisions are their own professionals need to recognise they are teaching people - the students. How many teachers become old and tired because they say they are teaching the same old same old year in year out. This is completely untrue, every year their classes change. Every class they teach is a new set of students, and the teachers are there to help form the lives of these new people. Teaching needs to be personalised not only in terms of the ability of the students but in terms of their personalities. And this is where the bond comes in, and where legitimate personal involvement with the parents is essential. How many parents hear stories about children they don't recognise? How do they trust teachers who clearly do not recognise their own children for who they are? If teachers blanket attack then of course parents will defend and then attack the teachers. If this bond becomes central to the teaching and all parties recognise appropriate boundaries for involvement then there is little chance that the children can cause division and education of the child will improve.
Developing this parent-teacher bond is a practical lynchpin in improving education and recognising political involvement as a significant source of the division is important, but it does not really address why the politicians were able so easily to manipulate the education votes. And these reasons are educational - not teachers, not parents, not students but educational. In this journey it is important to recognise that the fundamental building block for good education is the parent-teacher bond, and that assumption has to underwrite all that I say, but it is far from the whole story. And the whole story relates to the connections between society and education, and that story concerns the journey of the student from the home through the school into society. How caring is this journey, is it a journey as Nature intends?
Ch 2 Leaving the Home
The first day at school can often be distressing. Increasing the level of learning ought to be an enlightening experience for the child. But there is an aspect of what has been termed the double bind, the child is growing up and the parents don't want the child to leave home. Should the first day be so distressing?
I contend that it is so because of so many parental fears about children going to school. First of all the child is going to meet with all the horrendous behaviour from the other children. Second the child is leaving a nurturing environment at home and going to a school environment where the importance of nurture is institutionally minimised. And thirdly there are so many questions about what the child will be learning.
Let me consider that the behaviour issue is a symptom of the other problems in education. For example if the parent-teacher bond were working effectively behaviour would be improved. Whilst the behaviour and attitude of the students towards learning is the number one priority, addressing these without placing them in an appropriate context is a futile exercise. So let us begin by considering the nurturing environment. Despite the best efforts of many teachers to provide such, a contemporary school cannot be considered a nurturing environment. Can it be made more so? Yes. Initially by involving parents more in the daily life of the classroom, and secondly by changing the social emphasis on the home; this second I will discuss below. And where does one begin with what the child will be learning? Because UK education copies the US, children are having their futures determined by achievement in tests at primary school. Is this nurturing?
The real issue concerning such early distress is the fact that the child is leaving home, and all parties are aware that leaving home is a problem for children. It is so important to understand how serious an issue this emphasis on the home is for society. Western society more than elsewhere in the world lays little emphasis on the home as everyone is out earning a buck. Sadly our societies pressurise both parents to work in order to maintain the standards of living these consumer societies profligate. Children even earlier than 5 years old are sent to kindergartens or nurseries or cr?ches to enable these parents to earn their money.
And worst of all many parents value the job they do more than they do bringing up their children. For the 20 or so years that the children are living at home, parents are still more concerned with their own work than they are with their children. Imagine if society's emphasis was on the bringing-up of children and supporting families to do this. Imagine a world where corporate profits were less important than the needs of the family in their home. There would be a big change in society, and many of our social problems would disappear. And in terms of education it would be a Godsend. Children's behaviour would greatly improve. The parent-teacher bond would be far more substantive as the emphasis would be more on the child rather than educating for corporate needs. In truth whilst social emphasis is on corporate demands it is unlikely that education can improve as corporate requirements counter the appropriate nurture culture for good education. Corporate requirements also define the direction of our curriculum, both exam and hidden, leaving the demands for a good career as being the highest goal in education. How often do prospective parents leave school with a desire to bring up children - even the maternal instinct is re-educated.
This corporate demand also reshapes our communities. Instead of there being an extended family network supporting the families to bring up children, nuclear families are often relocated due to career. This often isolates the nuclear family forcing both parents out to work and children into cr?ches. In a sense this journey could end here. Whilst western societies accept corporate demands as its benchmark education will suffer because the social emphasis is not on bringing-up the children in the home.
If I were to accept corporate requirements as legitimate education direction I would be writing about tinkering with detail in the exam system or some other minutiae. But I have always fought this narrow-minded greed-orientated position to the detriment of my own career - but not my heart. But what did I begin with - student behaviour. Students behave badly in education because quite simply they know that the education system is not in their interest but for corporate interest. As such there are few corporate executives and they usually come from public school, and from the state schools we have the labour pool - the cheaper the better.
And this emphasis is why by the time most children have reached secondary school age they have lost contact with education. It is evident to these children that the system is not educating them, but is educating a select few who are training for the corporate ladder. Why does western society accept this?
Parents recognise this state of affairs, some even embrace it by sending children to boarding schools - the first step on a number of corporate ladders. This recognition is imparted to the children so that the first step into school is the first step on the path of alienation from nurture and the home. What do teachers do? Many try to ameliorate this. In primary schools they try to nurture but you cannot fight the tide. Throughout many teachers try to do the best for the children offering extra tuition, spending time with students and generally trying to fit the students into the system, but how can it work well? There are only so many corporate execs, so many lawyers, even a profession like teaching or nursing becomes the career choice of the "misguided who cannot embrace the corporate profit motive".
This is fundamentally so screwed up and unnatural it is amazing that any education occurs. What is natural about putting profits before people - before Nature? What about the corporate rationale that destroying the environment is acceptable collateral damage in the search for increased profits? I contend that putting the home first for bringing-up children is the first step in realigning to Nature's design, and the second is re-aligning the profit motive taking it out of the hands of corporate greed and firmly fixing it within a balance of Nature. It is perfectly natural to have a profit from trading but it is far from natural to have that profit-taking destroy the environment, the delicate balance of ecology that humanity is a part of. Such a position is completely alien to the corporate stance that the current paradigm of education has to be eschewed.
All of this brings us to the root definition of education - latin educare leading out. Whilst I have always worked in the corporate paradigm of education through exam systems and so on, I was actually taught at teacher training college that education meant self-realisation. Of course self-realisation is not possible for all within this corporate educational paradigm as the paradigm redefines educational success as the corporate ladder. But the educational process of self-realisation, focussing on the home with the parent-teacher bond and re-aligning our education systems to Nature's design - the Natural paradigm - are all part of the same process. These might be considered radical positions in that they might be considered to be introducing fundamental change but they are also radical in that they are at the root of the meaning of education. And that meaning of education has been lost because of the hijack by the corporate paradigm reinforced throughout the educational process by the corporate hijacking for profit of key aspects of the education system.
But in this journey I am only looking at the meaning of education as Nature intended - no easy task as all my life I have been taught and have practised education completely differently.
Ch 3 Developing the Nature paradigm
What do we know about this nature paradigm so far? When children are born their appetite for learning is instinctive developed through a loving environment. When they go off to school this motivation gradually disappears leaving the schools as a place where a few conform enough to become part of the corporate ladder. Somehow we would like to recreate the learning environment of the home within our learning situation but that is impractical and in the end unnatural as at some stage we need to break away from the home - unless the parents opt for home education.
There are many facets to this nature paradigm but let us begin with the curriculum "what should they be learning when they get to school?" What is natural learning - a nature paradigm? Some might say that the school curriculum already offers ecology, and that a "green understanding" is on the increase. Whilst this is clearly true, is it enough? Understanding ecology at secondary school level is part of the curriculum - nowhere near enough, but what has this got to do with leaving home and going to primary school? And the answer here is to consider the impact of the corporate paradigm on all levels of education. This is an extremely difficult question to answer in terms of what we do at the moment as we are so immersed in our subject-based educational culture being language, maths, sciences and so on. What if education were not to begin with these? Sounds crazy, surely all our scientific breakthroughs are garnered initially on an understanding of these basic subjects? I leave that question open for the moment but let us realise that our primary schools slowly but surely use a curriculum which step-by-step teach a basic understanding of these subjects leading to a higher understanding in the secondary school, and then at university. From university a few have developed sufficient blinkers that allow them to destroy the environment and be dispassionate towards fellow men all in the name of corporate profit. When and how that process starts needs to be analysed.
How close are existing processes within education to what might be part of a natural development. One model of development that is generally accepted is that of Piaget. From wikipedia on Jean Piaget we get:-
"The four development stages are described in Piaget's theory as:
" Sensorimotor stage: from birth to age 2.
" Preoperational stage: from ages 2 to 7 (magical thinking predominates. Acquisition of motor skills). Egocentrism begins strongly and then weakens. Children cannot conserve or use logical thinking.
" Concrete operational stage: from ages 7 to 12 (children begin to think logically but are very concrete in their thinking). Children can now conceive and think logically but only with practical aids. They are no longer egocentric.
" Formal operational stage: from age 12 onwards (development of abstract reasoning). Children develop abstract thought and can easily conserve and think logically in their mind."
Whilst following such models can be restrictive, if such a model is appropriate then straying too far from it can lead to wayward development. Do we push the sciences too early? Consider maths. Number as a concept is a process of abstract reasoning. One apple is concrete but the number one is abstract. Do our educational practices fit Piaget's developmental stages? Would it be correct to describe our mathematical teaching as unnatural? I have always had a pet theory as to why corporations like maths graduates. Mathematical understanding has great beauty to it, it has a consistency all of its own. Mathematicians are able to relate to the integrity of maths without being sidetracked by conscience or the vagaries of daily life. Such an isolation from daily life makes it easy to dissociate the numbers of the profit motive from the consequential damage to the environment and the impoverishing of huge proportions of the population. Whether this pet theory has any substance is unimportant, what does matter is that there are corporate-types who are comfortable with the isolated profit lifestyle, and that cannot be natural.
I intend to consider cognitive development (including Piaget) in greater detail later through the magnifying glass of a Nature paradigm but at this stage I now want to consider how much of self-realisation is part of our Nature paradigm? This question is almost a tautology if viewed correctly. Nature has created this self (however we define it), and therefore realisation of self has to be the keystone of education within a Nature paradigm. Bringing out the true nature of the student has to be the real objective of education.
Whilst accepting this we have not gone a long way in our analysis, after all within the corporate paradigm it could be argued that being CEO of a large multinational with huge profits is self-realisation. What would we consider self-realisation within the context of Nature? This requires a certain amount of speculation about Nature. Many notions of ecology consider that nature has some sort of balance that if destroyed causes all kinds of global problems. Typical of this ecological consideration would be climate change, where continuous misuse of natural resource together with industrial emissions have led to an imbalance in nature which is damaging the environment. Many schools are currently attempting to address this issue through ecological studies, and this is to be applauded.
But this notion of Nature does not go anywhere far enough primarily because most considerations of nature do not include man. Whether one considers the mind of man as something which makes man different from other animals, if one postulates that nature is about life on earth then man is a part of that. Man is a part of the totality of life on earth, and education of man needs to recognise this and seek to educate man as being part of the system that is Nature. I would contend that in the corporate paradigm education of man allows man to perceive himself as beyond nature and that considerations of the environment or other natural factors are secondary compared with the interests of man - primarily corporate profits.
So how does man fit in to the system that is Nature? What is his role in that system? How do we educate for that role? These are all deeply philosophical questions and are difficult to address without some form of postulation. I begin by seeing education as being concerned with the whole being. Whatever the whole being is it is something we are born with, nature gave it to us so if we know what the whole being is then educating that whole being has to be part of nature. So what is this whole being? I intend to address 3 aspects of humanity - mind, energy and body, and initially not address the question of religion or spirituality (as I develop consideration of the mind that will become clearer).
Let us begin first by addressing the question of the body. In recent times in the West we have begun to see deterioration in the condition of the human body. Whilst science has made huge advances in medicine the human body has become subject to more and more diseases that many associate with lifestyle. Diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes have greatly increased, and although treatment has helped with cures the real educational concern has to be consideration of the source of the increase. Obesity has begun to be recognised as almost epidemic even amongst the children. I contend that healthy living could have a great impact on these diseases and obesity. What has changed that could have led to this? Food and stress.
Let us begin with food. The quality of our food intake has vastly declined over the last century. Children particularly are attracted by low quality foods with high sugar content to entice them. In addition corporations started to put chemical additives in our foods to help preserve them. High refined sugar content and chemicals have been pointed to as being significant in our increasing health issues. In our Nature paradigm, would either be considered "natural"? Of course not. So good education practice would make it clear that our foods should not contain either. Many teachers would say there is nothing new here, but that the children just don't listen. Whilst I agree there has to be greater emphasis on the need to move away from such unnatural foods.
The half-hearted approach (not from the active teachers) can be sourced in the corporate paradigm. Who produces the food that has the declining quality? The corporations commonly known as Big Food. Within a corporate paradigm for education, how would it be possible to change education so that the quality of food is recognised as the serious health problem it is when to educate about such goes against the prevailing educational paradigm. The word token is often thrown up as a criticism in education. Here is a clear example of a token attitude in education. Many teachers pay lipservice to the issue of food. Canteens are required to serve healthy options and blame the students (or the parents) for choosing unhealthy foods. Vehement teachers who understand more the relationship between food and ill-health are continually frustrated by this tokenism, but they cannot fight the paradigm, such vehemence often leads to discipline warnings and other career-threatening actions. The corporations do not directly step in to insist that Big Food is not criticised but the paradigm directs the hidden curriculum which is very powerful in its application. This approach characterises many aspects of good thinking which is frowned upon by the establishment in education.
Education needs to embrace the issue of good food. I contend that good health is a consequence of eating good food, and that in good education this functionality should be the byword. But we need to consider further what is good food, and the natural paradigm gives us the answer - food from nature. Food from the ground that had not been treated by chemicals, processed with preservatives, or cooked with unhealthy additives such as MSG. One could even go further with education concerning food by recognising that healthy eating of particular foods can improve specific health conditions. An education course based on Paul Pitchford's "Healing though whole foods" has a place in any good curriculum.
Whilst good eating functionally produces good health we have to consider another aspect of a healthy body, and that is exercise. Exercise has become perverted in our institutions and has become far too oriented to sports success. Whilst healthy sports competition can add to enjoyment in school, and help control misdirected disruptiveness, this has to be secondary. Exercise is a requirement for all children - and all adults, exercise and not achievement is for all. Somehow the machismo has to be taken out of sport but this type of competitiveness is so integral to the prevailing paradigm. Ideally teachers would take a lead in this education for the body through healthy eating and good exercise, but unfortunately many of our teachers suffer from the inadequacies of our system and don't see the value in such. Of course stress pays a big part in this as will be seen later.
Before we consider the realm of the mind, the main focus of education in both paradigms, let me talk about energy. Now energy is not a factor in western understanding of the whole being. In the East such energy is accepted by the populus under terms such as Chi or Prana, but in the West energy is scientifically often considered as non-existent. If it is brought into the West it is brought in through machismo in the martial arts. But I contend for the whole being we need to address the issue of developing Chi through exercises such as Chi Gung, through appropriate teaching of control of the breath - prana. These should be part of the curriculum that is now called physical education but needs to be recognised within a wider area of health within the curriculum; this will be addressed later.
In considering the development of a nature paradigm I have identified it educationally as self-realisation. Using Piaget as an indicator I have noted that our curriculum might not be applied at appropriate cognitive stages, and this is to be investigated later. To consider self-realisation there are three aspects of being we need to consider - body, energy and mind, and looked at how body and energy could be improved in a natural education.
Ch 4 Beginning to consider mind
The basis of our existing paradigm is that we are educating minds. We fill our minds with various subjects, take exams in these subjects testing memory, and with these qualifications we join the corporate ladder. The existing education of mind is to fill the mind with contents. Do we consider faculties of mind? Far from it. Our university academic establishment goes through a nihilistic process of destruction of all positive understandings of mind by the need for proof. How do they define this proof? Physical measurement or common consensus. How can we physically measure the mind? And how can we get common consensus when the prevailing paradigm has a vested interest in maintaining the current limitations on understanding mind that underpins our education system? And if the worst came to the worst if common consensus were moving in a direction they didn't want, they could always pay for research into mind so that the conclusions of that research would create the imbalance in consensus they wanted.
So how do we start looking at what mind is and how we can relate that to education? First and foremost we need to recognise that memory is not the most important faculty of the educated mind. Because effectively that is what the current paradigm educates - memory. Let us explore this a little further. We learn subjects in a standard western curriculum, and then we spend a great deal of time learning facts for an examination in these subjects. Success is recognised as doing well in these exams, remembering the facts and writing them down in exam conditions is the measure of success. If a computer could write an exam then a computer would be classified as educated because of its faculty of 100% recall. Is this a good measure of human self-realisation?
I have mentioned the hidden curriculum before but have not begun to examine it in detail. Let me start some of that here. In practise in a school a curriculum is defined by the timetable, what is on the timetable? Various academic subjects. Within these subjects lessons are planned leading up to the taking of exams initially considered the crowning achievement by students but now most students don't care; part of the malaise in current education as previously described. Let us try to examine in reality what is happening. Students lose their natural motivation to learn by being dragged from the homes into institutions whose purpose is not to educate for all but to educate for the few who climb onto the corporate ladder.
What about the subjects learnt? How important are they for this corporate ladder? A few scientists are needed for research and medicine. A few mathematicians are needed to provide the theoretical basis for scientific development - the language of science. Geography of the world is needed a little for the multinational nature of business. Lessons from history can give a good perspective but learning dates? Language and literature help develop business communication. Economics is on some curricula but is not a requirement. Law can start at A level, but is mostly a university subject. And there are a vast number of people who don't get qualifications and who then take jobs that don't need qualifications. So in reality by the time we are talking about secondary schools most of what we actually learn is not used in the paradigm.
In the 70s in the UK teachers were beginning to re-evaluate the meaning of education. Whilst there was not direction in their discussions - they could not agree, the meaning was being discussed. Because of the circular nature of such discussions I do not believe a clear consensus would have arisen but from 1979 onwards the politicians took over and the contribution of the educationalists was minimised unless the people were careerists and accepted the political directive. A great opportunity was lost. The political directive entrenched the waning corporate paradigm, and re-established the prevailing curriculum that appears to have limited value for even the corporations themselves.
So if the actual teaching has limited value then why does the corporate paradigm work? Or does it work? In terms of self-realisation it does not work for the majority of people. What about the corporations? These corporations provide wealth for the few. To continue to exist, the corporations need to exploit the planet resources without concern for sustainability as that reduces profits. They require a consumer-oriented lifestyle where people buy unhealthy foods from Big Food, chemicals for health from Big Pharma, and innumerable household objects that are not necessary to live. Big Techno continues to develop new gadgets that young people especially buy into for whom most is only a fashion accessory. Big Clothes see a huge amount of clothes, and for most who can afford are all the shoes and clothes we have bought necessary? Lifestyle drugs, such as alcohol and illegal drugs, are consumed excessively. So for the corporation they make huge profits whilst the people consume. So the way our children are brought up works for them, the corporate paradigm works.
So in terms of education the question is how does it work? And this is where the hidden curriculum comes in. What does it take to buy into this corporate lifestyle that so few benefit from? It requires a complete re-education that moves us away from nature protecting herself. What do I mean by this? Well clearly the corporations have to sacrifice the environment or ecology. Education has to create people who are satisfied with the consumer lifestyle. Education has to create a mentality that will accept this consumerism, and even for some embrace it. And if people are dissatisfied they must accept turning to recreation as a solution rather than targeting the real cause - the corporations themselves. So education works for the corporations.
Educationalists cannot stand up and describe these as objectives:-
" Learn subjects that have only value for a few.
" Accept that consumerism is required for maximising corporate profits.
Yet these are the objectives, the external curriculum and the hidden curriculum. How does the hidden curriculum produce its results? By indoctrinated conformity. A few students become successes in schools, and join the corporate ladder. Other few successes become doctors, teachers, nurses, work in caring professions, and contribute to the general good that nature would expect of them. But even within these professions the good that nature would want is minimised by corporate involvement as exemplified by this book concerning teaching. And the majority conform to consumer units accepting that they will work at the non-caring jobs as part of consumer production. Those in the caring professions have to conform because if they fight they cannot win, and are left with jobs in consumer production - so they compromise. And how is this conformity achieved? By forcing students to learn subjects with minimal meaning throughout their childhood and adolescence so that by the time they have left university they believe they are successful and have generally accepted this conformity. In fact it is generally accepted at university that you can have a fling before conforming to the corporate requirements.
What is so foolish in this scenario is the acceptance by the majority of students of their failure. They are made to feel that they choose failure by opting out of academic involvement. The schools are required to both educate for the successful, and control the majority who are designed failures. Throughout this disciplining process these designed failures are continually reinforced that they are failures so that by the time they reach adulthood and want a family they accept that any job will do. Here the hidden curriculum is creating conformity through the illusion of failure.
OK I have spent too much time on the negative aspects of the current paradigm of education, but let us be clear this hidden curriculum is no accidental by-product of education this conformity is its essence. So it brings us to the positive aspect what is self-realisation in education? There is a little maxim I have developed that I alluded to earlier. If a computer can do it then our education system need not educate for it, what we need to do is educate for what the computer cannot do whilst educating greater computer literacy?
Let us consider computer literacy before we get into the more substantive inabilities of the computer. What do we need to educate about literacy? Fundamentally we need to know what it can do and what it can't. This is not easy matter. We have misconceptions that a computer can be intelligent. Can it be when all it does is follow instructions? Of the two only humans can be intelligent, education needs to be geared towards enforcing this reality. A computer as a tool can perform so many functions. Most people will use the computer as a word-processor, spreadsheet, database and perhaps graphics - apart from communication (the communication aspect of computers is very important and is discussed later). These are standard in computer courses. Systems analysis talks of writing software that integrates the computer with the way daily life progresses, yet few business applications do this conforming the worker to the demands of the computer. The technology has displaced nature as the guiding force primarily because the technology supports the corporate paradigm. Understanding the role of computer in nature is essential, and should be the keystone of the computer literacy component of the curriculum.
But this keystone cannot be evaluated until we have a clearer understanding of self-realisation in terms of what a computer cannot do? And that there is a recognition in education that this is the direction to take. A computer is programmed, and there are limitations as to what a programmer can do. But these limitations are often glossed over due to the processing speed of computers giving the appearance of great ability. Because of this speed many people cannot discern that computers are only machines.
Unfortunately at the same time there are scientists who are claiming intelligence for these machines, and in my view this is a failure of the scientific model which is underpinned by the rational notion that science can explain everything. There is a historical perspective with which I want to contextualise this view, and this view is also important in understanding academia. In earlier centuries knowledge was considered as knowledge. There was no necessity to dismiss or deride aspects of experience with a sweeping cut of the logical scythe. Religious experience was accepted for what it was - religious experience. Whilst this did lead to a certain amount of ignorance and superstition, legitimate experience was accepted for what it was - an experience. Compare with now where people who have experiences are derided if the experience is not supported by scientific rationality, they are fundamentally called liars. Whilst there are some who have an agenda which misuses such experiences, scientific rationality also dismisses much that could be recognised as knowledge or wisdom.
One view of where this dichotomy arrives comes from an analysis that starts with Francis Bacon. The first part of his book "Advancement of Learning" begins with "The First Book of Francis Bacon of the proficience and ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING divine and human" and in this we have a dichotomy of learning about the divine and human. Over the years science has eschewed the learning about the divine and incorporated the learning about human as academy. And over time academy accepts knowledge only if it is subject to the power of reason. Fundamentally knowledge can only be seen through the rose-coloured glasses of reason, and if knowledge cannot be subject to rational measurement then it is not knowledge but "in the realm of the divine". It is this rational measurement that is embraced within the corporate paradigm of education, and as a result the paradigm loses much that can help in improved education - in self-realisation - in the happiness of humanity.
In Bacon's archaic language we have lost the "divine" in education, and it is to understand this and to reintegrate the divine and human in our understanding that is part of our natural paradigm of education. Seeing this perspective historically helps us both analyse why our misdirected education system has developed and how it has then been incorporated into the established paradigm. It is not a bunch of business fatcats trying to create a labour mill, but a process that was begun by Bacon (in this scenario) to increase understanding by noting a division between understanding that is connected with the divine and that connected to human. That process then got appropriated by business interests as it found that their needs were met by this aspect of an education model.
Whilst understanding the need to reason a natural education system does not need to restrict knowledge to that which can be measured by physical instruments. Whilst this does not appear deeply significant once considered in detail this proposal opens up our education system a great deal. Firstly let us consider the terms subjective and objective as applied to knowledge, in many ways these two words could be considered the contemporary development of Bacon's divine and human. Academia accepts the authority of objective knowledge, knowledge that we can agree upon because it can be measured or is subject to logical proof. But what of subjective knowledge?
This acceptance demonstrates itself in the curriculum. A typical secondary school curriculum consists of English language, English Literature, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Design and Technology, History, Geography, Social Studies, Religion and Art. Of these only Art can be truly considered subjective, and that is only for those few whose ability takes them beyond skill. Aspects of design might be considered creative but it is mainly geared towards skill reproduction. Literature could be creative but in practice it often becomes little more than quoting and a rigid form of literary criticism. So even where there is an opportunity to be creative that is minimised. Our examination system orients towards memory-testing, and our curriculum is primarily objective and not creative. How much use is this when objectively memory can be recalled at a push of a button or a few words in a search engine?
There is also a practical consideration when considering this subjectivity and objectivity, and this consideration is very significant. Teachers avoid teaching that requires the students to think because they have realised that just leads to disruption. When a classroom is a place where motivation is limited, control is like a loose lid of a cauldron about to bubble over. Very often teachers develop skills which minimise the amount of "thinking" content. I can remember trying to teach maths projects - theoretically a legitimate teaching tool for developing higher teaching in maths. The better-motivated were looking for tricks as to how to get good grades by repeatedly asking for teacher's help, and the teacher then walks a tightrope of inappropriate guidance or ill-discipline when project work does not come easy. For the majority whose interest is limited there has to be guidance and skill-teaching. And very very occasionally a student produces creative work where they have developed the project into an area that is new and of interest. Whilst such project work might have been of interest to the academic educationalist, for the majority of students they are irrelevant and for the teacher a nightmare to work with.
Yet it is exactly this type of work that I am calling for, in fact I am pushing for the whole curriculum to be oriented this way. Is this at all feasible? Currently no. The mindset of the students in general is so limited. But it is important to ask why. Because the paradigm is not interested in the achievements of the majority as it only wants the success of a few, and the rest are required for the service sector etc.
But suppose we can maintain the motivation that children are born with. To do this we need to consider what aspects of learning are motivational. At present in schools the main motivation that is used is exam success, even to the ludicrous extent of introducing SATS in primary school. But of course this motivation is limited as few students are ever expected to have exam success by design of the paradigm. Fundamentally motivation provided by the curriculum is for the few. But what about motivation in the learning itself? In primary schools creative work is encouraged, and brings with it motivation for some of the students; in secondary schools it is always a good trick to allow students to colour work in as it maintains discipline. But is creativity in art the only form of intrinsic motivation? Obviously there is creative writing. In my own subject there is clearly motivation for those who can be creative in finding that spark which helps them solve a maths problem, the majority being solved by rote or imitation. I am sure if you asked other teachers will say that there are aspects of their subjects which motivate the students and immerse them in what they are doing. If they are amenable? But of course the majority aren't, and there is no way round that in the current approach.
But what is important to recognise is that ideally there are aspects of all the subjects that can motivate children. Intuition, creativity, aesthetics, creative design, intrinsic quality in work, and insight, all of these excite adults, why can't they excite children? We don't know because in general our curricula don't encourage these aspects in their studies as the orientation is towards exams for the few and classroom control for the majority.
And in this list of intuition, creativity, aesthetics, creative design, intrinsic quality in work, and insight, how many can be achieved by computers? I contend none, and this is the importance of the emphasis on curricular approach - improved understanding of the capabilities of a computer combined with a greater emphasis on those aspects of human awareness that a computer cannot achieve. This approach is summarised in the following diagram:-
From the diagram you can see additional aspects under the heading of compassion. There is a need for greater understanding on a personal level of how to deal with compassion, love and emotions. For some religions compassion is the most noble human attribute, how much is compassion rewarded through the standard curriculum? Compassion is motivating, both in itself and from the feedback from those we are compassionate to. Do we encourage compassion or is it frowned upon or derided because it is non-profit-making? In truth our society would not survive without compassion. Compassion is required to counter-balance the gaps left in corporate culture. Without the work of unpaid environmentalists the ravages of industrial effluent would be far worse. Throughout the Third World aid agencies provided well-needed (although sadly often misplaced) support. The world cannot survive without compassion but how much is it ever taught about or encouraged?
Another tremendous motivational force is love, as all adults know to a certain extent. Yet what is known or discussed about love in education? From the point of view of the paradigm, ignorance of love is very important. Both love and compassion could be considered the highest human goals. As it is for most young people teenage love is a tempestuous affair confused with passion and other aspects of growing up such as the need to leave the home. Along with social practice which pressurises young people to marry quickly, in terms of reference of the paradigm this ignorant love contributes to the formation of new consumer family units by default. Whilst society needs to focus on the home and help families create a good home environment, such a haphazard process for forming family units ie the home is far from beneficial.
Young people need help in discerning the truth of love, and this of course is difficult when adults do not know either. Only science requires knowledge to be absolute. Teachers fulfilling the role of social elders do not have to have a divine understanding of love, and perhaps younger teachers might not be the most appropriate people to deliver a curriculum on love but despite this love does need to be part of the curriculum. For our young people learning about love has become confused with sexual experimentation, and the passions associated with the sexual experience are confused with the experience of love itself. This is not helpful in the formation of a successful family unit as once the passions subside what is left - a social commitment to marriage and the children?
Some cultures arrange marriage. Detractors see this as imprisonment because of an obsession about choice yet within those cultures there are usually supportive families on both sides. And a commitment on all sides to stay together, a commitment that is far stronger than many shallow commitments where marriage has started with sexual passion.
Here is a 4 point model of love (known in Buddhism as the 4 Braham-Viharas):-
" Loving Kindness
" Compassionate love - leading to freedom from suffering
" Empathic Joy
" Equanimous Love
Imagine if this model were a cornerstone of our education. Teach our children to be kind and compassionate, and feel joy because others are happy. And what about equanimity in love? Remaining in control in love? Is this the model we get from Hollywood? What actions are considered acceptable because of being in love? How self-realised could a human become with these attributes?
Yet what would be a common reaction to hearing this (my own as well)? Get real, where do these 4 aspects of love belong in our education? These views on love and relationships will be easily shot down. What about this or that? Agreed, there is so much to be said. But in our present system how much is discussed? Now family and religion have significant roles to play in this, and schools tend to avoid the subject in some ways legitimately leaving it to the family and religion. But this is not education. And it is an area in which education is required in the West.
But most significantly imagine if the power of love that functions in healthy homes could be transported into our education system. That should be happening if our education system were appropriately designed. With our current notions and practices of love and education that sounds an unrealistic pipedream, but need it be so? Undoubtedly such an approach cannot occur within the existing paradigm, but isn't love part of nature? Certainly if we consider education as self-realisation then love and compassion have to factor in as leading components. Rather than avoiding this because of obvious difficulties let us try to consider legitimate ways of how to understand love and bring it into our educational approach.
What about sleeping and dreaming? In terms of self-realisation these two compose up to 1/3 of our daily life, and what do we learn about their meaning? In my later teaching years I would often describe a process of sleeping. If I had a maths problem I couldn't solve I would work at it until avenues had been exhausted. I would sleep, and then on awaking try again to find that I could solve it. One might consider that this would be ridiculed by students but far from it there seemed some acceptance. Can sleep be used in learning? How important is sleep in learning? What about the crazy hours of revision that would occur during exam time? Were these beneficial? Now in some schools drugs are used to keep students awake so they can study longer, how can we accept this? We need to help students understand sleep as part of their self-realised education.
And as for dreaming, this is ignored yet children dream. So they have such powerful experiences and yet all that happens is that, if these dreams are bad, parents console. But what is the function of dreaming? According to Wikipedia "dreams have been described physiologically as a response to neural processes during sleep, psychologically as reflections of the subconscious, and spiritually as messages from gods, the deceased, or predictions of the future. Many cultures practice dream incubation, with the intention of cultivating dreams that were prophetic or contained messages from the divine." If there is so much power in dreams, why aren't we trying to educate our children to learn from this power?
In this beginning consideration of mind much that has been discussed has to be considered almost impossible in the current paradigm as it is so far from the existing curriculum. But what that statement is actually saying is that what might be considered self-realised and natural is too distant from what is being taught - because of corporate interests. For education of the whole person that should be sufficient to embrace a paradigm shift to what I have called a nature paradigm. And I mean a paradigm shift, and not tinkering. Attempting to massage the existing system by adding a course on love and compassion would be absurd. I contend it benefits the children in our system to devote their energies to exam success and hope that as an adult they perceive the damage our education in this paradigm does them. And that as adults they have sufficient opportunity to change and mature.
Sadly that rarely happens, and so our education system is successful in its corporate terms.
Ch 5 Do we define the educated mind?
It is commonly accepted that our schools educate minds. As previously mentioned the majority of this educating of minds is concerned with filling the contents of consciousness with subjects, and "proving" we understand these contents by committing these contents to paper during an examination. Here again we have the dominance of objective proof as a means of assessing intelligence. In the last chapter we began to see how much is eschewed from a self-realising education process by accepting the prevailing paradigm. In some way we must accept that faculties such as intuition, creativity, aesthetics, creative design, intrinsic quality in work, and insight, are part of mind so currently we accept that they are not a priority. So what aspects of an educated mind are priorities? Is filling memory with facts (which can easily be found on a computer) a priority? Is this how we designed our current education system - to fill our memories with facts that a machine can now know better?
In truth there must be a historical acknowledgement here. I have alluded to Bacon so one might consider that contemporary education might have been developed since his time. Obviously the sophistication of calculating machines in the 16th century does not match the global information retrieval systems of 21st century internet usage. It might have been appropriate in those times to develop a good memory as a sign of an educated mind. In those times access to a good library of books might not be immediate and therefore human retention was essential. But a contemporary educated mind needs to know that there is something there to be retrieved rather than to know what it is, or develop an approach that would enable the recognition that there is something to retrieve. The structures and approaches of our minds to solve problems can now be completely different knowing that ability rather than retention produces answers.
However it is clear our education has historical cobwebs, it is held back in the past clinging to retention and a subject curriculum that has not properly recognised the advances in the "calculating machines" we use. Educationalists recognise this but they do not recognise why. Or rather they choose not to recognise why. It requires little analysis to see that only a few get jobs through their education, the majority work in production, and most of our potential for self-realisation is not even addressed. So why do so many educationalists fail to point this out? Quite simply education has its own career, and the paradigm does not encourage exposure of its numerous weaknesses. If such a work as this were to surface it would be labelled alternative. Why is it alternative? It is asking for the education of all children to the best of their ability, and not being straight-jacketed into a conformist education that has little social or functional relevance. However it is alternative because it does not pay any lip-service to the prevailing paradigm ie work within this paradigm, a usual requirement for educational work to be considered relevant.
It has been pointed out that a number of mental faculties have been mostly eschewed, and we that the current education system has been described as a group of subjects taught to fill the contents of our consciousness. But what is the mind in this? How do we define it, or do we attempt to define it? Clearly because of the subjective-objective dichotomy created by the prevailing scientific model and because of science's clear preference for objectivity, it would be understood that objectively mind is defined within the prevailing paradigm. Yet it is not. Attempting to reach an academic agreement on the understanding of mind is almost an anathema. Many people would attempt to reach consensus and then along would come a series of questions that would scythe through the concord. Fundamentally the academic interests in establishing their own academic boundaries - my theory is better than yours - prevent a consensus.
If academically there is not an accepted view of mind, is there one educationally? And yet again I cannot see one, except for this notion that we fill memories with facts to produce in an exam. So if there is no prevailing understanding of what is mind, then in asking the question how do we define the mind to be educated we have a carte blanche? No matter what is proposed someone will knock it down. If academic approval is not a yardstick, what is? Working towards a better human being, towards a caring community? People caring about the eco-system? People seeking some form of self-realisation? These are acceptable yardsticks, aren't they?
So how do we understand mind in connection with these yardsticks? Now we could do the same as the current paradigm by filling the minds with different contents. Within the framework of these superior ideals (superior to the corporate paradigm) we could fill the minds of our children with facts. How does industrial effluent damage the environment? What is the cause of global warming? There will be factual answers to these but there will also be opinions such as human greed as exemplified by the corporations being happy to damage the environment, contribute to the problem of 3rd world poverty, exploit 3rd world labour amongst other actions all in the name of profit. But even with such opinions being delivered within a better system little is likely to change, quite simply because if this information does not become part of the mentality of the child then we have little difference.
It is not necessary for students to recall facts it is necessary for them to understand and internalise such information so that these understandings are a part of their actions within their lives. How many people, including teachers, are prepared to say the right thing but when it comes to action do something completely different? How does this happen? Because there is not a deep internalisation of what they have said or learnt, and other pressures such as career and livelihood impinge on what would be an appropriate moral decision.
And we internalise when we believe it? Mostly we don't internalise for an exam, we recall and then forget. This type of knowledge, more knowledge with a factual basis, might even be termed trivial such as remembering a historical date like the reign of a particular king. But what about solving a maths problem? How do students do this for an exam? Simplifying there are two processes, often but not always distinct, that are used to solve a problem. The first is imitation. In a class a teacher teaches how to solve using a particular technique, then in an exam a similar problem occurs, and copying or repeating this technique yields the solution. The student remembers the technique and there is sufficient similarity for that remembering to give a solution. In "bad teaching" or exam coaching I would examine past papers, note which questions are likely to arise, focus on the teaching of this technique, practice it several times in tests, and then if it comes up students will be able to repeat the technique in the exam. Although this might produce "successful" candidates in terms of exam passes, what has actually been achieved? Of course out of concern for the future of my students I was forced to teach this way as are many others.
But there is a second process that examiners try to elicit from students, and this is more meaningful. Examiners will try to write non-standard questions, never too many on one paper, and these would be more likely to test the "mathematical ability" of students. These, you cannot teach to in the same way. There are however problem-solving approaches that one tries with, and whilst these help in directing the student approach to solving such they can never replace the ability of the student to solve maths problems. A teacher can never teach what makes someone "good at maths". This is something I believe we are born with to some extent, but that is not an issue I want to get into here. However one can say that at some stage a student becomes good at maths and can solve these exam problems, they have internalised this ability. What is significant about this internalisation process is that it never goes away. It might get "forgotten" but with practice it will soon become finely tuned again leading to the situation where problems can be solved.
One's internalised abilities might become "rusty" but they are never completely forgotten, whereas with much factual-based knowledge recollection would occur in an apparent vacuum ie we would need to be told the fact again and then maybe still be unaware that we ever knew the information.
As a teacher one attribute that is significant about this "good at maths" ability is that a teacher recognises it in a student. With regular testing a teacher, and the student, becomes aware of the level of their achievement. But there can be many factors contributing to this level of success, ability to revise well being a significant one. Test scores are not always a measure of true ability, and there have been a few occasions where I have taught a student and have known they are "good at maths", usually but not always did they have the highest scores. Here I am saying that this "good at maths" ability is what is internalised and is almost exclusively what is needed to be brought out in education.
This sounds frighteningly elitist. It might well be, but it is not meant to be. This is a problem being caused because of working in a skewed education system. There is an interesting word that Pirsig discusses in ZMM [pp 388 -410] - gumption. What is this? It is defined as a sound practical judgement with fortitude and determination. It is an internalised ability that someone has to solve a problem, it might also be considered common sense. Is this internalised ability taught in our current education system? Far from it. There are many leading academics who do not have common sense, occasionally it is lauded as a "virtue" such as absent-mindedness because the mind is in such an abstract arena. This gumption might also be considered as part of what Buddhists term "mindfulness". But is gumption an elitist attribute? As it stands it clearly is but it is not an academic elitism. A few people possess this gumption but academic success is not a pre-requisite.
In ZMM Pirsig describes gumption through a series of attributes which he brings together in a course he calls gumptionology 101 [pp388-410]. He describes this gumption in relation to motorcycle maintenance but there is much that can be gained from consideration with respect to learning. He begins with enthusiasm which he describes as rooted in being "filled with God". Isn't that how we as people develop motivation? As infants we are filled with motivation, it is natural. Children are enthusiastic in play. Look at them, they do such pointless things but with enthusiasm. Tremendous. What has education done to drive that enthusiasm away? Education needs to work with that natural enthusiasm but point them in the right direction. And the keynote to that right direction is maintaining enthusiasm. How can we maintain enthusiasm when the purpose of that education is to discard the majority of children who start on the process?
With enthusiasm these children learn. However they learn, this enthusiasm cements in them what they need to learn, what they learn is internalised. Without this motivation internalisation cannot happen, and the essence of learning cannot occur. Initially it matters little what this enthusiasm is related to as children are naturally enthusiastic. But as the level of learning in current schooling increases the enthusiasm wanes, it is therefore necessary to determine a path of cognitive and curricular development in which this waning does not occur.
I remember an incident when I was travelling. I stayed at a resort with an interesting woman in Cambodia but was horrified when she sat with me and started calling her staff stupid, the problem with Cambodians is that they are stupid she would say. Every anti-racist shackle inside me started to rise, how can she describe her own people in such a way? But with talking to her I realised that she was talking about her people being uneducated. Here we have for me the hidden curriculum again but in a positive way. Through education we learn organisation, remembering, reading and writing, without education where are these? What this lady was saying was that everyday she would tell her staff what to do - she said everyday she told them to do the same thing. Now in truth there is human interaction and perception involved in this. The staff probably found it easier this way - no mistakes, but what was clearly lacking was gumption? Why didn't they have the gumption to do this themselves? Why didn't they use their gumption to work out what was needed and do it. This can come with education but in a functioning society, working in the interests of all its people, everyone needs gumption.
Can everyone get this gumption? That is a fascinating question, and it has elitist connotations. But what is extremely clear is that in our current education model, not everyone gets gumption. I certainly did not have gumption when I left university, although I had a number of qualifications. If I have gumption now I have learned it through the school of hard knocks, life, but need it be that way? And if perhaps gumption is not within the natural cognitive development of our students of school age, is there not "preparation for gumption" that could be taught at that age? But thinking about enthusiasm, if the source of gumption is enthusiasm for what we do then it is common sense to think that young children have natural enthusiasm and if we can maintain that enthusiasm through natural cognitive development then gumption will be a natural product or end result.
This brings me to the rest of Pirsig's gumptionology 101. Throughout this section he talks of the need to have "peace of mind" to fix the motorbike; having "peace of mind" is essential to internalise. He describes gumption traps that come up when fixing the motorbike, and these gumption traps drain enthusiasm. Avoiding gumption traps is integral to the process of fixing. He describes two types of gumption traps [p392] "the first type is those in which you're thrown off Quality track by condition that arise from external circumstances .... The second type is traps in which you're thrown off the Quality track by conditions that are primarily in yourself". Quality is fundamental to the whole of his book (2 books), and on the same page he had previously described a gumption trap as "anything that causes one to lose sight of Quality, and thus lose one's enthusiasm for what one is doing". The external circumstances described here are not normally considered the realm of education but "conditions that are primarily in yourself" certainly are especially if you are genuinely seeking self-realisation.
So let us consider some of his gumption traps. Boredom [p 406 ]. If you are fixing something and are getting bored, then stop. Imagine that in our current schools, students would be stopping permanently. But aren't they anyway? This opens the door for teacher-bashing again. "Teacher, I'm bored". But of course they are bored, education is not for them, it is only for the few who join the corporate ladder. And as non-participants in education boredom is an important pre-requisite for the kind of work they do later, work that in general lacks gumption. In general workers need to accept boredom but still work - accepting that the pay packet is a sufficient rationale for life. Perhaps this is about education for nihilism as it is completely undermining our daily way of life!! This is legitimate only if an alternative is provided, much that occurred in the 60s knocked down established traditional practices, did not replace them, and paved the way for the current increased level of corporate exploitation. I even thought Pirsig was one of these, until you think about the title of ZMM and his approach to meditation.
At this point I only want to barely mention some of the other gumption traps as there is a fundamental reason for gumption not being taught in schools. Anxiety [p405] is one which diffuses the clarity of mind in which gumption occurs, how can one's judgement be sound when one is anxious? Consider schools. The exam system itself is designed to create anxiety, and that is if the students get that far in the cauldron of ill-discipline western schools and classrooms are. Ego [p404] is also a trap he mentions. The whole corporate paradigm is designed to create people who consider themselves better than the "herd" so ego will interfere with gumptious judgement. In truth I could probably choose any of the reasons our education system is failing and show why gumption will not be created, but the fundamental reason is that schools are not real. They are not designed to be the World of Work. Do students have to learn? Do they have to solve the problems they are presented with? What does it matter if it goes wrong? This basic failing is very destructive in attempting to provide a learning environment. A lesson is delivered, and a student is asked to complete a task. They tell the teacher "I can't be assed!" What does the teacher do? Usually the system criticises the teacher and says the teacher cannot motivate students, but fundamentally what is there that should make the student do the task? Absolutely nothing. That reason in itself is enough to seal the death knell of schools as a means of teaching all students. Of course it suits a system that only requires a few to be successful.
Consider the world of work. Someone is told to fetch the coffee, who wants to do that? Yet how many do it? Quite simple, a cup of coffee is not worth losing the money for. Extrapolate this approach to all the tasks one is asked to do in the world of work. At the back is always the fear of the sack. "I can't be assed" is a pre-statement for resignation, the first step to walking out the door.
It is necessary to bring this imperative into our education system. Teachers need the power to make students work if education is to be successful, not that these tasks be performed at the whim of an adolescent or even younger. The empowering of this imperative is essential for successful education.
I remember at a 6th form college I was required to keep an attendance register, if this register was not correct a student did not get a grant/allowance. What a wonderful opportunity to create the imperative? You cannot get your attendance mark, because:-
a) You did not do your homework.
b) Your behaviour in class was poor.
c) The standard of your work was below your norm.
The three above could be reasons for an employee to be disciplined, maybe not get their pay. So why not in this 6th form college? Some would argue that teachers are not employers, do not have the attributes of employers. How many people think their bosses are fair? Employees just do as they're told or lose their money. Professional jobs have conditions of service, there is no reason why similar could not be created for the classroom. Students will be told by the teacher they will not get their mark if .... And that is it, end of discussion as in the world of work. How much would this improve education? I think that particular 6th form college completely lost an opportunity to greatly improve education because to be quite honest there were many problems with the level of students' work and effort. And students perhaps shout the loudest if teachers were given that level of control. Yet many of those 6th form students were doing part-time work cleaning etc., and were being pushed around by employers with whom there were no clear conditions of service or discipline procedures, they knew if they didn't do as they were told they lost their money. But in the 6th form college no such discipline applied and so long as they attended they got their allowance - ridiculous.
This imperative is needed in our education system but do we want to recreate the problems of the workplace? Do we want the level of intimidation in our schools as we have in the workplace? Certainly not, but we do need the imperative, we need our teachers to be able to issue instructions and expect them to be carried out wholeheartedly - with enthusiasm. We can only establish this through the parent-teachers' bond, and even that is not enough in the West with the poor level of behaviour children exhibit to parents.
But along with internalising this criterion of imperative has been established as well.
Ch 6 Of love and home
Strangely enough talk of gumption brings me circuitously into discussion of love. This fundamental gumption is a way of Nature that a sound mind should emulate. And fundamentally love is the mission statement of Nature. Maybe this is too poetical a way of describing love, this mission statement of Nature, or maybe mission statement is an inappropriate way to describe love as such statements are fundamentally spin and have no intention to be applied. But if we take a mission statement as it is purported to be then we are in fact talking about Nature's roadmap of love.
This sounds completely offbeat especially when we are talking of education, but if we briefly leave educational pragmatism to one side for the moment then we can begin to see the importance of love and maybe eventually see a basis for it in education. In the west how do we receive love? First and foremost our experience of love is with our mothers and in the family, and when we have that experience we receive our learning as Nature intended - previously discussed. But the next time we truly meet love is that horrendous time of adolescence, falling in love and then getting married. Yet this whole scenario is so abstruse and so far from how Nature intended love to be it is not surprising that discussing love in education is not even considered - doing so lost me an erstwhile friend.
What happens in the west in this teenage process that leads up to marriage (mostly)? As soon as puberty hits teenagers develop a desire for love, I think it is fairly easy to connect some notion of love with procreation and a good natural environment for that procreation, so this early desire for love is not so offbeat. But then how does it become expressed? Passion, not love but passion. Some might say they are the same but genuine love has compassion it does not necessarily have to be passionate. As teenagers we wanted this passion, we craved it. Our movies throw passion at us as if it is a virtue, something to strive for. But it is not it is a mixture of misdirected emotions, frustrations in growing-up, sexual awakening and an underlying natural direction for procreation. My use of procreation is intentionally scientific, I want you to be detached from this wonderful experience. I want you to consider that all the passion and emotion at this time is connected with, and underpinned by, Nature's desire for procreation. And this passion and emotion might be considered a by-product of Nature's desire if it weren't so all-consuming.
"Falling in love" consumes us. I remember one time I realised I had fallen in love, and I was wandering the streets - I enjoy walking. I met a friend and just blurted out I was in love, and he smiled and said he felt sorry for me. He was being amusing but basically he was talking of this consuming passion that is so far from the gumption that I introduced this section with. And perhaps therein lies the connection between gumption and love it is love without passion, it is that sound judgement that comes from genuine love and understanding not besmirched, bemuddled and confused by the passions usually associated with it. Am I suggesting we eschew passion? Far from it, it is an experience we need and should want despite its consuming character. But we do need to try to understand what passion is about. And one misdirected aspect is consumption. We want to be consumed by these emotions, we are brought up in this way.
Hollywood describes various forms of adolescent fantasies concerning passion that they call love. What happens with these? There is some form of contact between man and woman that eventually leads to marriage. Amen. There are all kinds of topsy-turvy passions and emotions, trials and tribulations, but eventually they get married - and that's it. The End. But how is that the end? Is it the end of life, love or whatever?
Now different cultures have different mechanisms that handle this "End", but does the West? I contend no. I contend that the Western notion of this love barely goes beyond this consuming passion, and for many once this passion subsides they feel they have "fallen out of love". Divorce. Because we lose this consuming passion we divorce. How adolescent is this? Nature's underpinning drive of procreation is overtaken by this consuming passion, and through our lack of education in a broad sense losing this passion leads to divorce and all the social problems associated with it.
And we are now reaching an essential notion for a stable and comfortable society - the home. A good home is the essential component of a good society. We have already seen that the home provides the nurturing environment for the very young, but it is more than this. The home provides that environment throughout the time of our upbringing, and for children to grow up well they need to come from a good home. This is something that we all know but how does society in general treat this? How does the corporate paradigm of society affect the home? Quite simply the paradigm has a disastrous affect on the home. What is demanded of the corporate executives - those who are actually successful under the educational aspect of the paradigm? These executives are expected to devote themselves 100% to the company. Although they provide money for the home they provide little else becoming estranged from their children. This is unnatural, for human beings both the man and the woman provide the environment that nurtures the children.
To compensate for this horrendous demand on the successful within the paradigm the paradigm justifies itself and creates the illusion that being successful in social terms is legitimate. So throughout education people are guided away from the home and into an understanding that career is most important, this the executives can fit into comfortably. So throughout education this career imperative militates against the home, and our children grow up without any sense of understanding of the importance of the home, the natural environment for nurturing our children - for procreation. The natural procreation imperative becomes replaced by a physical spawning process - the sexual act of procreation itself, and secondly by material provision - the finance for home, education, toys and then fashion, but Nature is nowhere near as shallow as this. Nature provides the environment of the home so children can learn well as evidenced by the quality learning that occurs in the early years, but with the lack of emphasis on the home later education suffers.
I have mentioned that the paradigm creates a social priority that effectively destroys the home as a place of nurture for the executives - those successful in the paradigm. I touched on the created career motivation, other professional people work in demanding jobs that take them away from the home. Carers - teachers doctors social workers nurses etc. - follow the same demands as are made on career executives, and they are expected to invest huge amounts of time and energy outside the home. Labour work hard so by the time they return home they are too tired to contribute to a good educational environment, or even worse they sometimes become so alienated from what they do, and with the lack of social motivation to foster the nurturing home environment, they turn to alcohol or other forms of social escapism - away from the home.
People are however encouraged by the corporations in one aspect of the home - materialism paradigmatic motivation does encourage the home as a unit in one sense - the consumer unit. Bombarded by advertising for pointless household items and child-oriented frivolities, the family as consumer unit works at jobs to earn the financial wherewithal to spend vast amounts of money on these unnecessary items. But does this type of emphasis improve the home? Far from it. Parents are forced to work two jobs in order to pay for these consumer items taking away from the nurturing environment the home needs to be.
This natural principle of returning to the home as the focus of nurture in our society is radical, and with all things radical requires a huge social restructuring. It has tremendous implications if followed through - I need to focus on these for a while. This home paradigm, requiring the home to be a place of nurture for our children, changes our social emphasis away from the corporation, away from career structure, and away from the notion that ambition for social success is legitimate of its own. The home becomes a permanent proviso. I want to be a successful teacher provided I devote enough time and energy to the home, or alternatively the teacher's contribution might be 100% devotion to education. One might describe all caring professions in such a way. They follow the proviso or devote themselves to caring 100%. Those working in government need to underpin governance by this proviso, what is good for society first of all has to be good for the home.
Working life needs to be reconsidered in terms of proper nurture. This might require an alteration in working hours, both parents being in the home with the children when they are not in school. With parents spending more time at home the community will be fostered, emphasis on community will increase as more time will be spent there by more people. None of the ghost town feel of commuting communities, these lifeless shells of materialism where the homes are beautiful facades but with little love inside because parents are forced out into the world of work because of society's imperatives - corporate imperatives. In some societies the workplace and the home are intermingled. In some small shops parents sell their wares whilst children are around them enjoying themselves, sometimes the children even become part of the work, the selling. This small family business is not high pressured selling but the children learn the necessity of earning a living within the process of nurture. Without the need for high pressure selling the children can also be an object of attention during such "selling" - appropriate nurture. This is not child labour but child nurture without exploitation, learning to work is natural.
What about home breakdown? How do we currently treat that? Tokenism. There is no emphasis on healing the home, mainly because our social directives move us away from the home. Social workers might remove children from home, and place them in children's homes where there is a reported lack of nurture despite the good intentions of people working there - the carers. The system is not working. If there were more emphasis on home then the social worker would be more interested on healing the home. Society would provide the time for them to deal with their caseload. Society would provide home carers for people with disabilities thus maintaining the focus on the home as nurture. With greater time spent in the home the community can be more supportive of the home. Instead of homes being separate enclaves the greater focus on the home will increase the focus on the community, and schools as part of the community would benefit.
This also has implications for industry in other ways. At present our corporations and industry exist primarily for profit, it is easy to see that profits are put before people. With the home proviso this would change. Working practices would alter to fit in with home nurture thus reducing exploitation of labour. And it would also alter the practices of corporations who are legitimately labelled Big Food, Big Pharma etc. How could we accept the sale of unhealthy foods simply because they make a profit? How could we add poisons to our foods simply because those foods make greater profits because they are preserved longer? Fast foods would not be the necessity they now are as working people do not have the time to cook healthily. The home paradigm radically alters much of the way we are forced to live our lives.
But with the changing emphasis on home and nurture how young people fall in love will gradually alter. Rather than being a union of consuming passion with a home as by-product, how the home will provide the nurture environment for children would be a changed emphasis? Social practice would expect a more mature approach to having children, and suitability of partners would matter far more than consuming passion. But what then would happen to the passion? Such young relationships would be guided more, so whilst there is likely to be passion associated with the relationship this guidance coming from family, community and the received wisdom of the value of home will prevail.
But these previous observations have not really looked at passion. There has been a description of consuming passion, and in describing the importance of the home if we were able to move away from the corporate paradigm emphasis in relationships is likely to change from this all-consuming passion. But why does this passion become all-consuming? Because of little education or understanding on these matters many factors come together at the same time leading to it being all-consuming. In teenage relationships sexual awareness is growing naturally. In education these matters are not dealt with primarily because of the non-receptiveness of the students. Students are not willing to listen to their teachers, maybe some will listen to their parents, but more are likely to listen to airheads like the image Paris Hilton portrays. There are often recalled descriptions of inept diagrams dealt with clinically with an inappropriate teaching style. But is this what teachers want to do? Far from it. Whether they are equipped or not many teachers would like to address these issues of adolescence, marriage, sexual awareness, and appropriate understanding to deal with relationships. But by the time teenagers are supposed to be learning about these matters they are too alienated from the adult world and society; the loving environment of the early years at home now has so little impact that students appear only to be listening to each other and whatever fashion or personality is popular. Adults give up on teenagers and just hope that by the end of adolescence they come out with some sort of sense. Rather than addressing this issue of alienation, this lack of loving environment, adults perceive the problem as developmental - it is their age. But is it?
In terms of the corporate paradigm of course it is their age. Based on this paradigm there is only a need for a few successes so the majority must be failures. Not wishing to address the issue that the paradigm is the cause, it is convenient to blame it on the age of the students. And then their poor behaviour becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have failed to maintain the loving environment where teenagers want to behave properly. Parents blame the teachers, teachers say parents don't have enough control. Here I am complaining that students leave the home with proper motivation so it would appear that as an ex-teacher I am also blaming parents. But in truth I am not I am blaming the paradigm.
Attaching a name to this paradigm I might be accused of blaming the corporations, and whilst I am my blame does not limit to them. For one person to go against the corporations there can be no success. But it is all our families whose homes are suffering, it is all our children who are being taught in this appalling success/failure model, so it is up to all of us to recognise the problems these corporations cause.
Politically corporations have been attacked by the left all my life, specifically now the power of these corporations is attacked within the anti-globalisation movement. But education has become sufficiently manipulated that by the time formal education has finished few see the harm in these manipulating giants, and of those most take a self-defeating attitude that little can be done. The rather nebulous trickle-down concept is usually accepted with limited supporting evidence, and many people fight for the rights of corporations as providing jobs when by their very nature corporations prefer machines and employ workforces minimally. Fundamentally education about corporations and their impact on society is minimal, and attempts to do so are considered politics and students have been sufficiently indoctrinated to marginalise such education. How this has arisen is not totally clear but within the framework of the paradigm such a result can only be lauded.
Back to passion we can say that the alienation of teenagers, due to the paradigm, makes it currently impossible for teachers to begin to advise on the adolescent nightmare of sexual development. Because of the disproportionate influence of peers in adolescence teenagers are unwilling to admit ignorance during adolescence, and the walls go up - both with teachers and parents. In the home paradigm this would not be the case. Educating about this all-consuming passion is now impractical, but consideration of the issue here is not because it is important to see what directions we need to take in our education. Unaware sexual development contributes to the natural attraction emotions, and these begin to contribute to what adolescents see as this passion. Peers enhanced by their alienation contribute, as in the West there is a strong need to be involved in relationships with sexual experimentation as well.
But as the early 20s approach there is a natural separation that occurs between parents and children. In a good environment this is characterised by the double bind where parent and children are pulled in both direction - love of the parents and love for the partner and the new home. But in less loving situations the teenager may harbour extreme revulsion of their home and be seeking the greener grass of a new home. This desire to leave home together with the peer pressure emotional attractions and sexual issues converts what is already a difficult passion into an all-consuming affair that is difficult to cope with. And so society gets many mistakes as a consequence. But if education were able to make students deeply aware of the different issues involved - internalise these issues, teenagers perhaps would be able to cope better.
But in truth education is moving in the opposite direction. Rather than being places where such issues can be raised comfortably between adults and teenagers, the teachers are continually being put at risk by the paranoia surrounding paedophiles. Whilst paedophilia is heinous appropriate professional counselling needs to occur in a free and frank educational environment without fear on the part of the teachers. This is far from the case. Whilst in no way do I wish to create an environment where paedophiles can flourish, an environment does need to be enabled where students can trust their teachers, be advised professionally, and address issues whose discussion at present would risk their careers. In society there is an undeserved lack of trust of teachers, and this distrust spreads to the students, when combined with their own alienation no environment for education on these matters can be created.
Once we begin to remove the confusing factors from the all-consuming passion, we can begin to see passion for what it is. It is desire but it is not the desire for candy it is a deeper desire - a desire for love. But what about the passion of the creative - the writer or the artist? This is also desire for love - they love their creativity - their work. This is what the very young have - a passion for learning. It is this passion (motivation) which is lacking in education today. In fact it has gone so far the other way that students who are passionate for their learning are derided and ridiculed by their peers. In some schools, exam factories for the rich, a desire for qualifications has replaced this natural passion but is there ever a passion for learning?
Within our institutions, no; but in life, yes. Having aged I am not sure how this manifests in our young today, but I think it is the same. Some people are passionate about travel, they seek understanding in distant lands. This may initially be the desire for experience of different cultures but once beyond that superficial novelty these travellers dive deeper and deeper into that culture seeking knowledge and understanding of something more - real learning? Quite often this passion for learning could be glibly rephrased as seeking the meaning of life, but whether this passion is derided in this way it does not eschew the notion that there are people who reject their conditioning and still seek the learning that nature intended. For many this becomes a process of unlearning, emptying the contents of consciousness - the pointless cramming of facts into mind's memory, and eventually the mind frees itself to truly learn.
For those who have taken this journey they recognise what I say about unlearning, and that is grave sadness. We have to unlearn what is taught in schools and universities to truly learn. Whilst this fact has been recognised by many for a long time, little has been done in our institutions to encompass this understanding. At best there is a forlorn "what can we do?"
The answer is that these people need to show their passion for learning, bring that passion into the learning environment however frustrating that must be - and that is one thing I have learnt on my journey - how frustrating it is to try to bring learning into our institutions. But if it was easy it would unlikely be the true way. There needs to be an ongoing gradual development and recognition that there needs to be a change towards a passion for learning - and I am suggesting the first easy step is the removal of the corporate paradigm. OK OK!! It is far from easy, but despite the obvious logical arguments that clearly demonstrate how flawed the paradigm is this intellectual rationale cannot remove the paradigm - it is far too economically entrenched. And western culture, especially, is so deeply invested in this moneyed way of life that it far too easy to give up.
But trying to make this change brings with it a great strength - the passion for learning, and this passion can fire us up to overcome these obstacles. We need the teaching that brings back that vocational fire, and we need those teachers to take on the establishment in the name of passionate education. Even though this will bring stress and ultimately illness this passion belongs in the classroom, our species demands it.
Sadly this passion is needed more and more, as western educational models are imitated more and more as students are attracted to the different metropoles searching for money and power - attracted to the transnational corporations.
So we have seen that a need to promote gumption brings with it a need to fire up passionate learning within our students, and to begin this society needs to create the conditions where the home can be a priority far over and above the existing guidance in the direction of corporations. But this is a pipedream undoubtedly, however there is little hope for change in education until we do accept an ideal and begin to recognise the steps on the way to this ideal. At present we have no ideals in education, there is only a paradigm in effect - the educationally successful contribute to this corporate paradigm. But from a good home environment we can retain the passion for learning we are born with, this is clearly a better ideal than this stagnation and corruption that the corporations foster.
Ch 7 Of mind and the classroom
There is a grave danger that many of my generation fell into. Many people began to expose the prevailing paradigm under a typical banner of "All you need is love". From the Beat Generation onwards people demonstrated how the establishment restricted growth, restricted human development. Yet what has been the consequence? We are now more deeply entrenched in this corporate paradigm, and it is worth considering how that occurred. Through the Beat generation, the 60s and at least half of the 70s, the establishment was exposed as working in the interests of profit and not in the interests of people. Opting out became fashionable, and in my own meagre contact with this movement I was able to change jobs and search for "something I wanted to do". But the Corporate world did not like this trend, and backing the Reagan-Thatcher ticket they entrenched their controls gradually squeezing out this non-profitable tendency. What has happened since? The Corporate world has embraced finance capitalism, and more and more people are participating in this exploitation. Our western economies became credit economies developing not on the basis of sustainable money equivalents such as the gold standard but on the basis of what could be sold by whatever means. I remember John Bird and John Fortune's description of a Hedge Fund. A loansman found a man on his porch in the Deep South, gave him a loan to buy a house yet the loan repayments could not be substantiated. There were several of such loans offered, and no-one with sense would buy such unsubstantive loans. So the bank gathered together all such loans and packaged them together in, typically, "the Veritable and Honest Totally Worthwhile Profitable Property Hedge Fund" and sold it. Then the people who bought it, sold it at a profit. These hedge funds moved around the financial world being bought and sold without any of the purchasers questioning the validity of the Funds themselves. Because so many of these worthless hedge funds were circulating the bubble eventually burst when some institutions began to question them, and for three years now (2010) we have a world recession based on the naked greed and manipulation of those people who bought and sold such funds. And have they been imprisoned or fired? Far from it the government awards the banking sector easy loans to re-establish the economy, and because these people have proved so trustworthy these loans are unaccountable - please excuse the sarcasm. To further mock the governments and the supposed democracy the bank managers are awarding themselves excessive bonuses for their good work whilst ordinary people are losing their jobs and homes, and the value of their savings is decreasing. 60 years ago our family ancestors would not have let such a process happen. Credit was not acceptable, and there would have been rigid checking as they wanted value for the little money that they had. With the value of money having changed people are more concerned for the deal than they are about the value of the purchase. This Victorian discernment was dismissed by the Beat generation as too rigid.
Through the Beat generation and following, many more ideas were opened up criticising the establishment and at the time I fully supported what I knew of them. There was such a great sense of discovery and learning as people such as Pirsig began to unravel the implications of this rigidity. The Love generation embraced these radical changes completely and education was no exception. Education rejected corporal punishment and many established procedures such as rote learning. Strict formal discipline was not encouraged, and discovery learning was considered a good way of learning. The practical implications of all these positive steps forward can be seen in the way our schools have become hellholes of ill-discipline and limited education. A phrase I have often used of these times is that educationalists "threw the baby out with the bath water". 60s educationalists appeared so angry at the restrictions of their personal education histories that they went overboard in seeking intellectual freedom in learning, and in doing so forgot a basic in education - to learn something a mind must be focussed on learning - a mind must concentrate. In education today where there is so much ill-discipline even the best students find it hard to concentrate.
I want to talk here of rejection of corporal punishment. I have worked in schools where corporal punishment is accepted, this was in a state school in Africa. As part of the whole school system it worked fine. Corporal punishment was accepted at home, children knew that if they misbehaved they might get corporal punishment, and in general the school I worked in had the best relationship between student and teacher I have seen. Because corporal punishment was not an issue - except for some UK teachers, it did not cause a problem. At one stage in the school I worked on discipline, and introduced detentions. These helped with discipline, the students were hardened to the corporal punishment so losing an hour of the time especially when it cut into their sporting activities helped them control their behaviour.
I am not here advocating corporal punishment merely stating that in a caring system it does not produce the psychological scarring that many claim it does. In fact I have worked in schools where I have seen some teachers scream so loudly in the face of children that I am surprised that does not scar the kids. But I am not asking for that to be rejected as well. What I am advocating is that there does need to be a practical method of punishment. I remember in one school my HOD ran a detention system whereby he used to take the children home after the detention. Parents had complained that their poor little dears were going home too late. The fact that these poor little dears were disrupting their classes and so stopping other children from learning did not matter to these parents, they could not provide the control - perhaps understandably, but they did not provide the support either. This HOD's system worked as it improved the discipline but what a ludicrous situation.
Whatever its misuses corporal punishment did improve classroom discipline, and with all the tinkering it has not been replaced. Imagine the scenario 50 years ago. A child disrupts the lesson, the teacher tells the child to stop, the child does not, gets a whack and stops. Not perhaps 100% humane but education is not disrupted and the teacher can continue. What happens nowadays? An equivalent child disrupts. The teacher tells them to stop, they do not, the teacher asks them again the child does not stop, others join in the fun and the lesson is disrupted. Teachers develop strategies for dealing with this but with the emphasis being on the counselling of the individual and there being 20-30 individuals needing counselling by one person how can there possibly be discipline?
What can replace the short sharp shock of classroom discipline? Hard work. But not only the hard work of the teacher but that of the parents as well. If a child refuses a teacher's instruction then that child needs punishment, typically a detention. But that is not enough, that child needs chastising at home. But what happens at home? At best the child has been punished at school, the parents are tired from work so they are listened to sympathetically. There are many cases I have met where children behave well at home but come to school and cause trouble. The parents are not happy with this but see it as a school problem. This is not the case. The child is not learning so it is the parents' problem as well. But what happens when the parents are not supportive? The child comes home and complains. Maybe the child started it and the teacher punished them, but the discipline issue escalated, as often happens, as a result of this child starting the problem. Another child does something worse and perhaps gets away with it. The child runs home and tells the parents the teacher is picking on them. The parents come in and take their child's side, they take up the teacher's time, the teacher has less time to do their marking and preparation, and their discipline has been worsened because the child has been able to cause a division between parent and teacher. All of this could have been avoided with an inhumane whack. If you are not going to do that then the teachers and parents have to work together, and the parents must trust the teachers - even if the teachers make a mistake. My own recollection is that my father had little time for the school but I never complained to him about the school because he would have backed them up. I can remember a particular example of nasty victimisation by one teacher - in my view completely unnecessary although I deserved punishment. I ended up being comforted by another teacher but I never asked for my parents to go against the school. It was significant in school terms as it was in English and I didn't do well in the exams, yet I am a writer.
The issue I want you to consider about these recollections is that corporal punishment has not been replaced. There have been a host of liberal campaigns to eschew corporal punishment, and because they have not been replaced these campaigns have effectively reduced the discipline in schools. Students cannot learn without concentrating, and because of classroom ill-discipline students cannot concentrate. This baby of concentration was thrown out with the bath water of rigid learning styles, and we then ask why our children are not learning.
Despite not advocating a return to corporal punishment I would suspect that it would be impossible to reintroduce it because of the permissive nature of western society. In schools and in society in general western children are significantly out of control. Their moral behaviour is generally unacceptable, and there are far too many busy-bodies who would advocate punishing parents who use corporal punishment - whether the parents love their children or not. Such misguided interference is very damaging, the home needs support by the community and not liberal interference. But more especially our society needs community and government support to bring discipline back into the schools, so that students can concentrate and learn. However this is very difficult as there is a significant social function of schools that is a necessity of the corporate paradigm. A school is a place to contain children whilst their parents go to work. This means that in one classroom teachers have children who want to learn and children who are forced to be there. These "forced" children are not interested in learning, and disrupt the other children's learning. The parents are not interested in whether this student studies, they are going to work. They were one of the many who did not succeed in their own learning, and are therefore limited to gain satisfaction from their own income and what it can buy for them. School does not matter, school was designed to fail for them, and it is designed to fail their own children. But it does provide the function of a containment centre whilst they go to work.
What does this mean for education? For the same class in the same classroom you set homework. You go round the class to check the homework and you discover that your best student has not made their best attempt, it is poor quality by their standards. Next to them is a "forced" student and they have done no work. You start to criticise the "forced" student who tells you "I am not doing your f-ing homework". How do you then speak to the better student whose attempt was below par? The environment with learning and forced students together does not work, this compromise placed on teachers by the corporations does not work. One tool that might have helped - corporal punishment - was deemed inhumane. Teachers have been encouraged to counsel students but that is not practical with the class sizes and the level of alienation and disruption. Counselling can work sometimes to bring the student back on track, but for most students there are no tracks - they are just going to fail. In truth it is amazing that any students survives, and in truth the very few children who come through such a school situation are indeed the arrogant superior student who is then easily slotted into the corporate mould.
One might try to offer solutions to this discipline issue but none fit the paradigm. The first is to reduce the class size so that counselling is manageable, but this might mean a 1:5 teacher-student ratio. Another solution would be to separate the learners from those who don't want to learn. But as the majority don't want to learn it is not clear what you would do with them. Labour? Fundamentally you cannot tinker with the current paradigm to deal with this discipline issue and educate at the same time. Because the paradigm is only interested in the few that make it through, the establishment is satisfied with the system. Parents, students and teachers in general are not, but it requires a complete paradigm-shift to even begin to address their concerns. Such a shift can only begin to happen when parents teachers and students begin to work together to actually look at what is happening in education.
Let us look historically at education - at schools. Initially the rich educated by tutors but when more people wanted education schools started. At those schools in one classroom a teacher delivered a curriculum to students who were there to accept what was delivered. The students were sent to school to work, and that is what they did. Over time this model has changed significantly. The classroom substantively remains the same, the teacher is much better educated, but the attitude of the students is radically difficult. The attitude of the students is far more individualised and demanding. Rather than the uniform presence of the first students accepting the teacher's delivery, students and their parents make demands on the education system. Whilst these demands are legitimate, parents wanting the best for their kids, their demands ignore a significant factors:- the classroom environment was not designed for such an individualised approach. It never has been, can it ever be?
What is the same now? The teacher and the classroom. But everything else has changed. In the West what has to be delivered has changed, as well the demands of the students and their parents have increased. What the students and parents want cannot be delivered within those original parameters of the teacher and the classroom. And where you have all the parameters the same you have some form of education. One image that is popular amongst teachers is the image of African teacher under a tree with a blackboard delivering a lesson. Those students are grateful for what they can be taught, and the lesson is successful. If you place a western child in that environment they would not learn. Because the environment is not appropriate.
And that is true of schools today as well, the environment has changed. Whilst the classroom has remained the same, the demands of the students and parents have greatly increased yet they are making those demands of one person - the teacher. That teacher does not have students ready to receive what s/he is delivering. No matter how much the teacher changes, is better educated, and improves teaching materials, this basic fact is unalterable the students are not ready for a situation in which the material is delivered.
This is such an obvious point one has to ask why education has not attempted to answer it, and here again we return to the paradigm. Let us consider again historically the birth of schools. More and more rich people wanted their children educated. There might well not have been enough tutors to go round, and it was cheaper to attend a school. But the schools were not for all children they were for the children of the rich. It was required of these rich children that they behave and learn, it was part of their class upbringing.
As this is not an historical analysis there is no need to consider proper historical development, suffice it to say, the schools became expected to deliver to all children. And when this started to happen the inadequacies of the pedagogical model began to show up ie schools and their classrooms were not appropriate places for this education. It worked for a while. Rigid discipline in schools was maintained up until the end of the second world war, but people were not satisfied. Whilst their children attended these schools their education did not give them the jobs and wealth that the rich continued to have. Why? They were never meant to. The state schools were only meant to deliver a level of education that would enable them to function in a more educated workforce. The rich were still meant to stay rich but the workers were still needed to maintain their wealth. With machinisation the workers were needed to be more educated and that became the function of the state schools.
At some stage this situation also did not suffice needs. The class structure had been replaced by corporate structures. The rich and powerful could not just inherit wealth, they had to fulfil roles within industry. The rich changed nature into the corporate businessman, and whilst the wealth to build the plants might have come from the wealthy their roles became combined. In order to do that the children of the wealthy needed to be educated to fulfil their corporate position. In a world of increasing technology the workforce needed greater education, but despite what was purportedly offered in careers the roles of these members of the workforce were not extended to that of the corporate exec - except occasionally.
But the corporate positions were offered up as ambition, but when many people who worked hard failed to fulfil these ambitions they became dissatisfied and the effects began to be seen in education. And for the last 50 years classroom discipline has worsened to such an extent that many parents see the only solution as homeschooling.
The only way that schools can work is complete dedication by the student to this method of delivery in the classroom because that is how it was designed, how many parents and students have that level of dedication? And why have schools continued? Because of corporate paradigm. The schools continue to deliver enough well-moulded corporate execs and sufficient members to make up the workforce to enable the profits to keep on rolling. Why would you expect business and the powers they control to want to change the education model?
It is only because of dedication of some teachers and the hard work of some students that this failed model continues to have some success. But to expect it to have success for all students and parents is ridiculous. But few people can say this as most people are invested in the status quo. Business people are satisfied with the status quo, they are getting their execs and their workforce. Business work with the politicians so the politicians say the system is OK. So they need a scapegoat - the teachers. Some teachers speak out about how bad the system is, but they have to be careful how they speak out or they will lose their jobs; at best they will have no career. Parents and students complain understandably yet most often they blame the teachers. The teachers cannot blame the system or in private schools, the owner, so they keep quiet - they are whipped.
Unless there is a paradigm-shift in education parents will not get what they want for their children. And how can this shift occur? Education and society are inextricably linked, to paraphrase a saying "which comes first education or society?" This is why I have talked about the emphasis on the home in the nature paradigm.
Sadly concerned parents do not always help. They become conscious how the system is hurting their children, and they convey this hurt to their children who then go to school already alienated from their teachers. Breaking this parent-teacher-student relationship is the first step to failure. Many parents have desires for their children's future which quite naturally revolve around education. Who is their contact with education? Placing individual demands on the teacher cannot work, the classroom was not designed for catering to individual demands. But in this day and age individual specialism is more and more needed.
At the same time western society is moving more and more to catering for individual needs, children are brought up in a more individual way trying to develop individual creativity. Then these children bring individual demands to a system that was created for classroom conformity, and for teachers who were delivering to a uniform group taught by the parents that they must behave.
For this current classroom pedagogy to have any chance of success parents must recognise the origins of the school system, recognise how the school system was designed to work, and work within that frame of reference. This is why the parent-teacher alliance is so important for success in the classroom. Parents have to sacrifice some of their individual demands and working with the teacher present a united front so that the teacher can deliver. Otherwise the system will succeed and your child will fail. This is a reality that parents need to be aware of, and not the current practice of blaming the teacher. Recognising the failing reality of the paradigm, some parents decide that homeschooling is the best approach. If they are prepared to put in the time to develop the individual needs of the student then this is obviously the best way as schools are not designed for an individual approach.
Unfortunately the authorities and most of the teachers, including myself for a long time, recognised that the system does not cope, schemes were developed that attempted to work on an individual level. Whilst these individualised compromises helped they could never possibly be successful in a classroom environment. Such systems were designed to minimise teacher contact. When a class functions as one unit, a class, then one teacher can teach one unit; uniformity is essential for this to work. When the class functions as individuals how does a teacher cope? In a lesson of 40 minutes with a class of 20 a teacher has an average of 2 minutes per child. And that is if the class is behaving, usually the class doesn't behave and the teacher only had on average one minute to help the students. Throughout my teaching I was involved with individualised teaching, although in later life I realised it couldn't work, and changed my teaching to class-teaching with some individualisation. These individualised lessons broke down because the students were always having to wait for me. Even though the work was designed for individuals to progress on their own, at some stage they must ask for teacher's help; quite often this was assuaged with students working in groups but there was always the need for teacher contact. As the students waited so there was an increase in bad behaviour, and it regularly became necessary to stop the class to control the behaviour - even stopping students who were working - if they were excepted then they became an excuse for further disruption, troublemakers would say he is working I want to.
With the best will in the world of the teacher, a classroom environment cannot work if the student has individual expectations that are beyond listening and learning as one of the class. Yet education needs to be individualised so there needs to be a paradigm shift. As the powers-that-be have no such desires the classroom increases as a place of conflict, sometimes becoming a place of violence.
We have recognised that the current classroom environment cannot provide education on an individual basis. Not only are the social factors of the paradigm militating against the learning, it should also be recognised that there are personal factors as well. In a classroom it is difficult to concentrate, and this is such an important factor as to why an individual cannot gain from existing education. What is the connection between concentration and learning? How do we learn?
Let's use the historical basis again, and for this the model of learning is limited. The teacher stands at the front of the class, delivers the lesson, and the students learn. What is this as a model of learning? It is certainly teacher-focused, and it is significant in understanding the teacher focus of the classroom. Once you move beyond the teacher then the next step is to know whether the student has learned. This is why there is so much emphasis on assessment at the moment. It is a wrong assumption that if the material has been delivered then it has been learned - the original classroom model. The success of this original model was superseded early on by testing that then became exams. But then rather than these exams being seen as an assessment of student learning to improve that learning, they became measures of social competition - qualifications. But there has been a recent move back to assessment on a daily basis to find out whether the student has learnt. Once done by marking, especially homework, this has been obviated by the students cheating or more politely colluding, and it is difficult to assess whether they have actually learned. If there is a desire to learn copying doesn't happen. Seeking advice from friends is for the purpose of learning, not for the purpose of completing the task; learning has not occurred just because the task has been completed. Again we have to look at the motivation for learning. This is not there if the concern is for success, completion of the task, passing the exam, these are not learning motivations but social motivations.
This again brings the teacher back to an individual approach. Because the student is not properly motivated the teacher has to determine whether an individual has actually learned, and we have increasing individualisation in an environment that was designed for a uniform approach to education. Because of the designed imperfection of our existing system it is essential for parents and students to alter their perspectives, and to see that the teacher is an ally in a system that is designed to hurt their children by failing them.
And with this motivation will come the essential attitude of mind for learning - concentration. Just because the teacher has delivered to the student, just because the student has written the correct answer in the book, does not mean learning has occurred; concentration is required. Concentration is so important. I liken it to this process. We receive so much information generally and as students, and this information resides on the surface of our brains and we access it at the time if we need it. But once we have accessed it or when we move on that surface residence ends. It is as if the surface is wiped and new surface information is added as required. But learning is not this surface information, it is something deeper. This raises two questions:-
How do we make information we receive deeper?
And what information do we want deeper?
These are significant questions for our curricula. The answer to the first is fairly straightforward - concentration. We need to concentrate to register the information, and the more we concentrate the more we internalise. However there is a limit to the amount we can internalise. Our memories are powerful but we fill them full of so many pointless facts especially in schools. We need to develop our powers of concentration but we also need to be more discerning in what we ask our students to learn.
Why in this day and age with machines that have powerful memories do we persist in requiring students to function as machines? Well the answer to this is very clear, our educational purpose is something other than self-realisation, but that has been well established. So the question is to ask what do we want our students to learn? As facts are the domain of computers that is not necessary, what we want to educate is process. Not what but how? We want to internalise processes that will enable our educated to approach new situations, adapt themselves, and deal with the situation. Internalised processes.
How we approach educating for internalising process is a difficult question. I once asked an unschooler how successful unschooling was with teenagers, and she gave me this answer "My kids are still small. However, I do know a few Unschooled and home schooled teens. One of them baby sits for us. I find these kids to be very independent and very together. Unlike a lot of "schooled" teens, I find unschooled and homeschooled teens to be more mature. Much more willing to take responsibility. .... For instance, our sitter , was interested in taking a computer graphics class at the local jr. college. Her parents told us, how her daughter did all the leg work to find about classes and went so much as to pay for the class herself." This is process. She has not been taught what to do, but has learnt how to do it. This comment lists three desirable processes:- Independence
Willing to take responsibility
Determination (by implication)
Would that we could educate our students with these qualities?
Can the classroom possibly supply these processes? Maybe, but not the way they are at the moment. Traditionally I would say that they might well have. In the traditional setting the teacher was there with attentive and committed students. One could argue that to some extent they could learn to be independent. That sounds stupid, doesn't it? Uniform students sent to school by their parents to learn exactly what the teacher tells them. But at the same time they were involved in their learning, they wanted to learn. Because of their agreement with the situation they were independent. I want to learn about writing so I go to a creative writing class. This is independent. As a student if one is committed to the situation there is independence in it.
There is an element of teacher sophistry in this argument, and that is pointless. However there is value depending on how this is used. Can schools become places of independent learning? The answer is a limited yes. What a school offers has to be clearly defined, fundamentally a classroom with a group of uniform students accepting the direction of the teacher and the parents supporting this mode of pedagogy. Within this context the student can possibly develop independence because they are committed to the process. This assumes that the teacher is also committed to the process. In my experience many are but the realities of existing classroom environment prevent that from happening.
In my subject there was coursework for some exams. In truth this never worked, primarily because of the environment. Firstly the only reason the students did the coursework was because they had to in order to pass the exam, this was for IB. On the part of the students there was not a commitment to the type of discovery learning the coursework hoped to elicit. In fact that class wanted to learn IB by my doing one example on the board, and then they do 50. They were very willing to work but not independently. The management supported them as they were unhappy with independent learning and I was sacrificed; it was a private school. They definitely had the ability but had been taught in this comfortable rote learning. Because of their commitment to the exam they did produce some good coursework and might have gained some independent process but with their attitude and management support it was unlikely to have been internalised.
I was also asked to teach coursework to GCSE exams. This was disastrous. The commitment to the exam process was much less as some of the groups were already designated by the system as failures. They too were happy with rote learning. Teach the example on the board, keep it simple, and tell them to do 10. This satisfied them because they were learning a little, not stressing themselves out with difficult problems, and could manage to chat at the same time. One senior teacher told me about his 6-line whip. With such classes if they could manage to write 6 lines in their book then it was a good lesson. He was not jaded but caring, he was a realist. I remember these classes as typical middle-of-the-road non-achieving classes. The kids were a bit disruptive, talked too much, were too rude, did enough work to get by and not to get in trouble. They were classes that UK teachers have to teach daily, and just get through them. In the end the kids came out with a little education, some hated school others didn't. But no-one felt any sense of fulfilment.
In this atmosphere I was supposed to teach independent learning. No chance. At every stage I was asked to explain what to do next. The exam regulations said that if I unduly helped them I was to report that I gave them guidance, and their grade was then lowered. This is typical of the traps teachers are in, constricted at every turn, and then they get it in the neck. The teacher wants to help, the students in the classroom are not interested, and external regulation bind from all sides often creating conflict. In this case if I offered guidance then the other students would complain so I cannot unless I did all the coursework. No independence here.
At the time I worked on the periphery of a team of teachers who wanted to develop this independent work. Their work was within a self-realisation paradigm, in other words they focussed on developing quality work for self-realisation without necessarily encompassing the intended unworkability of the classroom in the actual corporate paradigm. This conflict of paradigms led to the kind of classroom situation I have just described where with the best intentions of the educational developers little was gained because of classroom reality.
This sounds like teacher bleeting, the annoying students. But the significant point of all of this is that the parents and students and teachers are all victims in this situation, except of course the teachers get paid. At the time my frustration might turn to anger at the students, their frustration would also turn to disinterest and increased chatter, and anger to me if I confronted them. I have been feeling a growing professional anger at reading some of the unschooling comments concerning teachers. I understand where they come from. These parents want their children to do well. They go to school and fail, and who is the cause of the failure? The teacher. Whilst in some cases this might be true, the real cause of the failure is the paradigm, not the teacher. The teachers are victims too.
If they are victims, why do they do it? Obviously money. But the money is not usually good. My own teaching started with vocation, and at times became just money. Fortunately those times were few, and as I had no family commitments I was able to move away from those awful institutions. In the end that was why I taught overseas, in many ways better but in some ways far worse - namely the school managements. Recognising the common purpose of these three classes of victim, the teacher, the parent and the student, is a good start to setting up an alliance which might actually get the child through the school system with an education.
In the US there have been a number of movies made about superteachers, I call them Michelle Pfeiffers after her role in Dangerous Liaisons. These movies whilst depicting the qualities of dedicated teachers, many of whom exist, do not help the teacher. I can remember one student telling me that she expected her teachers to be Michelle Pfeiffer, I said she doesn't have my looks. But what student expectation is this? But more importantly what happens to the students after these Michelle Pfeiffers. Was one of the Dangerous Liaisons ever going to be Barack Obama? Far from it. The students might remember a quality teacher but they were never successes. In fact because they never became successes their self-esteem was worse because they could only blame themselves after having been taught by Michelle Pfeiffer. Yet there are many teachers who work hard in this Pfeiffer mould, and to what avail? They become victims and are often slated by the students and parents. Having said this there are teachers who are there for the money and do not warrant the title "teacher". But I understand this, after all that is the paradigm they are in. Taking the money and run is an easy way through, and to some extents the most sensible?
In summary this section became too much about negative aspects of education - recognising the reality of classroom life, but within is an important recognition of how the classroom was designed, and how it could work for some. At the same time I developed the notion of teacher as victim with a salary. For some this might produce crocodile tears but the intention is to recognise that common interest lies in working together, as I said in the beginning. And most importantly I came to concentration, how it was needed, and developing more notions of what education needs to produce - the internalising processes of independence, responsibility and determination.
Ch 8 On developing concentration and mentation
Do schools ever consider how students develop concentration? Isn't that important? I didn't learn concentration by a good method, it just happened. Let me consider how those conditions occurred so we can see how they might happen in our schools now. I went to a Catholic primary school where some teachers were strict. I cannot remember much about it except fairly regular testing and rote learning. In the grammar school that followed there were different levels of strictness between the teachers. I can remember a nasty English teacher but not for his teaching, and I can't remember being overly repressed - just way too immature. Somehow with all the testing I was able to concentrate on my revision and during the tests, and have now forgotten all the facts I had to learn - OK 40-50 years ago.
There is however no doubt that I had the ability to concentrate. I associate it particularly with the primary school where the discipline stopped me from being stupid so I focussed on the work. Beyond that feeling I cannot say where the concentration came from. Concentrating is a function of the mind, it is something that our minds do, and different people develop different levels of concentration so it is something that people can improve if they knew how. Perhaps the people most famed for powers of concentration are meditators so let's try to examine some of what they do to see what is relevant for improving concentration and mentation.
Meditation is used in the East as part of a religious process. Buddhist monks for example recognise that controlling the mind is important in order that they can reach Nirvana or Enlightenment, a state the Buddha reached Buddhists believe. Now according to their texts they use vipassana meditation to calm the mind, their image is that the usual daily mind is turbulent and that it can be made calm by meditation. Once calm the mind can then concentrate on spiritual matters. It is my understanding that other eastern religions ascribe the same role to meditation although they use it differently depending on their creeds. Now this process appears to have a useful application in education. If meditation can indeed calm the mind wouldn't that greatly help the learning process?
What happens when we concentrate? In education at the moment we concentrate mostly during revision and exams. We read the question, focus on it, and hope that we remember how to do the question. Is the process that haphazard? Suppose there is a state of mind that enables us to recall but if mind is not in that state we cannot recall. Rather than developing a concentrated mind what if the process was different? Enough of the obtuse questions. If our minds are clear we can remember, if our minds are not distracted and in inner turmoil spinning around then we can recall. This is what meditation can help us with, it can help us clear the mind. It can help us stop the mind spinning, running and jumping from one idea to another. This is the meaning of focusing, we have a clear mind that can stay still at one point and deal with that problem. If this is true, then why aren't students taught this already? Because most adults are not practised in meditation, and it is not easy for them to change, but it would be easier for children to be trained in meditation.
This process of meditation has many advantages. Consider the question of calmness - Tibetan meditation tries to achieve a state of calm abiding. Now how many of our children are calm? Some are able to squeeze themselves into exam mode, and focus their attention on the exams. But they are not calm. Far from it. Prior to the exams they are nervous but those that are successful are able to channel that nervous energy into better concentration and therefore gain exam success.
But I am not just interested in exam success but what about daily life? How many of our children are calm? How many of our children can face examining themselves through the eyes of meditation? How many of our adults? It frightens me when I see some of the children running around without any control. Especially as teenagers these children are completely lost. They resent authority trying to control them, and they appear to just lurch from one bad situation to another depending on the whims of their peers. This lack of order is hard to watch especially as they have such little respect for adults.
But what is in their minds? Can they close their eyes and see calmness or stillness? I suspect not. I suspect their minds are swirling around uncontrollably waiting to latch onto whatever attracts it next. With such minds morality is so important. Uncontrolled minds swim around waiting to latch onto whatever comes their way, and in some societies more than others all that attracts them is some form of temptation. How difficult it is for them to resist? But with a moral background there are clear boundaries that simply tells them no.
What happens in a classroom? These uncontrolled minds are open to any influence. Friends disrupt and the mind latches onto this joining in the disruption. Unless some control kicks in. The best control is morality, children acting out of a sense of right or wrong. In the modern world many children are not brought up with this internal control, and so do not control themselves. The teacher can often make an effort to control the situation but with many children their minds are so out of control they do not follow the teacher's instructions. It is clear that these students do not believe they have to engage with the teacher and accept her/his authority. There are many reasons for this authority not being accepted, for this lack of requirement to engage with the teacher, but without it these uncontrolled minds just cause havoc. So for some children their minds lack any form of control. They lack moral sense to control with and they do not accept the authority of the teacher or feel they don't have to engage with that authority. This combination of factors leads to poor behaviour and classroom disruption.
Now all of these issues need to be addressed - uncontrolled minds, lack of moral sense, lack of respect for authority, and lack of engagement with teacher. But instead of addressing these issues the perceived understanding of the problem is that teachers fail to motivate the students. To begin to motivate students there needs to be engagement, the student has to accept an interaction with the teacher; but many don't. For the teacher it is an untenable position, and there is no learning for the students. Personally I consider this perceived understanding politically expedient. It is easier to blame the teachers than deal with the far deeper issues of uncontrolled minds, lack of moral sense etc. To put the blame on the students implies blame attached to society in general and to parents, the voters, and politicians don't want to say this.
If we introduce some form of meditation, we begin to address the issue of uncontrolled minds. This is not an easy problem as anyone who meditates realises, but meditation always helps. Starting students on this approach early can only have positive benefits. But this lack of application of understanding of meditation exemplifies a much wider problem - an apparent lack of understanding of mind in the education system. What does our education system focus on? Exams, filling minds with content and then reproducing that content often by memory in an examination situation, what aspects of mind are really being addressed here? Or perhaps more importantly what aspects of mind are not being addressed? The important processes, such as intuition, creativity, critical thinking, etc. Introducing meditation can begin to help with process.
At my last school I had a comparatively disruptive class of 12-year-olds. Their main problem was one particular intelligent boy who had no intention of working, and spent his time distracting others, but they all began to behave badly. I introduced meditation. I introduced the notion of sitting quietly, calming down, and then focussing on why we were in the classroom - to learn maths. It helped for a while but it created too many problems with two difficult boys. There was one other time I thought it would be really good to meditate. In my class there were two devout Nigerian Christians. Whenever I had a test they always took the first minute to pray - losing test time. I wish I had thought more about it and decided to try silence for the whole class whilst I handed out papers, maybe guiding their minds on calmness prior to the test.
Considering meditation brings into focus another important aspect of learning and understanding that is never addressed, and that is insight. What is insight? OK, that is extremely difficult to answer - my answers involve a religious understanding and that is not appropriate in secular education, and it is not my purpose here to promote an understanding of a particular religion. But there are certain attributes of an insightful process that have been touched on already, and are worth investigating to see how they can be brought into education. First and foremost to develop insight we need a clear mind to enable us to focus on the problem. The time at which students most need this insight and clarity is in an exam. Try to place yourself in the exam situation. Successful students have crammed filling their minds with subject content but when they start the exam they are nervous. This mental cocktail of turbulence can lead to all sorts of problems. I remember the exam I was the best prepared for in my life - my PGCE exam. I had started PGCE as a mature student having worked for three years since leaving university. I wanted to teach, and needed this year's qualification; it was an enjoyable year but mostly it was not useful. However I did get exposed to education theory, not always through the curriculum, and that was useful. I decided that I would gently revise for the exams towards the end of the second term, long before others were considering it. I found my table in the library and began revising - I had dissertations to do as well. But this gentle approach led me to being well-prepared. If I remember correctly there were three essays to answer from 20 questions, and I prepared 5 or 6 topic areas. When I saw the paper none of my questions were there, and panic swirled in my head and I couldn't start the exam. This was so powerful I remember it 30 years later, and the invigilator, a friend - I was a mature student, told me he had noticed my disarray and was worried. It took me 10 minutes to get control, and that was only through limited meditation that I had previously practiced. Once I had calmed my mind down, cleared my mind, I got into the questions, and completed the paper. It was getting my mind calm that enabled me to complete the paper. My mind had cleared.
Over the years I developed certain advice that I gave students prior to exams, much of it is standard, and is covered in study skills at http://matriellez.zandtao.com. They were all designed to help the students get a clear mind when they were sitting exams. To begin with, spot questions where they can automatically get the answers - I called them "easy questions". Once they do these they are into the flow of the exam, the minds are calmed, and their minds are free to answer the rest properly. One piece of advice used to get their interest:- "If you get stuck on a question leave it and come back to it later. Even when you are doing homework if you get stuck and are tired leave it. Try again the next day, sometimes the answer will come to you." This advice sounds vague, and off the charts, but they listened - something similar must have happened to them. These are all about clearing the mind, through sleep or otherwise.
I want to mention this study skills worksheet on problem solving - "finding an insight" - http://matriellez.zandtao.com/studyskills/findinsight.htm. Now in maths this is a major problem. As a teacher you can teach technique but when it comes to the actual problems you cannot help - without doing it for them. They need to be able to start, and they can't because they need an insight on how to start. To get that insight they need a clear mind; the stages I described were:-
1. Immersion in the question.
2. List topic areas.
3. Write down question information.
4. Recognise the question?
5. No, find an insight.
6. Leave the question &
7. Come back to it later.
This is a practical process for finding an insight, it doesn't always work but if it works sometimes … great. But many adults will baulk at this process as being obscure. There is no reason why fresh young minds cannot adapt to this process, there are plenty of reasons why adults will reject the process because of their miseducation.
Now this approach to insight goes against the grain of most of the way we consider education. The general approach is that a teacher is asked to present the contents of a subject and the student is then asked to fill their minds with this content initially to solve problems in a lesson but later on to recall these contents in tests and exams. In previous decades this might have been a necessary approach but in this day and age with easy computer access, it is not necessary to fill minds with contents and measure their success by their ability to recall. We can now focus on the insight process itself.
Insight is closely connected with the process of self-realisation, and self-realisation needs to be a process that is flagged in education; shouldn't education at least have some indicators that in adult life a person is moving towards self-realisation? Now self-realisation is a personal reflection, it is subjective - I feel self-realised to some extent; it is not objective. And one of the problems with education in schools is that it has attempted to present an objective education, subject content measured by objective exams. Yet there are calls from all sides including business as exemplified by the competences of p21 and Microsoft's competency wheel; the RSA has also developed a set of competences in their Opening Minds project. Whilst these competences are not purely subjective they cannot be measured using purely objective standards either.
However self-realisation is a purely subjective measure. Is the CEO of BP a success? By his standards he might be - retiring early with a lump sum of 1.5 million dollars and an annual pension of $900000. Others might consider him an abject failure because of the environmental damage caused in the Gulf of Mexico in the 2010 oil spill, the loss of animal life and the level of illness caused to the people in the region. Some might consider a starving artist a failure yet their creativity sustains them and gives them insight. For those believing they have self-realisation through social gains such as CEO and large money payouts there will be little insight whilst artists and writers are known for their insight.
To a certain extent students are encouraged to be creative in schools, and this can build insight, but it is limiting to perceive insight only in the creative. There are people in caring professions who demonstrate insight. A teacher needs to be insightful. How many teachers use an insightful approach when assessing students? Whilst this approach is never accepted by authorities it can be used fruitfully. Consider a situation where you suddenly develop an insight concerning one of the students, not earth-shattering - perhaps you begin to realise that a particular student is quietly whipping up the other kids but never gets in trouble as s/he plays them. Then you can observe the student, produce the information that the authorities want, and are then better able to deal with the problem. Experienced teachers regularly discuss such insights, and much can be gained. I am sure that if you discuss with people from other professions they know of ways they use insight, but because it is not rational insight is never officially valued.
The next part threatens aspects of the establishment, but is very significant in understanding why insight is not respected more. It concerns the use of reason - being rational. Now using reason is very important in its place, and the above example where the teacher used their insight backed up by observation to justify a particular course of action concerning ill-discipline. Insight, first then reason. I draw a parallel with mathematical development. Mathematics is built on axioms, fundamental assumptions that are usually not questioned. Now these axioms are the foundations of maths, and maths is then built with the bricks and mortar of reason and deduction. But without the axioms mathematical reasoning can go round in circles, logic and deduction do not have any inherent direction that leads to a conclusion. It is the axioms and how you use the logic and deduction that brings out conclusions.
Above and in the worksheet on finding an insight http://matriellez.zandtao.com/studyskills/findinsight.htm, the insight is how you start the problem. Students might be capable of doing the technique but if they cannot find the starting point to the problem they cannot use that technique. This, for me, was most interesting as a teacher, how to get across this aspect of problem-solving, and it was the most difficult to teach. This is the creative process in maths, this insight, yet few in maths discuss it in this way. In much the same way maths cannot be solved without axioms.
This can also be understood socially, reason only guides our actions. It is the fundamental values that matter and not the analysis. It is the basic morality that underpins our personal actions and that underpins our social relations that defines our civilisation. From this moral basis analytical approaches develop the way we relate to each other. And immediately I say this, one can begin to see aspects of breakdown. Our fundamental social reality is the rule of law. In essence there is an assumption that the law is the basic moral code by which our lives are governed and by which our social relations are monitored. So where is the breakdown? The law can be bought. Rather than attempting to justify actions based on the fundamental morality of the laws, our legal system has developed an adversarial approach in which analysis and argument, combined with legal trickery, are the bywords. The defence uses any approach to free the client, and prosecution uses any trick to prove guilt. Whilst their approaches might be couched in legal terms the reality is that neither side is actually attempting to determine whether the actions are moral in terms of the fundamental code. This adversarial behemoth has been further manipulated by money. The original legal code has paled into insignificance by the abilities of some lawyers to justify and circumvent, and these lawyers are for sale to the highest bidder leaving a system that is not based on moral code but based on who can afford the best lawyer. Instead of being the moral defenders of our society our lawyers are often perceived as being the most exploitative.
This is a clear example of where reason has taken over, and the fundamental moral axioms have almost disappeared. A similar fate has befallen insight. Rather than respecting the fundamental insight, our system only values that which can be analysed and deduced. Why is this a problem? Headless chickens, our society is full of headless chickens. Our society functions on agreement and consensus based around analysis and deduction. If it can be observed, and then analysis and deduction can be applied, we have agreement, but if we cannot observe it where do we go? This is most significant in the relationship between mind and education. What is mind? There is no recognised answer. If someone proposes a fundamental description of mind, then others lance it with their own minds. This sounds reasonable until you start to analyse why they are doing this. Understanding mind ought to be a fundamental objective of academia, but such an understanding is far from happening because of vested interest. Leading academicians put forward their own theories of mind, and then have a battle as to who is right. This battle is career-based as defending their own theory holds them to their job, their academic chair; without the theory they have no job. There is no genuine desire to come to an agreement about what is mind.
If there is no agreement about what is mind, then how can we educate? We have no target. Now this suits the prevailing interest, the corporate paradigm. If education is to educate minds, and we don't know what the mind is that we are educating for, then we can quite easily impose a different approach. Education is what business needs it to be, we don't educate for minds we educate for jobs. But this is now proving a problem as the minds they are getting lack the creativity that can provide inspiration and motivation in the workplace. For me they have had the humanity educated out of them by the exams and ego process that education has now become - steadily worsening from the 60s when such criticisms started to appear.
It is necessary for education to become self-realisation and a significant part of that is self-realising the capabilities of our minds. One significant approach to self-realisation is to develop insight, insight into what our own minds are about - as well as our bodies and energy. For many self-realisation becomes measured by what can be achieved in society, becoming the CEO, the doctor or teacher. Or sometimes it is measured by material, a nice house in the country, expensive clothes, a Roller, Beamer or Rolex. But this shallow consumerism does not produce happiness, and the identification of happiness with self-realisation is important. To achieve this identification is part of this self-realisation process in understanding mind, and we need to start to accept that learning about this happiness begins when young, and needs to be considered an objective at school. Meditation can begin to help with happiness, and developing insight into one's own mind provides a basis for this happiness and self-realisation. But most people reject the notion that this can be started at school for the simple reason that most people cannot start it for themselves so they believe children cannot start it.
And this brings us back to the purposes of schools, and where we have miseducation. In the early years at home children were learning happily, then off they go to school and they are unhappy. This is simple and indisputable, despite all the good efforts of the teachers once they are there; this is because they are starting a process which is not learning, which is not self-realising but grooming a few to business positions and the majority for a workforce that is not self-actualising. One significant aspect of this education is the development of the intellect - reasoning and deductive skills almost to the exclusion of any other mental faculties. It is not because we don't need such reasoning skills, it is because we give such skills too great a significance.
When we examine our current education model we can see that we provide training in necessary basic skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic and some computing skills, and the rest of the time we teach a subject-based content. This content fills our memories and provides limited practical use in daily life yet it does provide reasoning skills - analysis, deduction, logic, synthesis etc. These reasoning skills are important - no doubt, but they fail to provide us with our basic humanity. We miss out far more than what we actually learn. As mentioned above we miss out on insight, and as mentioned above it often appears that insight is rejected by intellect. Why do I make this rather abstruse statement? Consider the learning model I have intimated concerning insight. Through meditation or otherwise we gain insight into something, this insight is a seed of an understanding. Through our reasoning process we can develop a greater understanding of this insight through analysis and reasoning skills.
But … and this is most important, we cannot develop this understanding without first having had the insight. Without analysis this insight has little use, but we do have some understanding. The real problem lies in the ability of some even the most educated to have these insights, and this problem lies in miseducation. Because our system focuses to such a great extent on the reasoning skills and because our system fills our minds with content, there is little done to clear the mind thus we are unable to and the clarity that will enable insight. I have met many academics and intellectuals who have expressed interest in insight and the importance of it. Such meetings do not usually end well. At the root of the problem lies the notion which I perceive is at the centre of Pirsig's Church of Reason, that is that academics worship at the Church of Reason. To paraphrase, in the beginning there was God and he gave man reason. Whilst it is important to understand that reason is an essential and important human mental faculty, it is not the only one - and I contend not the most essential.
Reason does not like insight because it is not subject to objective proof ie it cannot be reproduced by reason alone. Through reason alone you cannot experience insight, and so for those so invested in reason for their livelihood insight is perhaps perceived as some kind of chimera. I mentioned people I have met who sought understanding of insight. However they usually set the agenda, we want to understand insight by reason alone. When I describe insight as a process which is not subject to reason, there is an immediate conflict as they perceive that all is subject to reason. Their own reason then becomes threatened especially if their egos through career or otherwise are fostered by this adherence to reason. And the result is usually aggression even from the most mild-mannered of reasoning people. The very basis of their existence is threatened so this is not surprising.
Academia even has an approach that recognises that our minds, miseducated through the emphasis on reason, can gain an understanding of insight, and that approach is transcendence. Here I am suggesting that transcendence means going beyond the limitations of reason to experience insight and other basic human faculties not bound by reason. There are of course other interpretations of transcendence but here I only wish to note that academia has attempted to go beyond what is known as material or objective understanding - the realm of reason.
So why am I discussing these notions in a book on education for schools? If some academics cannot understand insight why am I proposing it within a school curriculum? Because insight is a natural process that people of all ages and abilities can attain to. For a farmer with a clear mind working in his field can have an insight into nature, and how to improve his crops. This insight might just come to him whilst working or resting, it is not a thought which he need to have reasoned out by sitting at a table. Some might argue that this was just reason expressing itself, his unconscious mind might have been reasoning this out and suddenly pushed this thought through. Is this a more plausible rational explanation? What does unconscious mind then mean? A word to describe faculties of mind we don't understand - rationally or not?
Rather than this dubious position it is perhaps easier to understand that the farmer was at rest and the insight came to him. Of course this does mean that insights are not the possession of academics only, they are attainable by all and this is why it is so important to consider this for education. If we can enable students to keep clear minds we can enable their insight ability.
But I want to take that further as I have described our system as miseducation in this context. I contend that in our very young we naturally have this insight process. Once children go to school more and more they are educated into ignoring this process because of the lack of importance it is given. Successful students are not those who demonstrate insight but those who show academic success in the subjects of the curriculum. In art, and occasionally in craft or literary writing, students use insight through creativity, and are praised if their work is excellent. But often if they lack the writing, painting or craft skills such insight is not rewarded, and is educated out of the student. When insight does not come with technical expertise it is hard to value but I contend that it is something worth valuing.
To explain the importance of this I want to discuss autonomous mastery. In his RSAnimate talk on motivation and elsewhere, Dan Pink spoke to business of money as a motivator for mechanical work but claimed that three motivations - autonomy, mastery and purpose - as being motivators in other areas.
He further backed up this claim with studies carried out by the Federal Reserve bank amongst others. His major example of justification of this claim concerning these three motivations was Wikipedia where experts contribute for free. But if you think about it there are many areas of mastery within business and elsewhere if you look.
What about the office manager? Many companies have these people, and they realise that these people are invaluable. The office manager knows the company inside out, in many ways part of the job description of an office manager is to "know the company inside out".. And this is because they have taken a job and made it personal - out of a sense of commitment or some sense of small "love" - and become invaluable. Human beings do this, it is their nature to be of worth, to master their situation, and good organisations encourage such mastery. Such people tend to feel valued and grow a sense of loyalty within this role which they personalise and make their own, the job becomes more than the pay cheque; it is their mastery.
One can think of other jobs. The person in supplies or archives who knows the facility far more than would appear on the surface. There is organisation that a computer can do, it can record where items have been placed. But the supplies person who has been there for years can remember how boxes were moved when the man came to fix the leak, maybe the lost item is there. Such intimate knowledge is not the purview of the computer, they don't have the skills to remember this. The human being in the position takes value from their job, and adds much more than any job description can define. In their mastery they add value and therefore profit to companies, their job becomes a purpose in their lives giving their life meaning. Good companies take advantage of such people, their commitment is integrated into the fabric of the company, and managers realise that such people are worth far more than their salary. In some ways business already utilises notions of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
So what are the attributes of these masteries? The people perceive some level of importance in their mastery but this measure is not financial. In the small companies the above-mentioned lynchpins feel they are important to their company within their domain, and often feel a personal loss if some suit cuts them for a company's financial advantage. Whilst this suit usually does not know what they are doing and is losing a small but important company asset, the individual is devastated having a purpose they have given themselves taken away. In all forms of mastery the people have been diligent and dedicated putting in much time and effort to develop their domain of importance. Often people perceive some importance in this, the King of the archives, the Queen of the office, and to a certain extent these perceptions are true - these people are important. But at the same time they are not often valued by the decision-makers who are willing to dismiss these people for political or financial reasons.
Now many of these attributes happen despite the company not because of them. The motivations develop personally rather than inspired by the company as the power-players in the company perceive these people as unimportant. For business tapping into this source of diligence and competence is a necessary human resource strategy but what of education? Education needs to see that our children also want to develop such mastery on the small level that they function at. Students want to achieve, and the fundamental measure of achievement in schools is taken away from the students as exams are only concerned with determining the elite. Somehow education needs to change the emphasis from these rare pieces of paper into some notion of mastery in the learning life of the individual student.
For me insight and mastery go hand-in-hand in a school context. I mentioned above the student who gained an insight but did not have the technical skills to turn that insight into excellence. Therefore the insight was not rewarded, and along with reaction to other education approaches this process of gaining insight is lost. But what if that insight were able to be recognised as mastery at that level? What if the teacher were looking for mastery at the level of ability of the particular student (as opposed to always having to seek the goalposts of the examination)? This is the basic tenet of mixed ability teaching, a tenet that gets lost when it is compromised by the need for exam success. What if the teacher noticed that a student were engaged with a particular project, and together they were able to develop that engagement by promoting student autonomy and using that autonomy to bring the student's work to a natural fruition. Now this fruition might not measure up well to Einstein but the skills developed through this process of autonomous mastery are easily transferrable into the place of work. And underpinning this mastery is the relationship to insight. Develop the insight in the child at whatever level, and they will begin to own where they are going - driven on by their own insight. Develop confidence in that insight and allow the student their own direction so that they can develop mastery at their own level.
And this highlights another important aspect of insight and that is confidence. Once we have belief in our own insights we have a confidence in them, they have a strength. What happens to most ideas delivered in teaching or elsewhere. People listen, they remain on the surface of the brains and tend to be lost. However some ideas hit home, they hit a light bulb of understanding, somehow the individual gains an insight into this idea, it becomes internalised an is part of that person for ever more. Such ideas that develop the response of an insight already have a strength because they are delivered by, and presumably accepted as expert. That strength together with the internalisation means that the idea is not lost. But what about personal insights? People cling to them, they have strength, they have confidence in these ideas because of the insight process. Most ideas delivered in class are lost, they have no relevance, they briefly attach to the surface of the brain, and are then lost. They become remembered as students are forced to write them down and recall them in an exam - only for the ideas to be lost again after the exam regurgitation process. But ideas gained through insight are never lost, they are part of the internalised individual that remain with them forever.
Through meditation or otherwise we have considered the development of insight. This insight process is at the moment miseducated out of us, as the reasoning mind of the adult policy-maker has difficulty embracing insight. If we can develop an education system that encourages these natural insights and develop them through a process of autonomous mastery, we have education which is much nearer self-realisation for all.
Ch9 On developing processes
So far I have mainly considered developing the process of insight but there are far more processes that it is important in education for all in self-realisation. But firstly I want to consider how such a system might begin to work. I have already intimated at the major stumbling block to the development of this process. Suppose a child has an insight and begins to develop something of meaning to the child. The teacher stops "pack up you books end of the lesson, in tomorrow's lesson we begin a new topic in our programme". Bang, that's it, That is the end of the insight. The student has just begun to develop some work, and then it is over - most of the value of that insight would be lost. In the current climate of teacher-bashing blame would immediately be attached to the teacher. Rubbish! The teacher has no choice. The system demands exam results, the Principal's job is to deliver so s/he demands lesson plans and a programme of study, and the teacher is forced to follow the plans - now if they don't in the US they are losing their jobs. The policy-makers are preventing the teachers from working with the students to develop their insights, and the same is true of developing other valuable processes - all of which are needed for today's society.
This of course is crazy, and demonstrates how little control of education educationalists have - teachers or otherwise. Real educationalists value education for all, and for them a process of insight would be of great value - far greater than what is lost by not returning to a programme leading to an exam. In education it is necessary to see that this exam system pervades every lesson preventing education. Suppose the above child repeatedly has insights and is unable to express those insights beyond the confines of that one lesson because of the programme of study. They will lose heart in frustration, and they will begin themselves not to value their insight. The fault lies in the programme of study that is defined by the exams. It is no good blaming the teacher or claiming that my child is year 8 so they should be free to express themselves. The restrictions of work in the programme of study for year 8 are defined by the exams, even if the exams are not sat until year 11. Suppose a teacher sees insight and digresses from the programme of study, what happens? In today's climate of repressing the teacher, someone complains and immediately the teacher is drawn over the coals. Maybe the principal agrees with the teacher that such process work is important but it is more than their job's worth to stray from the programme of study, because of the pressure they themselves are under. And who suffers? The student because they don't learn. And the teacher because they are not allowed to teach what matters.
But we must have exams! Really, why? Because of the corporations who want to measure the students' ability. When the student leaves the place of learning they must have a piece of paper that says they are successful, and it is this measure of success which is one of the main keys to understanding why our education system is failing. The teacher word for this is assessment, and we must try to understand how important this assessment is. Assessment is effectively a feedback to the student from the teacher as well as for the teacher to know the success of the student, and then there is the assessment of the examination. But intricately involved with assessment is power, does this feedback matter to the student? Does it matter to the student if the teacher is aware that the student is not being successful? Does the exam matter to the student? These are key questions to investigate when you are considering the education system in the UK at the moment, assessment and the power of this assessment.
When a child does some work in school and the teacher tells them it is wrong, does that matter to them? Let us consider how this process of assessment develops during the school years. Now in the early years I would think it matters. Let's bear in mind that before they go to school there is a loving bond between parents and child, and as a result learning occurs in the home. It would be hoped that this loving relationship would be extended to school where the teacher would then become part of this bond but sadly it does not. As I have said before, this is primarily because our education system is effectively trying to mould children into a workforce where the majority of people are not intended to be successful. From the loving environment of early childhood where learning occurs naturally, they are moved into a processing system that leads to success for a few and failure for most. The parents and teachers know this is happening, and this takes away from the quality of the bond. So from having a bond in which love is so important, they join a system in which the measure of this bond is success for the few and failure for most. Despite their best efforts the teacher becomes the symbol of this failure as it is their assessment that continually says to the student they are failing.
Now turn this around and consider education for all as being education for its own sake - self-realisation. The student takes their natural instinct for learning from the loving environment of the home into a similar loving environment in school, and education occurs because it is education for self-realisation. This is why the home education movement is so successful because the learning relationship continues through love. Now in truth there are many dedicated teachers who try to extend that loving arrangement into the primary schools but increasingly they have come under pressure by the increase in examinations. Rather than having a choice in helping the child learn for themselves they are forced to squeeze the child into a mould of testing that immediately tells the child they are not loved as this love is connected with failure in testing. As soon as you start measuring learning by whether they have achieved in tests the loving relationship that is needed for learning has gone. The problem is not that the child gets a score of 47 what matters is that the child is told that only a score of 80 or above matters.
At the same time the nature of what they are learning changes as they develop through school. At home children begin to learn because the parents want them to learn, the love between them develops the learning as the child begins to read and write. At this stage reading and writing helps the child learn about life so that is part of their instinctive environment. In the early stages at school they continue to learn about life but slowly this process of learning about life turns into learning about subjects in which they are expected to pass. As these subjects take greater and greater shape so the students begin to see that they are failures through not getting the numbers in these subjects. By secondary school this process has been completed. From the loving environment of the home the children have moved to the failing environment of the subject-based curriculum of the secondary school where only the few matter. When you look at it this way, is it any wonder our children are unhappy in school?
And is it any wonder why caring parents are so successful with home education. Even though these parents have not had the benefit of learning about education they are successful because they are able to extend the loving bond beyond the early years. In the end many of these parents turn this bond into the exam assessment measure, better exam results are achieved because they have been able to extend this bond. In a school there is usually greater expertise but because the system is not geared towards learning for self-realisation for all, the classroom soon is filled with children who know they are designated failures. The older they get the greater this realisation. The few who are more successful and who soon become recognised as the ones the system is measuring become more and more isolated, and recently they have started to be victimised. From outside this victimising appears so unreasonable but it is a human right to be educated and for that education to have meaning, for that majority there is little meaning and it is natural to turn that anger on those who through their ability are perceived as taking this right away from them.
I just want to mention here something called unschooling which I will go into later. This unschooling is a branch of home education in which the children decide on what they want to learn. To begin with this sounds crazy but is it? When we think of our learning - even if we were successful, it was not a matter of love. We were in the classroom waiting for break, waiting for lunch, waiting to go home, waiting to play. So why wouldn't we choose to play if we were self-directing? In early years expertise says playing is learning so why wouldn't children extend this play-learning as they grow older? It is this principle that I feel schools could use in autonomous mastery just discussed, and I suggest that successful unschooling also use this principle. As I said - later.
Now the groundwork for the school problems has been set. Our institutions are geared towards failure. As students grow this failure becomes clearer, and so their engagement with the system gets less and less. At present there is increased pressure to improve exam results as if this is the solution. Let us examine this contention. Who is it aimed at? In terms of the corporate paradigm can the number of successes increase? Of course not, the number of exec jobs remains the same. So what is this pressure about? Improving the quality of those few who are successful. It does not deal with the issues that are causing the school problems, in fact it increases them. In the classroom my attention was always taken up with ill-discipline, I often complained about this. I spent more time on the bad students than the good ones, all teachers do. One might imagine that by placing pressure on teachers to focus on high achievers it will alter this dynamic. Far from it. With greater attention wanting to be placed on the higher achievers, those who cannot achieve will do more to disrupt to get attention. For children it is natural to want attention, to want love. If the pressure is on the teachers to give that attention to only a few, then attention-seeking activities will increase causing greater disruption. There is no solution in increasing pressure to improve exams, the need is to engage all students.
So this is what teachers have to deal with, a system that is designed to fail the majority of students, and these failing students are getting more and more demanding from a younger age. This has to happen. And there is no solution until the system starts to recognise education for all.
So within this system of failing you would think that you would give every help to the teacher to cope. Far from it. Instead of helping the teacher the system starts to blame the teacher for its own inadequacies. What can a teacher do about the fact that the paradigm only wants a few successes. Absolutely nothing.
Maybe the system would then try to empower the teacher to deal with this balancing act. We know only a few will be successful but maybe if we increase the powers of the teacher then that will help in controlling the failures, this is where assessment and power comes in. We could enable some control by increasing the power that teachers have by giving their assessment more meaning. Ultimately many students are working to fit into society. Despite the failure that is built into the education system, many students still maintain some engagement to try to get something from the school. They work to get some exam results even though they will not get the results that will give them success for business. And here is the rub. These students are not engaged with the teachers, they are engaged with exam success. Does the teachers' assessment matter? Only if it is of relevance to the exam.
Now this could be changed. Suppose we had a dynamic where the teacher's assessment did matter, what would happen? The student would be forced to engage with the teacher, at the moment it is only the inherent politeness of some of the students and any charisma the teacher can create that keeps any form of engagement with the teacher. But the system is designed for disengagement from the teacher, the teacher is fighting a losing battle and the only weapon is charisma. Ludicrous.
Let us consider the workplace. You have a boss, you do the job, you get paid. For the majority in a school, you have the teacher, you have no job because you are meant to fail, and you have no reward. And within the school you don't have to do what the teacher says because there is no reward, and the only punishment is to expel you from the place you don't want to be. What kind of people work in this situation? Fools. Their pay is low. They go to school knowing that the majority of students have no interest in doing what they say as the students are going to fail. And the strongest punishment is to expel the students from the place they don't want to be, where they are forced to go by law. This is madness, and teachers must be fools.
But it is almost the opposite, many teachers have a vocation, they actually want to educate. How they want to educate may not be certain but they want to educate. And this uncertainty is based around the whole uncertainty of mixed messages that are created around a system that is designed to fail the majority of students and not give them an education. After working a while this vocation soon turns to disillusionment, and instead of caring for the children their only value comes from the pay cheque and therefore from career. After this vocation has gone, most teachers seek the fastest track to the money and out of the classroom. This is why there are so many educator hangers-on. The teaching is designed to be unfulfilling. Their training is education so they must find work out of the classroom - hanging on.
The system needs to take this vocation and utilise it. The demands of the corporate paradigm are not going to change, they only need a few successes. But we can still gain something from schools if we can increase the engagement between student and teacher. And we do that by giving teacher assessment value. Where is the value now? In the tests and in the exams. Let's take that value out of the tests and exams and give it to the teachers. In the current climate of teacher-bashing that sound horrendous but let us examine it as a contention. What does the world of work need from the exams? The qualification. It is not the content, but the qualification. The world of work wants to employ someone who has been successful. That is all. There is no more to the exam process than the need to measure success. The basis of years of schooling comes down to a measure of success at the end, and most of the content of the learning is meaningless. Is it any wonder that so many failing students don't bother? The content doesn't matter, and they cannot get the qualification. What is there to do? Have some fun by disrupting.
Apart from a few basics which need to be carefully considered, the exam could be about anything as the world of work only wants the measure of success. This needs careful consideration. The majority of the content of our learning has no meaning for the world of work, and all that matters is that the world of work has a measure of success. Let us start with this reality and build a meaningful education system. If we accept this as the reality then we can stop these years from being wasted and do something useful for our children.
Let us begin with the measure of success. In terms of the teaching material the teacher knows the student best so if we can find a way of using that knowledge then something can be gained from the school. This is assessment, the teacher can assess the student. Everyday the teacher works with the student, helps them in knowing how good their work is, and can assess them. Throughout their time at school this formative assessment can build up until eventually there is a summative assessment at the end that can be taken to the world of work. At present that summative assessment is the exam, and the formative assessment is very limited as it is totally connected to the exam and even successful students believe in cramming more than in the teacher.
I have just contended that the actual exam contents has little meaning to the world of work but the world of work is beginning to make demands to show what they do value. Two examples are shown by the 21st century partnership at http://www.p21.org/ and the Microsoft education plan (at http://www.microsoft.com/education/competencies/default.mspx) and competence wheel (download from microsoft page or from Matriellez Scribd). As educational objectives many of these competences teachers would be happy to incorporate in a good educational model, so what is the problem? Asessment. The world of work does not accept assessment by teachers, they require an objective assessment like exams.
So let us examine how the world of work conducts assessment so that education can follow their "good example". How does the business world assess this competence? By a reference. The reference is written by the previous employer, so let us consider the motives of this employer? Maybe they want to get rid of the employee but not actually sack him - a good reference. This is the downside, but usually what happens is that business trusts the referee. Why? Is it because the referee has had years if training in assessment and writing references? No, they have had no formal training in assessment, but they of course do have legitimate on-the-job training. Now consider the teacher. They have had formal training in assessment - their education degrees. And as they become more experienced they have more on-the-job training. So maybe the world of work spends more time on assessment. The exact opposite. Most employers are working for profit, and they spend little time assessing. The teacher's job is assessment. They deliver the curriculum and assess the student in terms of this curriculum, yet a reference from an employee is trusted and a teacher's assessment is not. How ludicrous.
The real issue is that employers believe the teacher-bashing that is going on, and in general society does what it can to disempower the teacher. Take assessment out of the exam hall, and give it back to the teacher where it belongs. This is not likely to happen because of the business interest of the various exam boards who wield unacceptable power in terms of education policy. Far from just facilitating exams these companies influence education policy to such an extent they are damaging the education future of our children.
So if assessment is back where it belongs then the next stage is to examine what is to be assessed. This is where teachers and business can start to agree. There is a conflict between my position as an educator for all and businesses espousing competences, but this conflict lies not in the competences themselves. By comparison with the level of self-realisation that exists in schools, any competency model would be better. Self-realisation is an educational objective - it is not a business objective, far from it business requires a level of commitment to the profit motive which has many aspects that militate against self-realisation. When I discuss natural development in greater detail that conflict will become more and more apparent, but for the moment competences and self-realisation are not too far apart.
So an educational model that combines teacher assessment with competences has the potential for success. So the practical question is what competences and then how does the teacher convey their assessment? In fact the second question is easy, and depends on the first, if there is agreement as to what competences are to be assessed and the teacher knows that they are to assess in terms of these competences then how much closer is the world of work to education. An employer is recruiting, and they receive an application that actually contains information about the skills they actually want. How much more certain is their interview procedure!
Consider the interview now. I have limited experience in the world of work outside education but I have some. After university I used my maths degree and stats postgrad diploma to apply for a statistical analyst/programmer. The company's statistican interviewed me, and he noted a certain statistical understanding that was of value to him. Backing his instinct he employed me - it was a mistake as I was not suited to the job. I didn't know then but I was a teacher. But in my limited view his instinct was not wrong, I did have that statistical acumen he was looking for - I was just not prepared to sell myself for the profit motive and all that implied in an office. But imagine if he had received a profile that looked at more suitable attributes for the world of work:- maturity, employability, self-realisation, critical thinking, relationship with adults. I had none of these at the time, and my lack of suitability for employment would have been evident. Whilst I learned a lot on the job - it was very formative in my life choices. In fact I was lucky to be offered a job at the company. The work was interesting and they employed some very interesting people. I learnt this by comparison with the two computing jobs I had next as they put the nail in the coffin of any possibility of my working for profit alone. In fact that 18 months of negative experience was always in the background whenever some of the worse aspects of careerism and profiteering in teaching raised their heads. I never ever embraced these motivations but I did learn to sit in on my resentment as I had known so much worse.
Let us assume that an alliance of competences and self-realisation can be reached in discussion between educationalists and business so that a workable profile can be established. This has vast implications for the education system as a whole. Firstly the majority of the current curriculum has to disappear. Whilst I support autonomous mastery as an approach there are certain elements of our current curriculum that all students should know. An acronym for this is WARC, the new 3R's:-
No matter how pervasive the computer becomes writing will always be necessary. Some might wonder at arithmetic. Now any realistic approach to education has got to recognise that the pervasive computer has changed the content of education. At the moment education is debating the use of Web 2.0 as a means of engaging the students in the irrelevant curriculum, this of course stops far short of what is needed in education. Let's start with arithmetic. The computer, as well as the calculator, can do arithmetic more accurately and quicker than a human being so why am I suggesting we continue with arithmetic. Some argue that arithmetic can be used for shopping, this is an advantage but few students develop the speed of calculation that enables mental arithmetic as a useful shopping check. A calculator could do such checking of desired. The real benefit of arithmetic is that it brings a familiarity with number. I can remember innumerable occasions where I have taught a new maths technique only to find that students say they don't understand because the answer is wrong. When I checked I discovered that the error was in the arithmetic. To improve this use of arithmetic I also recommend algebraic manipulation mainly substitution and rearrangement in formulae as they are skills which help with calculations in many areas.
Recognising the pervasiveness of computers also brings into question the behemoth that we have eschewed for other reasons - the examination. What does an examination test? Primarily the ability to revise and recall vast amounts of information, and then once the exam has been finished the recall of that information becomes irrelevant. If the information was actually useful information it could be recalled by computer later. This use of the computer clearly makes the current use of examinations as outmoded, even if it were sensible to have our education systems dominated by exams. Of course they are not sensible for other reasons mainly the ones I have already stated.
Before the use of computer as an information system the skill of memory and recall was more relevant - now it isn't. The skill that is needed is that the knowledge is there and knowing where to retrieve it. When you consider much of the content that we require in our education syllabuses, it is far more easily accessible by computer. And this is an excellent yardstick for our curriculum and the competences. What can humans do that computers cannot? This then begins to address all the competences that we need to live. Consider this diagram:-
To explain. The capabilities of the human fall into the three rectangles, two of which I have named as compassion and intelligence. The third rectangle represents skills a human uses but which a computer also has. For me as will be obvious the most important competences are concerned with compassion and intelligence but let me begin by discussing the rest of the diagram. The oval represents skills which both the computer and human have to different degrees. Let's begin with sensory awareness. Now when you consider our 5 physical senses, a computer can be fitted with their own sensory apparatus making their sensory mechanisms far more sensitive and accurate. A computer can tell you that the temperature of the water is hot but it cannot feel it is hot. It could however tell you when your coffee is ready to drink by measuring the temperature - if you had previously programmed in that you can drink coffee which is 40oC. Here is the key to understanding the limitations of the computer, and therefore understanding what a human can do. A computer can only do what it is programmed to do, for most of us drawing the distinction between what the programmer can make the computer do and what he can't is difficult. But it is essential to consider what these limitations are in order to determine what are valid human competences.
A computer has logic circuits so if programmed a computer can develop a logical problem through to solution. A computer can more easily solve an equation such as this quadratic:- x2 + 7x +13 = 0
but the computer cannot consider the practical situation and derive this equation from that situation. That is a human skill of insight and reasoning. A computer's logical circuits can reason far quicker than a human but there are certain areas of reasoning that they cannot develop. And of course insight is a skill beyond computers.
Whilst a computer cannot speak - create words, programmers are developing software that will recognise words and presumably eventually they will develop software that will enable computers to speak words from writing or reading. But they cannot create thoughts as humans can and turn them into words. As a communication device it is faster and has greater capabilities of distance through the internet. As an information system it has far greater capabilities than humans but if we keep our minds clear it is amazing the power of recall humans have.
As for technical design a computer, through CAD software, can produce designs, but the creative spark has to come from humans. I will also mention "super-sense", you might call it a non-tactile sense. Some call it sixth sense, or even hyper-sensitivity. At present we rely on our own five senses but what would happen to our sensory mechanisms if we started to rely on computers for some of our sensory awareness. The boundaries of our sensory capabilities would change, and what is now the stuff of movies might well become reality. Being open to such a change is an appropriate awareness for self-realisation.
Now we can address what is contained in the intelligence rectangle. These qualities of intuition, insight, creativity, wisdom, aesthetic appreciation and even genius would be attributes that could classify as education competences that business would want. I have already mentioned some sources of business competences, later I will look into an approach that could lead to agreement.
But the final rectangle of compassion business might well say does not have a place in education, this I completely refute. It is in this area of compassion (love, caring, morality, emotions, sleep, dream, meditation, ...) that business does not see a role for education. I consider that harshness irresponsible. If the education model is to be self-realisation then compassion must be included, although I would never see business agreement on this.
There are however two compassionate areas that business would support, and that would be nurture (part of love) and morality. One aspect of business that is needed is a stable society. Whilst criminality is seen by many as part of the business arena, it is a controlled and stable criminality. Violence within the office is not appropriate but seeding violence within the countries that provide raw materials is a repeated tactic. Social morality within the metropolitan business community is a requirement as business people want to live peacefully and they want an education for their children so that the children can also gain the benefits of wealth. In general business requires peace in their society as without a certain level of peace there will be no market for their products - and hence no profits. There is of course a cut-off to this morality, business would want controlled the level of moral outrage at the hunger and crimes in the third world that are consequences of their policy. Of course they have that level of control at the moment - mostly. They want moral people but not people with too many morals. As an educationalist for self-realisation is a pre-requisite, it is not possible for ourselves to develop fully whilst our practice are immoral - there is a level of conflict here with business. At present this level of morality is assuaged by such people becoming doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers etc., and then business ensures that these jobs never have sufficient finance to affect their practice and profits.
The role of nurture in schools is confused at present. I remember feeling torn about my own attitude to nurture. In our schools maintaining discipline is the most urgent objective; there is no point in attempting to teach anything whilst disruption is happening, students cannot concentrate, and without concentration there is no learning. I can remember a number of occasions where I was in the middle of explaining to individuals how to approach solving the problem and my explanation was cut short by disruption. In the end I began to teach the whole class more and more because it was the most effective way of maintaining control. Most disruptive students are happy to disrupt away from the gaze of the teacher but they don't always like disrupting the teacher themselves - it is much easier to appoint culpability.
In many of our schools students come from difficult backgrounds, and sadly their only solace is in the schools. The school provides some form of stability. Such students find it pacifying to be told to go to this lesson, sit there, and do some work before at the end of the day they return to a difficult home environment. This function of a school cannot be ignored, but under the current paradigm not only is it ignored it causes conflict. Sadly such students are often disruptive or at best require more attention - more than their fair share. And more often than not the level of output of these students is low, by our current system they are failures. But because they are more demanding such students take away your time from some of the students who are achieving. And many of the students who are achieving are unwilling to be demanding and often get ignored. What does a teacher do? Now in my case I always tried to favour the academic achiever to the detriment of the need for nurture, but even with a positive emphasis to the achiever I was never able to give them the time needed and my only compromise was to offer them the opportunity to see me after school. Many did. But there was never enough time, and in truth much of this after school time was taken up with pointless meetings. No, I'm not going to discuss these meetings, aagghh!
Now with an approach that is self-realisation for all attempting to improve process there is more of an opportunity to educate these disruptive students. Firstly these students have an absentee problem due to these home difficulties. These students are not healthy as any finance in the home is going to be directed to the drug abuse rather than to medicine or healthy food. If the syllabus is content-based as it is now these students miss lessons. In maths this is a particular problem as it is a linear subject - you build on previous learning. But if the student is absent, and returns at the 4th lesson you have to attempt to teach weaker students the content of the missed 3 lessons. Impossible. If however you are teaching a process based on their last lesson, then the disruption is minimised. Therefore these students with difficult backgrounds can come to school, and not only have some comfort in the structured day, but also benefit from some positive learning experience. I can often remember teaching such students who returning to school have a bit more motivation. I was getting towards the end of the topic and wanted to teach the class, and I would watch as this student's heart would lose the minimal motivation as everything went over their head. If the class was with me, is it right to stop and teach this student individually? No, I would make the effort to see them afterwards, but it didn't always help. Projects based on learning from where the student is at removes this problem.
And it alleviates another strange anomaly of our education system, why do we assume that students of the same age are at the same level of development in all subjects? I am a maths teacher so I obviously have some ability at maths. Did I have the same ability in learning French? No. Yet I was in the same class. There are two ways round this problem, neither of which work under the current system. Firstly you have a mixed ability class, this requiring a teacher to provide lesson plans for every student for every lesson. Impossible unless you give the teacher at least two lessons of preparation time for every lesson. The second alternative is to stream for every subject whilst maintaining the same age structure. Having done timetables I can assure you that this is impossible with the level of staffing in schools at the moment, and if were to happen there would be a clear waste of resources, mind you teachers would like it as it would give them appropriate preparation time. With a content-based programme of study ie a programme of study leading up to exams, it is not practical to deal with a mixed ability approach.
Class delivery requires a class of students who are at similar levels with similar objectives. It requires a positive motivation from all students and a commitment to what is being taught. In our schools now we have none of these. Removing exams because they impose so many restrictions begins to create the opportunity for learning competences, and learning these competences begins to offer the possibility of self-realisation. And such a possibility could engage all students. With the system respecting the teacher and respecting their assessment there are alternatives to the exam structure that are educationally far more sound, equally more acceptable to business, and engage the student in lessons. Hopefully this would lead to some efforts towards self-realisation, it certainly would not be detrimental as the current system clearly is.
Ch 10 On an appropriate classroom
As already mentioned technology is beginning to reshape our approach to education but mostly it is being perceived as motivational, using the web technologies students already use to interest them in the prevailing curriculum. However consideration of the technologies together with previously-mentioned criticisms begins to widen the opening into a door to real education. It is therefore appropriate to consider these technologies from an educational standpoint, how can we improve education by using technology? And the answer to this is far more than improving motivation.
In society what form of communication do we now use the most? Computer through the use of the internet, and mobile phones. Why can't education recognise this and begin to embrace the use of computers? It is necessary to consider mobile phones in education, but let's start with computers. Of course compared to textbooks computers are far more expensive, but there is one important notion that computer usage in the classroom can do - it could change the classroom into a legitimate comparison of the office. A traditional classroom of teacher delivering to students is vastly different to the world of work - office or otherwise, however a classroom where students are connected wifi looks little different from work. And what is so significant about such a wifi classroom is that it removes the boundaries and restriction to learning of the traditional classroom. In the traditional classroom the teacher is limited by the textbook. Recognising that students work at different paces I always tried to keep a stock of different texts by me so that if students finished I always had work for them. This is difficult to manage. It was one of my maxims that students always needed work, it was not acceptable to me to ask a student to wait for the rest of the class. At times I even had students working on their own projects, so that when they finished the classwork they continued with their own work. This enabled classroom management but I am not sure how valid it was. This was however always teacher-centred, teaching the new skill in class setting work on it and then setting different tasks for the student to do based on what materials were available. Resources were always a limitation, paying for books.
But effectively for students the internet could be seen as an infinite resource. There is no necessity to be limited by the availability of texts. Let's consider a teacher-centred use of the internet starting from my own subject - maths. I might begin with an explanation on the board, whiteboard preferably so that the example could be prepared beforehand and used repeatedly with different groups over the years. I would have onsite references, with examples and perhaps different explanations - although that would confuse, and further exercises of my own or elsewhere on the net. Perhaps such resources could be stored in Diigo or some other online bookmark setup. The students would be asked to work through different exercises in order.
If there were appropriate resources made available - not created by the teacher as there is no time, such a lesson plan would work and would be an improvement, but in truth would be little different from the current lesson approaches. There would be gains however. A motivated student would not be held back by the speed of other students in the class, this compares favourably with current mixed ability approaches where students continually seek teacher time - often making lessons unmanageable when you factor in poor discipline. In teacher-centred classrooms there is often another factor, even well-motivated students seek teacher time. The "group of peers" nature of the classroom tends to want them to work with the teacher rather than race ahead individually. I contend that this is because the emphasis is not on autonomous mastery, even the well-motivated students are seeking direction from the teacher. In older students this is continually tied in with the exams, they are continually referencing their work to the exams and most teachers have experience with exams and to a greater or lesser extent determine lesson content by the exams.
And with less-motivated students who know they will fail exams, the lack of teacher control in the classroom, individualised learning as opposed to class teaching, means they have greater chance for disruption. And a greater tool for disruptive behaviour - the computer and internet. This disruptive behaviour would only be worthwhile if the disruption gains the teacher's attention - a teacher-centred approach leads to the need for the teacher to be disrupted. Ultimately no change, just a different set of disruptive problems.
This is because the reference is still the exams, and the control of the learning does nto belong to the student - autonomous mastery.
Let us examine the workplace. How many workplace activities last 45 minutes and you move onto something new? It is ongoing. A boss might assign a task, and the employee would be expected to carry out this task without further instruction. The employee might be asked to work on a project either individually or collaboratively, and how they shine (individually or collaboratively) is part of the career development and financial reward. Whilst it is not complete autonomous mastery there is a strong element. In theory such autonomous mastery could be the process in school. When I keep talking about disruption, that seems a foolish thing to say. But if there are no exams and all assessment is carried out by the teacher, there is strong motivation for most students to involve themselves in their work. It would not be perfect especially for those schools where students bring a lot of baggage to school. Strategies will still be needed to deal with the ill-discipline that would be caused but for the majority learning would be practical - as opposed to now where the minority are taught to exam success without any requirement for teacher engagement.
Careful consideration of the relationship between the coursework or project work and the processes that are sought to be involved is an important area of research before any such change could be implemented. In the preface I spoke of this work as being a vision, there are many links to be made. Industry acceptance of processes and the quality portfolio from the teacher, educational research into how these quality processes can best be brought out of the students, and appropriate information at all levels, business parents and students, of what the changes would mean in terms of jobs as well as curriculum ie if it remains the same that a good quality portfolio is not recognised by the employer as a job credential. This basically requires an approach of educational integration at all levels - no easy matter. And unlikely to happen with the apparent current framework of the corporate paradigm.
So what is then likely to happen? A continuation of the current knee-jerk approach to educational change. Take what is happening with education change with regards to technology now. Many people are discussing their involvement with education and technology, usually on the internet. One person develops something useful, and people talk about it. Management thinks that would be a good idea, and before you know it it has been implemented. Or rather management issues a dictum that it will be done, and then teacher are dragged screaming into their usage - not because they disagree but because they know it needs training to do well. They know technology requires good support staff, and they know how often their lessons have been ruined because of equipment failure.
Here is an example of a technology issue, it happened yesterday in private tuition. I was teaching 2nd language English and had just found a site which had fairy stories that the students could read and then the computer read the words highlighting each in turn. A niuce resource for students to practice at home on their own. I was working on one computer and this worked fine, but in the tuition I was using a different computer - I was using a different browser!! I opened the browser, and the computer wouldn't read it. So I faffed around for a while and gave up. Disruption, lack of confidence in the teacher, you name it. I knee-jerked the introduction, I liked the site and introduced it without checking it out more.
Now I know a bit about what I am doing as previously referred to, what about the teachers who have less confidence? Throw them into the deep end and they feel their failure. I failed as a professional computer programmer in business for about 18 months before turning to childcare and then teaching. In that time as a programmer I was given time to learn what was happening before I was asked to do anything meaningful. In teaching there is no such time so knee-jerking is the rule and teachers are sick of it. I certainly was. And I was fed up with all the people promoting their own bandwagons, as people were also probably fed up with me and my bandwagons. Knee-jerk! Knee-jerk! Knee-jerk!
And then new young people in education wonder why their changes are not implemented. And Web 2.0 and even 3.0 are going that way. Some people are championing the web 2.0 teacher revolution, and more sensible teachers trying to say slow down make the implementation educationally sound but careerists in management see promotion and knee-jerk the start of more implementation failure.
Who am I kidding? Knee-jerk will happen, more computing will be introduced, many teachers will guess what to do, make mistakes and cover up, and the when they realise all the money spent still has the same problems they will blame the teachers. Why bother? Cos I have to!!!
Despite all this my vision is a wifi classroom of autonomous mastery working on projects that will develop quality process that will be assessed by teachers through a quality portfolio that will become a meaningful reference in the workplace. And now we need to consider processes and competences.
Ch 11 On processes and competences
And to start this section on processes and competences I am going to talk about discipline. When someone lives alone they require discipline to live in life, to get up feed themselves, wash whatever. There is a discipline in being an acceptable social human being. Most people live in families, and in the home there is an agreed discipline of how to live together - mostly. Without that agreement the home would be chaos. And it is the same for the classroom, if you are going to have so many people in the same room they have to agree to a code of conduct or discipline. Traditionally this was not an issue as parents sent children to school, and they behaved as the teacher told them; and if they didn't the teacher caned them.
But in the 60s schools began to change. Parents and students began to reject what they were being taught, and at the same time teachers were told they could not use the cane. Gradually this situation has worsened. Once the bubble had burst and people began questioning the validity of what was being taught, disruptive behaviour increased. Not every act of disruption could be attributed to this lack of agreement with what was being taught, but once some people are disruptive others follow. Sometimes this is because the students enjoy the disruption, and other times they follow the behaviour of powerful students who intimidate with charisma or violence. The point here is that we need discipline and once one student becomes out of control others follow.
I can think of many examples that illustrate this but here is one particular one. We were working up to exams in a boarding school. Lessons had finished and students were revising. I was Head of Maths not administration but the owner of the school suggested I run an exam centre - in the previous year I had looked after the exams and she had been impressed. This exam centre involved perhaps 50 year 11 students, and we sectioned off one area of the school (3 classrooms) and no other students than year 11 were allowed there. I was na?ve in expecting cooperation from administration but I always tried. I drew up a code of conduct which included 3 strikes and you were not allowed to use the study centre. This was practical as even though this was a boarding school the students lived in the city, and could be sent home after they had sat exams. There was one girl who the students accepted would not cooperate, this did not matter to them. Now this girl quite clearly had no desire to accept the code of conduct of this exam centre, so defied the rules from day one. After repeated efforts to get her to cooperate, I sent her to the admin to deal with the problem. Admin was typically two-faced. She had agreed the code of conduct but when this girl was sent to her she didn't want to deal with the matter. She initially kept the girl in her classroom whether she had classes or not but when the girl began disrupting her classes she sent her back down to the study centre. The girl should have been sent home but admin did not want to do their job and deal with the parents.
Once the girl was sent back down to the study centre discipline was lost. Other students who did not want to cooperate with the study centre had allowed this girl to test the teeth of the policy, and when they found that the policy lacked teeth they began to disrupt. Several difficult boys then began confronting me on all aspects of discipline, and in the end I gave up. We reached an agreement that the good students would work in one classroom, and they would keep away from that classroom. However as a whole the policy failed because the admin allowed one student to break discipline. The good students would have worked anyway, the advantage of the exam centre was that it would have provided the conditions for less disciplined students to study. Those students were lost and there was much disruption. Admin ignored the disruption.
Now exam time is the best time of year as most students want to do some work. But if one student disrupts it affects all the students. Being motivated is not enough, if students have to work together there needs to be collective agreement and discipline. There are no education proposals that can work unless there is an agreement to accept discipline. Even when there was caning students accept that they should be caned - whether some people agree with caning or not. The problem with discipline now is that it is blamed on bad students and poor teaching, this is not the case. Caning dealt with the growing discipline problems, and it has never been replaced. Detention provides some respite but parents don't like the inconvenience. For me this is a failure of parents to recognise their responsibility, but again the admin at the school let the parents get away with it. Some of the parents argued with the admin that their children didn't have to do detention, and the admin capitulated.
But detention doesn't solve all the discipline issues. If you follow up a threat with a serious detention then most forms of poor behaviour will be controlled. However some poor behaviour are caused by some form of emotional hiatus, problems at home, bullying that the teacher doesn't know about, and other forms of emotional reaction. Now maybe the student would generally agree if the motivation was good but on occasions the student needs to be brought into line. This is a basic requirement of classroom learning, that discipline can be maintained. In order to facilitate this learning immediate control is required. This used to be maintained through corporal punishment, whether corporal punishment would work now is debatable. I used to send students out of the room for a cooling off period, and this helped. Admin always complained about this but they never offered any solutions so I did it anyway. If you cannot have discipline you cannot teach, and students cannot learn.
To deal with discipline there needs to be agreement from all parties. It needs to be accepted that in a classroom discipline is required, and parents should help with that discipline. In practice some parents cannot help - not that they refuse to help it is that they have lost control themselves. This issue cannot be ignored, it is real and affects the learning of so many students in Inner City schools and elsewhere. How do you deal with a school refuser - a student who is unwilling to accept discipline no matter what the curriculum or discipline system?. With an appropriate curriculum of autonomous mastery, meaningful process and competences valuable in daily life, these refusers will become isolated but they will not go away - they will still exist. Good education requires a means of dealing with their refusal. When you have a system where such students are given the opportunity to develop their own interests then they might well stop refusing and cooperate driving themselves to an appropriate course of learning. This is not a pipedream as most refusers are intelligent but just do not fit into the academic mess we call education now. However some mechanism or system needs to be in place to deal with such refusal because one student can disrupt a class of keen workers.
Now I began with discipline because discipline is a basic. Without discipline no system of education can work. And this leads me to basics in general. The whole of education cannot be about process and competences. No matter how well motivated a student is, their autonomous mastery will not always mean they learn all that is needed for a functioning society. I have already spoken of WARC - Writing, Arithmetic, Reading, Computing. There will also be a civil proponent. In the US they have allegiance to the flag together with understanding the constitution and political framework. I could imagine that now such lessons are treated with complete apathy but in an educational environment in which students predominantly work in their own direction (autonomous mastery) imposition of such a social requirement would be accepted. It is not accepted now because the students in general don't agree with what they are being taught, and the only rationale they have of meaning is exams, and such political and social understanding is not now examined. In Thailand students are taught to respect the King, this is completely socially acceptable as Thai people in general love their King. But if such a curriculum were required in the UK it would cause an uproar. Such a civil proponent would depend on how the society functions.
But there is one glaring absence in most curricula - morality, students are not taught the meaning of being moral. Depending on your society being taught to be moral can be difficult. What about "stick it to the man"? In the US this is socially acceptable because "the man" oppresses, bosses are not reasonable, and people work for unreasonable wages. Yet in other countries people work longer hours for far less wages. In some countries religious custom asks that women cover their head or face, yet in the West this is considered an infringement of civil liberties. In some countries it is considered appropriate to stone someone to death, and yet people in the US argue that this is unreasonable whilst keeping criminals who have been found guilty of murder in death row for many years before actually executing them. Then they are killed and it is claimed that the manner of killing is humane. So many aspects of morality are not absolutes.
So to teach morality it is necessary to define aspects of morality that people can agree on. What about:- Consideration for others?
Respect for parents and the elderly?
Respect for partners in relationships?
Fulfilling family duty?
Religious tolerance, not religious agreement?
Religious dogma could be addressed within a moral framework. If the 5 suggestions are agreed then how do we consider the 10 commandments? Thou shalt not kill in Christian countries with the death penalty contravenes moral consideration, does that mean it should not happen?
As it stands social and legal frameworks will be brought into question when studying morality, but if our societes cannot survive the scrutiny of those basic 5 tenets should we not be questioning the society rather than the tenets? At present our students are allowed to question teachers because teachers are expected to deliver a cirriculum that is not relevant to students. Is this not a diversion when students through a moral framework would be questioning the laws and practices of a society? Is this not a diversionary tactic of dictatorship?
What is essential is that students leave school knowing what is morally expected of them in society. Thye should know how to behave, and even if they don't behave that way they know that society does not accept it. Does this happen at present? How can it? In most societies there is one rule for the rich and one rule for the poor, is this moral? Consideration for others does not depend on the size of your wallet. Is a legal system fair when you can employ denizens of lawyers to find loopholes in a legal system so that the judge cannot make a decision based on the morality of actions. Is it any wonder that young people do not grow up respecting moral action when they see adults breaking the law with impunity because they are rich.
And what about moral conduct in relationships? How can our children grow up caring for others when parents put their homes under threat simply so they can have a quick lay? Is it any wonder that most young men grow up seeling sex out of a relationship without considering the happiness of the woman concerned. Is it any wonder that women then conduct themselves in relationships deceptively?
Societies cannot function without a moral basis to them. Traditionally
Ch 12 On home and community
Discuss the mubaan school notion here
? Ch 13 On well-being
In the final section of the book I want to discuss the notion of natural development. Again this approach cannot be too definitive but it is my contention that much about the way we educate is not in tune with the way nature would want to see us develop. It is this unnatural distortion which is at the root of our education problems. The desire for early exam success produces students who have not been nurtured, who have not developed naturally, psychologically it concerns me as to what is happening to those children.
But to begin with I want to discuss food. People are already relating the appalling standard eating habits to disease, Jamie Oliver an erstwhile chef has made a decision to make this case especially in schools. In a TED talk (Jamie Oliver TED talk) it amused me, whilst saddening me at the same time, when he went into a classroom and showed primary school students vegetables and asked them to name them - they couldn't. He presented what I consider a minimal position towards diet, and that minimal position is to avoid processed foods because they contain additives which damage health. Some people connect ADHD and other attention disorders with the change in diet to eating food with additives. Whilst I consider this a reasonable connection it would be hard to prove, after all which big food company will want to fund research into how additives damage our health. Of course such research and positions should be under the guidelines of governance but again this shows how government interests are dominated by the corporate paradigm. His minimal position also advocates lessons in which all students learn how to cook foods naturally, as a starting position I whole-heartedly agree.
In my own case I have taken diet limitations further by eating whole grains, beans, fruit and vegetables with occasional fish. I was vegetarian for years, ate foods with a lot of dairy, and developed excess mucus in my system. I take other measures to balance my health, and this leads me to describing a functional relationship between health and food:-
Eating healthy food -> Healthy Body
And for me the opposite applies, if our food is not healthy then our health suffers. For young people this does not always show but as we get older obesity develops and our organs damaged from not having a healthy intake eventually become diseased. Sadly young people including myself do not see this often seeking immediate gratification, and it is necessary for adult guidance on this, unfortunately our education system's guidance functions within the ambit of the food companies and so the guidance is not there with sufficient vehemence. As most teachers don't believe in the importance of healthy food, how can it be?
I further believe in the food principles presented by Paul Pitchford in his book "Healing with Whole Foods". In his book he connects the food we eat with healing illnesses, I agree with this and I further imply the converse that the foods we eat can produce illnesses. The position I take on food and diet is much more than the minimal position taken by Jamie Oliver. But in truth the position I take is after years of abuse, and Jamie's natural minimal position would n not have led to the damage such years of abuse led to.
Above I mentioned that I eat some fish. Most meals I eat are vegetarian but I eat seafood because the sea provides some healthy vitamins not found elsewhere. I have a friend who demands that all people be vegetarian citing the inhumanity in our meat-processing industry, watch films like "Food Inc", and you will understand his vehemence. I have and still eat fish but that is my choice. Education needs to provide us with informed choices, and here is the need for education - to present the connection between health, food and nutrition. Starting with Jamie's minimal position in the canteen and his requirement that all students be able to cook, education about food needs to move onto discussion of vitamins, which foods give which vitamins, acid-alkali balance, the need for anti-oxidants and many more. Lessons could involve the design of menus that provide for all these health components, and could even look at menus that help with diseases such as cancer, diabetes and other degenerative diseases. At present we are not informed in schools about all these alternatives although some efforts are made. However this needs to be a core element in education, a basic for all and should be one of the elements of a basic curriculum that could be the foundation of project work.
We need to develop well-being in our bodies through physical exercise as well, schools originally recognise this but recently this principle has slipped as we have started to cater to errant student ways. We have allowed parents and children to collude to avoid physical exercise, this collusion is damaging to the health and well-being and needs to be avoided. Some form of daily physical exercise is advisable. I taught in China, and at the school I taught in every morning around 11.00am the whole school stood in rows and did 15 minutes of light physical exercise. Whilst I am not necessarily advocating this form of exercise for all schools it is certainly practical, no-one was excused. But the principle of exercise every day is one that should be implemented, led by all the teachers!!
But students need to know that physical exercise is not enough - ******Talk about Chi and then meditation
? Ch 14 On Natural Development
? Ch 15 Conclusion - Pinch of Salt?