I just received this link in which a teacher was promoting the asking of questions and developing a teaching strategy for this. His strategy appears to me to be asking questions for questions sake, and surprisingly enough this is not always learning.
It reminds me of a boy I met in care. There was nothing remarkable about this boy ie high intelligence etc, but he had learnt a skill from being in care. He was always asking questions. The response to this was quite fascinating. The old hands told him to do as he was told. Younger houseparents felt it necessary to answer his questions, and as a result his years in care had paid off – he had got their attention. They felt they should answer his questions because their rational education demanded that there should be answers. It led to difficult situations as the boy did not care what the answer was, he was just asking to get attention.
This points out the flaw in this teacher’s questioning methodology, he is asking questions for questions sake. His strategy is good in the sense that the students can learn how to formulate questions, but it makes no evaluation of the purpose of the questioning. The boy I met in care would have excelled in this teacher’s class but learnt nothing because the purpose of his questioning was not to learn the answers. One could envisage a situation in this teacher’s class where questions are framed per se, and whether they came up with answers that satisfied a learning objective was irrelevant.
Fruitful questioning requires an objective. Why are you asking a question? Because the teacher told me to. Why are you asking that question? Because I am trying to learn the answer or the solution to a problem, this is enquiry. Many of the question-developing techniques that he proposes would be useful in enquiry but only if the objective is an enquiry as opposed to questions per se.
There is also a certain naivete to this questioning methodology because it does not discuss the necessity for good enquirers to learn to stop asking. On a practical level there is the questioning by students as a “red herring” – manipulating the teacher into a favourite hobby horse in order to avoid work.
But more importantly there are times when questions are not appropriate. In daily life someone might have suffered a personal loss, and asking questions just elicits hurt. And what about uncomfortable questions? Politically questions asked by whistle-blowers are not wanted.
And then there are the legitimate questions that students ask. Middle-low ability students asking why are we learning this, it will be of no use to us. Why do I go to school when I am going to work in my father’s small business? Questioning has limitation, and any discussion of questioning ought to recognise this – except there are good career reasons for not pointing this out.
And there is an important area of enquiry that ought to be discussed when considering questioning, and that is personal enquiry. Turning students in on themselves to try to get genuine enquiry going, this is a questioning methodology that would be of great use in adult life – in terms of personal stability as opposed to commercial worth. It would however require that the teacher has already done this so that they can understand the benefits. But that is a question not to ask!!
Archive for the ‘Empowerment’ Category
Our understanding of leadership is dominated by our egos. I recently saw this article about leaders in schools, and for me it completely missed the point. A good leader is an enabler. A leader works with the people s/he leads bringing the best out of all of them.
Why is this even questioned? Because of what is imposed on our leaders. Take the school for example. What is the primary purpose of the leader? To educate – far from it. To ensure that the school works within the rules imposed on it by society. This basically means that a school must provide a workforce for the 1%, and ensures failures so that the children of the 1% can be successful. At the same time the leader must ensure that the teachers remain sufficiently demotivated and unaware of the reality of what “education” is supposed to be. Therefore the role of leader is that of repressor without giving away that it is repression.
I recently came across libertarianism again, some of whose analysis is spot on, but whose policy and practice absolutely sucks. One aspect is that they blame a system of government, and what angered me so much about my last encounter with such theoreticians was that his mindset about government meant that he could not allow for my compassion as teacher because I worked for the government even when I told him and showed my compassion towards him. Their mindset is so limiting.
It comes down to the function of government, not in theory but in reality. What are our governments? 1% puppets. What is the function of these puppets? To maintain the delusion that there is a democracy whilst syphoning all the money and assets into the accounts of the 1%. This the government does even when there is such a farce as the Clinton-Trump election. The function of government at the moment is maintaining delusion (as discussed in Lifting the Veil) and facilitating the expropriation of money to the accounts of the few. According to Howard Zinn’s “peoples-history-of-the-united-states-1492-present” the US has always been this way despite what the constitution says, and this would be consistent with history as the US was originally a UK colony and that was UK policy.
But in theory leading is enabling. A team of people can effectively only be successful when all people are working to their optimum, that is straight-forward. When all people are not enabled to do so the leader has failed unless the objective is not to get the best out of people. In most situations in the world today this is not what the leader is tasked to do, and this is also why libertarians and the apologist who wrote the flipboard article all miss the point; fundamentally the article is concerned with maintaining the standard delusion.
A leader evaluates the team, determines their relative strengths and enables them to use their strengths and helps them overcome their weaknesses; this might involve recognition of the weakness and ensuring someone else does the work instead. In many ways the effectiveness of the leader is the ability to maintain a different purpose to that of maintaining repression and delusion but to do that usually involves personal sacrifice, and most leaders have too strong egos to sacrifice themselves on the altar of compassion. Hence many school leaders to do not enable their teachers to educate, and many government do not enable democratic involvement that includes caring for the weaker.
One might further examine governments and the nature of fascism. Here wiki examines fascism. Usually fascism is associated with the right wing, but does it have to? My view of fascism is that it has two components – authoritarianism and the use of the military wing of government to maintain itself. Although I would not describe our neo-liberal electoral democracies as fascist there is a degree of fascism when one analyses in terms of authoritarianism and the use of military.
I begin with an incident with an erstwhile friend. We had known each other for a while, and he had a very good mindset that could be described as Icke-ist. I argued with him that he needed an open mind that was tolerant and did not attach to a mindset; this disturbed him. I could not agree with some of the Icke-ist approaches involving lizards and Illuminati. This came to a confrontation where there was no agreement and I felt so psychically shattered for three days it was worse than if I had been bullied. Here the friend presented his mindset, in effect demanded I accept it and when I didn’t applied use of force, I suspect unconsciously. Is this not the approach of a fascist?
What about western neo-liberal electoral democracies? They demand that we accept the delusion that they are genuinely democratic. We can choose to vote for candidates who ensure the system remains in favour of the 1%, and at times will use the police force to ensure there is no dissent against the prevailing system. Look at some of the atrocities that occurred against the Occupy movement. Whilst it would not be appropriate to describe such systems as fascist, they are authoritarian and do use the military if required. However mostly these neo-liberal societies have a social compliance where in general people accept the systems as they are and are happy with the delusions that are maintained. Usually as well they claim that there is free speech, and point to the lack of free speech as a facit of fascism. But in neo-liberal systems free speech is controlled in the sense that any criticism of the system is countered and the free speech is effectively useless. Such a liberal authoritarianism maintains a delusion but does not have an effective means of change based on democratic will except through a controlled electoral choice. It could be described as fascism without obvious repression.
This neo-fascism or neo-liberalism is what our western leadership is about. It is a style of leadership that does not enable the people in the same way as the leadership styles of the <a href="http://article do not enable teachers and do not enable education. The one good thing about Trump is that as a Republican leader he has exposed the delusion of the Veil in US politics, it will be interesting to see whether there will be any implications of this following the election – that I expect he will lose.
This article on the teaching of English in Thailand has irritated me – its analysis is so shallow. And it is typical of the colonial aspect of teaching, that western methodology is better.
Firstly the writer cites the case of Khun Dang’s class – students copying from the board. Here are questions connected to that. Did the writer ask Khun Dang if she thought it was good teaching? I would guess not as I suspect she couldn’t speak English. In primary schools the teachers are expected to teach English even though they don’t know it themselves – copying from the board is a compromise. Could the writer teach a Thai class by writing Thai sentences on the board? In an English government secondary school could you get the class to sit quietly and copy from the board? That is those students who hadn’t truanted.
Is formal teaching always wrong? When you listen to western teachers this appears to be the conclusion. Why did formal teaching disappear from British schools? Was it because formal teaching had failed? Now I ask that question fr all the students and nt just the elite. Formal teaching failed the brighter students including those who became the teachers. Such teachers can remember boring lessons in which they tediously fulfilled formal requirements. These teachers became qualified. Did they have questioning minds? Of course not.
Once these teachers started to dominate teaching ethos – starting in the 60s, discipline in the schools went down. Apparently in Thai secondary schools there is too much talking but the discipline is nowhere near as disruptive as UK schools. How can you learn without discipline? How can you begin to teach a questioning mind? And the saddest aspect of this teaching methodology is:-
Can all the students develop a questioning mind?
Show me any evidence that shows that all students can develop a questioning mind. Look at the British population. Since the 60s a more questioning approach has developed in schools, have the population become more questioning? Certainly not, the corporatocracy would never allow it. 40 years later and Tony Blair took the country to war, could that have happened with genuine questioning minds? Not people who bleet because it is expected but genuine questioning minds?
So what are Bill Gates and the others doing when they want critical thinking? They want an elite who will be critical but accept the prevailing paradigm. Is this possible?
So when Thai kids don’t ask questions why do western teachers climb the wall? Quite simple. They don’t understand what education is for. They go to training school and are told education means leading out, and they believe that. Education might mean that but schooling means fitting the school population into society’s status quo. In Thailand that means students cannot be questioning or else why would they accept the social inequalities? But in England it is the same reality that has to be accepted. There are a few who are rich, and mostly those rich inherit it. A few manage to become rich but most spend their time trying to be rich and doing each other down to get there. Maybe Thai business is like that but it appears to be much more pleasant – I don’t know I am retired and never could stomach the business world.
That’s enough, I have vented after the shallow article rattled my cage. It’s going in my Matriellez blog but that’s all. I can’t even be bothered to post it on the facebook-like just to get a Thanks Bill from an apparently equally-shallow analysis.
What a complete waste of my professional life. I started teaching in 1976 in Inner London, and chose to work in an Inner City. I held onto some illusions of self-realisation, but once I started teaching I realised the kids just wanted exam passes. Over the years I learnt to do that better and better. I left the UK in 1993 for many reasons, and lost touch. Thatcher had destroyed manufacturing, and engineered a society where the educated wanted a job. I didn’t like this but I thought that students from all backgrounds had subscried to this appalling ethos, and were getting jobs rather than souls.
I then watched this BBC documentary:-
It’s horrific. Class structure has worsened. Kids are desperate for work experience – unpaid slavery. Rich kids take internships to get jobs – unpaid. I’ve always known British people are prepared to sell themselves but this is crazy. And I don’t just mean white British.
I am actually quite shattered. What was all that fighting for. I should have just taken the money and shut up for all the good it did.
And the teachers interviewed. Ok they interviewed the careerists but these teachers were just training job robots. This is depressing. My mind is spinning, what was I doing?