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 ‘Freedom’ 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.
I began thinking about slavery in meditation yesterday. Have I always been free? This question is the wrong way round:-
Have I ever been free?
Have I always been a slave?
Discounting my childhood as I was definitely not free to make decisions then as I was not developed enough, life decisions came when I was 21. At that stage I had some debts, I was qualified, and was considering where to enter the world of work.
But even these assumptions need examining in terms of freedom. Look at the assumptions, “I was considering where to enter the world of work.” I assumed I had to enter the world of work. Now this assumption can be considered in different ways:-
I needed money to live.
Now these assumptions socially became mixed up with
In my own case I never consciously considered any of these assumptions, I went to school, went to university, took the course of least resistance – maths, became qualified, and looked for a job. I was lucky, I got a good job in a computer consulatncy, was not suited to it, got a worse programming job that I screwed up so much that I rightly got sacked. Mixed in with this mess up was a lot of booze, I took time out, decided I needed to get back into the world of work, my compassion started to kick in eventually leading me to be a teacher. Not a pleasant decision process but eventually I made the decision to be a teacher.
This decision solved some of the assumptions, I earned money, had a decent standard of living, and I was contributing to the community. I even had a career path although at the time it didn’t matter to me. Sounds sorted, doesn’t it? Growing pains, and then freedom of choice?
But to consider this properly it then becomes necessary to examine my choices when I was a teacher. In my year of studying education I became aware of alternative education. I studied some but got a good education about education, and as a result of the year was equipped to make a good decision, and here it is:-
I decided to work in Inner City schools because that is where most education was needed. I was never going to be able to educate properly – self realisation, but to use an appalling US phrase “I could make a difference”. Theoretically I understood all the limitations of education, and I thought I could do something.
Once involved in teaching I got sucked into internal battles. I accepted that I was a teacher, began fighting for education, eventually rationalising being the deliverer of exam results. At one stage I had a crisis of conscience. In the Brixton school I remember “my cute little black girls” who worked with me after school. They worked hard but it wasn’t enough to counter all the disruption that was the classroom discipline throughout the school. They weren’t stunningly intelligent but far more intelligent than some of the oiks that got exam results from nose-in-the-air private school; their results were poor. They blamed themselves because I had worked so much with them. It was a kick in the teeth. I resigned to work on a youth centre magazine part-time. That magazine was worth doing, I chose that. But then I fell in love, moved and needed to find work to keep the woman and her family. After that disaster was over I never questioned teaching again until I retired early.
Why didn’t I question the meaning of teaching again? When my relationship broke up, I had debts and I was drinking so I needed the money. Even though I stopped drinking 2 years after the relationship, I was spending what I was earning – first the rent then buying the flat; I had been sucked in. Then financially I was forced to teach overseas, and from then on it was never a choice as to what I did it was just where I did it, even though once overseas I realised how much freer I was than living in the UK.
Was there freedom in my retiring? How did the decision come about? I left state education in Botswana ostensibly because I needed money for retirement. It is worth considering my final speech to the kids. I didn’t plan it but I found myself saying I had found meaning in education again, and there is still the haunting “we’ll miss you” from Kereng. But overall in Botswana I felt I was getting brain-dead. Botswana’s lifestyle was fun. The women were mostly fun even though they ended in disasters, and the game parks were a wonderful memory. But after working on the M Ed and a mid-life re-evaluation I realised I was brain-dead and needed money for retirement. There is no doubt that in Botswana I experienced a good deal of freedom, it was the time I was most free when I was working because it was the time when education had the least impact on my life. But was it also the time in which I was least on my Path?
The international schools were not easy places to work in, and they were places where the job took over. They were places where the teachers worked for the money, and there was limited concerns for education. They were exam factories in which the school owners were unashamedly profiting from education. The teachers worked for money to travel, and one teacher laughed at me for “principles”. I accepted that package as a lifestyle, took on HOD, and became two people – the teacher and second the person experiencing freedom on holidays because I had the money to travel. And that travel was usually to Thailand.
But over that time it became harder and harder to return to teaching as who I was as a teacher and who I was on holiday became so different. Once I got over the death of my parents I realised that I had the financial wherewithal to retire to Thailand. As is evidenced by the fact that I do volunteer teaching, I still got some enjoyment from teaching but that holiday distance was too great.
It is worth considering that current teaching enjoyment as it is a good indicator of freedom. I enjoy working with the kids, and teach them English. What I do just fits in with the prevailing system, but I intentionally have limited contact with that system. There is no change caused by my teaching, there is no self-realisation for the kids – I basically give them some skills that the system accepts. Because I volunteer I am free to accept that compromise or not, and as I have no other choice as to what I could teach where I live I am happy to do it.
But it is not genuine education, the kids will become Thailand’s wage-slaves and I will have done nothing to help them understand the Path and nothing to enable them to understand the corporate paradigm. And this brings me to the real point about freedom. I was never free to choose what to educate. In ILEA I was able to work in my spare time on “anti-racist maths” but that never had significant impact. So throughout my time in education I am comfortable in saying I never worked on anything I chose to educate about. So even though I chose education, in my teaching I never actually chose what I did. The subject content was chosen by the exam boards, the curriculum was chosen by the government’s education department. There is no choice in what you teach – what I taught, a teacher is a worker who delivers what someone else has decided what to deliver. In reflection this is so clear even though when I was involved in teaching I deluded myself into thinking I had more choice. To be fair to myself I was quite uncompromising – to my career detriment, and with that lack of compromise I have absolutely no doubts that I did act as a partial buffer to the corporate paradigm (see Matriellez). But the reality is that I was a slave. Overall I taught what they wanted me to teach – maths, I did not teach self-realisation in any form. However when I was younger I knew what I didn’t want, now with the Matriellez book I have given more of an idea. But even then it is so far from actually defining a curriculum, maybe the Zandtao book is more about that. In practice for a school that genuinely educates, there would need to be a coming together of parents and educators in a particular community in order to determine the model of the school; both books could form a basis for discussion that could lead to a free education.
The more I examine my working life the more I see slavery, and what is so crazy is that the more I examine my life in comparison with others the greater the level of freedom there has existed in my life. What an anomaly, and such a sadness to see that the human spirit is so enslaved. To see what few options we have that relates to genuine freedom. Yes we can find a compromise to fight for, but a life that is genuinely free is not possible. That is so saddening.
But in the Path there is hope, because the Path gives happiness in a society where there is no freedom. That is what is so wonderful about the Path. The Path allows us to weave our way through all the prisons that life throws us into, and find freedom in what we do. Despite my overall reflections there was freedom in what I did. I strayed from the Path often but overall I have been lucky in that I followed the Path mostly. Whilst I was never genuinely free, I did create freedoms that allowed expression of the Path – no compromise. Who is to say whether that gave genuine education?
Am I free in retirement? Now that I have money to live I am free to do what I want, and I have made good decisions about that. But there is something very significant to understand about retirement, you have limited social impact. There is community impact, the community you are a part of that becomes your life. But work is where our lives are fashioned. Work is where government makes decisions, where our food is produced, where people are healed and cared for, and where education occurs; work is where the corporate paradigm operates. Retired people have no impact on this corporatocratic world of work – life. Basically in my current freedom I choose to be free but in that choice I choose not to be working in an arena that has impact on people generally. And if I did choose to work in that arena I could have no impact. So again we can see there is no freedom, yet there is always the Path.
I am reminded of Anjali. Her youth gave her the strength to say “Get it done”, but if she lives her life waiting to see if it is done she will not be happy. For it never will be done. Throughout education I could say “Get it done”, but there is no chance. For freedom in the world of work there is a tightrope that is walked, a tightrope of freedom that is the Path, but a tightrope that retrospectively will seem that nothing was done.
Will it ever be different? That is for karma to say. The Buddha said the world is dukkha, and the Buddha is timeless – there will always be dukkha. But we have no choice we have to fight,that is the anomaly of the Path. We have to fight, we will never be free, and in that the Path gives freedom.
What a laugh.