"Nothing enrages me more than when people criticize my criticism of school by telling me that schools are not just places to learn maths and spelling, they are places where children learn a vaguely defined thing called socialization. I know. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities." - Seymour Papert

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Dolphins and Teachers

How many teachers would set you free if they could?
by Steve Hein

If someone gave me control over a dolphin in a place like sea world, I would take the dolphin to the ocean and set it free...IF...

...if I were not afraid of someone else punishing me for doing that.

So let's say there is no one to punish me. I can make my own decision about what to do with the dolphins. But what about someone else? What would someone else do? Would someone else set the dolphin free? Or, would they use the dolphin in some way? For example, if they were hungry, would they kill it and eat it? If they realized they could make money from teaching the dolphin to jump, would they do that?

So now let's think about teachers. How many teachers would set you free if they could? If they themselves were not afraid of getting punished or fired?

What if someone gave a teacher control over 30 children, or 30 teenagers? What would that teacher do with the power they had?

I suspect it would have a lot to do with their own needs. And their own beliefs. If they were sexually needy, for example, we can expect that they would use some of the students to fill their sexual needs. If they were hungry, they would probably use the students to provide them some food. If they needed money and the students had money, they would probably take the money from the students. Some might just forcibly take it. Some might convince them to give them the money in exchange for grades. If they had enough to eat, had enough sex in their lives and had enough money, but they needed to feel important and powerful, they would probably use the students to fill those unmet needs.

By the way, most teachers I have met have an unmet need to feel powerful and important. This need is constant because in the school system, they are actually almost powerless in many ways. And in most countries they are getting more and more powerless all the time. For example, the governments are dictating more rules and making the curriculum less flexible. The teachers have less freedom, less control over what they teach and how they teach it. School directors typically don't ask for the teachers' opinions. Teachers rarely vote on anything. Schools are run like dictatorships and totalitarian regimes.

School directors and principals are themselves not in control either, although they like to pretend they are. They are also afraid of losing their jobs. They have more and more rules to follow. They are insecure. They feel easily threatened and quickly defensive. School boards and politicians are also insecure. They have power, but they can all lose it one way or the other, and they know that. So in the entire education system who has the least power? The students.

The students are therefore being used by everyone above them. Everyone above them is insecure. Even the presidents of countries are insecure. Why would they need so much "security" when they travelled if they really felt secure? By the way, if a president really believed in Heaven, for example, and really believed in a loving, protective god, why would they be afraid of dying? Also, if no one hated you, why would you be afraid of being killed? And if people do hate you, wouldn't it be better to figure out why and to talk to them, and more importantly, to listen to them, to learn why they hated you?

But people in power usually don't want to talk to the people who hate them, or even criticize them. They feel too insecure to even be able to listen.

So back to the dolphins and teachers. If you are given power over children, teenagers or dolphins, and you are needy, you are probably going to use the children, teens or dolphins to try to fill your own needs. By the way, let's say that you are using the teenagers to try to fill your own needs. You will probably feel very insecure the whole time you are using them for this reason. The reason is that you know that if they could, they would leave. No one wants to let himself or herself be used. So one key principle in using someone is to not let them leave. Yet in this situation, you always feel insecure. Always. Because you are always afraid that those you are using will either leave or figure out that you are using them and then revolt. In other words, they might hurt you or even kill you.

So you are always afraid of a potential revolution. So you spend a lot of time, money, energy on "security."

Of course if you the children or students believe you are helping them, then they probably won't leave, even if the door is wide open.

But still, at some points they need more than to just sit there in your classroom. They need many things. You can't provide everything they need. So if they are free to leave, eventually they will. That in itself could be scary, even if they were content in your classroom. It could be scary because they might find out they are happier outside of your classroom. Or they might find another teacher who they like better.

In most schools they use two basic means of controlling you. One is physical control and the fear of punishment for not being there. I have been reading about how police are being used more now in various countries to "escort" children or teenagers to school buildings (let's call them Special Purpose Prisons or SPP's - I won't say educational prisons because that is degrades the word education too much for my comfort.).

The other way they control you, or the majority of young people and later the adults, is through getting you to believe that being in school is important, necessary, good for you etc. In other words, propaganda, or if you want, brainwashing.

With these two methods, schools and governments succeed pretty well in the majority of cases. Almost all schools I have seen around the world use some combination of these two means for keeping the masses in schools or SPP's. Some countries rely more on the physical control, and some rely more on the psychological. England, the USA, and Singapore are a few countries who use large doses of each. These are three of the most depressing countries I have been in, not coincidentally.

By the way, one of my goals with the Gypsy children is to keep them out of SPP's. I know it is possible to teach them to read and write, for example, without forcing them to go to schools.

Okay I am about out of things to say for now! Thanks for reading.

Original article at: http://eqi.org/dolphins_and_teachers.htm

See also Dolphins and Students.

Written by: Steve Hein
14 June 2008

Related Stuff:
Discuss this in the forums.
How many teachers would set you free if they could?
Teen Rebellion is not just a phase
How to be a good teacher
Why Education is Broken, by Isamu Fukui
Public school is like prison, or a cult
Accepting that you are inferior
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