Monday, May 07, 2007

Some thoughts

The need for autonomy in learning is becoming increasingly clear. However, unlike some people out there, like university professors and education researchers and theorists dealing with the end result of a failing educational system which encourages dependency, I don't believe this is something that needs to be taught.

The very thought of it is a total contradiction, an absurdity. Autonomy in learning is achieved by simply removing its obstacles - such as schools, which are known to merely create intellectual dependency. So, the process of becoming an autonomous learner is simply a process of unlearning a series of outdated beliefs and allowing children and young people the freedom to make their own choices and take responsibility for their lives.

So why are we, in the 21st century, in a supposedly free society, creating inhuman schools where children are dictated to ALL the time? Yes, I mean ALL the time, because their timetable won't even allow for breaks or play time. Who was it who said: “Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.”?

"Play expert Tim Gill said: "It's symptomatic of a way of thinking about children that we have to control and programme and manage every aspect of their lives. That seems to me to be extremely damaging in the long-term because children need to have some time where they take responsibility and they make everyday decisions about what they're doing."

Like John Gatto said, schools create intellectual dependency! The very opposite of autonomy. But who wants autonomous citizens?

The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency. Good people wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. It is the most important lesson, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. The expert makes all the important choices; only I can determine what you must study, or rather, only the people who pay me can make those decisions which I enforce.

This power to control what children will think lets me separate successful students from failures very easily. Successful children do the thinking I appoint them with a minimum of resistance and decent show of enthusiasm. Of the millions of things of value to study, I decide what few we have time for, or it is decided by my faceless employer. The choices are his, why should I argue? Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity.


It's time we moved on; we are living in fast changing times. Time for 'power-with' - time to let go of 'power-over'. Information is becoming less and less valuable and I reckon we, the human race, are heading towards a deeper understanding of the limitations of knowledge. It's time we start asking different questions, questions like what's the purpose of knowledge, what are we educating for? To survive and make a living? To impress other people with the letters our children add to their names? To ease our insecurities? To get some form of 'life insurance'? For power and control? As a way to mantain the existing status quo? To continue to justify class divisions and prejudice? As a weapon?

What's the point of collecting and memorising facts? In a world where we're all becoming more aware of the changing nature of things, isn't it time to start questioning the very existence of facts? We know that nothing exists in a fixed, solid way. Everything is changing, moment by moment. So when we think we know something, what is it we know? Do we actually know something or are we just solidifying a temporary and relative way of making sense of something?

We're here on this Earth for such a little time. Soon we'll all be dead. But while we're here, why not learn to be happy? What's the point of being a miserable learned person? I think it's a good idea to stop wasting time and realise that there's a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom.

1 comment:

Gill said...

Very well said! I wish all those people who think "Life is hard work" and "Children have to learn how to comply" would read this and think about it. I hope they'll get to a happier more effective way of thinking eventually. As you say, change is happening fast now.