Thursday, July 12, 2007

The “honor student” syndrome
   Bill Bullhard's "three things to unlearn from school"

I’ve sometimes worried that school had a bad influence on honor students. It seems worrisome to be as ready as some honor students are to take as your own the agenda of whoever is at the front of the room. Along similar lines, Bill Bullard (via Ben Casnocha) suggests three things to unlearn from school:

The importance of opinion. “Schools, especially good ones...that so emphasize student voice, teach us to value opinion. This is a great deception. Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge; it requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge, according to George Eliot, is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in anothers world. It requires profound, purpose‐larger‐than‐the‐self kind of understanding.”

The importance of solving given problems.
“Schools teach us to be clever, great problem solvers, but not to include ourselves in the problem thatҒs being solved. This is a great delusion. It makes us arrogant and complacent and teaches us to look at the world as a problem outside of us. As in Oedipus, public problems the plague on Thebes or our own pestilences, war or global warming ֖ are private problems. The plague is only lifted when each person sees his responsibility not in analyzing the problem, not in solving the riddle, but in changing our actions to address a public need. Oedipus destroyed the two things that had deceived him his eyes and his power ֖ and in so doing saved his city.”

The importance of earning the approval of others. “Schools teach students to seek the approval of their teachers. Indeed, for all of our differences, this is one area that parents and teachers share; we are wired or we are hired to believe in you, to approve you, to prevent or mitigate the experiences of disappointment...Try to correct this in two ways. First seek people, work for people who dont have to like you, people who can easily disapprove of you, people that you canҒt easily please.  Their skepticism or indifference will define you. Second, if you dont how to do so already, begin working for yourself, and let the teachers be damned. But they wonҒt be they֒ll just be all the more approving because that kind of integrity can only command respect. After all, most of the work we devise is devised for students who are not working for themselves, so those that do surpass our expectations and teach us things that weve never thought of.”

Having the knowledge is more fundamental than having an opinion, being on the right side is more important than solving an assigned problem, and having integrity is far more important than winning the approval of authorities.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 07/12 at 01:20 PM
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© 2007 Michael L. Umphrey
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