Tuesday 10 March 2015

Teaching and motivation - probes

It is true that the best teaching pleases - it is false that what pleases teaches.


Traditionally, teaching was something extracted from an often-reluctant teacher by a highly motivated student; with the advent of mass education teaching came to resemble an eager and motivated teacher striving to impose material on a group of reluctant students.


The best education has eagerness and motivation on both sides; the reality is often that neither side is motivated by the substance but only by careerism and certification - which have become more and more detached from the substance of education.


Modern educational management (and most educational institutions are now run by managers - not teachers, and not students) are an attempt to create a educative system without need for intrinsic motivation in either the teachers or the students; and the pretence that this has actually been achieved.


1 comment:

Nicholas Fulford said...

That is terribly depressing.

I still think that the best minds have an intense curiousity, and a will to learn, and a will to impart knowledge, and a desire to work together on the edge of new discoveries.

It is true that the system seems hellbent on mediocrity, and if that is the goal it is a depressing one, and worse still in its achievement.

I do understand that students have concerns about career that are different from when I went to university. The hope that I experienced was matched by opportunity after graduation, which today would likely not be so well and readily rewarded. My generation - the boomers - had it delivered up like room service. Yes, we had to work, but the opportunities were as ripe as peaches in July. I don't think that is the case today, and I know the worry of graduating in debt and without any guarantees with respect to a decent vocation is a challenge for young people.

The truth is, no teacher and no student can guarantee that education will grant or be granted the careers that use to be so readily available. Hence, the reason for going on to higher education has to be reformulated to not be based upon an economic end, but upon the pure goal of learning and discovering and collaborating to realise things which were previously unknown. This will have appeal to those who have the will, the intelligence, and the creative impetus. I know that is a small segment of the student body. I also know that academia can be a place of petty politics and nasty games. Still, because genius has such a high social value, every seed of genius within the proper academic soil can be a giant amongst lilliputians.

We do need to also be aware of alienation of youth from society. They have been mistakenly conditioned to expect that they can have the rewards without struggle and perseverance. Failure to fail or to allow failure is a major problem. Failure often teaches lessons that are not learned when little Johnny is allowed to proceed without the abilities he should have acquired. This is a problem in the public school system, where teachers are often not permitted to fail students; at least it is that way in Canada. It does not prepare them for higher education, and it does not prepare them for the world outside of school. I still think that something akin to compulsive service which has a regimented structure, and which strengthens and tests mind and body is of great value. I know that such things have fallen out of fashion, but it does not take away from their utility. I learned that others had real power that I could not overcome. I learned to be someone who could take a burden and be relied upon. I learned what it is to be a party of a group in which everyone counted and had to count, where there could be no shirking. These things were essential to me as an all-over-the-map young man, and I am sure that they would be as useful today for others as they were for me 38 years ago.

I hope I am not just dumping on today's youth, because I have seen those who are driven, and there are many who just need a little structure to allow the concrete that will form the foundation of their character to cure into something strong. Unfortunately, what worked for me appears to be out of fashion today.