FACEBOOK WRITINGS ON EDUCATION, 2016.
You must NEVER EVER create conditions for people to fail, specially for the best of people. You must only create conditions for SUCCESS. Otherwise, stand aside. This is ABSOLUTELY a MUST in the area of education.
Even creating conditions in which errors may occur is perfectly sensible; errors may lead to great SUCCESSES. What is totally insensible is to create conditions where errors are the direct path to failure.
Most education nowadays is of the second kind. A striking example is the “solemnity of plagiarism”. As if teaching a CODE were teaching/reaching a person.
Education is wholly based on either: a) sacrifice, or b) happiness (“eudamonia”). It cannot have it both ways.
Now, some think that learning sacrifice LEADS to happiness. We strongly think those who believe this are quite confused. We can show why. We can’t do it here, though!
In contrast, we believe these two educational roads never ever touch, and that road b) is rarely taken —hardly known— because road a) has great powers on its side. These powers are in high positions (political and entrepreneurial), and perhaps are even otherworldly!
In other words, we know so little of happiness (“eudaimonia”), it has become unrecognizable in our lives and in our education.
Nonetheless, everyone believes, almost blindly, that they ARE happy: preferably so, if less questioned about what their happiness means! Here, the education on happiness, road b), comes to an end.
(Note: “eudaimonia” is the word Aristotle uses for what we kind of understand as “happiness”)
Industrialized education does not teach to love learning and its many gentle, even fun, shared surprises.
Rather, industrialized learning —the learning of our time, and especially of our ginormous educational facilities– teaches the repetitive process of information sharing towards a marketable degree. It hardly teaches one to laugh. It is the most serious of the serious. It proudly speaks of “industry standards”.
And though, super serious, industrialized learning is intent on the unimportant: on the ritual of attendance, on the ritual of the exam, on the ritual of the levels and prerequisites, on the ritual of extremely minute objectives and goals, on the ritual of the attack on plagiarism, on the ritual of certification. Its seriousness is one based on mere formality. This kind of seriousness is empty.
Industrialized education sacrifices the potential inherent in our human encounters, those infrequent encounters sought by those of us who truly wish to learn to learn. This is unforgivable. For these encounters are far and between, these encounters are face to face —-many a time—- on a one-on-one basis. They are so rare, people generally cannot understand what is going on when they do happen. They are surprised by actually seeing and feeling for themselves the real nature of learning. They even get quite angry.
Moreover, industrialized education requires a weird notion of “teamwork”, one which means that being part of the “team” means adjusting to the unquestioned demands of these processes themselves! I mean, “don’t rock the boat, otherwise, it might sink!” This is why a proper metaphor for industrialized education is certainly the Titanic; the most industrial of things ever. They never thought they would sink.
And yes, all this is truly being part of a team, alright. But, it is being part of a BAD team! Luckily, there are a few better teams out there! And besides, a “team” is nothing other than the quality of its players; their quality not as experts —which is what industrial education loves— but their quality as humans.
Finally, industrialized education is an education –ironically– that cannot question; it especially cannot question itself.
But, we ask, has there ever been a real education —-a worthwhile education— which teaches anything other than actually learning the difficult process of questioning? For, isn’t questioning oneself, the most difficult thing to do? Aren’t we perturbed when we are led gently to face ourselves? For isn’t it easier to hide from ourselves, easier to live our lives in permanent hiding from ourselves? “Being unknown to yourself”; THAT, is a life not worth living. However, isn’t the great teacher, the great student, the one who allows us to seriously contemplate, first, the nature of questioning oneself and our actions, and only then, the nature of kindly questioning those around us and their actions? And yet, industrialized education can hardly teach us to ask a single important personal question.
Nowhere is this terrifying reality more easily seen than in the worldwide, extremely powerful, and billion-dollar producing industry which is the teaching of the English language. It even teaches you solely to learn to pass language exams. To be honest, it is kind of embarrassing to spend the days and hours of your precious life just repeating an exam over and over to pass the very same exam! And yet, this is the accepted norm. Universities are the other striking example. For you see, among many other things, first you must pass the language exams to be able to, finally, access university “education” itself! But this is all wrong, seriously wrong. These institutions not only have a chance to change things, they have a responsibility to do so.
Education must return to a certain kind of simplicity to be effective at all, to be education at all; an education in which we learn to love to learn. Simple.
(And in our defense. All education now says it is intent on teaching “critical thinking”; we who have taught many “critical thinking”, surely should be able to exemplify it.)
One of the many paradoxes of education is this:
Few become good teachers, yet every single parent wants their child to be taught by a great teacher.
Healing this situation involves rethinking learning beyond sacrifice.
Having taught for so many years in different areas and, specially, in personal one-to-one contexts, it has become clear that only Socratic philosophy really sees that education ought to, first and foremost, direct its attention to the question of human anger (“thumos”). Most education today sidesteps the issue. Many academics would rather hide within the walls of their disparate universities and departments, than confront certain realities outside them. The reality of anger scares them. In the ESL context, it is striking to see how much anger moves freely in multiple directions. Our education makes the presence and question of anger quite invisible and therefore fails terribly at educating. Just think of the horrifying, yet quite common, reality of bullying.
In contrast, Socratic philosophy raises the question both with respect to the anger one feels towards others, as well as to the anger one feels towards oneself: the two clearly interconnected as everyone has experienced personally. The most famous Socratic example is swearing at an inanimate object with which you have hit yourself because YOU have been too clumsy!
“Fu …&@#@#%”, chair”, you say angrily at an object that is lifeless!.
Humans, specially modern humans with the power of science, even spread their silenced anger towards nature and its creatures. Hence the appearance of extinction.
This anger, specially the one directed towards oneself, is the main block towards a fuller understanding. But unlike other traditions —for instance, the Christian or Buddhist traditions—- the Socratic tradition does not seek to destroy this anger. Rather, it channels it in different ways. Unlike Christians, and their notion of divinity, Socrates wants to deal with the question of anger in human terms, not in another world. Famously, it attempts to redirect the terrible consequences of anger in the political arena. Socratic philosophy cures the desire for tyranny which, Socratic seems to have believed, is intimately connected to our human nature. This connection being even more pronounced in the case of those who themselves, and friends, and parents, and society, consider to be “the best”. In short, in those who hear, feel and learn to love applause.
The most important reality which follows from a prolonged Socratic education (which, of course, involves reading the life of Socrates!) is the appearance of a certain serene happiness. Ironically, those who come into contact with such a way of being will —-instead of seeking to overcome their own anger—- try to do everything to prove that this strange way of being is impossible. The less those educated in this Socratic tradition respond with anger, the greater the anger the person who has not undergone this change feels. The Socratic should never be afraid of such situations.
It seems Socrates believed that feeling this anger is perhaps the first step in overcoming ourselves. However, our modern educational models cannot even see the issue.
Where education is a bunch of self-enclosed clubs, there is little to no education. Today that is the norm, specially in Canada. Its defenders will cry foul upon encountering fuller, more complete forms of understanding.
A derivative is the nature of networking so as to secure labour positions. So-called “networking”, networks only within the limits of its “nets”; it knows no other possibilities, it precludes all other possibilities, even as foolish. To “network” is to accept the limits of understanding to what is close, known, even average. Networking truly catches you in its “net”, it is akin to a spider. (Not to mention the troublesome relationship between networking and meritocracy and democracy.)
If one were to be skeptic about our claims, one need only think about the world economic crisis of 2008. Not in vain is networking a prime virtue for business people. Such networking proved to be disastrous to the whole world. One need only watch the 2016 Oscar-winning film “The Big Short” once again. (Not to mention the networks behind the oscar-wining movie “Spotlight”!). Now, other areas follow this lead; ESL teaching is a clear example. Networking is the norm, no matter the consequences. Networking is, ironically, founded on a certain kind of silence and a certain kind of fear. “Teamwork” is its favourite buzzword. This is why it is quite difficult to question. Even whole countries are lead under its premises as networking provides a chance for power both political and economic.
In contrast, real education is about permanent exploration, desire for learning and trespassing limits wisely. Real education liberates, specially from power, and most certainly from economic concerns. Networking in the true sense arises out of the interchange of such liberated minds.
In this, the Ancient Greeks are still, and will always be, our educators. In this respect, we will always network with Socrates and Aristotle. As Socrates famously said on the day of his trial, just a few days before his execution:
“and if again I say that to talk every day about virtue and the other things about which you hear me talking and examining myself and others is the greatest good to man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you will believe me still less. This is as I say, gentlemen, but it is not easy to convince you.” (Plato’s Apology 38a)
Urgent reading in times when —for the great majority—- security has become like a God. The main goal seems safeguarding retirement, through multiple means and measures, so that I can proudly say to myself and others; “I made it”. Proudly, I feel like an example for those who follow primarily because of what I have come to possess (ironically, including my family). Proudly, I feel like I have done my share to safeguard the overwhelmingly powerful network of security itself. Loving security I can rest in peace. Teaching security I leave a legacy.
However, loving security means living without risking the greater possibilities of understanding and being. Loving security may just be a way of sharing fear in such a way that it becomes fashionable. We may even share this profound fear so that we are not horrified by looking at ourselves. Philosophically, this is the critique of Locke and his “joyless joy”.
We desire no such life for it is surely among the lowest. But many will defend it at all costs.
More personally, few —-if any—- understand why we continuously affirm that serious illness can become one of the greatest goods for some. One of the reasons is that one can no longer love the security others wish to possess forever and ever.
The unexpected presence of iIllness sets us free to the possible. For most, this freedom is impossible. Hence their unhappiness.
Famous TED Talk and an example of why Business has taken over so many roles from the Humanities. Business, as this TED Talk shows, even has an answer to the most fundamental question: “why”.
An example, the question of leadership. Secluded, the Humanities have lost/forgotten much of their original and fundamental leadership nature.
“So long as my teaching position is secure, the Humanities will do well”, many seem to say to themselves. Comfort seems to rule the Humanities, nowadays. Little wonder the current CRISIS in the Humanities, and particularly in Philosophy.
Greek philosophy “reteaches” the question of leadership and restores the Humanities to their natural and exceptional living leading role.
Socrates the living example; Aristotle the leading exponent. Both have shown how this restoration won’t be undertaken without a “fight”.
Canadians seem to be so drunk by the success of their own self-image, that it seems unlikely they can own up to the way they built their current Lockean identity based greatly on their intense Lockean work ethics. Living in English-speaking Toronto means living this Lockean reality on a daily basis. ESL schools teach this Lockean identity and therefore are of little help in seriously transforming the actual situation of Canadian Aboriginals. They seem hardly aware of their own presuppositions. They seem hardly aware of the fact that Aboriginals were forced to learn English and forced to despise their own languages, and thus, despise themselves. Questioning this linguistic identity spurs great anger. We are not afraid.
And yet, every Canadian knows —or should know— what Locke, in English, famously had to say about Aboriginals.
This short reading reveals why many people do not go into teaching and why society sees teaching as it does. Many see teaching as a kind of self-sacrifice. The potential teacher “sacrifices” him/herself for his/her students. The students learn from this “sacrifice of oneself” and somehow “become better people”, presumably because they learn that everything is about sacrificing yourself for others. The situation today is such that students expect a teacher to do this. And the level of sacrifice is such that in the reading the author says that the best teachers will receive the greatest rewards, but in the afterlife! Teaching is all about sacrifice for which there will one day be a reward. Even parents, who see themselves as sacrificing so much, see teaching in this weird negative mode. Now parents will say that their children should pass BECAUSE they are sacrificing so much!
But this is all wrong. We are sure of this. Before teaching, there is learning. One learns fundamentally oneself, even if with the presence of others like teachers and books and friends. Learning, one comes to one’s own and there is nothing more joyous in life than this, no greater happiness than being able to see who one is, both in thought and emotion. Such happiness at being liberated from our lack of sense and direction, our anger, our misunderstanding ourselves, and our lack of purpose, teaches us that true learning is nothing but the pleasure of understanding oneself better. This way of seeing teaching is the exact opposite of the previous one.
The less one self-sacrifices oneself, the more one learns. That is why, when you see a joyous teacher, students become really confused. They cannot believe a teacher teaches out of joy. They think the teacher is merely “acting”, that such joy is pure fiction BECAUSE —they think— the teacher must SACRIFICE him/herself for us and for his/her calling! The situation is such that upon encountering this situation students will react in truly unparalleled ways.
How does one come know this much more truthful and more complete view of learning and teaching? If lucky, by learning to learn oneself. For you are your best and most intimate teacher, there is no doubt about that. But most people cannot even be with themselves. If not, by actually seeing a joyous teacher in action, that is to say, a teacher set adamantly against teaching as self-sacrifice. You can count yourself lucky if this happens even once in your lifetime. Such teaching does not need rewards ( including the reward of tenure) for it has already received the greatest of rewards, namely, the joy of knowing who one is!
Just recently a director of a school told me that a teacher must learn to “roll with the punches”. At that very moment, I understood this kind of mentality would never ever see education as joy, and would never see the sole purpose of education to teach happiness and the joy of learning. So many other similar examples have I heard AND SEEN from the very people who are the educators, that it is obvious that “teaching as self-sacrifice” will always ask the other conception of learning, “learning as happiness”, to sacrifice itself before its altar. This second rare type of teachers will be labeled “egotistic” and bad “team-workers”.
Este sí es el debate que se debe dar.
El debate lo arrancó Aristófanes cuando escribió “Las Nubes”, obra cómica acerca del joven Sócrates. Todo ciudadano/a ha de leerlo. ¡Está lleno de bajezas absolutamente cómicas!
Hoy en día los “clubes” de filosofía —que dentro de sus paredes viven una discordia sin precedentes (no más diga usted que es straussiano y prepárese pal piedradón)!— parecieran no conocer de ese texto. Creen sobreseguros que son indispensables. Hoy en día la filosofía se ha desprendido radicalmente de la perspectiva ciudadana; la perspectiva política por excelencia. Eso tiene consecuencias serias. No compartimos el ensimismamiento de las universidades; le creemos más bien al Sócrates mayor para quien la filosofía es: a) un modo de vida, b) una preparación para la muerte, y c) el único campo humano que en verdad conoce la naturaleza de lo erótico. Para no mencionar el punto más importante.
Una manera sencilla de pensarlo es la siguiente: ¿usted qué diría si su hijo/a le dijera que desea estudiar filosofía? De seguro todos dirían: “Claro mijito/a hágale.” Uy, yo recuerdo!
La pregunta sigue siendo: ¿en qué radica ese miedo del ciudadano ante el filosofar? La relación entre virtud, nobleza y felicidad revela mucho al respecto.
O más dramáticamente, ¿en qué consiste el peligro de la filosofía para el ámbito político del ciudadano/a serio/a y comprometido/a?
Este debate no se dá en ninguna parte mejor que en “La Ética Nicomáquea” de Aristóteles.
Lovely read. Specially relevant to those teaching ESL.
“You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing.”
The aim is transformation, nothing else is really relevant.
Teaching is truly a living thing; perhaps the most living thing, except for learning.
Canada must first resolve its most fundamental issue, the Aboriginal question, before pretending to be one of the world’s moral standards. Canadians constantly repeat they were a safe haven for slaves (e.g., series The Book of Negroes and its mocking of General Washington), except that they created another kind of slavery.
In this respect, as we have written elsewhere, it is specially ESL teaching/teachers who must recognize the historical damage the English language has created and continues to create. However, the ESL mentality seems to have nothing to learn from Aboriginal ways of being.
So many companies now say they are like a “family”. One feels like asking: “Really? And who are the father and mother?” (Note: do not ask this question as it will get you into trouble with the “family”!)
What they seem to mean —among so many other things— is that a company is a set of brothers and sisters who make up a kind of team. An ideal (unreal) team, for everyone knows the reality of brothers and sisters! And, of course, the new arrivals should understand that they are the little sister and the little brother and must learn from the older ones. This is the privilege of seniority.
For us, the only seniority is that of fuller understanding.
Teacher’s day: “if I say … that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being, you will be persuaded by me still less … (Socrates)” RARE!