Wednesday, November 18, 2009
A comment on Education for helium.com
A paradigm is a mental model, a group of associations that you might have on any given subject. Through paradigm you are able to "make up your mind" about topics. Paradigms are categorized differently depending on whether they are, for instance: Concrete, Abstract, Experienced, Learned, etc. We needn't expand our definition of Paradigm beyond this to make the necessary points in this article.
Social Engineering is the conscious creation of Paradigm through influence. This, like paradigm, is a deeply complicated sociological question that begs accountability of everything from Societies to the Individual. In the terms we require to have the following discussion, presume the following: 1.) Children are sent to teachers to be engineered. (So parents and teachers are on the same page and once a child hits adolescence they often realise the reality of their education.) 2. This awareness changes one's ability to be taught new things. (The student begins to doubt the validity of what he or she is learning.)
So, in a simple example to summarize: A child is taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America in Elementary classes. He brings up this fact with his Father, who is a Professor of American History and is corrected. "No," explains the Father, "Christopher Columbus did not discover America." Perhaps the Professor goes on to explain about Native Americans, Vikings, Columbus' motives, etc. (Perhaps not, depending on his zeal and the ability of his child.) The child has now had multiple paradigms altered: "My teacher was (wrong, a liar, an idiot, etc.)" "The schoolbook we were reading from is (wrong...)" "The cartoon program that I watched depicting Columbus was (wrong...)" Then of course, the bright student wonders, "What else are they wrong about?" perhaps even, "What else am I wrong about?"
Just what is going on here?
There are many things that we pick up along the way that, as they collect in our consciousness, we become "engineered." If these ideas are improper, incorrect or misleading, we can expect to have problems with what we have learned. My example of Columbus is an old and decidedly American falsehood that may have once been considered controversial, but probably isn't even taught anymore.
There are many more current controversies being bandied about in, at the very least, North American schools, but in the interest of fairness, I'll speculate on two paradigms that may be being taught elsewhere, as well.
1.) Science vs. Religion or if you prefer, Evolution vs. Creation. A few years ago it was brought to the attention of educators that there was a concern developing over teaching evolution in science as fact. Some school districts, indeed, some Universities felt the need to create a ruling on this question. Teachers were being instructed to teach evolution as a "theory" and, at minimum, to "not discourage Creationism." At the other extreme, some educators had their entire careers ruined by dismissal due to espousing either one side of the argument or the other.
2.) The Holocaust: Here we have the opportunity to sink our teeth into some controversy that we can, at least, come closer to a difinitive answering. (Unlike the question of God.) History tells us the atrocities of Nazi Germany. We can point to books, (useless as proof,) we can speak to survivors, (better,) and we can go to Germany and visit the deathcamps, watch the footage of bodies being bulldozed into mass graves, (better still.) However, in certain parts of the world, this becomes a question of degrees. Perhaps, (and this is where I begin speculating,) an Iranian teacher might begin a lesson like this, "In world war two many Jews were killed by the Nazis, but the Jews themselves have built this history up into something greater than it is."
Here we come into the bulk of the problem with teaching history and the point of my problem, "History is written." It doesn't really matter to us, three hundred years down the road to say, "By the victors, or spoilers or anyone else for that matter." The argument is that, by being written by anyone, it is rife for propaganda at it's inception and when read, interpretation. We are not able to say with any true philosophical accuracy the motive of the tellers of history, the amount of truth in ancient tales. We are sometimes even unable to know if we are interpreting history correctly. There are times, when correlation is achieved and that is what can lead us to accept any particular paradigm as it relates to what we should or shouldn't be teaching but when there is doubt, there is controversy.
In order to teach what is considered a "grey area" of history or perhaps just a "difference of opinion" we must teachall sides of every argument. If for example, we are assigned to explain the bombing of Pearl Harbour, perhaps it is just as wise to consider the Japanese point of view as it is the American point of view. I would then have to ask, "What about the theory that America "let" the Japanese bomb the harbour to give it a reason to enter the war." How far are we going to take the idea of controversial history? How many rabbits can be chased down how many holes? Do we need to talk about how Japanese pilots were given methamphetamine before missions to encourage kamikaze?
It is a question of relevance and this leads us to the motives of the teacher, the school, the curriculum, the state, the country and ultimately the motives of your society as a whole. The only real solution is to do what we in North America fail so miserably at, we must teach our children to think for themselves. We here, are not teachers, we are programmers. We make "Answer Machines" that memorize, accumulate and regurgitate. If you have a difficulty with this statement, it can easily be proven by asking any young person "Why?" For instance, "When did WW2 break out?" "Why?" "When did America become involved?" "Why?" "What was the result?" "Why?"
There is also something to be said for the power of empathy. Victimization and the anger that stems from it comes from the problems that humans have with differences. Again, our little friend, "Why?" helps. Examining our differences and the "why" of how they create problems is the easiest and most effective way to have young people learn how our differences illustrate our sameness.
Furthermore, it must be said that common sense is lacking, across the board, in all age groups. The most important thing that young people could be taught is how to reason. There is nothing more powerful than the mind who can accept that there are some things in this life that simply can't be known. It might not always be the case, new things are being discovered constantly and we can strive for perfection. Our ability to decide the power we give our paradigms, called Assignee's Prerogative, is ours and ours alone, but only if we take it.
Like all things, we'll get better at teaching when we're better at being.
at 8:33 PM