The issue, my children, is control

Recently I read a post about tprs where the teacher said he didn’t like the lack of control over what the students were learning using tprs. That speaks volumes. Too bad we can’t engage these people in dialogue; the posts are too abbreviated and emblematic to allow dialogue.

One time in the 60s I was asked what one factor characterized the welfare clients I worked with. Easy: self-concept. Conversation after conversation, home visit after home visit revealed people who thought very little of themselves and if they had older relatives I could observe interacting with them, it was clear where the low self-esteem came from.

And if there was one thing that characterizes teachers it is the need for control. While classroom management – aka get the little bastards to shut up for a minute – dominates the issue of control, this particular poster was concerned with controlling what the students were learning.

It’s understandable. As a fl teacher, he was going to be judged by the next year’s teacher or by a district exam or by an AP exam. Yet when I think about the process by which a person acquires a second language, it is very difficult to see how that process could possibly be controlled. What is the learner going to pay attention to? Out of all the words and grammatical and phonological features, which will he pick up that day? But the classroom teacher “needs” in a big way to know exactly that.

And as long as we run our schools the way we do, as long as education is still held captive by behavioral psychology, and as long as the culture still sees children as potential sinners not to be trusted, we will continue to teach this way.

As dear old Frank Smith says, “But the final, most potent and destructive reason for all of the programs we have is control – a matter of power and trust. Teachers need programs if they do not trust children to learn, if they feel they must control their learning every step of the way. And people outside the classroom insist on programs if they do not trust teachers to teach, if they feel they must control what teachers do every step of the way. The issue is not pedagogical at all – it is political.” pp. 14-15.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *