Laurie goes on:
“Each human being has a unique perspective and living situation.” While most teachers would agree with this general statement, they balk when you try to apply it to the kid they are having a problem with. They get very tied up in the perspective he ought to have and the living situation his parents ought to provide. Bringing this into the classroom, the notion that each of us has a unique perspective and living situation, is difficult and has effect only when the living situation is dramatic.
“Young people can and will do the right thing when it makes sense to them.” In the eyes of some, this is pernicious. Their idea of the right thing is a law laid down by The Grand Poo Bah, whether that be government authority, parental authority, religious authority, or military authority. The law must be obeyed. The very fact it doesn’t make sense is all the more reason to obey it. That mind set might not characterize a lot of people you know, but some version of it, a diluted version, comes to us in the form of conformity and dull acceptance. Joel Barker, in his video The Business of Paradigms, talks about the courage of paradigm pioneers, those in the process of forming a new paradigm in challenging the old, the courage required to stand up to the naysayers and conformists who wield a lot of clout in our society, esp in education. Letting young people go off and have their own sense of what is right and what makes sense is anathema to folks like that; their idea of educating youngsters is to form their sense and to tell them what to do.
This massive array of rules and regulations designed to channel and control people is labeled structure. This notion of structure, so frequently invoked, has always bothered me, particularly in its relation to learning. One day not long ago, I read in Frank Smith, one of my favoritest authors, that structure = control. Oh!! Bam!! That’s it. It is the lack of sincerity I feel when teachers invoke structure that bothers me so much. I feel like I want to urge them to just go ahead and say what they really want: control. Smith put it into words.
Which leads me to another aha moment, one from today. I was having breakfast with my family in a restaurant, celebrating my son’s forty-fifth birthday, when the name Sheldon Kopp popped into my head, I jotted it down on the tag of a teabag so I wouldn’t forget, and while out on my deck sorting through my school stuff in preparation for a week of goal setting, I saw the tag and went and got the book.
There’s some history to this book. I have been confirmed a Buddhist by two different ordained Buddhist priests (it’s just a matter of an interview to see if your understanding of Buddhism is close enough to the religion for you to realistically say you are one no being slapped or hit over the head with a kendo sword). So when I went to a church one day about 30 years ago and saw a book on the lending library shelf titled If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him, I was intrigued. At that point in my life, I was going through a mid-life crisis (for those of you who haven’t had one, let me tell you, they are real, physical manifestations and all) and trying to work in the world of sales. I was doing OK but frantically unhappy away from my work as a psychotherapist. Reading this book showed me what I needed to be doing and allowed me the patience to take a job as a counselor while working on a teaching certificate.
So when I opened the book today to the first page, I devoured those lines just as I had the first time I saw them and thought: “This is what I’ve been trying to tell people about the way I teach and its ties to the way I did therapy.” So what I’d like to do here is write out several paragraphs from this book and see what you think. I will comment on it.
Because it is so long, I am putting it into a separate blog entry.