A response to a question….

“I just remembered a sentence that I learned in two college classes: “Aprender a aprender” (“Learning to learn”). I also remember another sentence from a kids show in Spain in the 80s: “Aprender a desaprender” (Learning to dis-learn). After reading things about de-schooling and homeschooling …

I wonder if the description of X just confirms that sentence from Mark Twain: “I did not let my schooling stop my learning” (??). Is learning unconscious? Are schools stopping the natural skills we have? Why do we have to trust experts-authorities in order to learn? Were “pedagogs” paid slaves in the ancient Greece? Do schools have the monopoly of learning?

If this is happening at the classroom level, can be transferred to a greater scale? If so, what is the purpose?”

As usual, another deep question from Angel. The word “unlearn” is quite common in English, so I’m wondering if you used “dis-learn” advisedly, i.e. you had a special meaning or purpose with dis-learn. I am not as up on learning theory and the issues of pedagogy as people may think just because I’m familiar with Ivan Ilych and Paolo Freire, etc. What I do have is a ton of experience outside the school setting, esp with people the schools have failed. I can tell you more about that if you’d like; in fact, I’d put it on my blog it’s a good thing to go into for people to know where I’m coming from (it’s funny how in English “where are you coming from?” is a phrase that arose in the 60s but the same thing in Russian, otkuda vy?, is quite standard).
If you’ll notice on the listserv, most members are very tied up in their jobs and want to know how to do that job within the limits or parameters, as people say nowadays of that job. I always started from a completely different position: what is the goal of the job, the purpose, the raison d’etre? If I worked for Child Protective Services and my job was #1 to protect children and #2 to keep united or reunite families, I did both, a careful balancing act that left no room for “procedures” and bureaucratic niceties. When I became a fl teacher, the goal was students proficient in the language to the level time permitted. Again, that left little time for items that did not lead to that. (a caveat here: I always included a lot of linguistics b/c I felt that would help them understand my methods, so different from those of their other teachers, even fl teachers, and I taught a lot of culture b/c my students tended to have views so prejudiced as to be hostile toward people whose language they were studying). I had no interest in contests, in national organizations (for the students), for standardized tests which did not test for proficiency, etc.
Let me be clear: I had my days of punting (football analogy) where I just had to throw something together (sometimes my best lessonsSmile ) and toward the end of the year I would decide it was time for grammar b/c it is just so hard to teach a communicative lesson, let alone CI. But all in all, I gave it my best under difficult circumstances (3 languages with mixed-level classes in 2 of them…. for 20 years). The desaprender issue was huge precisely b/c, as Twain said, you can ‘t let school stop learning. So why does it?
Two reasons, if you really want to know my opinion: one is that we are a colonial society based on a caste and class system (read the 1930s classic “Caste and Class in a Southern Town”) where “los de abajo” have grown in numbers and progressed to the extent that the school system based on training workers en masse and providing an education to the children of the dominant class is now overloaded and straining under the often hypocritical attempt to educate all children. Just look at the Hispanic population: a small minority 20 years ago until the managers saw a cheap labor supply and our economic policy created a pool of jobless in Mexico so we could turn a blind eye to the border as they crossed over. Despite obstacles, a huge number of the children and grandchildren of those “braceros” have enough education now to vote and guess who they are voting for? Their natural soul-mates, the Republicans, who support religion, no birth control or abortion, big families, an ethic of hard work, loyalty to the flag and military service? Hell no, not so much b/c Democrats have made a home for them in their party (we saw the movie Cesar Chavez Friday and it shows a little of the climate of the times re the Democrats, unions, etc.) but b/c the Republican base can’t give up its racist rhetoric covering a simmering penchant for violence to resolve demographic challenges.
The second reason is that American education bought into two pedagogical ideologies: the first in the 19th century when the Prussian system was embraced and fit the factory worker prep mentality of the time and the second the Behaviorist model of learning in the 50s and esp the 70s. These two ideologies demand strict conformity by everyone and a rigid system of accountability to ensure the former. The messiness of the American education system allowed for great latitude in the application of these two ideologies and there were always alternative views available and expressed, most notably John Dewey. Notice that all of this lines up with politics, in part due to the first reason: the culturally imposed belief that behavior is tied to “race” and that control of the other races aka marginal socioethnic groups in the society is paramount (going back to the “patrollers” under slavery), so that conservatives, most concerned with maintaining order their order line up with these two ideologies.
The whole notion that human beings are “programmed” aka biologically structured to learn goes against these control-based ideologies if kids learn naturally, where is there room for controlling that learning process, and without control, how can we guarantee they will turn out the way we want them to, round pegs for round holes and square pegs for square holes because that’s how conservatives see society, only they call it “duty”. So in the fl classroom, giving up explicit grammar instruction in favor of allowing the learner’s brain to function along natural acquisition lines, challenges the control required by the hierarchical, authoritarian, duty-first crowd. Thus, IMHO, the resistance to and even opposition to CI. The scoffing you read on other listservs regarding CI or communicative-based courses reflects this hostility to the loss of control, more to the point, the fear of it. We can’t let the natives get restless or the lower orders rise up they will overwhelm us and murder us in our beds.

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