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Learning at its Best

To train and control or to teach and learn: is there a choice?

Originally posted at

It seems that the goal of institutions is dominion over mankind. Organizations function to tame wild spirits and make them act civilly. This is not a terrible thing— people acting civilly. But, do the rulers act civilly? Not just the grand rulers, the government, corporations, etc., but the smaller rulers. Those who have dominion over few. Teachers might fall into this category. Are we just miniature tyrants? Are we forced to be? Expected to be? If we are, or aren’t do we have a choice in the matter?

The choice is often a matter of rebellion. Our institutions, which stand to standardize the masses, require a certain level of tyrannical behavior for those who work within their walls. My power as a teacher, in this system, is based on how well I manage behavior and control the flow of information. The flow of information and behavior are tied together. In a system such as our where we deposit arbitrary and minimally useful information into learners then there must be a system of behavioral management. When you colonizing a mind, there must be sanctions to prevent and/or quell rebellion. To teach there must be learning. To deposit information there must only be classroom management and training.

To return to an earlier question: do we have the choice, as teachers, to not behave as mini-tyrants? No, not “succeed” in this system. Learning for a test or standardization or massification requires some sort of coercion, whether positive or punitive, it requires an external force to motivate the learner. Tyranny is required to extend or impose tyranny. There is a choice however, and it isn’t between “success” and “failure”. The choice is between teaching and training. One requires an act of open rebellion. The rebellious and radical teacher will choose to not function as an extension of the hand of tyranny that works to dictate the goings on within a classroom, and more poignantly the minds of the recipients of said education. Our form of education, that focuses on mass standardization at the cost of neglecting the curious human spirit, forces us to choose between doing our job and teaching children. We can train and manipulate automatons or we can teach and learn with humans. Your choice.


4 thoughts on “To train and control or to teach and learn: is there a choice?

  1. Coming home from #DML2012, I’m thinking about these same issues tangled up in #edtech/maker #edreform grants and competitions. How do we move from funding outward to contributing inward? What can our model here on the Coöp teach new media organizations with old institutional behaviors? How do well-intentioned #edreform organizations stop looking for applicants and start looking for communities of authentic practice inside and outside schools wherever they are, including in those schools and districts where real work has to be kept under wraps?


    Posted by Chad Sansing | March 5, 2012, 9:34 am
  2. I think we need to reflect on our personal teaching philosophies and beliefs and practice them, regardless of the tyranny. Education is an institution, deeply founded on pillars of power and control, but we know there’s more to teaching and learning than dispensing knowledge. I like how you mentioned the human spirit, often times the whole child is forgotten in our system. We must stop believing that ‘knowledge’ is written in a curriculum book. What about our students experiences? What about all the knowledge in the room already? #Edreform comes from recognizing that one is oppressed, this includes having the students understand the systems that are oppressing them.

    Posted by sarah | March 6, 2012, 12:41 pm
  3. Im currently searching for a teaching job in New Orleans, and — if I can even find one without joining TFA — I will likely be involved in a highly standardized program at a charter school. I taught for two years in a public Montessori school, and even there I sometimes felt like I was more focused on classroom management than “following the child.”

    I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how I’ll adapt to a seriously rigid program, too many students in too small a space, disappearing recess and extracurriculars, etc. For one thing, I need to know my limits. There are some ways I just won’t treat kids, even in the name of the “achievement gap.” All the get a check, lose a recess, Imma call on you when you don’t want to be, but not call on you if you get too excited… it just looks insane to me. And it doesnt help students learn. And it doesnt even work for its intended purpose of controlling their behavior!

    The only thing I can think of is to use approaches and tools that are familiar to admin and as minimally tyrannical as possible.

    Posted by Jason Lacoste | March 8, 2012, 1:56 pm


  1. Pingback: To train and control or to teach and learn: is there a choice? « geniusstorm - December 3, 2012

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