It seems to me that every item or episode of learning should come with a disclaimer that what the teacher is saying may be wrong.
This approach could make classroom work difficult yet, it might help prevent some of the follies that have led to gargantuan messes.
In the 1970’s Gil Scott Heron sang in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,
You will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom
The tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The tiger in your tank comes from an advertising campaign that ran when I was a boy.
Esso ditched tigers a while ago, I suspect in part because oil exploration and usage and environmental preservation are awkward bedfellows.
In the old days people thought cars were great.
We now know about the Climate Crisis and the tigers are dying-out.
My daughter recently moved to a new school.
Her reasons for relocating are complex and if you want details you had better ask her.
I was however delighted when she showed me a letter from the headmistress in which she wrote to all of the students (not cc’ing the parents) (students are young people, not children) about a recent decision reached between the school and the student council to alter the events scheduled for the Day of the Dead.
This event, which, ironically happens on my daughter’s birthday on the second of November is a Latin American festival of remembrance, celebrating the lives of those who have died.
If you look at my last blog I somehow touched on this then – it must have been in the aether.
The students had challenged that their participating in the Day of the Dead – dressing-up like skeletons, so very close to Halloween would potentially be a form of cultural appropriation – where the culture of another group is used indiscreetly, perhaps mockingly (if you watch TV shows and films of the 1970’s this was the heyday of the genre).
The students were concerned that their actions could be construed as insulting and lacking respect, and so, an agreement was reached, where the year group who in their course are studying the culture of Latin and South America who have an understanding of what they are doing will dress-up, in line with cultural appreciation. And the rest of the school for whom it would otherwise would have been a fun day will not. No mocking of the dead. The students were advised if they liked they could write a poem about someone who has died.
My daughter showed me this letter as it touched her heart. This is education that is happy to reflect and admit it is wrong, to change direction, to appreciate the feelings of others, to change direction.
I may not have conveyed this as well as the letter and I don’t think it is right to post it here, suffice it to say, it spoke to me as it spoke to my daughter.
What does this have to do with your usual themes of old people and emotions?
Well, to me, there is a very close connection between the approach taken by my daughter’s headmistress and the students who are spat-out of universities, particularly those studying medicine, nursing or therapy.
These health-science courses are predicated on a theory of education that values evidence-base above all.
Drug X, if given to 1000 people will save 10 lives. It might harm one person but the harm is mild. The benefits are worth the costs. Give drug X.
Drug X could be a treatment, a technique or a practice. It doesn’t matter.
When students are told about drug X they tend to hear the ’10 lives saved’ they don’t hear that 990 people will not receive any benefit.
That’s one thing.
And, in my experience, when you have a grey-haired professor telling you that something (especially if it is their research-topic) is true, you believe it.
Fast-forward ten years and it is discovered that drug X after 10 years is the cause of harm to 200 people. The harm was not recognised at first.
Now, I am not an enemy of this theory, it is called Evidence Based Medicine, or EBM, I am however more a fan of Person (or Individual) Based Medicine. The realisation that no matter what a study or multiple studies show, each human is unique and we all respond differently to medicines.
‘That’s not a usual side-effect of the medicine,’ does not mean, ‘You are inventing the side-effects, keep taking the drug,’ more, most people might not have this experience. You are you, you are unique. Let’s stop and think.
It is the stopping and thinking that seems to be lacking in education.
And, it is why I found my daughter’s head teacher’s letter so refreshing.
Educators acknowledging that what they say isn’t necessarily right.
If the government took this approach, imagine where we would be.
Yet, the government is filled with individuals who have an evangelical belief that they are right.
That doctors and nurses aren’t working hard enough, that the poor are poor from choice, and, that good things come to those who deserve it or who were born lucky.
And so on.
When I was a young doctor we thought that giving intravenous lignocaine during cardiac arrest was a good-thing, that it somehow helped the heart. Ten years later we found that it killed people.
What do I know now that will be turned on its head tomorrow?