Thursday, September 6, 2007

Humane education...

I believe that so much of how we act and behave even among adults is shaped by the schooling environment we grew up in ... and oddly enough we don’t even question how that environment spills over into the present, even how it affects our most affective ties that we supposedly work to protect yet find we often end up messing up by some faceless monster we cannot seem to identify.

The following are some selected excerpts reflecting on this nameless creature, that from this moment on we can identify as ¨schooling climate¨. It’s one of those invisible areas of life that seems insignificant yet has shaped our views of life right to the core of our being and not always for the good. If you think about it, who hasn’t passed through this cookie cutter we call schooling that BY THE WAY traditionally uses punitive measures to get the job done and identifies the student as the sole source of any given problem letting the teacher or school off the hook?How many of us question the punitive model that we experienced and that may have left untold scars?

How much of the toxic environment still runs through our veins so that we reenact those punitive ways without even recognizing them? Again, how much of these measures of our schooling effect the way we relate not only to our children, but to each other as adults? I’d like you to read the paragraphs below that basically talk about constructing community and promoting a feeling of safety as opposed to breeding competition and rivalry. I invite you to comment about what you think about the concept of community and the difference it could make applied not only to schooling but to our personal lives.

“Even older children may act in troubling ways because they are wanting for the sort of warm, caring relationships that enable and incline people to act more compassionately. They may have learned to rely on power rather than reason, to exhibit aggression rather than compassion, because this is what they have seen adults do – and perhaps what has been done to them. ‘ Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile’ mostly describes the behavior of people who have hitherto been given only inches.”

‘Communities,’ few people indicate precisely what that term means.” … In saying that a classroom is a ‘community’, I mean that it is a place in which students feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other. They experience a sense of being valued and respected; the children matter to one another and to the teacher.“To say a classroom is a community, is to say it is a place where… care and trust are emphasized above restrictions and threats, where unity and pride (of accomplishment and in purpose) replace winning and losing, and where each person is asked, helped, and inspired to live up to such ideals and values as kindness, fairness, and responsibility. Such a classroom seeks to meet each student’s need to feel competent, connected to others and autonomous… Students are not only exposed to basic human values, they also have many opportunities to think about, discuss, and act on those values, while gaining experiences that promote empathy and understanding of others.”

“… it turned out that the stronger that community feeling was, the more the students reported liking school and the more they saw learning as something valuable in its own right.” “With nothing more than a loosely confederated bunch of free individuals, one is left with the same old rules-and-penalties model. The pursuit of laissez-faire liberty condemns us to a system of control, even though different people may be doing the controlling. Autonomy is not enough; we need community too. ”

“The community approach goes beyond teacher-student interaction and asks us to consider the broader question of how everyone gets along together. It also suggests that the way students turn out is a function not only of what each has been taught, but of how their environment has been set up. If we want to help children grow into compassionate people, we have to help them change the way the classroom works and feels, not just the way each separate member of the class acts. We have to transform not just individuals, but educational structures.”

“What’s more, research has found that shallow, unimaginative instruction – as well as a cynical set of beliefs about children – tends to be associated with teachers who are left to their own devices and wind up valuing their privacy more than anything else. … teachers who do exemplary work in helping students engage deeply with what they are learning are invariably part of collegial communities of educators.” Kohn, Alfie. “Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community.” ASCD publications, Virginia, 1996.

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