Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Educator's Dilemma

A pastor once told me that his job was to comfort the hurt and hurt the comfortable. To some extent, that fine balance is the basis of the teacher's dilemma.

You see, all teachers know that cognitive dissonance (i.e. the stuff you are learning is different from what you believe) is the beginning of learning. If you think the stuff you're learning is the same as the stuff you know, then you won't bother.

However, in these days of oh-so-softly customisation of education, sometimes people say we should fit our educational approaches to the strengths and weaknesses of the students. This is also true; making a screwdriver a better screwdriver is probably more useful than turning it into a hammer.

But there are a few problems. Here are some of them.

1) It's hard work to rewire someone's neural net so that new stuff is learnt.

2) If you don't need a screwdriver you might need to perform a tech conversion.

3) You might see a potentially excellent screwdriver, but realise that everyone out there for the next few years is using joint-and-nail.

And so on. The educator's dilemma is to decide whether...

a) to follow the route of hurting people (face it, even if you're very nice, there are issues about people in authority — perceived or positional — using it to brainwash or otherwise influence others), or

b) keeping them happy by helping them do what they do best (and who cares if they don't learn stuff that's useful but which they don't want to learn?).

The main solution is probably along the lines of being wise enough to know how to combine the two into some sort of synthesis, unique to each student and learning relationship. In human society, the older ones will always be the first teachers of the younger ones; we should invest the time we take to grow older in learning to be wiser and make wiser.

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