NUMBER 17 • JUNE 2000
“The work of adolescence”
In our work with children, there are a couple
of good rules to keep in mind. One is that it is always better to say to a
child – instead of "Do it this way" – "How many ways can
you think of to do it?"
The other is to let children find, by
experiment, trial and error, and imitation, which of the possible ways of
doing a thing is best for them.
This best way
may often be our way, the way we would have "taught." This is what
Dennison means by "the natural authority of adults." But even if
in the end children do come to our way of doing things, we should let
them do so in their way.
Some might say, "Why waste time? If we
know that a given way of doing things is best, why not just tell the
children to do it that way?" But our way may not be the best way, but
only the way we are used to. Also, the best way for us, or for some
children, may not be the best way for all.
Finally, it is always better, if he
can do so at not too great cost or risk, for a child to find out something
for himself than to be told. Only from making choices and judgments can he
learn to make them better, or learn to trust his own judgment.
— John Holt, in What Do I Do Monday?
Hobbes by Bill Watterson
“They would not listen
They did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now
They were not listening then
They are not listening still
— Perhaps they never will”
— “Vincent” DON MCLEAN
“Your first act of subversion might be conducted in the
following way: write on a scrap of paper these questions:
- What am I going to have my students do today?
- What's it good for?
- How do I know?
... At their best, the questions will drive you to
reconsider almost everything you are doing, with the result that you will
challenge your principal, your textbooks, the syllabus, the grading system,
your own education, and so on. In the end it may cost you your job, or lead
you to seek another position, or drive you out of teaching altogether.
Subversion is a risky business — as risky for its agent as for its
— Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner in Teaching
as a Subversive Activity