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Studying Extracts 09-12

In a way, it is easy to imagine classrooms without textbooks and timetables. The extracts 03, 04, 07 and 08 and the discussion forum, join the discussion encourage us to consider this proposition. With some careful planning and cooperation from administration/colleagues this may become possible and with little more effort, even successful. A textbookless or timetableless classroom, however, is inextricably linked to a clearer understanding of discipline and control.

Herbert Kohl says that he never solved the ‘discipline problem’. Perhaps it is not a problem at all and hence nobody needs to solve it.

Let us now read a few sentences (in italics) from the extracts.

According to Shaw, a child's rights is the right to live. This right permits the child to behave in an altogether unaccountable manner within the limits imposed by the similar rights of its neighbors. Neill conveys the same sentiment when he says; each individual is free to do what he likes as long as he is not trespassing on the freedom of others. We speak here of granting a free choice to children to do what they want. While granting this, it is also our responsibility to convey to children the limits highlighted by Shaw and Neill.

Dennison says, the proper concern of a primary school is not education in a narrow sense, and still less preparation for later life, but the present lives of the children and the present life of a child is clearly, as Shaw points out, to be what the child likes and can, to do what it likes and can, to make what it likes and can, to think what it likes and can, to smash what it dislikes and can, and generally to behave in an altogether unaccountable manner within the limits imposed by the similar rights of its neighbors. However, when a child refuses a lesson he is not interested in, his disobedience merely expresses his own desires, which obviously do not intrude on or hurt anyone else. Discipline is a means to an end. Obedience should be social courtesy. Adults should have no right to the obedience of children. It must come from within-- not be imposed from without.

The mainspring of discipline is fear of censure (criticism). The present quagmire of public education is entirely the result of unworkable centralization and the lust for control that permeates every bureaucratic institution. An active moral life cannot be evolved except where people are free to express their feelings and act upon the insights of conscience. When the conventional routines of a school are abolished (the military discipline, the schedules, punishments and rewards, the standardization), what arises is neither a vacuum nor chaos, but rather a new order, based first on relationships between adults and children, and children and their peers, but based ultimately on such truths of the human condition as these: that the mind does not function separately from the emotions but thought partakes of feeling and feeling of thought.

It is easy, in the grip of fear, to imagine that the children are never controlled -- in fact uncontrollable. It is a short step from there to the belief that the children aren’t really human at all but ‘animals’, wild, undisciplined, formless and chaotic.

Consider the thought flows that emerge from this study:

Concerning children

  1. Children have the right to do what they want.
  2. A child’s right should not interfere with other’s rights.
  3. Children are entitled to express their dislike for certain tasks. This should not be considered as disobedience if it does not hurt others (come in the way of other’s rights).
  4. Adults should not impose discipline but encourage self-discipline
  5. If the above is allowed, children automatically “discipline” themselves.

Concerning teachers

  1. The need to impose discipline comes from fear of administration which demands certain behaviour from teachers and criticises them for the lack of it.
  2. There is also the self-induced fear that abolishing control will result in chaos in classrooms.
  3. Teachers succumbing to these fears cannot act according to their conscience.

Concerning education

  1. The proper concern of a primary school is the present lives of the children.
  2. Primary education must focus on nurturing children’s interests and not stifle their initiative.
  3. Children learn only if they are interested.

To come back to what we said earlier, about discipline and control being inextricably linked to textbookless or timetableless classroom, we look back at all the examples

  1. The Malting School (Extract 02) and Rebeca Wild’s School (Extract 03) had no timetable and textbook. But still students learnt a lot. Both these are examples of schools that began as a consequence of a clear ideology. They are examples of how ideologies are implementation.
  2. In the Sudbury Valley School (Extract 04) example, students were expected to be punctual and stick to the appointed time: 11:00AM sharp, every Tuesday and Thursday. Their teacher even used a book, not a textbook but a math primer written in 1898! Here a choice was made to accommodate the demand on hand – students demanding learning. Not the other way round – teachers demanding learning.
  3. Raghu Babu (Extract 08) developed his own curriculum and knew that he could not get children to learn without first understanding them and making allocations for their needs – even if they were to quarrel or disobey.
  4. Gijubhai (Extract 07) considered motivating children as his first task and did not hesitate to try his own methods. He disregarded the timetable and ignored the textbook. But he had the backing of the Education Officer.

All the examples point to the fact that learning and not chaos is natural, if learners and teachers enjoy more freedom – freedom to define their own learning in the case of students and freedom to define their own educational philosophy and teaching methods in the case of teachers. However, we have not yet answered how this course can be meaningful to teachers who have no freedom regarding the syllabus or the textbook or the timetable.

Group 03 Books

1. Summerhill – A Radical Approach To Child Rearing
A. S. Neill

2. A Treatise On Parents And Children
George Bernard Shaw

3. The Lives of Children - The Story of The First Street School
George Dennison

4. 36 Children
Herbert Kohl

 

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