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TRANSCULTURAL FRIENDSHIP: OUR POLITICAL FUTURE

Chapter Eight: Middle Childhood

Section 5: Traditional Education

 

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Filipina Dance by the Baranga Dance Company at the Filipino Heritage Festival, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose, CA, on Sunday, August 2, 1998.

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The fact that teaching machines have successfully replaced some teacher's functions calls for closer scrutiny of the teacher's role in the traditional classroom. Recall from chapter six that there is a relationship aspect, as well as a content aspect, to all communication. When the teacher is presenting lessons on spelling, grammar, mathematics, social studies, art, etc., the teacher is also saying something about the relations between the teacher and the students.

 

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While the teacher is rarely conscious of the message, it still has an impact. In traditional education, the message is: the teacher is the font of all wisdom, of all right in the moral and intellectual senses; and the children know nothing and have nothing to offer each other. The message is communicated by the word phrasing, by intonation, and is reinforced in several ways. The teacher is the sole evaluator of all classroom products --a student's self-satisfaction is of relatively little importance. The children are graded, but otherwise individual differences are not significant; in other words, the only differences that matter are those which rank people. This of course, limits the opportunities for psychological success and senses of uniqueness and essentiality. Basically, the teacher is the boss, issuing orders, demanding obedience, and retaining the sole power of evaluation.

 

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In short, what we have is a little autocracy. It is fairly said that while traditional education teaches reading some of the time, writing some of the time, and arithmetic some of the time, it teaches autocracy all of the time. The effect is going to be to produce little autocrats --either the follower or leader versions. Most of the children will not be able to think well for themselves -- but they will remember various facts and virtues -- particularly obedience, which are important to hold. They will not be able to cooperate well with peers, to participate in creative group problem solving -- but they will be good at giving and following orders. They will have well-established inferiority and superiority complexes, since conformity to rigid standards is esteemed, while uniqueness and variety are not recognized as valuable. Our general hypothesis is that systems generate like systems -- the autocratic classroom generates autocrats who grow up to form an autocratic society.

 

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Now the situation in the US is not all that bad. Teachers are usually not so rigid, and modern methods are becoming more pervasive. Peers interact outside the classroom, if not inside -- although this in itself is a source of problems to be discussed later. So we learn enough to survive as a democracy -- but it remains a fairly republican, majoritarian system, and we can see that the society and the educational system have a long way to go -- hand in hand.

 

 

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