Back to School Take-Home Quiz: The Ethics of Teaching and Training

25 08 2007


People want to do the right thing.
What the right thing is, however,
depends on what you value.

Michael Pollan in The Sun Magazine, May 2006, in which he says our cognitive and cultural tools have been turned against us by industry.

COD has a head-scratching thread about how we treat puppies and snakes (all animals, actually) and how we justify it ethically. It all connects in my mind to whether compulsion in educating and “socializing” children is ethical — puppies are socialized too, “schooled” by responsible owners in standard behavior taught with standard methods — and then to Dr. Anne Foerst, theologian of robot learning, as a better philosopher on moral-ethical education riddles than Rob Reich, and finally, to ways we all could “progress” in the ethics of compulsory schooling and training, rather than devolving:

About Rob Reich, disingenuousness is one problem he doesn’t seem to have, unlike most liberal critics of home education. I really do believe he believes it is an ethical problem to teach any captive audience, and if he would extend that to all education — as we propose to do here — instead of limiting it to homeschooling, it could be a GREAT discussion, maybe groundbreaking.
Have you ever read theologian Ann Foerst’s writing about the human ethics of teaching robots, for example? Illuminating stuff indeed. . .

“Flash! WIMBLEDON WIDGET WOES: Intelligent Individuals OutRank Factory Robots!”

or maybe

“PLAY: The Future With Sneakers On”

Play makes children nimble—neurobiologically, mentally, behaviorally—capable of adapting to a rapidly evolving world. That makes it just about the best preparation for life in the 21st century. Psychologists believe that play cajoles people toward their human potential because it preserves all the possibilities nervous systems tend to otherwise prune away…

There’s only one graduation requirement and over 95 percent of students meet it. They have to write and present a thesis about how they’re prepared to be an adult. It takes time to write, even more time to figure out.

…Students have become lute-makers, auto technicians, musicians, equestrian-farmers, dedicated environmentalists. Some have started their own companies at 18. Others take retail or service jobs to get money for travel abroad…They do what they do not by default or by obligation but from a sense of understanding what they’re doing and why…
(and) go on to lead deeply satisfying lives. Most are unusually resilient. Almost all feel that they are in control of their destiny. . .

Sounds highly ethical to me, practical and politic power of story that any ethically evolved society would embrace, practically perfect like Mary Poppins.

So why don’t most education philosophers in all their deep thinking, ever think about this? Maybe they just haven’t been socialized properly? — some compulsion for their own good may be in order! 🙂



2 responses

26 08 2007

The legal ethics of training children and animals (certainly not education!) equated in “Training Lions and Tigers: Discipline and Children with ADHD” from lawyer Pete Wright of WrightsLaw and the Special Ed Advocate [shudder]:

When my children were young, I used isolation and spanking. (I have received a few angry emails about this over the years. I make no apologies about how I raised my boys, so please don’t bother to scold me.)

Consider the toddler who is playing electrician . . .
Under these circumstances, the child needs a spanking. Why?
. . .You want the child’s fear of another spanking to outweigh their curiosity.

For short term or minor discipline, I used isolation and boredom. . .boredom made isolation worse so it was an effective punishment. . .
(You’re right – life is unfair – unpredictable too. You’ll live through it.”)

If we can teach elephants, lions and tigers to behave in public, we can teach our children with ADHD to behave.”

An old friend of ours was a pediatric neurologist from India who moved to the United States. When Dr. Hazra talked to parent groups, she shared her reactions to child-raising practices in the U.S. In her family, and with her children, her word was law. She never had to raise her voice.

. . .”Picture a big three-ring circus with thousands of screaming children, a blaring public address system, and flashing lights. Now, picture several huge elephants trotting around the ring. What are these elephants doing?

These huge animals are climbing onto small pedestals that may be two feet in diameter. While they stand on the pedestals, they perform a series of behaviors on cue – despite the chaos and distractions around them.

Visualize the circus ring again. Look at the lions and tigers – what are they doing? The lions and tigers have been taught to jump through hoops of flame.”

Dr. Hazra said “If we can teach elephants, lions and tigers to behave in public, we can certainly teach our children with ADHD to behave in public too.”

So, what is considered desirable to learn? My reading comprehension test scores were excellent without any training, let’s see —
That life is unfair and unpredictable, that curiosity is bad and dangerous, that one’s own actions are incomprehensible and motivated by meaningless impulse, in short that the examined life is a lie and there is no power of story! Just work and rules and marching where one’s trainer wishes, literally to jump through hoops without question, even hoops of fire for the entertainment of the masses, or else . . .

20 03 2009
NPR’s “Science Friday” Live from FSU This Afternoon « Cocking A Snook!

[…] EXTRA CREDIT for Thinking Parents who like quiz questions — and there’s a snake in it, too […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: