Saturday, October 15, 2011

Obedience and compliance

Great teachers are wonderful.  They change lives.  We need them.  The problem is that most schools don't like great teachers.  They're organized to stamp them out, bore them, bureaucratize them, and make them average. 

Chapter 2 of Seth Godin's Linchpin talks a lot about obedience and how this stifles growth.  It's about how when people see themselves as easily replaceable they don't feel the need to challenge themselves.  Once people are given freedom, responsibility and respect they grow in confidence and self-esteem and do better work because they would rather do quality work than waste their time.  However schools, all too often, teach compliance.

Let's think about these two words, obedience and compliance.   Basically they involve following someone else's wishes or orders.  Often they imply submission, yielding to the authority of another person.  Seth Godin writes that schools have traditionally used fear as a way of teaching obedience and compliance.  This fear could be of bad grades or a bad report, it could also be the fear that if you don't do well at school you might not get a good job.  He says schools are also good at generating the fear of not fitting in.

Today at school I caught myself doing just that.  I was introducing a new drawing and presentation tool to a group of grade 2 students and I showed them how to use the tool to make a fairly plain background that they could write and draw on.  One of the girls immediately went back to her computer and started to make a very "busy" background - one that I knew would not work well with text and graphics on it.  I found myself rushing over to her and saying "No, that's not going to look good, change it back."  And then just as quickly I started to think "No, who am I to say that she has to change it - all that does is prove she can follow my instructions.  Maybe she prefers a busy background.  Maybe she may come to see for herself that it doesn't really work well for what is going on top of that background.  Maybe she can learn from the fact that it might not look very nice and then do a better job next time."

I started to think about how as a teacher I hate having someone look over my shoulder all the time, micro-managing what I am doing.  I hate having to do things exactly the same as everyone else.  I started to think about how some of the most creative people of our generation were those who didn't do particularly well at school or college, those who were not obedient or compliant and I realised something else:  that fear didn't work in those cases, it didn't make them obedient.  They stepped out of the box anyway and became more successful than if they'd just given up and fitted in.  It was good for all of us that they decided not to be obedient and compliant and average.

Photo Credit:  Stop by Ferran Jordà AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

1 comment:

  1. Great Post! loved the way you summed it up.