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Re: PM Manmohan rings the school-for-all bell, late as always

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  • sakyamum
    Aaditto, what an excellent post, thank you. In moving house a couple of months ago, I came across one of the only two school textbooks I retained -- it s now
    Message 1 of 38 , Apr 10, 2010
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      Aaditto, what an excellent post, thank you. 
      In moving house a couple of months ago, I came across one of the only two school textbooks I retained -- it's now buried again amid the general chaos of putting-away, but it is around :) This was one of David Horsburgh's Learning about Living series -- Parts One and Three are online, I discovered a few days ago, at arvindguptatoys.com, I think I have Part Two or maybe it's Part Four, if there is one. The book was on a list the school issued for parents to buy when I was in fourth standard -- I don't remember a single day it was opened in class. 
      Thinking about it and looking at the online books, I think my sense of the way  this series was produced is what I've based  my otherwise unresearched views on what  'alternative' education -- or, I'd prefer to think, any serious education -- is.  These books were not about jumpstarting 'creativity' or giving free rein to inner 'genius' -- the slogans so loudly touted today in the promotional material of urban India's high-end schools. Fundamentally democratic, the series dealt with utterly common, universally accessible occurrences to suggest questions, investigations and experiments a child could do to, and maybe take his or her lived understanding of the world forward a bit, open it up a little more into discoveries that might be rewarding to follow upon.
      I think if these are things one has in place, several of today's desiderata follow on their own -- not as self-consciously proclaimed goals but as part, among others, of just being alive. I don't have any experience of creativity-promoting schools -- my generation missed the boat, so to speak, so I haven't been to one, I won't be sending my child to one and I don't closely know any of their graduates. So my suspicious, maybe even resentful, generalisations are quite unfounded on observation -- but the suspicion remains.
      'Creativity' is not the preserve of the class that can pay to have art classes, piano lessons and ballroom dancing scheduled into the daily time-table. Nor is organised, once-a-year  'interaction' with the underprivileged 'them' much more, I think, than an excursion along the lines of a trip to the zoo or a museum of glass-enclosed artefacts. When, for instance, will an Indian classroom have something like a show-and-tell with a child explaining to her classmates how her parents make a thatched roof, grow a field of tomatoes, mix colours for the artwork every village home in a place like Kutch has on its walls? Can one imagine a situation where learning how to dig the six-foot trench in Aaditto's story  is taken as seriously as a presentation on What We Saw This Summer in Venice? Is the RTE-mandated (and private school-contested) requirement to fill a quarter of classroom-strength with Economically Weaker Section names and bodies going to make this possible? Or will it be like in the same beautifully decorated Kutch villages, where dalit children sit outside the classroom and all children know as soon as they can walk that there are invisible but strict demarcations in the village they cannot cross (dirty caste into clean caste living areas and clean caste into dirty caste ones) -- the divisions in modern schooling may not be as visible but segregation does not need concrete walls.  How many of the 'Catholics' in my school did we ever actually play with? 
      I want my child's education to not hem in the value he places on what is worthwhile to know, either by boring or intimidating him into aversion or by setting him in a structure where some work is 'not for you, beta' -- I don't want it communicated to him that there is something repulsive or stupid or 'not done' in his waving a broom about the house or dancing with the bucket we use to wash the floors upside down over his head. 
      But pity the schools too. You have a school that lets  children help 'bhaiyya' with the mopping, and you'll have anguished, appalled parents queuing up to withdraw their precious poodles from so sullying an environment. They might talk of the time wasted (a suitable euphemism), they might even invoke child labour -- though, as Delhi found out last year, if it's dalit children being told to do the mopping, it's quite okay if they get on with what they're going to do anyway once they're grown up.  
      My suspicion of 'creativity' on a school's agenda also comes from remembering how life changed when my school discovered, very much by chance, that I could act and even sing when I was in Class IX, both of which I'd been told since Class III that I couldn't do (I was said to have an 'expressionless' voice, I've thought later that it might have been because I lacked the correct pitch of childhood sing-song that the teacher may have been listening for). Going over Betty Edwards' books have let me see that I could even learn to draw, and so can anyone, realistic drawing really isn't a big deal. In Class II, though, my teacher wanted to know "What sort of insect is that?" when I made a butterfly.  
      The new generation of schools try to claim that they don't do that sort of thing any more -- but how much of their nurturing goodwill is for the child's mind and how much of it is for gleaning brownie points piggybacked on the child's achievement to justify the fees they charge? 
      Moot question, I know. And like I said, I don't have inside experience of these places. 
    • Aaditto
      Hi, This reminded me of my own childhood! I was in grade III: 1979-80... I went to school in Kolkata, at a pioneer institution, which was trying to inculcate
      Message 38 of 38 , Apr 18, 2010
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        Hi,

        This reminded me of my own childhood!

        I was in grade III: 1979-80...

        I went to school in Kolkata, at a 'pioneer' institution, which was trying to inculcate 'values' and 'culture' among kids.

        Almost all my peers were begining to get 'pocket money' - to the tune of Rupees 10/- to 50/- a week... which was quite a big amount back then!

        One day, I tentatively approached my parents with the 'pocket-money' issue.

        Both my parents had already left 'cushy' Executive jobs, about three years ago, and were trying to build enterpreneurship amongst a small but motivated group of city-poor. So, they had very little money to run our family with, as their's was 'non-funded social work'.

        They smiled, looked at each other... then my father looked me straight in the eye and said, "Sorry Beta, as you know, we don't even have enough money for our daily expences. So, there's no way we could give you any pocket-money!"

        I knew this already; I was a precauscious kid. So I just casually nodded my head and said, "Ok."

        Ten minuits later, my parents called me. My mother said, "But you can EARN your pocket money, you know?!"... My father continued, "I pay the cobler every week to polish my shoes, I also pay the young boy to wash the Company car. If you took on these jobs, I could pay you the same amount, instead of pocket-money."

        I had grown up learning to do all kinds of chores at home - make the beds, fetch the milk, take the dog for a walk, do the weekly/ daily shopping when Dad was too busy...

        I liked the idea very much!

        Soon, I was polishing shoes of not just my father, but three other house-holds in the neighborhood. And I was washing 4 cars.

        I used to make about Rs. 20.00 a week from these 'jobs' - and I was the happiest kid in school, as far as pocket money was concerned!

        I have various issues with my parents, like everyone does! But one thing that I will always respect them for is being dead honest with me!

        Today, I find many of my peers going way too much out of their means to satisfy the un-ending 'needs' of their young children - simply becasue it hurts their pride to tell their own children that they too have limits!

        Cheers!
        Aaditto.

         

         


        --- In alt-ed-india@yahoogroups.com, Bhuvana Venkat <bhuva78@...> wrote:
        >
        >
        > very interesting... well it may be very surprising but my daughter asked me this question last evening.. I was taking her to her swimming lessons and she asked me why she wasn't being paid for her work? she asked me her teacher was being paid for his work.. that of teaching.. why wasn't she paid for her work as well? she is going to be 5 years this May!
        >
        >
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        > well my answer to her was the same. He is offering you something you need.. what are you offering him? He is teaching you and for that you have to pay him, I am paying him on your behalf! Now if you do not learn then you are wasting the money that you are paying.
        >
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        > I think what obscures the equation is that the student is not paying but the parents are.
        >
        > regards
        >
        > bhuvana
        >
        >
        >
        > To: alt-ed-india@yahoogroups.com
        > From: aaditto@...
        > Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2010 12:43:09 +0000
        > Subject: [alt-ed-india] Re: Should kids be bribed to do well in school?
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Hi Manas,
        >
        > That's very well put indeed - "...but the one thing I have absolutely no doubt about is the absence of correlation between test scores and meaningful learning" - my feelings, exactly!
        >
        > As for Alfie Kohn, yes, his reccurrent thesis about 'rewards' being a form of 'punishment' is certainly very good material in this context!
        >
        > Though he too relies quite heavily on 'research data', which I am not always very comfortable with, I have always loved his passionate and direct approach. In fact, this same discussion has been raging in another Yahoo group right at this point - the AEROlistserve group - and a number of people on that forum have been quoting Kohn from a very similar perspective.
        >
        > My mistrust in 'reality' is based on the basic misconception, in my openion, that 'perceptions' are NOT based on 'faith' - that 'persieved realities' are fundamentally different from 'idealistic view-points'. But that is a totally different issue.
        >
        > I think the fundamental 'issue' that is coming out of these discussions is as Leo Fahey, a member of the AERO group, puts it:
        >
        > "Actually, it is rather simple: in our commercial society learning has been commodified; therefore, there ought not be any objection to paying youngsters to attend and do well in school. As the talk is of incentive pay for teachers, then, hey, why not incentive pay for students as well. In fact, there should be a base salary and bonuses for exceptional work done.
        >
        > Now, for those who feel formal learning, and all learning, ought not be a commodity, for those who feel learning is for learning's sake, then, well, any monetary punishment or reward is seen as beyond the pale.
        >
        > So take your choice, commodity or pure human instinct/desire/expression. But, if one takes the commodity side, then, go all the way and provide a salary and bonus scheme as the right of all working children, as the business of childhood, the work of childhood, is schooling."
        > I for one, have another question, before we begin to ask whether kids should or should not be payed to go to school...
        >
        > What is the fundamental definition, and relationship between, 'work' & 'payment'?
        >
        > I mow your lawn for you - you pay me for my services...
        >
        > I do your taxes for you - you pay me for my expertise...
        >
        > And so on...
        >
        > Now, YOU study for your YOUR own benefit - and then I pay you for "???"
        >
        > Does that even sound logical?
        >
        > If it does, well then that would tantamount to...
        >
        > I mow my own lawn - YOU pay me for it!
        >
        > I do my OWN taxes - YOU pay me for being such an expert!
        >
        > Wow!!! That sounds like a swell state of affairs to me!
        >
        > Leo's assertion "...But, if one takes the commodity side, then, go all the way and provide a salary and bonus scheme as the right of all working children"...is a scary thought!
        >
        > But one that seems inevitable - given the total and complete commodification of human life?!
        >
        > Cheers!
        > Aaditto
        >
        >
        > --- In alt-ed-india@yahoogroups.com, Manas Chakrabarti learningbydesign@ wrote:
        > >
        > > Hi Bhuvana, Aaditto and others,
        > > It might be worthwhile reading Alfie Kohn's work on reward/punishment, especially his book "Punished By Rewards" where he demolishes the idea of rewards leading to better performance at school or work.
        > >
        > > I think behaviorism continues to be attractive (even decades after we have rejected it as an explanation of human thought and action) because it gives us a sense of power and control. This is what makes it particularly attractive in corporate circles.
        > >
        > > And Frederick Herzberg (who wrote "One more time - how do you motivate employees?", which is the most reprinted article in the history of Harvard Business Review) put it nicely when he differentiated between movement and motivation. If I hold out a biscuit and say, "Spot, sit," Spot will certainly learn to sit. I have caused movement in the dog. But the entity that is motivated is me, because I want Spot to sit. Rewards cause movement, not motivation.
        > >
        > > So, the question is, do we want children to want to learn, or do we want them to please us with their scores? I am not certain about too many things in life, but the one thing I have absolutely no doubt about is the absence of correlation between test scores and meaningful learning.
        > > Cheers!
        > > Manas
        > >
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        >
        > _________________________________________________________________
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        >

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