Friday, 9 March 2018

Être plutôt qu’avoir ?

After Le Maître est l'Enfant, Estelle and I watched another French education documentary tonight, Être plutôt qu’avoir ? -  'To Be rather than to have?' It was a look at education, especially in France, historically. I found the pictures of school before the 19th-century desks-in-rows era interesting. Like this from Pieter Bruegel The Elder.

And then a look at some of the ways that some educators have enriched education for primary-age children: through circle times, philosophy for children, forest school, Montessori classes. Lots to think about again: good to now and again, or even regularly, challenge the way we teach - how much is a product of the relatively short history of public education, and how much is a conscious approach to real education?

We saw Célestin Freinet working the vegetable patch with his students. And some of his 'pedagogical constants', a kind of manifesto:
  1. The child is of the same nature as us [adults].
  2. Being bigger does not necessarily mean being above others.
  3. A child's academic behavior is a function of his constitution, health, and physiological state.
  4. No one - neither the child nor the adult - likes to be commanded by authority.
  5. No one likes to align oneself, because to align oneself is to obey passively an external order.
  6. No one likes to be forced to do a certain job, even if this work does not displease him or her particularly. It is being forced that is paralyzing.
  7. Everyone likes to choose their job, even if this choice is not advantageous.
  8. No one likes to move mindlessly, to act like a robot, that is to do acts, to bend to thoughts that are prescribed in mechanisms in which he does not participate.
  9. We [the teachers] need to motivate the work.
  10. No more scholasticism.
  11. Everyone wants to succeed. Failure is inhibitory, destructive of progress and enthusiasm.
  12. It is not games that are natural to the child, but work.
  13. The normal path of [knowledge] acquisition is not observation, explanation and demonstration, the essential process of the School, but experimental trial and error, a natural and universal process.
  14. Memorization, which the School deals with in so many cases, is applicable and valuable only when it is truly in service of life.
  15. [Knowledge] acquisition does not take place as one sometimes believes, by the study of rules and laws, but by experience. To study these rules and laws in [language], in art, in mathematics, in science, is to place the cart before the horse.
  16. Intelligence is not, as scholasticism teaches, a specific faculty functioning as a closed circuit, independent of the other vital elements of the individual.
  17. The School only cultivates an abstract form of intelligence, which operates outside living reality, by means of words and ideas implanted by memorization.
  18. The child does not like to listen to an ex cathedra lesson.
  19. The child does not tire of doing work that is in line with his life, work which is, so to speak, functional for him.
  20. No one, neither child nor adult, likes control and punishment, which is always considered an attack on one's dignity, especially when exercised in public.
  21. Grades and rankings are always a mistake.
  22. Speak as little as possible.
  23. The child does not like the work of a herd to which the individual has to fold like a robot. He loves individual work or teamwork in a cooperative community.
  24. Order and discipline are needed in class.
  25. Punishments are always a mistake. They are humiliating for all and never achieve the desired goal. They are at best a last resort.
  26. The new life of the School presupposes school cooperation, that is, the management by its users, including the educator, of life and school work.
  27. Class overcrowding is always a pedagogical error.
  28. The current design of large school complexes results in the anonymity of teachers and pupils; It is, therefore, always an error and a hindrance.
  29. The democracy of tomorrow is being prepared by democracy at the School. An authoritarian regime at the School cannot be formative of democratic citizens.
  30. One can only educate in dignity. Respecting children, who must respect their masters, is one of the first conditions for the redemption of the School.
  31. The opposition of the pedagogical reaction, an element of the social and political reaction, is also a constant, with whom we shall have, alas! to reckon unless we are able to avoid or correct it ourselves.
  32. There is also a constant that justifies all our trial and error and authenticates our action: it is the optimistic hope in life.

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