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By Jeff J. Brown
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Sixteen years with the people on the streets of China, Jeff
Note before starting: Patrice at The Greanville Post (https://www.greanvillepost.com) was kind enough to connect me to Ms. Caren Black at Titanic Lifeboat Academy (TLA- https://titaniclifeboatacademy.org/). She was nice enough to republish a couple of my articles/podcasts and TLA definitely deserves a shout out. They have a wonderful stable of writers, aggregate excellent content and I just love going on their website, which is one of the nicest out there. My blood pressure goes down when I’m on it, since it so relaxing and calming to navigate. I subscribed to get their newsletter and hope you do too.
Like me, Caren is a professional teacher, so this is reflected in her article below. Enjoy a a wonderful and introspective essay. After reading it, I’m sure you will agree that it would be a blast to be in one of her classes…
The Teacher and the Unteachable
The very best teachers will tackle the unteachable because…well, because they are the very best and to them it is always simply a matter of finding the right approach for the particular subject and student at a particular time. If one way isn’t effective, the choice of different approaches is limited only by imagination. One such person was my seventh grade algebra teacher “who never gave up until we understood” as I fondly remembered in the dedication to my first book on education.
Excellent teaching is original, suited to the situation, and motivates students by stimulating their interest, camaraderie, personal pride and confidence. By leading students out of themselves to reach beyond what before was always “good enough”. By asking provoking – but never leading – questions. By not supplying answers. By challenging students to think for themselves and create unique, out-of-the-box solutions. By constructing a rich learning environment, then liberating students to discover meaning and concepts which they can then transfer to other situations, continuing to learn independently of the teacher.
Quite different from teacher-dependent directed learning of “correct answers”, Discovery Learning, based on the work of Dewey, Piaget, Bruner and Papert, provides context, not step-by-step instructions. Rather than the prerequisite to beginning one’s real life, education becomes an ongoing way of living one’s life, or as Dewey wrote, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
There is a Zen story of a scholar and a master teacher:
There was a Scholar who felt that studying with a renowned Master would be his crowning achievement. The Scholar traveled to the Master’s school and a meeting was arranged wherein the scholar listed his great number of degrees and past achievements to show himself worthy for such advanced study.
The Master served tea, pouring more and more into the scholar’s cup. “Please stop!” cried the scholar, “Can’t you see the cup is full to overflowing?” The Master set down the teapot. “Like this cup, you nearly overflow with all you carry with you. If you would learn, first you must empty your cup.”
Expecting to be spoon-fed more “correct answers” in the traditional manner, not everyone responds at first to do-it-yourself learning (some assembly required). And, unlike lecturing in a classroom, giving a one-shot presentation lacks the luxury of repeated long-term interaction with students which brings familiarity with new methods and expectations.
Perhaps particularly unsuited – even hostile – to an unfamiliar teaching style are today’s contemporary superficially intellectual pseudo-liberal, “politically correct” Left [sic]. Far from emptying their cups to new discoveries, they are likely to guard their pixilated niche personae as though those marketed constructs were actually their lives. Postmodern social [sic] media culture is all about buying into an off-the-rack IdentityTM and subsuming entirely into the group surrounding that brand. Like the traditional snap quiz, instant feedback in the form of Likes, comments and shares let participants know whether they got it right or failed. They have neither time nor patience for logic or deduction. They require on-the-spot validation. They want spontaneous simplistic answers they can text-while-you-talk to their hundreds of close personal friends for immediate response – because hundreds of people (largely strangers, trolls and algorithms) couldn’t possibly be wrong.
Woe to the presenter who doesn’t work that way! Not only does an IdentityTM come accessorized with what to think, believe and do, it also provides a shield against all challenges and criticisms (and in doing so reinforces controlled behavior). Moreover, social [sic] media being customarily brief, incomplete, impulsive, rude, crude, spiteful and snarky, the IdentityTM provides a lethal full-spectrum weapon of Nuclear-Armed Exceptionalism, Righteousness and MyTruth® which can be used to ruthlessly cudgel any who see or do things differently. The objective for these Exceptional® people in attending a class or presentation is to seek affirmation, strengthening one’s IdentityTM. Challenges of any kind must be met by taking the challenger down.
You see where this is going: We’re replicating the irresistible force meeting the immovable object: the teacher and the unteachable student. And, we’ve not even broached the topic. These days, nearly any topic carries the potential to offend, to be deemed “fake”, to infringe on someone’s “rights” or impinge on their IdentityTM, or make them feel “unsafe”. Language must be “politically correct”, i.e. utterly illogical, composed of Pavlovian triggers, e.g. MSM-saturated mnemonic phrases. These magic phrases recur ad nauseam until rote memory and #cyber-alchemy change them into Received Wisdom. Suffused with emotion-coated memes designed to bypass the neocortex and speed directly into long-term memory where, having skipped the neocortical screening for bullshit, thus deprived of synaptic connections to context or related content, they reside as unquestioned Truth, regardless of veracity, coherence or rationality. Any topic diverging from them is not up for discussion, much less teaching.
At the beginning of the 21st century, California’s Central Coast was still a bastion of liberalism where people were not afraid to move against the mainstream current. Having called the area home since the ‘80s, I’d expected this culture to be permanent when I left in 2004. So, I looked forward to Dr. Guy McPherson’s recent talk there on Near Term Human Extinction, confident that my old home was one island of counter-culture that would totally “get it”.
When a pendulum is far to one side, it tends not toward middle ground but toward its extreme opposite. Counter-culture tragically replaced by full-on tweet-culture, the room pulsed with interruptions, nano-scaled attention spans, and sophomoric appeals for repetitions, rephrasings – even debate! – of Guy’s well substantiated points.
Breathtaking. Like visiting a glacier that isn’t there anymore.
Humans have never, ever been more in need of acute neocortical functioning. I fear it is no coincidence that our controlled and censored western culture precludes it. Money, Power and Self-Glorification are our Easter Island statues. Excellent teachers and disquieting topics stimulate critical thinking. Critical thinkers ask the wrong questions. They encumber the smooth functioning of highly successful capitalist oligarchies bent on turning the last living cell into $$$. Carlin made it clear in “The American Dream” portion of his Showtime album “Life Is Worth Losing”,
“The real owners. The big, wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions…. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest.”
Thus, Guy McPherson’s compassionate “Carpe Diem!” met audience members whose teacups could not be emptied, being full to the brims with thick, sticky twitterpoo. After all, his topic, Near Term Human Extinction, is no doubt being already being considered for deletion from Facebook. Then, it won’t exist, right?
They didn’t “get it” on the Central Coast. Consider: Could people where you live entertain ideas outside the current mainstream without resorting to blind criticism?
Doubly tragic when the last moments for much of humanity will not be teachable moments, but the braying and whining of Western puppets whose own Masters caused the converging crises beginning to envelope us all.
Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History
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