Jun 8, 2008

Being hit on the head lessons

Was reading this article over at Best Homeschooling. Alfie Kohn is responding to the common opinion that kids are going to come across bad/boring/tedious/harmful practices and events later in their lives, so we should expose them to such things early so they can get used to it - something he calls the Better Get Used To It principle (BGUTI).

You can see this in all sorts of areas, like homework, standardised testing and win/lose competitive events. Of course, some people believe in the educational and personal benefits of these things, and that's up to them - we all have our own opinions based on what we have read and experienced ourselves. But there are other people who readily concede that in an ideal world kids should not have to endure these things, but then say that in fact kids should have to do it, because they will need to have those skills later on.

Alfie Kohn was reminded of the Monty Python sketch which includes Being hit on the head lessons:

When the student recoils and cries out, the instructor says, “No, no, no. Hold your head like this, then go, ‘Waaah!’ Try it again” - and gives him another smack. Presumably this is extremely useful training . . . for getting hit on the head again.

But people don't really get better at coping with unhappiness because they were deliberately made unhappy when they were young. In fact, it is experience with success and unconditional acceptance that helps one to deal constructively with later deprivation. Imposing competition or standardized tests or homework on children just because other people will do the same to them when they're older is about as sensible as saying that, because there are lots of carcinogens in the environment, we should feed kids as many cancer-causing agents as possible while they're small to get them ready.

To be sure, we don't want students to be blindsided by destructive practices with which they're completely unfamiliar (although this seems rather unlikely in our society). But how much exposure do they need?
Anyhow, I am unable to resist gratuitous Monty Python sketches, so here is the Argument Clinic, in all its glory (the head-hitting is at 4:08). I have watched it and there isn't any nudity, but there is mild 1970s British abuse language :)


rochelle said...

Hey Stace- thought you might be interested in this: http://offthebookshelf.wordpress.com/

She also has a number of other blogs, including one each about cooking and gardening- and one about a trip her family is heading off on- http://blogs.bootsnall.com/kiwifamily/ read and gasp!

home handymum said...

Thanks! I've seen the wee video clip from when they were on the telly. Sounds like a big adventure :)

Of course, I'm not sure I could manage a trip to the supermarket with 8 kids, let-alone all through south east asia, russia, europe and the UK. But perhaps, once you've mastered the supermarket trips, it's all a matter of scale...

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