31 – Turkish slang for self-pleasure
On the off-chance that people enjoy reading my ravings, and as an apology for not writing more frequently recently, here is another instalment along the path to enlightenment. Those of you who are familiar with the TTC may wonder how the hell I am going to fit Chapter 31 into English Language Teaching. Chapter 31 is blatantly about the futility of war and advises the wise to steer clear of any conflict that calls for the murder of other people. Lao was writing about a time when warriors were the most admired people in the society and strong generals ruled the roost. His advice? Home-coming victory parades should take the appearance of funeral corteges in honour of the people who have been killed by the triumphant victors. At a time when certain governments target schools in their wars against other people, it would seem trite to reduce this to some sort of folksy advice for the classroom. Yet the Taoist conviction is that the TTC has something to say to all people in all situations in life. Does that hold true for the Headway-clutching innocent who is frozen in front of the interactive whiteboard? Let us see…
Well, it’ s hardly an original discovery to comment that the classroom is often described using the metaphor of the battlefield. We, the teachers, are lined up against Them the enemy. The teacher has an arsenal of weapons at their disposal: whiteboards, textbooks, directors, punishments and exam grades. And the aim is presumably to kill something or someone. So what is it that education seeks to kill?
There are those among us who believe that education is designed to kill initiative and individualism. We learn from a National Curriculum and we are told what our options are. All of us will know somebody whose child was failed at school (or, more accurately, by school). Our schools work hard to produce capable factory fodder whilst we, ourselves, are busy contributing towards the all-important E-cono-mee. Kids learn the values that the Curriculum writers deem desirable; they learn the skills that will help them generate more wealth for others and, depending upon the schools, for themselves. As our technical designers become more adept, our children need to be fed fewer facts and the harrumphers bemoan the falling standards. Soon, presumably, schools will teach nothing other than button-pressing. Education, to paraphrase Bart, is hell. [And look what I found by Matt Groenig when I went looking for an illustration to underline that point.]
School, in the hands of authorities, is a weapon. There are many who would say that it is not in itself a bad weapon and that it offers positives to many. To which LT replies, “Good weapons are instruments of fear…followers of Tao never use them.”
A follower of tao is merely somebody who is on the path to a better life. And a follower of tao does not need to use school. This is cause for reflection for those of us who would follow tao and yet ply our trade within the confines of our Educational Institutions. And don’t be tempted to read on if you are simply looking for how I square this particular circle. I don’t. Other than to accept that I am a bag of inconsistencies, wrapped up within the cords of hypocrisy and sealed with double-faced tape. Perhaps when it is finally squared, I will throw my towel on the sand of the road and launch my surfboard on the waves of enlightenment. Until then, I am conscious of the fact that I am complicit in the genocide of individuality and the linguicide of many. I am part of the globalising forces of Koka Kola and Skud missiles. I serve the Emperor. And all this by “doing” page 34 of Headway.
“Get real!” cry the Realistz, “This guy’s so up himself he can taste the toothpaste. We’re just English-language teachers who teach English language. We aren’t some military-hardware toting GI-Jo [NB the cunning non-gender specific ploy]. We’re just teaching the world to sing.” Which, as I have said before, amounts to no more than rectal rhetoric. The rest of the world already knows how to sing. We’re just teaching them which language they must use if they want to sound right.
And what does this mean to our frightened bunny, transfixed in the beam of the data projector? It means quite simply that education is not about covering the curriculum. It is about encouraging our students to uncover their own curriculum and taking charge of their own learning. This is what e ducare meant to the Romans – the drawing out rather than the driving in.