Home > Commentaries on TTC > The number 69 can be rotated 180° and remain the same.

The number 69 can be rotated 180° and remain the same.

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Even I rolled my eyes when I re-read LT’s #69…If only I was writing the Tao of Military Strategies...you see #69 is all about soldiers not looking for a fight; about how it’s better to retreat than to advance; about going unarmed; about yielding to win.

But then it occurred to me that the battleground metaphor is frequently used in education. And teachers and students are often spoken about as two opposing armies. So, if this is the case, what do we learn? We learn that it is better to roll up one’s sleeves and then abstain from the fight. That we should arm ourselves without weapons. Eh?

In short, I think that we are being advised to avoid all potential sources of conflict in the classroom. I don’t just mean the, “Would you put that knife down, now, Smith!!!” conflict. I mean inner conflict, the conflict that students might have with the curriculum, the conflict that teachers have in teaching something that means nothing to them. But putting up no resisrtance doesn’t mean subjugating yourself. You should put up no resistance to what you know works better or works best. So, the board are coming at you with a Grammar-based syllabus that fell out of the 1920s; the coursebook teaches the students that the only texts worth reading are pulpable dross; the students are demanding that you teach them fifty words a day. You do not “dare advance an inch;” you “retreat a foot.” Into what? Into what you know is true and works well. This truth will see you through the moments of difficulty and will also place you in a position of security – which is what I think serves students best. You yield – but not to the sources of conflict, but to what you know will serve you well. And Lao tells us that Nothing’s worse than attacking what yields. Proving that hyperbole was alive and well some three thousand years ago…or was it?

Categories: Commentaries on TTC
  1. March 25, 2011 at 04:40

    Part of the problem is that coursebook writers, head teachers, and other ‘experts’ inevitably become detached from the reality of teaching. They forget how it’s done but that doesn’t stop them telling others how they ought to do it. I think a good TT has to lead by example. Keeping the military theme running, here are two quotes from Colin Powell’s rules of leadership – all of which I think apply to education hierarchies.

    “Experts often possess more data than judgment. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world.”

    “The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise.”


    • dfogarty
      March 25, 2011 at 06:40

      Colin Powell is certainly good for a quote. That said, I can’t remember seeing him leap out of a Humvee to engage in direct combat…and the data that I remember him waving around at the UN was erm…questionable.

      But this is NOT to disagree with you, Luan. I agree. Good teacher trainers lead by example and I think I would extend this to recommending more of an apprenticeship-model to TT than anything else. After all, perhaps teaching is more of a trade than a profession?

  2. March 25, 2011 at 15:06

    Yes I think it is trade, and to some it’s a calling.

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