Re: the right to pursue excellence (Seduction)

Cathy Pauline Lachapelle (aelin@leland.Stanford.EDU)
Sun, 11 May 1997 22:20:41 -0700 (PDT)

On Sun, 11 May 1997 wrote:

> In a message dated 97-05-11 02:55:47 EDT, Coby wrote:
> << Regarding Mimsy's "seduction" (not hers personally, you understand):
> As I read it, seduction refers to the sugar-coating of curriculum
> components (by making learning "fun", for example) in order to get them
> down the throats of otherwise unwilling recipients. >>
> Yes, that is one of the symptoms of the "seduction". It all has to do with
> making it seem like there is something wrong with the child if they don't do
> well or don't like traditional schooling. (Of course, it is the school that
> is seen as wrong if it is an alternative school!)
> Alan
Hello again,

Okay, these are more types of seduction. "Insidious" indeed! Making it
seem that there's something wrong with the kid who doesn't like school is
what my husband faced in his incredibly traditional, mainly fundamentalist
rural schools. Some kids bought it, and others didn't.

"Sugar-coating" is something lots of teachers do, when they turn lessons
into games, and make worksheets with cute puzzles and pictures, and far
worse. Teachers taken by the idea that "learning should be fun", I think,
are particularly susceptible. Certainly we see it all the time in the
media, with marketing of toys and software aimed at parents saying "buy
this! Our product makes learning fun!" It's enough to make me want to
puke. (Pardon my vulgarity.)

But again, I feel I need to point out that when teachers try to change
their teaching, to organize their classrooms in ways that give kids more
control, and to change their view of learning as "listening" to a more
active role for kids, this is not an attempt to sugar-coat anything.
Sure, the teachers are motivated to organize projects that they think
their kids will enjoy. But in general, when teachers have support
from their community to try for *real* change along these lines, such
projects have far more challenge to them than any traditional curriculum,
and kids have far more room to take the project "frame" and make it their
own (and are encouraged to do so!) Sure the kids may not have a choice
about the general project -- their school is probably not so open (yet?).
But that doesn't mean they won't enjoy it, honestly and openly (doesn't
mean they will, either, of course -- but a sensitive teacher will not
blame the kids, but him or herself -- and try to do better, which may well
involve more openness and control for kids rather than less). I'm not
talking about kids having the times of their lives, either, of course, but
it seems to me to be a big improvement to have them smiling and laughing
and talking and wandering around at will in class. And above all, having
some control over what they do and how they learn. They certainly report
liking such situations much better than the traditional.