We all believe that there should be revolutionary changes in our educational system. The consent for this is ever so high. I have given presentations, talked to my friends and even teachers about the same and the response I got was overwhelming. But why is it when a message for change resonates with countless people and at the same time no substantial change is made.
Why is it so? I think many of us believe or feel that this is out of the scope of something we could do, something out of our control. And the most terrible thing is we accept this. There is a psychological phenomenon known as learned helplessness. And the experiments conducted way back ago that established this phenomenon were really quite terrible. What they would do is they would take dogs and for some of them, they would force them to endure a punishment. For example, they would receive electric shocks and there was nothing they could do to prevent those shocks. For other dogs there were actually little levers or a fence they could hop over that would stop the shocks. Now later on they took all of those dogs and they tested them again, but in environments where every one of those dogs had the opportunity to avoid the shocks by taking some action. Now what was found was those dogs that had been forced to endure the shocks and had no way of stopping them just kind of came to accept the shocks even when there were actions that they could take which would stop them. So this is learned helplessness. They have learned that there is nothing they can do to stop that uncomfortable situation.
Now the question is do we promote helplessness in our schools, Most of what is happening in the school is forced a choice. There is none to very little control students have over what is happening. They have very little to say about what happens to them all day. They are compelled to follow someone else’s rules, study someone else’s curriculum, and submit continually to someone else’s evaluation. But many I have talked to told me if we give choice and control to students they will choose to not learn. Strangely what we find from scientific experiments and observations is different. People perform better when they have a choice.
Why is it so important that children have a chance to make decisions about their learning? What barriers might account for the fact that students so rarely feel a sense of self-determination today? A close inspection of these issues will reveal that the question of choice is important educators seem to assume.
One is repeatedly struck by the absurd spectacle of adults insisting that children need to become self-disciplined, or comment that “kids just don’t take responsibility for their own behavior” – while spending their days ordering children around. The truth is that, if we want children to take responsibility for their own behavior, we must first give them responsibility. The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.
School today has become an institution that takes control away from students. If we continue to go on that same road once those kids are exposed to the real world they will accept things are beyond their control. In the face of an adversity they will stand powerless.
We all often feel frustrated and powerless in our schools and colleges. And We have started to accept it, The truth that we keep forgetting is education is about getting empowered and not feeling powerless.
So stand up, fight and demand for change because as Gandhi said, if you want to bring change to the world, you must be the change you want to see. Remember. When enough people move, that is a movement. And when the movement has enough energy, that is a revolution. And in education that is exactly what we need.
Like Nelson Mandela famously said “It always seem impossible until it’s done”.