Teaching Smart vs. not LO13597

Ray Evans Harrell (mcore@IDT.NET)
Wed, 14 May 1997 01:05:39 -0700

Replying to LO13581 --

> Responding to : Bill Harris
> "I don't mean this to be too critical, but I am nervous about giving up
> skills to machines before they have learned enough to assume the
> responsibility. :-) (The same goes for calculation skills, BTW.)"

> "Michael Gort"<gort@ms.com> said:
> Bill: I don't mean to be as critical as that sounds when read back to me.
> By draconian, I mean giving 10 year old boys 2+ hours of homework a day,
> and then focusing at times on rote memorization drills. The ability to
> write, to read and to calculate are important, but spelling tests and
> multiplication tables are not really core to those goals, are they? The
> emphasis wrong, and the effect of two hours of memorization work is very
> demoralizing to a youngster who should also be reading more and simply
> playing ball. In our world, we certainly know that memorizing and knowing
> a list of values published for an organization certainly does not assure
> that those values will be implemented.
> Mike....

Mike and Bill,

As I've read these discussions on the list over the last couple of weeks,
what I've missed thus far is any sense that the particular situation
creates the rules. No one would disagree that the countries of Europe are
fighting over the issue of keeping their own rules in the economic union
and yet in spite of the huge size of this country and the vast differences
between groups, we still believe in the universal educational rules. It
is true that all humans are more alike than different but don't you agree
that it is those differences that create both the glory and the problems?

I listen to people from one cultural group telling another that they are
brutalizing their children through spanking, while another groups says
that they would rather teach their children about authority, its dangers
and its rules rather than having the police do it for them. To me the
answer is that they are both correct and incorrect and if they apply the
wrong rule to their situation they will make the right one a failure.
I seem to remember Bertrand Russell talking a lot about this tendency for
truth not to travel well from one group to another. So where are we?

First: the base method of childhood learning is imitation, rote learning.

Second: The learning continues as the child explores, through symbols, the
structure of that rote learning in the beginnings of intellectual analysis
and the practice of reorganization of the rote learning to new situations
creating the beginnings of virtuosity or mastery.

Third: The learning continues as a dialogue between individuals and in

Fourth: The learning is now holistically reflected upon within the whole
system of life and community and is passed on through teaching.

Moshe Feldenkrais says that you begin that journey with your biological
heritage, you continue it by being taught parts 1 and 2 and complete it by
teaching yourself parts 3 and 4 of the above.

So in short, you can have the right answer to a problem at the wrong time
and come out with failure. And failure in this case is all that matters.
Every master teacher that I have studied with has used all of these tools.
Imitation, analysis and practice, dialogue and ensemble, reflection and
mastery through solidifying the place of the knowledge in the whole by
passing it on to a live student and being responsible for their mastery.

I believe it was the first post that spoke of the fatigue around students
who didn't "want" to learn. If the time is right, in education, the
learning point has been reached, then the student will be ready for the
instruction. If it isn't then someone is in the wrong place.

I have had and still have both class and private lessons in my work in the
performing arts, (48 years) and I have taught and coached for forty years.
Sometimes, as with Dame Eva Turner, it seemed too new and I was too young,
but her image and her energy has fed my work since high school even though
the specifics were much beyond me. On the other hand I spent five years
with the great Black voice teacher Frederick Wilkerson and four out of the
five years were spent on rote scales. Before I could move to the next
step I had to have that experience. Understanding without experience is
artifice. However rote repetition is not practice of understanding but
play with the material itself through imitation. This rote work is very
deep in the whole being of the student and sets up the learning point
which is when the experience is given a name and is applied to a new
situation with the student as his own teacher.

This is beyond a post and so I'm going to leave it. However, I would say
that if the student is being paid by a company and is resistant then you
might look into group dynamics for a motivation otherwise you almost have
to do individual therapy (unteaching) on them and that is probably beyond
most business means. If they are ready then they will be grateful for
what you bring. If they are not, then the problem lies with a mistake.
They are in the wrong class. If you have to teach the "little red
schoolhouse" method, all levels in one room, then I would encourage teams
and immediate goals with people doing and succeeding at what they can do.
It is in this realm with my teaching choirs and individual amateurs that I
have found the most resonance with the work that Senge talks about when he
calls it a LO. For me that is a well-guided but democratically run class
that feels that it can create a future that it believes in and the hiring
company will accept as well.

If I may add a post script. I didn't like the Taoist poem much although I
once did. Today I have had people, who didn't know that I taught them,
abscond with my Intellectual Capital and research. I suspect the martial
Taoists would have probably killed the thief if that had happened to them.
My "failures" publish my teaching structures and even trademark my words
as their method. This can create very hard feelings between former
students and teachers and blows your network to hell. Instead, I would
encourage you to own what you teach and be responsible as well. Liability
can be a very cold glass of water in the face. But the alternative is
starvation. As for machines, I love them, unless I have to fix them
myself, then I hate them.


Ray Evans Harrell, artistic director
The Magic Circle Chamber Opera of New York


Ray Evans Harrell <mcore@IDT.NET>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>