Just returned home from speaking at another large international conference where meaningless clichés filled the air and rolled off of people’s tongues. Aside from being boring, clichés oversimplify complex issues and distract us from making forward progress. Clichés are a tranquilizer that retard our thinking and decision-making. Clichés amplify the superficial and form of a vapor barrier around powerful ideas.
Sometimes, the clichés are not even true. Yet, they still manage to become a community standard.
One particularly pernicious cliché goes something like this.
“We all have so much to learn from our students.”
Variations on this theme include:
“The kids are so much smarter than us.”
“My students know so much more than me.”
“They are the digital natives. We are digital immigrants.”
The motivation behind uttering such banalities is likely positive. It acknowledges that children are competent and encourages adults to learn with them.
However, these clichés suggest a power relationship in which all adults (particularly teachers) are resigned to the role of bumbling TV dad while the kids rule the roost. In education, this often serves as a justification for why teachers irrationally fear computers and modernity or appear to have stopped learning.
The cliché diminishes the value of expertise and effort for adults and young people alike.
Let me state clearly that I have no problem learning from anyone or any experience. I love learning with and from children. Nothing delights me more than when we co-construct some meaning. I just don’t go into classrooms thinking I am dumber than my students. I have experience, expertise, knowledge, wisdom, insights and a better Rolodex than they do.
My old friend Branford Marsalis is widely considered one of the world’s greatest musicians. He is also a very fine educator.
This one-minute clip may surprise you.
I look forward to the discussion…
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.