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December 01, 2008



be like us has gotten a lot haredr over the last 50 years. Mobile workforce, greater diversity, fewer absolute standards of behavior.US response was a transition from very implicit, social standards of teaching & student behavior to very explicit, legal ones.most classroom teachers will tell you they spend more time thinking about maintaining discipline than imparting knowledge.kids really do exist in a different state of mind. some over-the-top dominance displays might be necessary to prevent them from, e.g. urinating on your floor.IIRC most teachers in the US graduate in the bottom third of second- or third-tier schools, and many are the first in their family to attend college.in far mode motherhood is very honorable. america and apple pie. in near mode, it is awful. diaper-changing and squelching the urge to murder the little beast so you can get some sleep. (cf. Zahavi & Zahavi: he's crying to annoy your neighbors so they'll pressure you to pony up more food)teaching is similar: high-status idealistic rhetoric, low-status cynical implementation.nobody knows how to say, in a precise way, what differentiates good teaching from bad.anxiety about children is a great way for pols to drum up votes. they routinely add peripheral goals for educators to achieve, e.g. community service, character education, arguably music/art/dance/etc.smart independent women who would have been forced to become teachers in 1930 can now become doctors or lawyers instead.How Aristotle was not flayed alive: Alexander is very bright, but he needs to apply himself more. B-


You have to ask permission from the aittoruhy figures to go to the bathroom, typically in front of all the other students. This is true for students of all abilities, races, class backgrounds, and type of school (e.g. for poor and upper-middle class kids).You can try to ask to go to your locker, but that almost always gets a no. Only the last 5 functions in the list can account for this. It cannot be to accept dominance in some specific area, since most people especially middle-class and above people will never have to ask permission to go to the bathroom when they get a job, or to go to the water cooler, snack machine, etc. It must be about dominance in general.Thinking more, I don't think harden works because you could do this through having some small number of trips you could make during a class. Maybe you'd have a hall pass that you dropped in a box next to the door on the way out. The teacher could tell whether you've slipped the paper in the box more than once per period. This method of limiting bathroom breaks would still incentivize students to work long, hard, and on cue why should you have to publicly ask permission in nearly 100% of cases? Soften doesn't work fully either, except when kids first go to school. Forcing them to ask permission to go to the bathroom would help them learn to accept new norms, but in high school? It's not softening them up to a new or local norm / rank. Stiffen suffers the same as harden why isn't the norm that students use self-control to follow simply one that has them drop a hall pass into a box by the door on their way out to the bathroom. That's still somewhat embarrassing and unlike anything they'll do at home, with a babysitter, or in the workplace. But the slip in the box sidesteps interacting with the aittoruhy figure, who would really be more of a mostly passive monitor.Last, legitimize doesn't do so well because that would be more like a fraternity hazing / initiation ritual. If the point is to make the student accept dominance or rank, the only criteria are that the action be costly / embarrassing. You show that you can impose a cost on others and they have to take it. For instance, the current frat members dump syrup and feathers on you and you have to clean it all off. Or you have to scrub some ungodly toilet.But going to the bathroom is something you're gracious for finally, relief! Going to the nurse's office when you think you've harmed yourself, going to your locker when you're in a panic about a misplaced homework assignment or to get a quick snack, etc. these are the other things you have to ask permission for. You signal that you're in a bind, the aittoruhy figure lets you work it out, and you feel gracious for being able to relieve your stress.(These are unlike most of the frat hazing rituals, where you have no desire to perform the actions that you must ask permission to do thank you sir, may I have another? )So it looks like submit is a necessary function. This example is not a marginal one think of how much schools have changed over time, across place, or by social status of students. Curriculum, seating arrangements, wall decorations, individual vs. group learning, corporal or no corporal punishment, etc. Yet one of the most constant features of school is having to publicly ask permission to go to the bathroom, go to your locker, to the nurse, etc.

Bruce Elkin

Hi Steve, I too am a big believer in practice, practice, practice.

Wrote an article a couple of years ago about Ten Thousand Hours: The Awesome Power of Passion, Persistence, and Practice [ it's at http://hubpages.com/hub/10-000-Hours--The-Awesome-Power-of-Practice ] if you want to take a look at it.

I was also struck by Gladwell's comments that behind 'knack and wiring', there is cultural heritage. And his idea that Asians don't really have a knack for math, they have a knack for hard work and staying with a challenge until they get it. And that knack comes from the circumstances of wet-ricing cultivation, which takes long hours, every day of the year.

Makes me wonder if the knack is really cultural and not a "born with" capacity. He says "not so" with math. Lots to ponder!

Steve Chandler

YES there is "wiring" and "knack" and proclivity and innate talent....but once you find that (and everyone has it) then PRACTICE is what makes you great or good or mediocre or awful ... depending on your practice.......


Great blog!


Steve, I like the story of Mary Martin and the punching bag. And you're right about intense practice giving the false appearance of sheer giftedness. I don't want to pour any cold water on this observation, but one objection (you probably hear this, too) is that Martin still needed some kind of proclivity toward music in the first place. A lot of people could sing and punch that bag decade upon decade without ever becoming a strong musical performer.

Similarly, I'm convinced I could practice mathematics for years and years and never be a good mathematician. I'd get better than I am now, but I wouldn't be as good as someone who is "wired" for that kind of thinking. (Or is there really no "wiring" or "knack" for anything?)

Just curious what you think about this.

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