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March 13, 2003
Feedback from Sean Gabb this blog is starting to change the world!

Here's a first. Brian's Education Blog has had its first detectable influence on Education in Real Life. It wasn't a very big bit of influence, but it was influence. Here's the story.

You may recall that I did a piece about my friend Sean Gabb teaching economics to a group of mostly Asian, mostly female students.

One of things I mentioned in that piece was a culture clash that I thought I detected between the Anglo-Saxon argue-your-corner tradition and the Asian defer-to-your-teacher tradition. Sean, being the Anglo that he is, wanted his students to argue with each other, and with him. I surmised that a teacher telling his Asian pupils to disagree creates a classic dilemma in their minds. He is ordering something, and because he is the teacher he must be obeyed, but what he is ordering is disagreement. Ouch!

Sean rang me to day to tell me that he had just instructed a class, containing several of the pupils I had watched him teaching, to debate some issue amongst themselves and come to a collective point of view, which they would then present to him. The pupils said they felt uncomfortable arguing in Sean's presence. The idea was that they should feel free to dispute some of the things Sean himself had said, but they didn't feel able to do this in a relaxed manner. So, they asked Sean to kindly leave while they had their discussion. And get this. They quoted my report. That's right, they used what I had written to explain the legitimacy of what they felt about this problem.

Sean had no problem with this, so he left, and while he was outside, relaxing, cooling his heels, having a fag, etc., he rang me on his mobile to tell me this. For which I am very grateful to him.

Okay, this is not the abolition of compulsory education, but it is a start. I have helped a group of pupils and their teacher to understand just that tiny little bit better than otherwise what they were doing together, and have helped them communicate with one another when solving one of the resulting problems. This pleases me.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:45 PM
Category: Higher education
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Please post more comments, I will visit this site again soon.

Comment by: postal code on July 26, 2003 06:18 AM
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