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April 07, 2004
Michel Thomas on children being prison inmates on the importance of relaxation for learning on how everyone can learn

and the nearest thing to a philosophy of education to be found in this book about Michel Thomas is the following:

'We handicap and hobble and put a heavy lid on the immense innate learning potential of the human mind that is in everyone. Education has become a conspiracy between parents and governments to control children. Every child is institutionalised at the age of five or six and sentenced to at least ten years' hard time until so-called graduation. Children serve time by law, and I call it a conspiracy because parents consent to it and the government enforces it. So children become prison inmates except unlike prison inmates they do not have a voice with which to protest, or advocates to protect their rights. Children don't have anybody. They have to serve their time unconditionally. After such an experience many naturally feel they have had enough of education and learning. They have no wish to continue. School's over and done with learning's finished. From childhood on we are conditioned to associate learning with tension, effort, concentration, study. In essence, learning equals pain. The educational experience has been a painful one, and has capped the immense learning potential of each child. This is a tragedy.'

Conventional teaching, Michel argues, closes rather than opens the mind and cripples even the best students, blocking the subconscious because of the tension it creates. 'Why not make use of the full potential of the human mind, by combining the conscious and subconscious? And you can only tap into that if someone is in a relaxed and pleasant frame of mind. It is important to eliminate anxiety and tension. Then and only then is a person completely receptive to learning. People do not want to expose themselves to more pain, or face what they think are their own inadequacies. Yet these are the very people who become most excited when they see that they can absorb and progress quickly and easily.'

Michel's approach overcomes the most stubborn cases, and he insists there is no such thing as someone being unable to learn. He emphatically rejects the idea that a person has to have a gift, or 'ear', to be able to learn a language. 'Have you ever met anyone, however stupid, who cannot speak their own language? Everyone is gifted. Anyone who can speak his native tongue has already proved his gift for language and can learn another.'

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:52 AM
Category: Education theory

I was at a park with my three year old last week, the park backed up to, what looked like, a private middle school. There were about 70 kids in the sports fields in gray t-shirts and black short doing jumping jacks. My homeschooled daughter looked at them and then asked me "Mom, why are those kids in jail?"


Comment by: Jane on April 7, 2004 11:49 PM
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