CSotD: Learning under compulsion

Mr. Fitz gets to open the discussion because cartoonist David Lee Finkle is a for-real teacher who not only works in the classroom but writes books to help other teachers.

And who recently reposted this piece on his blog about the difference between making people behave and making them want to learn, in which he quoted Plato:

“All learning that is acquired under compulsion has no hold upon the mind.”

The whole thing is worth reading, and the general topic reminds me of a quote I once saw attributed to Tolstoy but have never been able to track down. It basically said that, if someone said “I’ve never tried to play the violin, but perhaps I can!” we would laugh at them, but people often say they’ve never written a novel, but feel perhaps they could.

Well, we’ve all heard violins played and we’ve all been to school and most of us have read a novel or two.

But, just as having listened to a symphony doesn’t qualify you to be a musician, so, too, having sat in a classroom doesn’t qualify you to be a teacher.

And I’ve sat through plenty of school board meetings surrounded by people who think it does, but I’ve also sat through plenty where the members knew they were not educators and so asked for guidance from the people who were.

I know where good decisions have consistently been made.


Which made me respond with what my father used to call a “Yeahbut” to Joel Pett‘s cartoon on the topic. A yeahbut is where you take one second to acknowledge the other person’s POV but then immediately start tearing it down.

In this case, yeahbut you’d be far worse off in a place with bad schools.

The “yeah” part is that having kids learn at home is far from ideal, and I absolutely acknowledge that working parents are really up against the wall with their jobs open and their kids’ schools closed.

And, BTW, it’s not a pure fact, but it’s a valid observation that, while public education may have started with New Englanders wanting their kids to be able to read the Bible, what gave it its real impetus was union workers wanting the little bastards out of the factories and cops and store owners wanting the little bastards off the streets.

Social workers simply seized the opportunity to give poor kids a leg up with education.

The “but” part is that you are much better off in a community with good schools, even if those schools are closed, because the strategies and solutions they come up with will be far better than what happens over in the crappy neighborhood with the crappy schools.


That assumes, of course, that your local school has the authority to make its own decisions about how to move forward.

Pat Bagley offers a look at schools where the decisions are handed down from on high by people who also think they could probably play the violin if they decided to give it a try.

As for the scientific evidence they cite, let me repeat again that the achievement of the Enlightenment was that we stopped using science to prove what we already thought was true and began using it to find out what was true, even if the results surprised us.

Or, to put it in simpler terms, if Donald Trump were Pope, Galileo would still be on the shit list and we’d be scouring the hulls of ships for pre-natal barnacle geese.

And, by the way, that link is a hoot, which proves that you don’t have to plant your butt in a classroom chair in order to learn, which brings us to …

… Jeff Danziger‘s commentary on the colleges, reinforcing my contention that, unless you are simply signing up to get your ticket punched, you’re a damn fool to pay for college and then not be on campus.

There’s nothing wrong, mind you, with getting your ticket punched, but you don’t have to spend Ivy League money and go into massive debt to pick up most certifications.

Basically, if you’re smart enough to benefit from going to college, you should be smart enough to take a gap year while they sort things out.


Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Putinverse


The UK just got a report back on Russian interference in the elections over Brexit, which is upsetting news for the Minister In Charge Of Putting The Toothpaste Back In The Tube but very inspirational for cartoonists like Martyn Turner.

And Peter Schrank.

And Dave Brown.

There’s enough schadenfreude in this to please any Yank, because, as that above-linked Foreign Policy analysis points out, we were able to get our report back and not do a goddam thing about it very soon after our elections, while the Brits have had to wait four years.

Though the article does say

The report makes it clear that the physical process of voting in the United Kingdom is largely secure due to the continued use of paper ballots.

Which should trigger a bit of remorse in this country but probably won’t change our way of doing things, unless someone in the current administration gets a paid position on the board of directors of the Ticonderoga Pencil Company.


Sigh. Made me think of this Tom Toles cartoon from 2001, and how there should have been a lot more hangings back then besides of poor little Chad.


And of this David Horsey commentary, back when many of us felt it was inappropriate that Katherine Harris was adjudicating the results in that same election.

Heh. Wonder who’ll rule on disputed ballots the next time around?

Mostly, our 20 years of inaction reminds me of the old joke about the fellow who can’t fix the roof in the middle of a storm but doesn’t have to fix it in good weather because it doesn’t leak then.

Plus this even older song, which does a better job of illustrating the way we pass the buck(et) than any of those Schoolhouse Rock efforts.


4 thoughts on “CSotD: Learning under compulsion

  1. What moral lesson can we learn from the spontaneous generation of Barnacle Bill the Sailor?

    P.S.: Splendid cartoon by Dave Brown. Must share.

  2. The window she is broken and the rain is comin’ in
    If someone doesn’t fix it I’ll be soaking to my skin
    But if we wait a day or two the rain may go away
    And we don’t need a window on such a sunny day

    — “Manana is Good Enough for Me,” sung by Peggy Lee


  3. This all reminded me of a couple things, my dad was a grade/middle school (before there were such things as Middle Schools) band and music teacher in a small Oregon town for many years. He got his M.A. in music in 1950, and had wanted to do his thesis on the problems of school boards, and they wouldn’t let him do it! Too controversial!
    After teaching in that system for over 30 years I remember him saying that his bosses were the principal and vice-principal, who were more than likely ex-coaches, but usually had at least once been teachers. As ex-teachers they might know a little bit about classrooms, but nothing about teaching a 60 person band class and what my dad had to deal with. THEIR bosses, however were the school board members who didn’t even know anything about teaching. Guess they must have been in those classrooms once and figured they knew all they needed to know. It’s still a dumb system.

  4. So, a little bit on the Bagley cartoon, not to say that your interpretation is wrong, but that there is more to it:

    Utah also suffers from classroom overcrowding anyways, and despite large increases in recent years, we still lag behind most of the nation in per-pupil spending. Part of this, that I rarely hear mentioned, is that we have a very high ratio of pupils per taxpayer, and we compare much more favorably when comparing per-taxpayer spending on education. Especially due to the irony that all of our state income tax goes to education, but if you have kids, you pay less income tax. (Not that I’m complaining, since I have three kids)

    Anyways, to make my point, without doubling our school buildings, our teaching staff, or the hours schools are open, or halving the amount of time kids are in the classroom, it isn’t possible to get good social distance in a classroom in Utah, and likely in other areas too.

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