0004: On the beauty of student resistance and teenage rebellion
I’ve noticed over the course of my teaching career that students, particularly teenagers, are reluctant to comply. Some outright refuse. In turn, teachers, myself included, get angry and come up with some punitive measure to force their compliance, or simply send them to the office with a referral. And, then we expect them to think for themselves. Is it so terrible that they don’t comply easily? Should we react so harshly to what is quite natural? I don’t think so.
I understand that for teaching to occur there must be order; but, what about learning? What about development as productive individuals. It seems that are efforts to contain this seemingly rebellious spirit of youth only function to either completely defeat the student and leave them paralyzed by simple decisions that require the smallest bit of independent thought, or they leave school criminalizes by the people who were supposed to educate them. So what else should or could be done? Their resistance should perhaps be redirected. Made productive. That rebellious spirit should be nurtured. It’s everything that is required in a democratic society. We currently educate for conformity and control. The paradigm must shift to allow for students to strive creatively and collaboratively to solve problems that are relevant to them and their community at first, and then move to problems that are further reaching. Rather than classrooms there should be think-tanks, field tests, and production. Freire called it problematicization of education. This immediately and directly opposes the banking model of education that leaves students passive. Anyone working for a real and tangible problem works harder and gains more.
Many college departments and medical schools are using models that involve problem-based and cooperative learning. Those forms are simply more effective means of instruction simply because it puts the power and responsibility in the hands of the students. The teachers are no longer educating; rather, they are facilitating and even participation in the group learning. There are movements trying to shift classroom teaching this way, but many teachers are reluctant.
The teachers I have worked with are usually uncomfortable relinquishing power to the students. My best moments as a teacher have been when I stood back from my prescribed authoritarian role and just let ‘em figure it out on their own. People crave choice and the opportunity to create. If we only consume then our spirits become bloated. Just as writing and publication should be the result of study and synthesized thought, so should the production of information and critical distribution of information. Students are bloated from consumption, or perhaps empty and numbed from the barrage of information that is never connected to them.
Again, I ask myself the question: is student rebellion so awful? It sure is irritating, but when they’re getting what they need they’re perfect. Somehow we have to consistently create those moments that allow our students true genius to exist and thrive.