Why isn’t “shit detecting” a school subject?

detectorI”m sorry but I’ve had a bad day. All the B.S. about the “royal” wedding and people aimlessly following,  jollygagging along.  The farce of celebrity and bread and circuses. Who’ll break this circle of lies?

What I mean is that school should be a place for creating citizens that are critically aware, citizens that ask questions and who in the spirit of the enlightenment – are free and pull on their own oars. The evidence that surrounds me, shows that very little of this is the case. Especially worrisome is a school system that puts the royal farce on the boob tube and labels it as “educational” – without nare a discussion of what all this mass psychosis means. Visited the local library today and that’s what I found the librarian doing with a class of 11 year olds. Them watching TV and the teacher oogling the ceremony.

Where is the shit detector that we should by adult responsibility, be building into each and every youth? What good is school if not that it follows Socrates’ example  and “the life examined”? Is school and the classroom just another branch of an advertising agency? Is it just a place to kill time and socialize? Is it a lobby, a purgatory before the promise of  wasting a life making money?  Where is the critical mind and involved citizenry that was the promise of the enlightenment as they cast off the shackles of absolute monarchy, subservience and slave wages?

School does a piss poor job of getting students to critically examine their place in the world and the society where they live.  The evil of unquestioned knowledge is really scary and we live in scary times.

Just wanted to say this. Here is a movie I dug up, to throw a wrench into the machine. Ecrasez l’infame. Let’s hope there are a few teachers out there still asking their students to carry shit detectors instead of dreaming of buying the next handbag or Chanel fragrance.


If you liked this post, you might enjoy; My Egyptian Moment or Lessons for Educators from the King’s Speech

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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6 Responses

  1. Jay MacKay says:

    Yes, you must be having a bad day.
    What has killed education:
    a. teacher’s unions.
    b. parents – who monitor, interfere, direct etc.
    c. tenure
    All these points add up to complacency.
    As to the wedding. Nothing wrong with watching a wedding as long as it is followed/introduced by – history, culture, art,
    and so on.
    As a Canadian, William and Catherine will be my king and queen.

  2. Mark says:

    It seems that what you see as shit detecting is really an anger that others don’t share your prejudices.

  3. Stephen says:

    Hey, got here through a link on Twitter: interesting blog, thought I would comment.

    I don’t think it’s fair to treat the wedding (and, more importantly, the reaction to it) in the way that you have here. You say that you want students to think critically about it, but thinking about the monarchy, what it represents, what role it plays in society, etc. is an incredible opportunity for critical engagement, particularly if you want to understand why society works the way that it does. I’m not saying that most people did this, but I would expect that you would want to in a post calling for critical engagement. To treat ‘people’ in such a depreciative way, describing them as ‘jollygagging’ along, is really unfortunate. The ‘why’ behind the interest in the wedding is certainly more complex than people are stupid and like shiny things.

    As a foreigner living in Britain, I was struck by the amount of flags I saw this year. Not the English flag (which flew during the world cup), but the Union Jack. It struck me that this wedding was, in a lot of ways, a celebration of being British as much as anything.

    And even if it weren’t: why shouldn’t people sometimes be allowed to be interested in fashion and pomp and circumstance? Why does this count as ‘shit’ to be detected? Because there are starving people in the world? I agree, more energy should be placed on serious problems in the world, but I don’t think that we should bemoan everyone who found the wedding to be interesting. To the librarian showing it to the kids: this is a great moment of opening another world to her students. When else will they have the opportunity to have a bunch of kids watch what is (whether you argue it should be or not) a very important moment in the life of Britain?

    If we need to be better at detecting shit (which I certainly agree we do), it must happen at every level.

  4. A couple of thoughts that sprung to mind after reading this:

    Firstly, it’s possible to use even the fluffiest, blandest topics as a vehicle for sparking critical engagement, if you put your mind to it; and

    Secondly, I believe that good teachers (and good parents for that matter) generally do sow the seeds that will ultimately nudge learners to critically examine their place in the world and the society where they live… however, as teachers we should not expect to see instant results as it can take a while (and sometimes even years) for the seeds we’ve planted to germinate & bear fruit.

    Speaking as a Brit, I think it’s fair to say that the Royal Wedding falls very far short of fitting my definition of an important moment in the life of Britain 😉 however, my I wouldn’t seek to be passing on my views about it to my students… I would argue that the best way to foster critical thinking is to present both sides of the argument, adopt a neutral position, and then let the learners thrash it out, with guidance as and where necessary (i.e. what Socrates said 🙂


  5. Kirsten says:

    I have to agree with the person above. I am British and yesterday represented a lot more for me than idolising celebrities and spotting chanel handbags. I know it’s fashionable to do down the aristocracy, and I’m not a huge fan, but ultimately we cannot spend every waking hour obsessing over the imperfections of society. There has to be some celebration among this darkness. And so what if it happens to be a wedding of two royals? Actually, if you’re interested in history, this wedding parted with a few traditions and kept others. The sermon was very touching and was addressing all unions of marriage. There was a lot of material there for critical thinking. If we’re so opposed to talking about tradition, why to we still teach religious studies and law?

    And anyway, if people love Chanel handbags and celebrity perfumes so much, who am I to tell them they are wrong to? In this age of dogme enlightenment, we have to meet people in ways that matter to them. If fashion provokes discussion, why not include it in class? Surely these are all starting points for an element of critical thinking.

    Your words sting on an emotional and national level, and I like your blog a lot, so I’ll continue to read your blog and won’t feel this way for long. You should be aware of the effects your words have, but it is your blog and you have a right to express yourself. Likewise, I have a right to express myself.

  6. ddeubel says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments – that’s what a blog is mostly about, people giving voice to their beliefs. We can agree to disagree. Nor, are my thoughts/rants/contributions meant on any personal level. That also means the individual royal family members!

    I won’t get into a debate about the royal family – good or bad. Nor even how important the ideas of the enlightenment are to keeping alive “education” and the freedom which is the end game of education. But you see, I just got married so this kind of thing is “on my radar screen”.

    I wrote this mostly because there was absolutely “0.0%” critical commentary on the event. At least from where I sit. I watched hours and hours of coverage but nothing that allowed the other side of the debate a voice. They were locked down, locked out. I’m serious, it really was totalitarian, not just from the state’s side but also from the media (a form of public education). There are a hell of a lot of people who don’t give a damn about this yet were never given voice. Nor in the media was even the institution of marriage questioned. I watched and read hours of stuff – nada.

    These are important issues that our students should tackle. Either formally in school or informally in society. This was brushed over. The issue of “celebrity” and the ideology of “personal divinity” (think the pope, Stalin, Ghaddafi, the Royals)is at the core of any curriculum and “education”. I’m not saying who is right, but I’m saying it should be addressed. I’ve been a student of critical pedagogy for a long time. I won’t bore you with a long ramble about it (but teachers should read about it, acknowledge this philosophy of education). Suffice to say that school is all about creating a “social being” and that educators (and society) should help students critically examine their role and place so they don’t go “gentle into that good night”.

    Being anti-monarchy or even just questioning this, does not mean one is anti-british or unproud to be British. Quite the opposite actually. This article I found quite “sane” on the subject http://ti.me/mkfXOw

    School needs more “questioning” and students tackling tough ideas. It is formative and has a responsibility to get the youth becoming participants in their own identity and not just following the herd, lock stock and barrel.

    Critical pedagogy to me as a teacher is summed up in the beautiful poem of Rumi (and really it can’t be translated with any justice)-

    I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I’ve been knocking from inside!

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