Not Taught Well?

The Live Science feed has an article on a study by researchers at Vanderbilt U where they polled teachers on skills students need that aren’t taught well. [Link] There is some implied association with the Every Child Left Behind program but it isn’t clear from the reportage whether this is a substantive criticism or just a partisan savaging.

Anyway, since its a list and such things are usually so arbitrary and subjective, dissecting them is an attractor of considerable strength. So without further ado, here is the survey list of their assessment of what 8K primary and secondary shul teachers say students should have in the way of social skills:

  • Listen to others
  • Follow the steps
  • Follow the rules
  • Ignore distractions
  • Ask for help
  • Take turns when you talk
  • Get along with others
  • Stay calm with others
  • Be responsible for your behavior
  • Do nice things for others.

Note that these skills are associated with manners somehow, although this isn’t completely obvious to me.

Listen to others
: Its hard for the shuls to teach this when society isn’t practicing it any more. I tend to think of our present state as an antithesis of the Dine (Navajo) practice of retaining complete silence until the speaker indicates he/she is finished. So teaching this is bucking a social current.

My personal theory is that this is actually an example of false authority on the micro scale. People today are constantly being reminded of how what they have to say is totally unimportant. Self determination has been banned by both society and the legal system. Government has largely degenerated into a bipartisan version of the old Russian Communist system except that voting is not compulsory. Certainly the methods of selecting candidates is unsatisfactory and unsatisfying.

Follow the steps
: If anything this is misplaced. There is entirely too much of this in modern society in everything from buying groceries to dieing. Our lives are entirely too regimented and this is nothing more than the primitive hunter-gatherer behavior exerting itself. But I can see why teachers think it is important and list it. Part of this is a helpful desire to prepare students for the realities of our increasingly drab and demeaning existence, but a greater part is the fact that the shul environment has become the archetype and extreme of this algorithmic nightmare of existence.

Follow the rules: This one goes in the same toilet. Modern society has too many rules, to the point where no one can remember or learn all of them. and thus ensuring that the organizations can, at their whim, destroy or extinguish anyone. So how is this indistinguishable from slavery?

Ignore distractions
: This one is easy since it runs contrary to human nature. And I understand why the public shuls are concerned about it since after the evangelicals they are the most disturbed by the idea that humans are animals. Reacting to distraction is a survival trait from the days when we didn’t have the instrumentality to be the top predator. When you’re snatching trail kill for sustenance, worrying about whether that noise is the predator that provided the trail kill may save you from becoming same. So one more example of false authority, trying to make us out to me something different than what we are.

Ask for help: OK, this one is so loaded with connections that there is no way I can cover all of them. The cartoon version is the differences between men and women, but it goes beyond that. Asking for help is an admission of failure, of submission, and given the enormous interconnectivity of society today and the inconsequential nature of the individual, I can readily see why no one asks for help.

Take turns when you talk: This is one of the things I like about lists. They get redundant. This is nothing more than a variant on the first item, and it has the same assessment. If nothing that anyone says has any value or worth, then letting them proceed in an orderly manner is just a waste of all the listeners’ time and attention span. More seriously, this impacts on typical human mechanism like consensus building, which is pure hunter-gatherer behavior and eminently important in the survival of small groups. If the interaction of modern society and natural individualism is devaluing discussion then our descent into human cogdom is accelerating.

Get along with others: Why? If we are entirely ruled by rules and procedures why do we need to get along with others? If cooperation is mandated then why make any extra effort to strengthen or expand it? Simply put, if you deny people the means to make a difference as individuals then cooperative effort is also devalued.

Stay calm with others: Again, why? If our behavior is regulate by procedures and rules then our emotions are the only azimuth left to us. The popularity of modern emotion ridden self-debasement entertainment is ample evidence of this. And since what others think and say is totally inconsequential, why should we not confront them with their wastage of our precious freedom and time in the only ways open to us?

Be responsible for your behavior: Sadly, the social system has moved on beyond responsibility. No one is trusted to do what is proper and right. Morality is a byblow of religious fervor or a topic for shul study, not a matter of personal integrity. When the only meaningful responsibility is to obey rules and procedures then the only way responsibility is permitted is by obeying those rules and procedures. And yes, I realize that is circular but for once it is necessary and accurate. The point remains that responsibility is only meaningful when there is freedom and individual determination.

Do nice things for others: Strangely, this one doesn’t need to be taught since it is a natural part of humans. Its the counterpoint to asking for help. The problem is that it is now irrelevant. Doing nice things for other people has to be more beneficial to the whole than it harms the individual and in modern society this is not the situation. Helping other harms the doer and benefits the group not at all, so the mechanism for altruism is obviated. And I’m not even going to note that teaching-to-the-test ala Every Child Left Behind disinclines this type of behavior among students. That’s minor compared to the overall social problem which is probably so pronounced that it is no longer a problem since there is no possible solution.

But isn’t it a nice list?

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