Are Teachers Agents of Stultification?

The child who recites under the threat of the rod obeys the rod and that’s all: he will apply his intelligence to something else. But the child who is ‘explained to’ will devote his intelligence to the work of grieving: to understanding, that is to say, to understanding that he doesn’t understand unless he is explained to. He is no longer submitting to the rod, but rather to a hierarchical world of intelligence.

The quote comes from Jacque Ranciere’s ‘Ignorant Schoolmaster.’ To position oneself as a teacher in the role of the “one who understands” and whose vocation is to “bring the light of understanding” to the benighted pupil, is to set up an antagonistic classroom from the outset. A hierarchy is erected. Following Ranciere, I think this duality between the wise-master and the groping subject, along with its pedagogical expression–teaching as explanation— is a source of stultification. It ignores the idea of knowledge as a process, a construction, and perhaps most fundamentally a conversation. It offers instead a classroom divided between light and darkness, and promotes a culture of submission rather than innovation. This, at least, is my take. It would be great if some other teachers would give voice… It would be even greater if some of you could offer strategies on how to overcome the said duality..

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