Opening Pandora’s Box

January 14, 2010

“Pandora” © Cyril Helnwein

I wandered into the staff tearoom this morning and I noticed that a new sticker was adorning our fridge. From www.unijobs.com it announces EDUCATION’S PURPOSE IS TO REPLACE EMPTY MINDS WITH OPEN ONES. I immediately bristled with indignation. What a horrid insult to anyone involved in the education process! Where are these poor mindless individuals? And what am I – a vending machine? Put your money in the slot, press a button and out pops a course to “replace” that empty mind. It showed me that for all our advances into participatory processes, we still view education largely in what Friere referred to all those years ago as the banking model of education.

In some ways this is not surprising. Our education context still centres the experience on the teacher – not the student – and separates the roles absolutely. We can run all the group experiences and outdoor activities we like, there are still all sorts of role communicators which construct and reinforce the student as passive and teacher as active. 

In “Can you hear the Heartbeat” Dave Andrews observes that “most formal meetings build walls of alienation rather than break them down. The formality of proceedings often holds people apart. People relate to each other, not on the basis of their common humanity, but on the basis of their formal roles”. Roles are obviously helpful: they tell us what to expect, how to behave, how to relate to each other, what to wear, where to go and even what to say and how to say it. Of course that’s immensely helpful – it would be exhausting to have to attend to every layer of process throughout every interaction. We need some helpful short cuts, and roles provide these.  And I use role theory a lot in my work to help develop and strengthen communities. However reflecting on Andrew’s quote I can see that there is an opportunity afforded by technology to interrupt some of those powerful social cues and potentially re-imagine students’ agency. Andrews goes on to say, that if we want to break down alienation, we need to intersperse formality with informality. It will be interesting to see how I can use technology in this course to create informal places to connect, without losing reflective deep, and respectful behaviour and the intent of the learning process.  

Photo from Cyril Helnwein’s Myths and Fairytales series, reproduced with the kind permission of Cyril Helnwein. www.cyrilhelnwein.com

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One Response to “Opening Pandora’s Box”

  1. Jane Says:

    Am enjoying your blog heaps Lynda … but am writing this time to admire the fabulous photo by Helnwein. Beautifully composed, stunning lighting- i wish my screen was bigger so that i could soak up the details of this wonderful offering. Thank you thank you. And I understand he doesn’t use digitial technology?? So all i can say is WOW.


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