User:Deepamishra/Dimensions of pedagogy and General Semantics

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Dimensions of Pedagogy and General Semantics

Deepa Mishra

Department of English

Smt CHM College

University of Mumbai

Pedagogy is concerned with imparting instruction, means and methods of teaching. Etymologically, pedagogy has its roots in the Greek word “paidagogos,” which meant a slave who took children to and from school. The word “paida” also means children. That’s why we have the meanings, teaching children and that’s why we also have another word “androgogy”-- teaching adults. We, however, are concerned with the first meaning. So in simpler words, pedagogy involves strategies and methods of teaching, of imparting knowledge. Pedagogy, in the recent global situation, has undergone drastic changes. Pedagogy today has assumed the status of a science and also of an art simultaneously. Science is governed by logic, rationality, accuracy and brevity. It is clear, concise and target oriented. Following a scientific methodology, a teacher, therefore efficiently would focus on what pedagogy demands with reference to the subject or the unit of the subject to be taught. This concentrated surgical focus on the unit targets will make the teaching strategy engaging. Engaging in the sense that students will not lose interest in the subject, their attention will not be diverted by the digression. Pedagogy as a science will make your classroom teaching direct, concise and correct. The students will learn to think logically, in sequential order. Their critical faculty will be sharpened because scientific methodology proceeds step by step like surgery. To speak of it metaphorically, like a surgeon a teacher should also know what is the first step and what should be the following steps--as a surgeon knows when and how to make incision, where to cut, how much is to be cut, how deep it is to be cut. A little deeper incision will lead to complications. In that condition he should know how to come back to the exact position. Scientific accuracy of the approach therefore will give fine results in teaching exactly as in surgery. So pedagogy as a science is immensely helpful in teaching. But a teacher’s excellence and expertise will lose its sharpness and efficacy if he fails to master pedagogy as an art. Art demands a lot of thinking and reflecting. A teacher treating pedagogy as an art has to do a lot of thinking and even reflective thinking. Let’s take the example of teaching a poem. Pedagogy as a science will surely be helpful in teaching a poem. For example it will effectively communicate the form of a poem, whether it is a sonnet, Elizabethan sonnet, Spenserian sonnet, octave, sestet, a ballad, an ode, a lyric, rhyme scheme, free verse. Scansion, metrical system, rhythmic pattern, can be taught with mathematical or geometrical accuracy. Meaning in literature, very often, lie beyond words, beyond the physical text. And this is true for teaching most of the subjects. It is therefore an art to convince the students of the fluidity and multi-dimensionality of meanings. Here General Semantics comes into the picture. By using a General Semantics methodology we can focus on building “expansion of the consciousness” and this development of the consciousness is an internal phenomenon of the mind which will reveal to new learners fresh areas of inquiry. General Semantics’ insistence on self identity will help the students motivate themselves and will generate in them a spirit of inquiry. As Martha Batter has rightly pointed out, “true learning must stem from self-motivated, self-conducted inquiry.” Henry L Weinberg, in his work Levels of Knowing and Existence: Studies in General Semantics writes:

This has been called the age of anxiety, the age of the hollow man lost in a lonely crowd. It is the age of the drifting man, the man without a purpose, without any clear philosophy of life other than to ‘get by’ or to ‘succeed’--succeed meaning to conform to the crowd, to keep up with the Joneses, to be accepted.

One result of this aimless, meaningless existence which has neither past nor future is a sense of panic; and a common means of escaping the terrible anxiety thus generated is a headlong, irrational drive to loose oneself in the crowd. The goal of life is “to be accepted by and identical with the crowd.” (Introduction, p.1) Taking into consideration this helplessness of man Korzybski developed the concept of General Semantics which is “a rational methodology to be used by the individual himself.” According to Weinberg, it is a broad methodology containing much more than directions for controlling worry, hate, feelings of inferiority etc. It helps getting at the causes of neurotic symptoms which stem from misevaluations produced by the structure of the language we use in daily life. It is a highly rational approach which a person during emotional upheavals will find extremely difficult to apply. So the usefulness of General Semantics is that it can be used as a preventive therapy if it can start at early childhood. General Semantics helps one realize his/her own potential, hence makes one realize his/her own identity. Here I would like to make a reference to Amartya Sen’s essay “Reason before Identity” where he discusses the problems of identity. Does man have a single identity or multiple identities?

11 He suggests that man can have different identities at the same time. But in such a situation our self identity is always in conflict with the social identity. But to Korzybski “a true conception of man as man will transfer our views of human society.” General semantics suggests that instead of blindly sharing one’s identity with others, individual should focus on self identity, taking responsibility, cooperating and communicating with others in society. Social identity has the potential in influencing man in determining his identity as a member of a particular group. And our present system of education forces the students to sacrifice their identity in the name of conformity to the prescribed syllabus. The teacher also compels the students to follow only what has been prescribed. Their freedom to observe reality is not encouraged. They are made passive recipients of what the teacher says following the syllabus which is prepared for them by a group not necessarily consisting of classroom teachers. So the major thrust of education should be on the development of identity of the student and this can only be done by allowing the student to have freedom in the choice of the subject and reality which they have to encounter in the actual work. But our present method of teaching according to Wendell Johnson is a seductive method of teaching where we train our students to see things as they are dictated by the teachers who are controlled by a curriculum. Wendell Johnson calls this ventriloquism, meaning students speak others’ words, not their own -- usually of the teachers. Today an active and exuberant child enters the school with great zeal to do something but unfortunately he turns into a passive person only to act when dictated to do something. Who is a successful child today? To Joy Browne, a successful child is “docile, neat, does what he/she is told to do, does not talk back, is well-behaved in school and gets good grades. This child is basically passive and charming.” Creativity is praised only in adults. “A successful adult is self-reliant, innovative, assertive, makes logical decision and does not follow the rules made by others.” But our present education system is not equipped enough to create self reliant, innovative and assertive individuals. Pedagogy must provide facility and opportunity to think creatively at every stage of learning. But nowadays in school, colleges and universities countless students soak in the tepid bath of nonsense in trying to adjust themselves in the bed of Procrustes of the curriculum. Any deviation from it by any student is considered to be bad school behavior. The teacher in such a situation ought to encourage creative learning so as to bring about modification in the time-honored pedagogical system and methods. Though we have made much progress in other fields in our education systems we are like beavers and bees, as Korzybski puts it. We have not made much progress in the field of Education. “In colleges of education, students are still taught about an ‘open class room’ by teachers who lecture from the front of the room. It is virtually the only model we know.” We do not have alternative method of teaching. In this process world or the world of events how can we expect the old pedagogy to deliver goods in the changed circumstances? There is a big gap between the structure of the world and the structure of the pedagogy. So in order to bridge this gap, new techniques, new strategies and innovative modules are to be embedded in the new pedagogy.

General Semantics’ concept of man and the idea of reality, structural difference, the concept of map and territory, theory of abstraction and above all the Non-Aristotelian approach to language system will bring about a revolutionary change in the education system