[From Rick Marken (950824.1000)]
Teaching a rule is like teaching a person to have a particular goal (in this
case, the goal of keeping one's hands to oneself). I think schools should
teach kids how to control, not what goals to control for.
Hans Blom (950824) --
This strikes me as incredibly naive...In organisms like humans and the
higher apes, there are goals that are undoubtedly innate but that require
the organism to perceive how others reach these goals before they can do so
I think you missed my point -- though you might be right about my naivete.
I think the misunderstanding turns on the meaning of the term "teach
rules". One thing "teach rules" can mean is "teach about rules". I think
schools should teach _about_ rules -- what rules are, why people make them
up, the kinds of rules people have made up, and so on. The other thing "teach
rules" can mean is "teach the rules that must be followed". I think this is
what "teach rules" means in most schools and I believe it is, at a certain
point in development, precisely the wrong way to go about teaching rules.
I think it is important to keep in mind that a rule is a perception. For
example, there is an unspoken freeway-entering rule here in LA LA land that
says "when entering from a stop at a two lane on-ramp, the car at the front
of one lane goes first, then the car at the front of the other lane goes
next, then the car that is now at the from of the first lane goes next, etc.
in alternation. It is easy to perceive when this "alternating entry" rule is
being followed. It is also easy to see when the rule is not being followed
(usually when some asshole from out of town enters right behind the car in
the same lane;-)).
So a rule is a perception. Teaching a person a rule that must be followed
means teaching a person what perception to want (what goal to have). If you
teach a person that he MUST follow the "alternating entry" rule, you are
telling the person that he MUST set a reference in his own brain for a
particular perception of the order in which cars enter the freeway; you are
telling the person to have a particular goal. This is whatI meant when I said
"teaching a rule is like teaching a person to have a particular goal". In
fact, when you teach a rule this way (teach the rule that must be followed)
you are not doing something "like" telling a person to have a particular
goal; you ARE telling the person to have a particular goal, for example, the
goal of perceiving cars entering the freeway in alternation.
The problem with teaching rules (in the sense of teaching the rules that must
be followed) has nothing to do with the quality of the rules themselves; nor
does it have to do with whether or not it is a good thing to try to control
for rule-perceptions. The problem is that teaching rules in this way is
inconsistent with the nature of human hierarchical control systems. You can
probably get away with teaching "the rules that must be followed" to young
kids; tell a kid that the rule is "blacks use this bathroom, whites use
that one" and the kid will have fun trying to follow it (control for the
perception of the rule). But at a certain point, most people are capable of
perceiving aspects of the world that transcend rules -- principles and system
concepts, for example.
Once people can control higher level perceptions (like principles) they start
to find that successfully controlling for certain rules creates error at the
principles level. So a kid who was real good at controlling for the rule
"blacks use this bathroom, whites use that one" (as my wife was when she was
a child vacationing in Georgia) suddenly start wondering whether she should
even be controlling for that rule AT ALL. So now when you try to teach such a
kid "the rules that must be followed" the kid (who is perfectly capable of
following the rule) starts acting like maybe it's not such a good idea to
control for that rule; the kid starts questioning the legitimacy of the
rule. If an educator persists in trying to teach this kid "the rules that
must be followed" there will very likely just be conflict -- and the educator
will see the kid as an incorrigible asshole who just doesn't understand that
you have to live by the rules.
When kids can perceive the world in terms of principles like "fairness" and
"kindness" (this probably occurs for most kids when they are 12 or 13), then
an educator or parent is well advised to switch from teaching "the rules that
must be followed" to teaching "what rules are about". I think most of the
kids in Ed's program are at a point in their development where they can
perceive the world in terms of principles. If one persists in teaching such
kids "the rules that must be followed" it is likely that a good portion of
those kids will challenge the notion that those rules must be followed -- and
they'll prove it by not following them.