Intellectual Hide-and-Seek Taught in Schools

Students of Nan Hua High School gathering in t...
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The more I work with leadership teams the more I see the influence intellectual hide and seek being played, and, I wonder what the fix is, or even if a fix is needed.

Ronald Beghetto, a University of Oregon College of education researcher, is bringing attention to the micro-moments in class during which teachers influence the release of student’s creative ability, and, finds these wanting.  During a child’s school career, he or she is taught through various hidden and obvious behaviours that the unexpected response is not welcome.

Imagine, if you will, a class with 30 students taught by an individual who is under pressure to produce test results at a certain time.  As the curriculum is being taught, the teacher asks students appropriate questions to demonstrate their understanding of the subject.  If a student should give a response that is outside of the curriculum, unexpected, the teacher most likely pushes it aside for later conversation (which never happens – there isn’t time), tells the student to rethink his or her response or, asks another student to provide the ‘right’ answer.  The teacher does not have time, nor reinforcement to dig below the surface of the unexpected response to explore the student’s thinking, logic, or perception.

This teacher behaviour is repeated grade after grade, year after year so that, by the time the student graduates he/she has learned

  1. When asked a question by an authority figure, look away
  2. Pretend to know what the teacher is saying to look smart rather than stupid
  3. Better to keep quiet than to ask questions that support learning

Overall, students learn this behaviour from the getgo and become experts in it by the time they graduate high school.

In anthropology, we’d call this tacit enculturation, learning the culture’s behaviours through indirect means.

So, all who have gone through a schooling system as above have become accustomed to playing dumb.  It’s a shame really, if you think about it. This intellectual hide-and-seek undermines rather than supports people generating new ideas and making new decisions, to access their creative thinking abilities to create new futures.  A true shame.