Sigmund Freud developed a model of the mind and memory; a house built over a house built over a house. Upon each demolition, the ghostly image of the original house remained, even though its physical place became occupied by the new.

What Freud didn’t foresee was the avarice of property developers of the mind. Realising they could make more houses if they were smaller; underdeveloped, less a house more a flat and of course, a whole lot cheaper to construct. A great disservice was done.

In my teaching, there has been a glaring problem; the students lack concentration. The origins of the phenomena have been well debated; from mobile phones to games to television. Yet, onward this apparent manufactured mediocrity continues, unabated. These issues are more than compounded in the way we teach. Students are taught a fact train. Rather than the understanding to apply the knowledge they have been fed, they are taught to only know answers.

Students on the whole are intelligent, although perhaps lacking in diligence occasionally. Then again, who isn’t? It becomes saddening to hear a clever student, when posed with a question that requires them to go back to basic principles, become utterly lost. A word salad of possibilities that only correspond to potential answers, blindly reaching out for inspiration that, using Freud’s analogy of the mind, is a house that was never built.

I had a lucky experience as a child. In a particular history lesson, we looked at propaganda during WWII. It astounded me, naive as I was – people lied and omitted in newspapers? Governments lied to the people? Good reasoning and the logic was explained and I left the lesson feeling empowered. I understood more about the world in which I lived. I felt bigger and the world felt just a little smaller and less imposing.

Recently, I advised a student to ask “why?” in class, when they had a particular interest or wanted to know more about how something came into being. They were accused of being deliberately disruptive. C’est la vie.

In the last few years, questions have been posed in exams that required a logical leap. From Hannah and her sweets, to this years AQA Biology paper. A social media maelstrom developed. Students, already anxious about their own potential were left miserable. As mentioned, they are intelligent and most understand that each exam they fail, their world shrinks a little more. Not in the manner my history lesson gave me – empowered and intellectually muscular – but in their future, a shriveled world occupied by the unfortunate. Do you want fries with that or do you want a degree from a prestigious university?

 

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