Modern chit-chat with old grammar
Yes it is! No it isn’t!  
“Robbie is crying,” Esmé tells me. I am walking behind her. She is pointing at the ‘climbing tractor.’ Robbie is sobbing sitting on the tyre. When I am getting closer to him and look at him inquiringly, he starts to cry louder. “Niels has pulled my hair,” he says before I can ask anything. “Have you already said anything to Niels?” I am inquiring. He shakes his head and walks with me in the direction of Niels. I stand aside. Robbie is sobbing softly and looks Niels straight into his eyes. “Why are you crying?” Niels asks.  
“You do know!” Robbie answers.
“No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!”
“You do know what you did, don’t you!”
“I do not know what you have done.”
“Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!”
“Yes you do, you were pulling my hair.”
“My hair? Was I pulling my hair?”
“You do know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!”
“Do I have to turn round?”
Niels is turning round.
When he is looking at Robbie across his shoulder, he sees Robbie is laughing.
“Come on,” Niels is inviting him.
Together they walk away laughing, Robbie is blowing his nose.
And I.. I was there and looked at it.
An insufficient mark for a child is an insufficient mark for yourself.
The teacher is in service of society not the other way round.
Sometimes teachers think children gifted if they adapt to expectations
When did that child become a teacher?
Hey teacher.. what do you want to be later?
Imagine your child is with a good teacher but they do not hit it off.
Not renewing is narrowing.
I do not need your opinion. I want to know how you see the world.
I do hear what you are saying but you are still only one.
New vocabulary and old grammar*
Everybody is talking about it: innovative ways, motivation policy, competence management, adaptive education, the new learning…. We are waiting for the next container notion. And the question is who will welcome the new terminology. If there are many, it seems quite a lot will change. He who looks closer, knows better. Our educational system only changes in its vocabulary: the grammar remains more of less unchanged. In other words: our changing language makes the impression we are innovating but practice has shown little improvement and change for more than hundred years. We are talking with constructivist terms but meanwhile controlling, checking, accrediting, making things uniform, being aimed at results and products are the ruling parameters.
This is not the introduction of a pessimist story.
Let us talk about ‘good education.’ Then we must explain to each other what we mean until we get to grip with it ourselves and can integrate it in our daily acting. In that way we have not solved a single problem beforehand. Insights will often make the problems even more complex in the first place. However, we then often start form the possibilities rather than the impossibilities. Examining possibilities is an interesting area of research. We do not proceed with pessimists and ignorant people. We proceed with enthusiastic professionals who feel like it!
Some step on the gas, others slow down. It is all part of a natural process. I put it in first gear and shift gear if it is possible. Braking is allowed at a dangerous crossroads but not when we are ‘going smoothly.’ Enjoy the scenery and take the wheel when you are ready to drive yourself. This is the story of a trip that I have made. Your routing is different. If it is only because you were looking to the left when I was looking to the right for a moment. Good trip…
* See also: L. Stevens, Liking School (2004)
Preparing for a tough society
When prince Siddharta (Buddha) left his protecting palace walls and saw what happened in the real world that was unknown, confusing and intolerable to him. That shock made him realize certain things.
Of course it is important that children are in touch with society in which they (later) have to be able to hold their own. They should not come outside the protecting ‘palace walls’ for the first time at the age of twelve. But that is no reason to use the much heard argument that children must be prepared for a tough society.
Child soldiers have taught us – it is true under very extreme circumstances – how body and soul can be tuned to death and decay. Children that have been allowed to experience who and what they are – in order to go at life with that experienced insight and feeling – are much better ‘armed.’ It does not matter with what kind of basis traumatic experiences can be coped with. Everybody is exposed to unwanted events. Working on a sound, socially emotional development is not soft or naive but it is an investment in a pleasant society.


“Logic takes you from A to B.
Imagination takes you everywhere.”
(Albert Einstein)

The (experience)stream
The water in a river flows effortlessly. It does not matter how the river meanders. No matter how the banks are also twisting the liquid finds its way flexibly. But floes of ice, which are in the water, will bump against the banks when going into a bend. That is the same with people’s ‘experience stream.’ The total of factors which determine your total life situation (genetic material, IQ, environmental factors, talents, traumas, examples etc.) are comparable to the streaming of a river. As long as the water is warm enough, it streams nicely. But at the moment that traumas are blocking you, the ice floes are beating against the banks. You feel the prickly sides of the hard mass. The question is how you deal with the ice floes. Are you trying to make the river free of bends (canalising) or are you trying to heat the water so the ice floe will melt…

Warm water and cold water people  


The question is how warm is the water in which the ice floe lands. A ‘cold water person’ will keep the ice floe frozen and will feel the sharp pricks of the bank at every bend in his mood. A ‘warm water person’ is not indifferent or insensitive to traumatic experiences but because of the warm water the ice floes will get less chance to remain hard (rigid, stiff, prickly) for a long time.  
The great ones of the earth (predecessors in the art of life) have in common that they are ‘warm water people.’ How could Mandela otherwise have survived his capture with so much power and faith. Of course a person’s biography is determined by a complexity of factors: from DNA profile to influencing one’s environment. But throughout centuries tribes of individuals have shown that everybody is born with exactly that developmental potential which is necessary to be happy.  
And what about our lesser gods? How were our examples doing? What did the teacher say about the language performances of little Cruijff? And what did he think when his pupil was playing in the national team? Perhaps he thought: “Every disadvantage has its advantage.” How did the teacher judge the coarse muscular activity of the little van Zweden? And what did he spread when the great van Zweden was on the concert stage? What mark did the small de Jonge have for music? And how did his teacher later judge his sketches?
Congratulations on your high CITO score*
* P.S. Results obtained in the past are no guarantee for the future.
And how are adults doing who have not become what their parents would have wanted they had become?
Our teachers were not able to imagine society in which we have to survive now. ‘The teacher of the fifth class of the past’ was not able to tune his language and arithmetic lessons to the rushing knowledge society in which the use of the internet is evident while then his gramophone was the most modern apparatus. We cannot imagine society in the future. Nevertheless we will have to equip the following generation. The developments of the past fifty years have taught us that the predictability is nil. It is important that the new generation itself is allowed to develop in the changing society.
This is possible by letting go the conviction that you exactly know, in a shifting perspective, what others must have as baggage in order to survive. Every person has to manage with himself and others. Not by being ready for something indefinable but ‘by feeling like it.’ Not by being apprehensive of the unexpected but by being open for new chances.
Let me cry  
The corridor is crowded. The break has begun and four classes are shuffling at the same time into the direction of the outside door. I am manoeuvring against the stream with a pile of copies. At the side of the row of pegs I spot Frits. Frits is four years old and has been at this school for a short period. He is standing huddled up with his arms covering his face. I put my papers on a cupboard, squat down and ask if I may pick him up. Frits nods affirmatively.  
With Frits on my arm I am hurrying into the nearest classroom. Even before I am sitting down on a table Frits has put his head in my neck. His soft hair warms my head. Very soon tears are dropping behind my sweater.
In fact I am supposed to walk down the schoolyard but a teacher who looks round the corner for a moment indicates she will go outside for a moment. That makes me quiet. It is not the first time there is a crying kid on my lap but the other teacher really gives me time for it.
I am listening to Frits’ crying. It has become very quiet in the rest of the building. Frits is crying from his belly, very deeply. With a sigh he utters his last cry every time. Then it is silent: it is silent for three seconds. And the ritual starts from the beginning. After several minutes it becomes less intense. His cries have become sighs. His neck has become soaking wet in the meantime. After about ten minutes Frits suddenly pushes away from my chest with his arms, looks at me smiling with his tearful eyes, looks at the table and says: ”Hey, are you sitting on the table? That is funny.” With one leap he is on the floor, smiles at me and walks out of the door.
While sitting on that table I thought back for a moment of all those times that I asked crying children: “What is the matter?” “What is wrong?” “Why are you crying?” I have never known crying and letting cry could be so releasing.
Two crucial questions
That good education presupposes good teachers cannot be accepted linguistically. But what is good education? What is a good teacher? The question: “What is good education?” is preceded by a more fundamental question: “How do people develop?” That question refers to knowledge and the human image. It is important that people who get along together to ‘make education’ are also searching for answers to this question together. Disguised, fundamentally differing human images make that people show a fundamentally different behaviour. Because behaviour is visible and to be felt it is necessary to scrutinize ‘human image’ aspects regularly. So not only conduct (what am I doing?) but also capacities and abilities (what can I do?) views (what do I think?) identity (who am I? who do I want to be?) and spirituality (why do I live?). Insight into each other’s human image aspects makes behaviour explicable. It does not solve a problem yet but it makes clear what ‘you must be talking about.’ In that respect it is important that ‘the learning organisation’ pays attention to the knowledge that your are making together: getting to know!

How do people develop?
What does that mean for education?

Getting to know: from scientific knowledge to experience knowledge
Our education is especially aimed at scientific knowledge: knowledge which is to be tested. That transmittable knowledge is very important and has been described elaborately. Experience knowledge is invaluable but underrated by legislators and authorities; the knowledge that presents itself in meaningful contexts. Experience knowledge is difficult to describe. That is person restricted and context restricted. That makes this unique and does justice to the complex authenticity of human beings. New educational concepts are justly more and more aimed at knowledge.
Education throughout the years
In order to understand where our educational mechanisms are coming from it is important to survey education throughout the years in broad lines. Education can be characterised in different forms.
Agricultural education
The most primitive form of education is based on the principle ‘showing - imitating’. It has a hierarchical character. The farmer is sowing and his son imitates him. In that way he learns what the other already knows and he get grips on the world around him.
Profession division
In a later period there is a clear profession division. One person becomes a theologian, the other one a doctor or a carpenter. The differences in subjects become bigger every time and in that way do the trainings. A clear authoritarian relationship is characteristic.
Industrial education
A period follows in which peoples become technically productive. In that way economies develop. Education is arranged to produce as quickly as possible as much as possible in a uniform way. It is a very mass oriented form of education.
Knowledge society
And now we are in a new period of new people and new forms of education. Knowledge is everywhere. The world lies open. Everybody develops in his own way. In educational landscapes learning communities, which work on self-chosen projects problem-steered, make use of partners who know more and who are coaching their participants in an adaptive way.
It was about time, wasn’t it?
Current education still has most characteristics of the industrial phase. Linked classrooms where children are sitting in rows, are given bite-sized chunks. The question that occupies us in this is if this is sufficient. The question that should occupy us is if it is useful. Education still has many characteristics of all ‘old forms’. A number of efficient achievements seem valuable but that it must be different also seems evident. What, how and in what pace is the topic
Evolution (gradual development, change of human society) shows that a human being is aimed at development. Revolutions (radical change, renewal) show that a human being is inclined to change by nature.
Evolution and revolution
The educational discussion is in many cases a political debate. It is about money and being right (who has the power and what is decided) while it should be about happiness and health (what is good for a group of individuals). Under the current measures there is seldom a developmental psychological justification. The crucial questions should be: how do you think people develop and what consequences does that have for education? Fortunately every evolution creates its own revolution. The call for educational change is because of that reason very big at this moment but unfortunately often with the same defect. Also revolutions often do not start from the crucial questions.
Many current educational innovators often react one-sidedly dissociating themselves from the establishment. Education is not a simple model of choices which can go into a different direction during every period of government by a majority of votes. Education should be the highest attainable development model on the basis of a joint formulated vision. That is why it is not enough to oppose against obsolete models. It is important to have a vision on development and a view on contexts and cultures on the other hand. From this it is not possible a simple and unambiguous concept will develop.
A number of renewing concepts that appear on the educational market at least evoke that suggestion. “Working demand steered” is a nice example of this. Of course after decades of imposed education we must also go to work more demand steered. Of course we must deliberate with each other. The fact that children ask questions and that counsellors teach them to find the answers themselves, is wonderful. But not for every child at any moment. Sometimes you will have to show them, sometimes you will have to nudge them, sometimes you will have to ignore them. It is not simply one way or the other. Developments are in the tension area of those two components.
If you want to let go of something,
you must have held it.

School for insufficient marks*
(Or: fable of educational arrears)

Long, long time ago (we could have learnt from it for a long time) the animals from the wood came together and said: ‘We must found a school. A school for animals to be able to be really fully Animal. ’ They asked a small group in their midst to make a learning plan for the school. The commission immediately started. Rabbit insisted that ‘running’ was included in the programme. Falcon thought ‘flying artfully’ was important. Carp made clear that ‘swimming noiselessly’ should be included and Squirrel wanted the item ‘climbing against trunks of towering trees which are straight as arrows.’ Thus happened: the school was built, furnished and opened festively. The school board solemnly announced that the animals should qualify in all subjects in order to be a real Animal.

Rabbit was world champion running. No animal could sprint as fast as he could. However, the school board thought it was important for Rabbit for his body and mind that he would also qualify in flying. Rabbit was put on a high branch and he was told: ‘Learn to fly, Rabbit.’ The poor animal jumped, tumbled down, broke its hind leg and broke its head. That is why he did not get more than a 5 for running on his final report. He got a 3 for flying (at least he had tried, hadn’t he?) The school board was not even dissatisfied. With their mouths open the animals saw how Falcon showed his acrobatic feats in the air. Nevertheless the school board remarked that it would be of great value for Falcon if he, just like Rabbit, could dig holes in the ground. Falcon did his utmost but broke his beak and bruised his wings, because of which he could hardly fly and ended with a 4 on his final report. That is what happened to Rabbit, Falcon, Carp, Squirrel and later all the others.

Yet, there was one animal that got sufficient marks on his report. That was Jelly-fish who knew how to stand the tests reasonably while slithering and sliding. He did not have bones or brains. So he broke nothing and forgot nothing. On the average he was the best in class.

* Free after: K. Kooij, Team role and language (1995)
What can be demanded from the other person? That one person is not built to play rugby and the other one does not have the intellectual faculties to do a university study is visible in the long run. But in the development of young children an intensive search is required. A serious question seems to be: “What is a good question?”
The good question
We are so often trying to find answers to asked questions. Searching for what you think about something yourself, what others think about it, what you think about those others en what kind of answer you will formulate. But less often we wonder whether the asked question really is useful.
In education ‘big discussions’ are held with reference to ‘big questions’: are we going to abolish the Cito-test? Must we give children more autonomy? Must we teach children how to work cooperatively? Must we work in an Experience Oriented way? Must we work heterogeneously?
The following questions could be: Who asked the question? Why did he ask that question? Is it useful to look for answers to that question or must we examine the question first?
A classic example of the evolution theory is given by psychologist Grad Westendorp* . For years researchers have tried to answer the question: ‘Why has there ever been an ape which started to walk upright?’ Westendorp explains how the different types of hominids gathered their food. Carnivores got sharper teeth and herbivores a longer bowel system. But with fructivores (fruit eaters) things went differently. The ape-likes which ate fruit got a ‘sitting posture’ in due course, because they had to ‘pick’ fruit in the trees. Their front paws got finger functions. In times of famine also this species had to move. The ape that moves on four legs (the so-called knuckle walk) cannot cover large distances easily. But for the ape that was built a bit straighter (because of its sitting posture) it was logical that it continued on ‘two legs’ if it had to cover large distances.
Westendorp explains that the question: ‘Why has there ever been an ape which started to walk upright?’ should be: ‘How did the fruit eating ape (which already had a sitting posture) develop when it had to cover larger distances?’
* G. Westendorp, The language makers. From talking monkey to consciously thinking human being (2004)
The wrong question
The questions that are asked in education are not seldom one-sided and unravelling in character. Perhaps ‘wrong questions’ do not exist. Yet some questions work in a delinking way.
The question: ‘Must we start working in an Experience Oriented way?’ leads to figurative and prejudiced discussions often on irrational grounds. When you meet a school team for the first time you know from the larger part if they are ‘for’ or ‘against’ within 20 minutes. And you need not be clairvoyant to do this. So the team members have also often known this for a long time. So looking for an answer to that question works divergently and will definitely not improve the zest for work at school level.
The question: ’Must we work demand steered?’ is equally figurative for another reason. It is a rhetoric question. Of course you must work demand steered. But the question suggests (in the educational discussion) that you must not do something else. In an adequate discussion we do not start from a one-sided question. It does injustice to the complexity which development entails. It is not either demand steered or supply steered. Education makes links between the inside of a human being and the outside world and thus makes use of demand and supply steered mechanisms.
The question: ‘Can we let go of methods?’ is in many cases not an essential question. The ‘good questions’ mostly are interesting research questions. Questions like: What does the method tell us? Can we let go of that (or parts of it)? What can we do without and what can we do with a method? What are the pitfalls if we work (partly) methodically? How can we minimize the chance for problems?
Somebody who understands does not ask all the time how to do things.
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