Intellectual Hide-and-Seek Taught in Schools

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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.

About marcisegal

Founder, World Creativity and Innovation Day, April 21. Speaker,
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122 Responses to Intellectual Hide-and-Seek Taught in Schools

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  2. TEVG says:

    The biggest irony is in some ways formal education is the greatest impediment to learning ever devised.

    • D. A. Adams says:

      If you’ve ever read “The Brain Rules,” that’s not too far from the truth. The structure of the average school day goes against the physiology of how the brain learns best.

  3. partialview says:

    I suppose it is all about keeping it ‘safe’. History shows that run-of-the-mill is usually the accepted and encouraged course. And the ones challenging that are often chided for being too experimental. Keeping aside irrelevant experimentation with modes of education (unguided, sometimes misguided curriculum), it is only through ‘brave’ and iconoclastic methods that education can be imparted in the ‘right’ sense (enabling the student to ‘question’).
    Your original post questions the restrictions imposed by the fixed curriculum and the challenge to finish it in time. As teachers, all of us go through this stress in our every day work schedule. I feel the immediate solution we have available is to work within this premise. Efforts are being made to bring in positive changes, I know. But what happens to the students studying today, in the transition phase? Teachers need to and should be allowed to experiment within the curriculum’s framework to encourage them, in the meantime, to not only question, but also contribute uncharted possible-answers.

    • marcisegal says:

      Wondering if you’ve run across the Torrence Incubation Model of teaching. Professors at the International Center for Studies in Creativity are working with it as a way to integrate creative thinking into curricula for any subject area.

      • partialview says:

        No I haven’t but certainly will! Thanks! Any work to make things better and bringing in another renaissance is quite the stuff we need, no?!

  4. Nice post !! I think the encouragement to ask questions and think outside the box should start at a much more younger grade levels. Cause by the time the kids grow up, they won’t be so conscious about questioning publicly. Learning is always a two way response level and it’s sad but honestly, the two-way-interaction works out rare in the classrooms.

  5. spidergirlxD says:

    Yeah. I mean, yeah, that’s basically the little “unspoken code” in class. It kinda helps if you try and make your question sound interesting, rather than something which is going to make all of your friends fall asleep. This doesn’t happen so much in lessons which everyone likes, but all the same.

    • marcisegal says:

      Different people ask different kinds of questions. Some want clarity and tight definitions; others prefer knowing what something means moving forward, its implications on systems and structures or on the people involved. Still others desire to know about results. A question that may be interesting to one may not be as interesting to another.

      FYI my favourite idea spurring question is this: what assumptions are you making, that if proven false, would totally alter the way you think and behave?

      • spidergirlxD says:

        Good point, and your question is pretty damn awesome =D
        I don’t know what my favourite “idea spurring” question is anymore… I had loads a couple of years ago… But my least favourite question that people ask in a normal conversation has got to be “what do you wanna be when you grow up?” to which I inevitably answer “alive”. 😉
        More to the point, I really like your blog post, it’s awesome.

      • marcisegal says:

        Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of people asking ‘what do you wanna be when you grow up’ they asked, what are you curious about?

  6. Z says:

    Oh, FFS. It’s not just our schools or our culture – human nature says the person who acts differently is shunned. This is fact. If we can say that answering wrong is “acting differently”, AND answering right is “acting differently” – which we can – then no one is going to try to do either.

    You’re screwed either way, and the teacher doesn’t have time or energy to answer all – or sometimes any – of your questions, so the best strategy is to keep your head down and try to get it over with.

    On top of this, our schools are very corporate environments. You can’t study anything that could ever alarm or disgruntle anyone, and good employee behavior is, as mentioned above, the norm that you are pointing out. It’s not the school system that’s broken.

    • marcisegal says:

      Many tribes name themselves classify those who do not belong as the others, the barbarians. Our socializing behaviours support relating with those who share common traits, culture, characteristics. We form groups, associations based on like-interests not differences. What continues to amaze me is how we are shifting that paradigm, particularly when creativity is on the docket.

      Arthur Koestler, for example, wrote in the Act of Creation (1964) that to get new ideas, one can bissociate – use something differently than how it was intended, fit it into a different context. Many authors furthered his thought and creativity practitioners, professors and other professionals advocate forcing relationships between different things in order to arrive at novel and relevant responses, new ideas.

      Different, in the old days, meant bad. Today it has a new meaning: interesting and worthy of wonder with unbiased curiosity to know more.


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  8. Imperio says:

    I read this post and I can’t disagree. Intellectual Hide-and-Seek is a system that in my experience is prevalent in Mexican schools. I avoided being asked by the teacher because it was embarrassing both to know the answer, as others in the class shunned me and to not know the answer, as the teacher would look disappointed or frustrated and sometimes other students would make fun of my failure to answer correctly. The safest thing to do was pretend I understood what the teacher was talking about, take notes to do my own research later if I had questions and mainly keep my own counsel at class.

    One of the things I have enjoyed in the U.S. is taking classes online. I find the medium allows me to let go of my defensive behaviors of passive class participation and to engage in active learning. In a way letting my child free to poke at new knowledge, explore and ask questions. It has been refreshing to say the least. My experience with online classes has re-kindled my hope of completing a program in a way that allows me to really take advantage of what the program offers. I hope one day to be able to make the jump to a live classroom and allow the same sense of wonder and engagement to flow.

  9. pablo redes says:

    this post is very good, congratulations and thanks.

  10. sayitinasong says:

    It is the result driven western society that is the culprit. I work in a school. Teachers are given targets to hit to increase percentages of exam results etc. Yes, pupils are there to be taught- and good exam results etc should be expected- but the system does not encourage creativety nor independent thought.

    • marcisegal says:

      Further to your insight and comments from others – it seems that the performance on tests is what it’s all about. I wonder what other measures can be and are used that assess depth of relevant learning.

    • visaisahero says:

      eastern societies do it too, and even worse- because failure is disgrace over here, and people die for it.

  11. Ray Harris says:

    OK I agree with much that has been said, but I would like to add a few also.
    First of all do we not have any groupwork in these classes anymore -where students can practice a variety of responses to a problem/question? We talk about a teacher and 30 students not able to interact with all. What happened to the teacher as facilitator?
    Secondly, yes the assessment system is much to blame with a more formative and continuous assessment system there are far more right answers to pursue and more possibilities for variations. With new technology we are more likely to be able to log the progression of a student through micro stages not just year by year.
    Thirdly, school is dead!
    In the next 20 years we should see the end of the square box for learning. We should see far more community or cyber based learning centres (a bit like an OPEN university ) where students can study at different times of the day/night.
    Don’t blame the teachers -they are conditioned by their training and their supervisors and don’t blame the students -they are also fed up of being humiliated for offering the ‘wrong’ answer.
    Luckily I am optimist and hope for better education opportunities for young people.

    • marcisegal says:

      Good points Ray. The future of education will be very different from the past. New technology will allow, and is already providing, alternatives to ‘big box’ schooling, as you say.

  12. says:

    Awesome post and its really true.

  13. notjeffery says:

    Me again…
    I’ve also found that by the time learners get to me, previous teachers have managed to crush much of their creativity, which in turn makes it hard for the learners when I say something like: go wild, or, use your imagination and be creative.
    They need constant guidance…
    It blows really.

    • marcisegal says:

      Can empathize. By the time senior leaders get to me they have likely been influenced by professionals touting expertise in creativity when, in fact these experts know much about their own processes and little about others’.

      Marci Segal mobile 416-671-5031 office 416-487-1379

  14. surf72 says:

    There is a line in a Curtis Mayfield tune that states ‘educated fools from uneducated schools’, this pretty much sums many current western education systems up for me.

    Having worked for many years with young people and adults that were somewhat removed from the ‘mainstream’ system, especially in terms of education, I always referred to my clients as ‘spirited’ (especially those who were REALLY ‘off the rails’).

    This simple word, as opposed to ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘at risk’ or ‘dis-engaged’ allowed a huge shift in the way that I [and others around me] thought about such clients, importantly from the word go.

    My style of teaching encompasses the mind, body and spirit and I believe one of THE most powerful tools any educator can employ is the power of BELIEF. To believe that clients have their own capacity for growth [and positive change], when the time is right for them.

    For more on this view my blog, where you will find a trove of philosophical, etherical, natural and ecological snippets of information. Please read, comment and share your thoughts.

    Enjoy and best…Tom

  15. notjeffery says:

    Would this also fall under the students learning the ‘hidden curriculum’?
    Why are suggestions never made in order for teachers to avoid turning the masses into sheep that play dumb?
    Peace to you,

  16. The ability to “play dumb” is what Corporate America looks for and actually rewards in its employees. The boring and uncreative student will grow up to become a successful middle-management drone.

    • marcisegal says:

      And what if that changes? What if boring and uncreative doesn’t measure up to the demands of the new work place? What then?

      • smcgamer says:

        Then, hopefully, we get interesting and creative.

      • marcisegal says:

        Wouldn’t that be nice. Now, here’s a challenge. Imagine you are a creativity professional and that everyone you see is creative and interesting. How might that influence your interactions with others?

      • smcgamer says:

        I’m no expert; but I’d first see exactly how creative they are.

      • marcisegal says:

        Interesting comment. Creativity means using new ideas and making new decisions – would you be open to consider that everyone does that? And, would you be willing to entertain the notion that everyone accesses and used their creativity according to their own style, preferences and needs? That’s where we are the field right now. We lost the ‘how creative are you’ paradigm in the mid-1970’s when valid research revealed that a person’s style of creativity should not infer what their level of creativity is. So for the past 40 years we’ve been asking, “in what ways are you creative?” instead.

      • smcgamer says:

        Yes, every one does that, some more than others. I believe each person has his own creative style, and method of learning.

  17. Jayanta Kumar Dutta says:

    A very good post. Really liked the blog and the following comments. Me too in my study life till now, i have meet only 2 teachers who have encouraged us to do things in our won creative way. I am planing to be teacher and this post has been a really good on for me to reflect upon myself to become a good teacher.

  18. Ayushman Khazanchi says:

    Firstly, it’s a point well put across. Being a part of it at one point of time in my life, I can safely that it definitely exists in a lot of schools and no matter how much we deny it, it’s been a small part of everyone’s school life. Now, there are still some students who are courageous enough to repeatedly ask and that’s great because that tends to give others a motivation too but at the same time, that ratio is low.
    I however, do not agree with the claim thats been made here, stating that “So, all who have gone through a schooling system as above have become accustomed to playing dumb.” I think that’s generalization at its extreme and a mislead notion. As I mentioned above, not everyone keeps quiet and to say that everyone who got an education of the sort above knows and/or wants to play dumb is purely a fallacy. By the time one reaches high school and then college, one has matured enough to realize where they are headed and how to make that possible and many a children and teenagers today are portraying great skill and caliber in their fields.
    This is the viewpoint of a teenager who ‘was once’ a part of the ‘no questions asked’ crowd.

  19. Bakbakee says:

    I studied at a school where the student to teacher ratio was 70:1. And I absolutely agree with you. This “learned behaviour” is also prevalent in the college education system. And very few teachers – “dig below the surface of the unexpected response to explore the student’s thinking, logic, or perception.” And I would honestly want to know “practical” measures to combat the same!

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  21. bradenbost says:

    Great post. It has recently dawned on me on how much of my struggles at work and with the hobbies I want to keep but don’t can be traced to how adults, especially certain teachers, interacted with me at a young age. I learned the negative behavior then.

    Of course I can’t sit and complain all day about that . . . it’s my mess to clean up, now.

  22. 2zpoint says:

    This is so true! I’m a university student and what I am seeing is a mass push of information to just get through the test without examining concepts that took lifetimes to develop. We are being made to go through things that the most amazing minds of all time developed at rates that stagger the imagination.
    For instance one might cover all of Isaac Newton’s Laws of physics, The Concept of applied coefficients, and Dot product rules in the first month of an engineering physics class. Each of these concept took years to develop but we must master them in one semester.
    I think that they are working on the spit ball method…shoot enough of them on the wall and one’s bound to stick (got OJ off so why not use it in schools!…kidding). The must work this way because I can’t remember most of what I’m learning and don’t know half of what I’ll really need. Excellent article!

  23. Claire Soh says:

    Hi, your article is stimulating and food for thought.

    I’d imagine most teachers all over the world face the same problem; the need to perform as a teacher by producing results versus helping students to learn about their thinking and creativity and unleashing their potential.

    Is there any way that we can combine both, instill creativity into the curriculum?

    Is there a day when we can stop assessing grades and encourage creativity?

    I’d the privilege to work with Professor Art Costa, the founder of the Habits of Mind and Mr Tony Buzan, the found of Mind Map technique in 2009.

    Both clever men have each devised a system to help unleash the creativity and potential in every student.

    I used to facilitate 1 lesson for the Habits of Mind in Singapore and found that students appreciate such thinking skills. Most importantly they are surprised by how thinking about their thinking skills engage and stimulate their minds.

    I just want to emphasize the human factor. The touch of parents and teachers. Students and teenagers or even young children. They can feel if the adults genuinely want to help them.

    We can see the sparks in their eyes when they know someone truly care about helping them do better.

    As the Greek philosopher Socrates said it best it up in 2 words, the key to human advancement is “know thyself”.

    Now that we know we can be creative. Let’s unleash our creativity in various aspects of our lives.

    I conclude from the time spent on the work of Mr Tony Buzan, “the human brain is THE problem solver for human advancement and business.”

    To our success!

  24. amna says:

    Excellent post. I agree with everything whole heartedly. Imagine how worst this situation is where the society promotes these behaviours..where thinking outside the box is discouraged because its considered breaking the expected norms, being *rebellious*, or just being *a show off* . Where teachers/relatives/friends/parents are always telling you to keep quite and just stick to the holy syllabus..

  25. Jeffrey Kemp says:

    I’ve had a number of teachers (both at school and at university) that have encouraged questions, but in my experience the main source of friction has been from the other students.

    Especially at school, where it was not “cool” to be academic or be at all interested in the subject matter, asking a question was an obvious sign that one was a nerd, or a teacher’s pet; such attempts to further one’s learning were laughed down (even on the odd occasion when the question was intelligent) – perhaps due to a desire to remove any distraction so that the teacher could finish the class as soon as possible.

    I noticed, to a lesser degree, the same dynamic at university. Sometimes it seemed like I was the only one asking questions. Some of my questions were stupid (in retrospect) and laughed at. Others led to some interesting discussions, and all contributed to my education.

    That was my experience. I wonder to what degree peer pressure plays in this problem, generally?

  26. Ludwi says:

    I’m taking my Master’s right now. When school started, program directors always said to think outside of the box. I now realize that this is very hard thanx to your post.

    However, having the box means that we have boundaries that we need to follow in order to not get lost. The challenge is to think about “why this…” and “why that…” not go off to another story. You can go off into another book as long as the story is the same.

    What the program directors in at my place meant was to think about ideas, think about the foundation of the subject. But stay within the boundaries of the educational system, stick to the theme. A challenge, but it can be done.

    As long as the teacher understands this concept as well.

  27. pltprincess says:

    That learned non-response is generally reinforced in the work world, which means we never really get away from it. It takes a real concerted effort to rise above.

    • marcisegal says:

      Yes, and seeing that we are well practiced in that behaviour before we begin to work… this may be a reason creativity, using new ideas and making new decisions, is challenging to use in the workplace.

  28. Sunflowerdiva says:

    This post was very interesting to read. Sadly, it’s all true. I despise the school system in America. It’s teaching kids to NOT think for themselves. And kids only learn things that will be on the test; after the test, they forget most of whatever they were taught. Who really remembers all of the things they learned in school when they were a kid? Not many people. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed, by the way.

    • marcisegal says:

      A brilliant high school friend and I would walk to and from Sir Sanford Fleming in Toronto quite often. One morning I remember him saying, ‘you know, the only reason people go to high school is to get out of it.’

  29. alanfriday55 says:

    You have two objectives here. Teach the children a useful curriculum as well as teach them when to become independent thinkers that decide when and when not to accept status quo. Both are imperative when it comes to surviving in the wider world and gaining employment. Do employers want a lot of independent creative thinkers that keep going off track, do they want team players or something in between? There is a balance here that changes from job to job and individual to individual. Whilst we limit resources to bulk schooling you will get a bulk outcome with the responsibility on individuals to decide when it is safe/advantageous to stick there head up and when to stay low. Knowing when to give lip-service is not such a bad skill to learn, so long as it is not the only lesson being learnt.


  30. Very interesting. As you say, I really don’t see an easy solution to this problem. A good place to start is with smaller classes, as it gives more opportunity for the teacher to work with students rather than talking at them the whole time. But teachers are still very short on time to teach everything that they’re supposed to, and I don’t see a fix for that.

  31. owen59 says:

    Schools as an environment for the purposes of educational facilitation are increasingly failing in that facilitation, not because teachers are worse (teachers are overall by far much better), nor that students are worse (they are also by far much cleverer, worldly wise), nor families but because everyone is better and the box is just a very poor environment for this better educational thing to thrive. My educational system proposal is to minimise class time to 3 hours per day until a youth say 13 and over, chooses to increase their academic time for their puposes. Until then, children (10 and over) and youth should spend 3 – 4 hours at community service, trade, and practical skills (custom-made to a problem they are trying to solve), and 3-4hours in social, active arts, recreation, sport, environment. The box could then be used for longer hours, and in more flexible ways. etc etc

  32. Samantha says:

    This probably isn’t news to too many people, but when you think of how schools were created in the first place to prepare people for industrialised work, it isn’t surprising that creativity isn’t always what’s emphasised.
    What I always wonder is, how much can be expected of a school in terms of enabling critical and creative thinking? Let’s face it, some people come from homes in which no one ever read them a book or had any sort of meaningful, intellectual discussion. It takes some of these people all three years of junior high English to grasp the concept of “irony”, a concept often used for the purposes of humour in children’s literature! There’s also the issue that sometimes when teachers try to create environments in which everyone’s opinion is relevant, you end up with some people making very idiotic comments… I’m not talking about somebody not understanding an issue and wanting clarification, everyone experiences that, I mean just plain idiotic viewpoints on things, and these can end up being the people who speak the most and waste other people’s time…
    That being said, I do find it fascinating at times how willing students are to just soak up everything a teacher says and take it as the Gospel truth. I had a history teacher last year who was very smart and engaging; she was an excellent teacher, and we were encouraged to give our opinions, so I am not saying this is her fault, but I felt that if she presented something with a certain angle, lots of people would jump onto her bandwagon and not see the other side. For instance, part of the course material covered the formation of the UN and delved into various war situations in which the UN got involved. My teacher had a cynical view of the UN and her points were valid; it isn’t necessarily realistic to stop a genocide by just standing around with a gun you’re not allowed to use and trying to tell people not to butcher people, for instance. But I felt this view ended up obscuring the purpose of the UN in the minds of some students… they had shocked reactions every time the UN getting involved in a situation (Rwanda, Somalia, etc.) was discussed. “What was the point?” they would ask, chuckling. I felt that the UN was attempting to fulfill an ideal; obviously, ideally we would not shoot people to prevent them from killing other people. Therefore, from that standpoint, the UN mandate made sense to me. Now this is pretty basic critical thinking in my opinion… ok, my teacher and my text book are presenting to me information concerning the ineffectiveness of this UN policy… but is there value and validity to this policy? Yes. So I find it pretty scary that many people seem unable to do this.

  33. Wait…

    How did we go from a teacher re-directing to get the correct answer to–

    “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”

    Re-directing or asking another student for the answer does not automatically lead to a child not wanting to ask questions in the future. Your 3 statements above seem to imply that the student feels foolish for asking and is thus scared or intimidated to speak up in the future. I think that would depend much more on how the teacher addresses the question/odd response rather than saying, “We’ll talk about it later” or “No, that’s not quite it…think. Bobby, can you help him out?”

    I agree that it is a shame that most teachers do not have the time to explore the student’s logic, but I don’t see how we made the leap from this to “teachers making students feel dumb”.

    • jelzmar says:

      I don’t think it has anything to do with how the teachers handle it. I’ve never had mean teachers and they’ve always handled just how you suggested it. But I’ve never offered to answer question even when I knew the right answer just for fear of being wrong. I don’t know when this got instilled in me, but no one in my classes ever attempted it either. The teacher always ended up having to tell us the answer.

      “No, that’s not quite it…think. Bobby, can you help him out?” This is about the most insulting thing you could say, because it makes it seem as though the student isn’t thinking. If I heard that once I’d never try again.

      “We’ll talk about it later” This would be fine, except after two to three times after the teacher never got to it, (as the author of this article pointed out) then I would give up taking part in the conversations.

      It’s not really the teacher’s fault though. They have to teach the ‘one right answer’ and that everything else is wrong. That’s the problem with our schools though. There is very rarely ever actually only one right answer and we are constantly told things are wrong that aren’t.

      • “There is very rarely ever actually only one right answer and we are constantly told things are wrong that aren’t.”

        I disagree. While it is most definitely important to teach students how to learn, not just what to learn, there most definitely are many right answers. Of course, this changes somewhat based on subject matter, but regardless, each subject matter definitely has a lot that must be taught the right way.

      • marcisegal says:

        What if the capacity to learn is inherent and doesn’t need to be taught, only nurtured or supported? Victor Papanek, in his article the Tree of Life said something akin to this: today’s education treats students as if they are trees whose leaves have fallen off. Teachers do their best to put the leaves back on the tree. True education brings the leaves out from the trees.

      • And I apologize for using “definitely” way too many times in my previous reply. Wow…sorry.

  34. D. A. Adams says:

    I’ve taught composition on the collegiate level for 13 years, and over the last five years, my colleagues and I have noticed a precipitous decline in our students. In general, there is a much poorer work ethic, less ability to think critically, and lower ambition to improve. From their grade school experiences, many have learned that just turning something in is enough to get an “A,” and they genuinely demonstrate shock when we critique the quality of their efforts.

    A few years back, I would have classified these students as the fringe of slackers whose parents had forced them to attend college. Today, they represent nearly half of the population.

  35. kelliefish13 says:

    For a while in New Zealand schools there was a big push towards teaching and rewarding thinking skills and creativity, the thinking behind this had something to do with there being a wealth of knowledge at our finger tips now days the important part is how to find it and use it (which is a lot harder than one might think). The focus was on learning how to learn and less on content knowledge. It had some great points and some downfalls too but with some time would have sorted that out but unfortunately with a change of government we are now following UK and USA and bringing in national standards. But still when you have only one adult to teach 30 children there has to be a fair amount of sitting still and looking smart because no matter how clever the teacher she/he can only listen to one child at a time.

  36. As a teacher of 35 years these behaviors are NOT learned at school, there learned at home from the parents.

    • amna says:

      completely agree with you. Some cultures and famililes promote these behaviours..and these values are later reflected in schools/colleges. Being an art teacher in a very conservative society..I always found it so exhausting to keep telling students to just relax and open up..sigh

      • marcisegal says:

        Such fears we have. And they’ve been i’n the making for centuries. If a woman did something a little differently than proscribed by the church i’n 1300’s England she could have been called a witch and then burned at the stake.

        Marci Segal mobile 416-671-5031 office 416-487-1379

    • John says:

      I have to laugh a little at the “Chef’s” comment. I was an high school student of his.

      As the original article states: “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)” is a TRUE fact and one practiced to this day by the “Chef”

      Ignore is the root of Ignorance

    • Ed Meyer says:

      This……from a “teacher/chef” who removes Facebook comments which are contrary to his design.
      I myself was a student of his in the 70’s for 3 years, when confronted with ideas which as I said are contrary to his, he becomes overly defensive, and in his obvious anger tends to spout off rediculous answers….such as his claim that
      “The Fed does not print any money. It’s a bank – it has money. The US Mint, under the Treasury …Department prints money.”, When informed of his mistake (The Mint ONLY prints coinage,), that the Federal Reserve DOES in fact order and control the printing of our notes,
      He responded as a spoiled child who didnt get his way……

      The Gist of this story certainly rings true with him!

  37. Acai says:

    What a wonderful post. You are so right on with everything that you said. As you were saying it, all the things we are taught to do, I do exactly. Look like you understand instead of looking puzzled and trying to really understand the problem at hand. Just go with the flow…. Same thing we are all supposed to do, don’t go again the grain. Thank you for the post, keep them coming!!

  38. zephitheguy says:

    As a student myself, I encounter this problem on an almost daily basis. This post has made me realise that I can no longer stand for this avoidance of questions, and from now on I will push my questions forward, backed up by the points made here. Whilst I do think that passing my exams is important, the sole purpose of having a teacher is for them to teach. I have recently found the answer to a question that I asked my biology teacher weeks, if not months ago, after being told to ask after class. I did so for a week, before giving up, my question unanswered. After a thirty second internet search, I have found the answer.

  39. Mike Raven says:

    You’ve made a number of excellent observations but I’d like to propose a different lens through which we can view them. If you were to ask business managers CONFIDENTIALLY whether they would support the behaviors you bullet-pointed in your post–behaviors such as keeping your head down, looking rather than acting smart (which is yet another form of compliance), keeping quiet–I believe the truthful ones would confess full agreement. In fact, I think they would tell you it was the secret of their success, particularly in tough times.

    Those who stand out, who challenge a large organization on its own terms and intellectually, are excreted by that system; quite honestly, for individuals who haven’t learned to negotiate that system, to be politic and manage their personal brand/communications within that system, excretion is far preferable to suffering the daily trials of attempting to work within it.

    So, it is with some sadness but due pragmatism, that I ask the question: If we are to prepare our kids for financial and social success in a system that arguably offers them the greatest opportunity for that success, shouldn’t we teach them precisely the things we are all condemning?

    My own answer: We have to find a happy medium. I’m all for creativity but as someone who spent half his business career getting slammed for it, we have to show our kids how to pay the price of admission (i.e., how to act mediocre) before they can do great things.
    -Mike Raven

    -Mike Raven

  40. molls225 says:

    If you haven’t seen the movie Waiting for Superman, you must go. Based on this post, I think you would enjoy it.

  41. I asked so many questions in high-school science classes. I wondered why others never did. Now as I am a pre-service teacher I am observing science classrooms and notice that questions are very rare. I think it’s so sad. I thrived on my questions. I am so thankful for my teacher who took the time to answer all of mine. I hope to be that kind of teacher.

  42. adamodwyer1 says:

    I clicked this post by mistake but once I start reading I couldn’t stop it’s amazing I went through that sort of schooling system and I have been there doing those behaviour patterns but never actually understanding why or when they were programmed into me. Very interesting post.

  43. I think that a certain degree of conformity to the way the “social system works” in a particular society should be present in the education system. Schools are basically microcosms of their larger society and they are the vehicles that transmit the values and belief systems of that particular society.
    There’s a big difference between the way we educated our kids and the way Norwegians educate theirs, for instance. Two different parts of the world, two different sets of values, beliefs and social realities. I’m not saying that either one is right or wrong, but it our realities are what they are. We’d be short-changing our kids if we weren’t teaching them to survive in this competitive society of ours. How would they survive in university (should they ever decide to take that academic avenue) if they weren’t exposed to this competition, testing, ranking, etc… I don’t personally ascribe to a more capitalistic belief system, but it is my reality nonetheless and I still have to roll with it.
    What I think is most important, however, is that we teach our kids to become positive contributors in their society and in the global community. In my humble opinion, they should be learning critical thinking skills through citizenship education and character education. These aren’t just “programs”, they are a way of life. Teaching kids to be compassionate, caring, honest, respectful, team players, empathetic, socially capable and competent, and ultimately positive contributors in the global community is key to their future success.
    We need to take a stance on avoiding this robotic way of educating children. Every educational experience should be inspiring, motivating, challenging and fulfilling.
    That’s our job, isn’t it?

    • Oh! I wanted to add: even though our society is a particular way, it doesn’t mean that we can’t work to improve it. I’m just entertaining the idea that we can’t completely deviate from what is socially expected from us… If we do, we will not be able to function in our own society.
      I believe that our North American systems of education in general need major reform, but we are making great strides in creating positive dialogue for change. This is a conversation that MUST be had. We are supposed to be educating our future leaders.

  44. Charlotte says:

    While I think this has the potential to be true, I am not sure it is fair to suggest that when a student offers a response outside of the box that teachers brush that aside. We thrive when students are engaged and thinking creatively and critically. It would be a much stronger benefit to an entire class when you are not sitting there drilling test information but having a group discussion about relevant subject matter.

    Additionally, if a teacher presents him/herself as a warm, approachable, unintimidating person who WELCOMES questions and makes clear that they are there to faciliate learning and to aid in understanding—you will have a classroom filled with students asking questions.

    How are we to battle, however, the students who come from home environments that don’t value true education?

    (I’m in my 8th year of teaching, and have taught all courses of English 6-12 in this time.)

  45. CrystalSpins says:

    “he or she is taught through various hidden and obvious behaviours that the unexpected response is not welcome.”

    Totally freaking true. This stuff makes my stomach hurt. But the truth is, to some extent, in the corporate world the great and mighty “they” want you to have the answers they expect too rather than creative solutions.


    • marcisegal says:

      Crystal – there’s the the dilemma many in the corporate world face. On one hand, status quo is desirable, and on the other hand, creative thinking, using new ideas and making new decisions is a requested. How to do both simultaneously?

  46. It is definitely a shame to force teachers into teaching only to fulfill the test requirements.

    However, even if this weren’t the case, I wonder how many more students would think outside of the box? It seems firmly entrenched in human behavior to stay in the box, color within the lines, etc., since social acceptance is quite important, especially to school children. So, it seems to me that the education system is merely the tip of the iceberg, and until learning and thinking are actually valued in society as a whole, playing dumb will remain popular.

  47. Evie Garone says:

    This is sooo sad! The whole country needs a serious overhaul! How do we think we can possibly compete with the up and coming countries?! We CAN’T! Question authority!

  48. amanda says:

    I also agree — the education system is akin to a factory assembly line. I just saw a video on another blog about changing education paradigms — I found it fascinating. You might want to check it out:

  49. Right now I am thinking of how this post applies to my educational experiences. I definitely had some teachers that encouraged more creativity than others. But then again, I had some teachers that allowed too much “out of the box” thinking in subjects where such thoughts are less welcome. When you are learning the fundamentals, you need to learn the fundamentals, and not waste time reinventing things. Inventing creative new ways to spell things or perform arithmetic usually causes future problems. Two plus two is always four, and there is no point in debating that issue if the goal is to learn arithmetic.

    But then again, in the United States and in many (probably all) other countries, society in general discourages out of-the-box thinking. It is not just schools. Kids grow up being taught from their parents that one is not to question or ask questions of religion, are encouraged to dress a certain way, act a certain way, eat acceptable foods and conform to cultural norms. Those that do not conform are ostracized. Media, marketing and peer pressure do the same thing.

    My final thought is that this behavior in school it probably a reflection of society as a whole. My guess is that society and schools have always been this way. It is just we stay the same while society changes, and suddenly things seem amiss. A change of perspective has a way of highlighting problems that were there all along.

    • Jeffrey Kemp says:

      > “Two plus two is always four”

      If you require your students to accept statements like this as axiomatic, you give them no chance to learn the simpler sets of axioms that will allow them to derive “2 + 2 = 4” on their own, and thus be able to generalize to all sorts of arithmetic problems.

      In other words, if all you teach them is “1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, 1 + 3 = 4, etc.”, without teaching them, say, the commutative property of addition, then when they encounter the need to calculate “2 + 1”, they are stumped.

      Sure, it is necessary to memorize the simple addition and multiplication tables, in order to avoid wasting time re-calculating them for every arithmetic problem; but you also need to welcome questions such as “what if 2 + 2 = 5?”, if and when they pop out of the students’ heads, and explore the consequences. Imagine how excited the kids will be (and you as well, hopefully) when they see that maths can be more than just learning all these multiplication tables by rote.

      • marcisegal says:

        Sid Parnes was one of my professors at the International Center for Studies in Creativity. He began a class one day by asking, ‘what’s half of eight?’ ‘Four’, we replied. Then he said, ‘what else?’ Through his questioning we learned that there are many other ‘right’ responses for what seem to be pat answers.

  50. What I am wondering is what will happen now that we have learned that teaching children to take a test is not the way to go? What are we to expect next? And how will our children learn to think out-of-the-box if current grade- and secondary students are not encouraged to do so?

  51. Pingback: Intellectual Hide-and-Seek Taught in Schools (via New Ideas. New Decisions. Creativity.) | Care and Feeding of the Creative Student – A Teacher's Journal

  52. wadingacross says:

    Welcome to the “state” of public education which has occured gradually over the last century +. In some ways it could not be helped. The growth of the nation was going to necessitate more and larger schools. But, with the federal government in the room, conformity is the ultimate goal – and to shape students the way the government “wants” – irrespective of party politics.

    Throwing money at the problem won’t solve it. More technology won’t solve it. What is needed is complete reform of the public education system, and that means giving a very serious look back to the methods used during the 1800s, prior to when Dewey began reshaping our American education system.

    I’m not advocating a return to the single room school with a ma’rm nor corporal punishment, but I am saying that perhaps the money, the politics, the technology and the underlying liberal theories of pedagogy need to go pretty much out of the window.

    More so than all of that, it all begins in the home, with parental involvement. The nuclear family is the ultimate key, and that is something which individuals and our government (after a fashion) has sought to and is effectively destroying over the last century.

    Bar none, I suspect that you’ll find the child whose parents are well involved in their child’s education have children who’re succeeding. They might not be A students, but they’re not F students either.

    As for thinking out of the box… again, that goes right back to the family. Our government and our media (at various levels, from TV to music to games) teach conformity to what they want the child to be, not what the parents want. And parents largely have allowed the state and the media to control and develop their children for them.

    My wife works in an elementary school, mostly with special needs children. I have a degree in Secondary Ed. Social Studies. We have both seen the results of this. My wife still sees it daily.

    She has literally seen children come to kindergarten knowing next to nothing when the “typical” child would already know some basics. The parents state that they just assumed the school would teach their children everything they needed to know – and the mother is a highly educated individual with a high ranking/high paying job.

    • A very well thought out response, but I think the author is Canadian. Obviously other countries recognize similar problems. But I agree with you 100% that parental involvement is key. But, you can’t force that involvement.

      • marcisegal says:

        Perhaps not force involvement, invite it, reward it, make it meaningful for the parent in some way. BTW the research is from the University of Oregon School of Education.

      • It's just a Web site man! says:

        If we can solve the issue of the gradual destruction of the family unit in the US, the rest will follow. Parents who are involved in their children’s education usually demand the best for their children. That is why we see an increase in unconventional forms of education like home schooling. Of course, how the heck do you fix that? That is the question. But I agree money and technology are not the answer. My grandmother and her sisters were all teachers, and did more in one room schools than some teachers do with all the money and technology we have today.

  53. keroome says:

    “Do we want students, or anyone, challenging the system? and if so how do we teach that?” If I’ve restated the topic correctly- isn’t it everyone’s job to instill the desire for expression of identity from a child? Isn’t every moment a teaching/learning moment? Don’t most parents go around saying something like” I want more for my child than what I had”? We all need to stand up for our kids and say, be real, think and feel and act as a world citizen. If you don’t take an ACTIVE role, you’re just part of the dung heap. I dated a teacher for a while, she HATED those tests, but she still took the time to get the kid to think beyond “the right answer”. She taught in an ultra conservative isolated town, and trust me, her courage to stick her head up out of the dung pile was unmatched, because there definately people looking to chop it off for her. Teaching in this day and age can get you killed!

  54. rippeer says:

    I was very lucky in high school to have 3 teachers, 2 that looked for ideas to be challenged and for us to learn things, not memorize facts. The other teacher tolerated out of the box questions and took the time to answer them.
    They were my science teacher, environmental resource studies and management, and finally my machine shop teacher.
    I feel that as result of being able to be challenging the properties of pre-existing notions, I was able to go from lowly co-op student to manager of a local store in months, by asking the out of the box questions.

  55. I love this. It is so true.
    I also believe from my own experience as a child in the 70’s that being one of those students who happens to see the world in a different way also leaves you open to ridicule and often bullying by other students. Something that I don’t think would happen if we would start to show more respect for that kind of thinking.
    I am also very fearful for the future if we don’t make drastic changes.
    Thanks for this, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. It was well deserved.

    • marcisegal says:

      Thanks. Know what? Drastic changes will be happening in the near and distant future. Our current way of thinking may not serve the needs of tomorrow. I wonder how we might, in our own day-to-day behaviours, encourage people to generate new ideas and make new decisions that will positively influence their lives and the lives of those around them.

  56. Joelle says:

    Great post. How can the school system be changed?

    • marcisegal says:

      I wonder if it’s something that individual teachers can do, and/or the vice principals, superintendents, or ministers of education. Perhaps it falls within the mandate of the educators union? My thinking is not to wait for a policy, instead to see what might be possible in the individual classroom first. Do some action research, present findings. Agree?

      • Bonnie Griffith says:

        Thinking out of the box can be done without breaking any rules or standards. The problem is, if the teacher can’t think out of the box they can’t teach out of the box.

      • marcisegal says:

        Thinking out of the box is a scary notion to many people. The Pandora myth shows that when the box is opened, all the ills of human kind are unleashed. Many are fearful of making the same mistake. Perhaps a better phrase might be …thinking beyond traditional boundaries.

      • amna says:

        An individual teacher can do wonders..I am what I am because of one particular teacher, later when I became an art teacher I made sure that at least in my class students were allowed to be themselves and not confirm to the institution all the time. It can be done..even though I have moved to Australia, I still get mails from my students saying how I changed their lives. And you are so right that we cannot wait for a policy, change in the society on the whole etc.

  57. Very true, especially at the grade school level. When I attended college at UC Berkeley, the experience was very different. The professors wanted us to think out of the box and to challenge them.

    • marcisegal says:

      Good point. I wonder how many early high school leavers would stay if their curiosity was encouraged rather than the opposite.

    • The sad thing about only being challenged at the university level is that by that time, most students are far too afraid to bother thinking outside the realm of the “right” answer by that time. When I was a teaching assistant, I frequently tried to challenge my students to understand concepts, rather than memorizing the right answers. That’s not learning, that’s just having a good/lucky memory. How can you apply what you’ve learned when you have only learned regurgitation?

      • marcisegal says:

        And, underneath it all – is that really what our culture wants? Is it important to NOT have people who can think, who can instead, only do? Hmm?

  58. Agree totally. Most teachers I know would love to have more creativity in the classroom, but they’re required to teach to tests that do not reward the unexpected. These tests are used to measure student (and therefore teacher) achievement, and if teachers want to keep their jobs they can’t buck the system. By the time you get these kids into college, where I used to teach, they’re boring, afraid to express their opinions, and completely unable to think for themselves.

    • marcisegal says:

      Good point. That’s why I’m wondering if we truly do want our students to use their creativity. The subtext to this question is huge.

      • Oh, we (meaning teachers I know) most certainly do — check out this guest post if you don’t believe me. It’s people who don’t teach who want boxified, quanititative measures for learning, and unfortunately they’re running things for the most part.

  59. engrmuh says:

    Its very true , but you should not hesitate if you have a question in your mind.
    If you are not asking this means you are suppressing your self , which can be handy.

    • marcisegal says:

      Many new discoveries arise because of new questions being asked.

      To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science. Albert Einstein

  60. runtobefit says:

    Great post! Unfortunately, this is all very true.

    • marcisegal says:

      Yes, and now that we know about it, how can we encourage a different approach? M

      • Samantha says:

        I like the point you made about Pandora’s box. I feel that is another important issue. Pandora’s box should be opened, but it can frighten students and teachers alike, so it’s left where it is. For instance, if a novel such as “The Picture of Dorian Grey” or one by Ian McEwen were on a high school reading list, it would open the gateway to thinking concerned far more with reality and morality than the typical works studied. Are high school students ever challenged to identify with a protagonist whose character and morals are far from ideal (apart from Holden Caulfield, maybe, and even then, he’s a pretty sensitive guy). School tries to keep everyone safe at the price of rendering them uninteresting.

      • marcisegal says:

        I remember a poem from sixth grade – or at least the opening lines. Forget the poet

        “Nothing is true of what we are taught, when we are small. Nothing is true, not as we thought, nothing at all.”

        Wouldn’t it be nice for young people to be prepared for the reality concerns that will face them later, as best as their development will allow?

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