"We need more critics about as much as we need another alarming increase in greenhouse gasses."

I believe that reassurance must be the primary responsibility of primary educators. I'm not suggesting that reading, writing, or even 'rhythmatic should disappear from the curriculum, just that Reassurances seem an essential precedent to successfully learning anything. The ever-popular whip and chair techniques only scare students into attempting compliance. The result might well seem wooden and tentative, lacking supporting self-confidence instilled first by means of repeated Reassurances. For those concerned that prominently focusing upon reassuring might produce snowflake students, so emotionally dependent upon supportive stories that they lack the callouses necessary to get along in life, I turn a scoffing cheek. Those who rarely receive reassurances turn into the most emotionally needy, callouses and all, if only because they ARE emotionally needy thanks to the severe shortage of Reassurances in their lives.

I was always afraid of my teachers, and almost terrified of learning.
I believe that any sentient being should properly be terrified of learning, for learning utterly changes a student in ways neither teacher nor student could ever adequately anticipate. Once absorbed, new perspectives beget ever newer ones, creating a cascade of relatively uncontrollable change. Terrifying! I suspect that teachers need every bit as many reassurances as the least of their students. Both teachers and students tend to receive more constructive criticism, instead. I figure constructive criticism stands as perhaps the single most destructive force in this world. It says loads more about the critic than it ever says about the target of the criticism, and it tends to blunt enthusiasm over time.

Education, even life, seems too precious to take so seriously. Those capable of engaging with a light heart seem to thrive. Those repeatedly glancing over one or their other shoulder scanning for threats, hesitate forward. Hastening slowly does not necessarily mean hesitating forward. If only because so few endeavors turn out as expected, we need a healthy stock of reassurances within our larders. One might not be able to take any of them to any bank, but Reassurances tend to keep one moving forward with what might reasonably pass as confidence. All confidence seems phony, only some of it proves useful. Reassurances prove useful.

A friend recently attended her fiftieth high school reunion. She explained how many in her graduating class had attended The Institute, an alternative school run under the auspices of a local teachers' college. There, they learned as lab rats under the endlessly reassuring tutelage of grad students, who might have been making up their teaching techniques as they went along. A much higher percentage of Institute grads went on to pursue higher education and high-level professional jobs than those who attended the regular town schools. They'd learned to learn in an environment almost devoid of constructive criticism, where they were subjected to every test known to academia, but as a validating sample, not under pass/fail, life/death determination. Teachers would insist that they'd done a great job however they'd done, and almost every one of those students learned to shake the usual paranoia test taking instills. They'd learned to live experimentally.

Living experimentally means that one postulates then tries. No experiment fails, as some learning, often unintended, simply must occur. Living becomes learning rather than some pass/fail ordeal. If at first an experiment seems to fail, an experimenter tries, then tries again. Those not framing their experiences as experiments, might easily lose any taste for trying again, accepting an apparent faith's final judgment that they'd failed. Without a firm foundation built upon continual Reassurances, who could possibly survive the otherwise harsh judgments this world quite naturally provides? Heads I win, tails you lose or learned if you do and learned if you don't. This choice seems simply fundamental.

I might be trying to conjure Reassurances here. When I write, I try not to imbed little constructive criticisms, 'cause I'm pretty sure they weaken whatever argument I present. I often cast myself as some sort of fool, rummaging around in a largely unintelligible world. I, myself, seem to need oodles of Reassurances, for I'm fairly certain that I
am on a fool's mission, and always have been. I could, and some might argue that I definitely should, shut the you-know-what up and stop telling my ambiguous little stories. I write to reassure myself. I figure that if I can reassure myself enough to continue engaging in my fool's mission, my reassurances to myself might reassure others. We need more critics about as much as we need another alarming increase in greenhouse gasses, and a little less than any of us need another pass/fail ordeal. I need more reassurance than I can comfortably ask for. I suspect that every damned one of us does.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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