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Authentic Concern Versus Emotional Correctness

November 19, 2014

I have talked recently (see “Witch-hunt“) about personal attacks and bad arguments. It dawned on me that I am often subject to two contradictory attacks. The first is that, by suggesting we listen to reason, look at evidence or attend to matters of factual accuracy, I am ignoring the emotional side of things. In effect, that I am a desiccated calculating machine, dryly weighing everything up without any feeling for what’s at stake.

KiddAutism

However, at the same time, whenever I have referred to, say, feeling angry about children’s behaviour or disgusted at somebody’s unwise actions, I get attacked for hostility, intimidation or hatred.

Screenshot 2014-11-19 at 19.50.16

I used to get this sort of thing all the time. Now it’s more often aimed at new bloggers, like “Quirky Teacher”.

 

 

 

Screenshot 2014-11-19 at 19.58.47

An example of me showing empathy and emotion. Went down really well, as you can see.

 

What has gradually occurred to me is that this sort of thing is reminiscent of the “bisected teacher” phenomena that I described here. Those who sit in judgement will condemn teachers both for their feelings and their lack of feelings. This is because it is not emotion, or its lack, that is actually at issue. It is a willingness to comply only with the approved display of emotions. It is not about emotion, but about emotional correctness. It is the right sort of show of concern, not the genuine feeling of concern. Genuine emotions are, by contrast, messy and sometimes difficult to deal with. And often these are to be condemned.

Thinking about some of the ways teachers are supposed to express their concern and fondness for students in schools. The more sincere the feeling, or the more it treats children with some of the respect due to adults, the less it seems to be approved:

Authentic Concern

The following ways of displaying concern or fondness for your students are often not approved of:

  1. Being angry, particularly shouting, when their learning is disrupted or they are otherwise harmed by their peers;
  2. Expressing anger about disruptive or dangerous students to colleagues;
  3. Suggesting it is important for them to be high-achieving, academically;
  4. Being visibly disappointed when they fail or misbehave;
  5. Expression opposition to school policies that are not in their interests;
  6. Expecting them to work hard and follow rules;
  7. Designing lessons only for the sake of their learning;
  8. Respecting their privacy by letting them keep feelings and opinions to themselves;
  9. Letting them work alone rather than with students they don’t get on with;
  10. Objecting to the “inclusion” of students whose behaviour endangers and upsets other students;
  11. Punishing, as firmly as possible, those whose behaviour harms the interests of your students;
  12. Being honest to them, particularly regarding the consequences of their actions and the effect they are having on others.

“Emotional Correctness”

The following behaviours, all either empty or potentially harmful, are very often encouraged as showing how much you care and like children:

  1. Letting them off of punishments, or not enforcing rules;
  2. Giving rewards that are not deserved;
  3. Deliberately trying to get them to like you, perhaps by making childish jokes;
  4. Lecturing colleagues for having the wrong attitude to children;
  5. Making lessons entertaining or relevant to what they are already interested in;
  6. Declaring how much you like them at every opportunity;
  7. Sympathising with their dislikes of particular subjects;
  8. Pretending to be happy in lessons;
  9. Lying to them to motivate them;
  10. Lowering expectations for particular individuals on the basis that you understand them and their needs;
  11. Pretending to be interested in latest popular culture phenomena;
  12. Refusing to let them know how they are doing relative to each other or to where they should be.

Perhaps, I am being overly harsh with some of those items. But I do often think that there is an image in our heads of what a teacher should be like that is closer to being the biggest, most popular, kid in the class rather than an expert advocate of our students’ true interests.

7 comments

  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  2. I think it takes real guts and determination these days to think about the happiness of the future potential adult stood in front of you, rather than the child who would naturally seek an easy life right this minute in time. We risk being seen as insensitive, cruel even. I think those who placate and think about putting the child’s wants first are playing a cruel trick upon that child, a trick that the child may never realise until way too late. This is the dividing line: those who seek to placate vs those who can steel themselves and do the right, adult thing. We are in loco parentis, after all.


  3. Your Philosophy:- ” Utter Disgrace ”

    Step (1) Retweet a blog you think is rubbish (someone’s hard work & opinions) with comment -“One for Such and Such Pile” (sad attempt at humiliation) over and above responding politely asking questions and debating rationally.

    Step (2) Await their defence.

    Step (3) During their defence, and questions, accuse them of an “Ad hominem” attack – (Never heard of in my day!) – despite, your own original deliberate, disdain of their work and TONE. (Handy tip ;-Check how many times you have made that accusation and debated tone)

    Step (4) If gets really serious, write further blog accusing of “witch hunt” over and above, people responding to your initial antagonistic approach.

    Step (5) Then, write further blog “I can not win blog” – Happy days !!!

    Step (6) Take an arrogance check.

    Step (7) Write blog describing “authentic concern” v “emotional correctness” summing up your “either or” approach and lack of flexibility where education is concerned. Over and above, the real world, where, thankfully, most teachers realise that children are individuals and different handling is required.

    Num 5 is a classic – Making lessons entertaining!! God forbid that should happen I am 47, my history teacher, years ago, well before “progressive” was known as a term – was resolute in making lessons entertaining !! You quote this in the category of “all either empty of potentially harmful” !!

    Step(8) Learn from the previous generation.


    • “Step (1) Retweet a blog you think is rubbish (someone’s hard work & opinions) with comment -”One for Such and Such Pile” (sad attempt at humiliation) over and above responding politely asking questions and debating rationally.”

      People forget that I follow 900 blogs. Most I do nothing about. Several hundred are reblogged on the Echo Chamber. Some are RTed. Some are worth RTing for what’s wrong with them. I’ve tried different ways to do this. When it was done without flippancy and with an explanation, I’d get attacked for pompousness. When it was done with a “for pity’s sake” and no reason I’d get attacked for not saying what the issue is. The “file” approach is the easiest way to give a reason in 140 characters and had led to interesting debates with those interested in debate, and attacks on my style from people who always attacked my style.

      The “utter disgace” comment was unusual, because it was the behaviour in the blog, not the blog itself which offended me. But even then, I still had the debate. First on Twitter, then I put a full argument on my blog here:

      https://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/has-the-debate-moved-on/

      “Step (2) Await their defence.”

      Step (3) During their defence, and questions, accuse them of an “Ad hominem” attack – (Never heard of in my day!)”

      It’s not new. It date backs to around 1600. It describes any response which is about the person making the argument, not the content of the argument. This is, obviously, something I cannot throw around as an accusation, it only applies when people attack me personally. If you think that it is unreasonable to object to it, perhaps you can let me know which of the attacks above you think is okay? And if you really don’t get why it is a bad argument, this from C.S. Lewis is great:

      http://www.barking-moonbat.com/God_in_the_Dock.html

      ” – despite, your own original deliberate, disdain of their work and TONE. (Handy tip ;-Check how many times you have made that accusation and debated tone)”

      Again, you say this as if ad hominems and objections to tone are something that I have seized upon unusually. They are actually the standard bad arguments of internet debate. To single me out for spotting them is like singling out an A-level maths teacher for spotting mistakes with negative signs. Pointing it out is a result of them being common and wrong, not some strange behaviour on the part of the person pointing it out.

      This is a pretty good guide to basic bad arguments on the internet:

      http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

      It is popular, well-used, and nothing anyone can object to, unless they want to defend bad arguments.

      “Step (4) If gets really serious, write further blog accusing of “witch hunt” over and above, people responding to your initial antagonistic approach.”

      Has anyone actually read the blog about witch-hunts? The whole point was that it wasn’t about an argument that got out of hand. Most of the people targeted were not part of any debate, they just expressed the wrong opinions and had dozens of people discussing how terrible they were with no opportunity to respond.

      “Step (5) Then, write further blog “I can not win blog” – Happy days !!!”

      I suggest you read the blog above properly. I started with the contradictory nature of personal attacks on me, but that’s not actually what it is about.

      “Step (6) Take an arrogance check.”

      Ad hominem.

      Oh sorry, you wanted me to overlook your bad argument, didn’t you? Why was that again? Because you didn’t understand why it was bad? Because I often point out that sort of bad argument?

      Tough. You bring the ad hominem in place of a real argument the least you can do is put up with having it pointed out.

      “Step (7) Write blog describing “authentic concern” v “emotional correctness” summing up your “either or” approach and lack of flexibility where education is concerned. Over and above, the real world, where, thankfully, most teachers realise that children are individuals and different handling is required.”

      Are these steps actually meant to describe a pattern of behaviour? Or is it simply listing things you object to but have little argument against?

      And, of course, kids need different treatment, but the points above are about how teachers are expected to behave in general.

      “Num 5 is a classic – Making lessons entertaining!! God forbid that should happen I am 47, my history teacher, years ago, well before “progressive” was known as a term”

      It’s been around since the nineteenth century. Became most popular here in 1967 with the publication of the Plowden Report.

      “– was resolute in making lessons entertaining !! You quote this in the category of “all either empty of potentially harmful” !!”

      Yep. Lessons which entertain rather than educate do a lot of harm. And that’s something that has long been appreciated, but became a big issue lately with all the talk of “engagement”.


  4. Andrew,

    As you know I’m a long time fan of your blog and I’ve been pleased to meet you on a couple of occasions.

    Take it from a friend, please, that your more recent blog posts are not presenting you in your best light. Despite what it seems when one wires oneself into Twitter, the whole world doesn’t actually revolve around it and you only give your critics wider attention than they deserve when you post about their antics.

    If they’re offending you, block them. You’ve been around long enough to know that feeding trolls is a Bad Idea.


    • This one wasn’t meant to be about Twitter debate. Perhaps I harped on about it for too long for that to be clear. I am concerned that now my anonymity limits my freedom to lead into topics from examples at work, I’ll overuse Twitter debate as a way to lead in to a topic. I didn’t think this one did that (far more worried about the “witchhunt” one where the link to the wider debate was, perhaps, too tenuous), but will probably be steering away from that kind of introduction in the future.


  5. “This is because it is not emotion, or its lack, that is actually at issue. It is a willingness to comply only with the approved display of emotions”

    The conservative writer Peter Hitchens : “The new empire of ideas reaches into the most intimate areas of life, and those who do not accept it are judged to be personally at fault, not simply politically or philosophically wrong… the issue of what a person believes has been confused, as it never used to be, with the idea of what sort of a citizen he or she is.”



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