Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I feel like there are 2 voices speaking to me from somewhere above. The voice higher up the, um, ladder says to give more freedom, more autonomy, more responsibility and personal accountability to the kids themselves. They must be independent, find their own way, express themselves as their talents and interests direct them; let them discover things for themselves through experience rather than via second-hand input; let them initiate activities amongst themselves and learn from each other.

Then there is the other voice from a little lower down. It says that we must tighten control, have many layers of accountability, more stringent monitoring for adherence to rules and regulation, black and white documentation of such transactions between instructor and student as may be considered "counselling" in order to establish a pattern of recalcitrant behaviour when such cases move up the scale for higher counselling.

It's interesting that freedom and control are so directly related to one another. The greater the freedom, the more control is needed to ensure that the system does not fall into chaos. The greater the freedom, the more numerous the variables become and control mechanisms have to be established for each possible eventuality thus making a system increasingly nit-picky. The less freedom there is, the less control is needed because every eventuality is governed by only a few (or just one) rule/s. "Off with his head!!!" comes to mind.

In the creative arts, the realm of freedom of expression as we generally allow, even such freedom is governed by rules that determine how a piece of work is created. Solo artists have talent, but it is also a process of grooming, training, practicing and developing a discipline that brings out the potential inherent in talent. Rules are especially crucial for collaborative artworks, like in theatre. Even in improv comedy such as in "Who's Line is it Anyway," the form of the created piece and the product itself are the result of imposing a set of rules on an otherwise free form of expression. Everyone knows the broad parameters of the improv games the performers play with each other to a finite set of variables provided by the audience, and the result is always hilarious and very entertaining. It would be infinitely harder to say, Ok, let's improv something together... let's see... um... and here we're at a point of searching for a rule to work with in order to get the collaboration started.

Notice I said "broad parameters" and "finite variables"? Too many rules becomes a blueprint that ensures that every product turns out the same -- as in a mass production line -- and didn't we say we were moving away from this primitive concept of education? As staff, we now have a load of procedures and protocols to administer regarding the monitoring of each individual student's behaviour, development and holistic progress, which amounts to a lot more forms to fill per student on a regular basis. New year, new initiatives. We really have to remind the kids and ourselves that it's maintaining the spirit and not the letter of the law that will balance out our 2 conflicting voices, else we'll just go nuts.

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