Reading Chapter 5 of Weimer reminds me of a book on parenting. But why shouldn’t it? Some have already commented that thinking of students in a familial sense may help with the dynamic of the classroom, provided of course that we have a healthly and/or helpful concept of family.
Specifically it recalls books such as Making children mind without losing yours (Lehman, 2000) and the Love and Logic series. Both advocate a family dynamic where parents are neither authoritarian nor permissive. Authoritarian parents center the the authority on themselves and make all the decisions themselves. This is exactly the sort of position that Weimer dissuades us from as teachers. On the other hand, the permissive parent allows their kids to run rampant, doing whatever they please and having no discipline. This appears to be the mental perception of many educators when they hear the term “learner-centered.” These books suggest that the family functions best when parents treat their kids more like adults, giving them as much responsibility and decision making power as possible. Appropriate choices abound in the home. Consequences are real and logically tied to actions. Parents must follow through cool-headedly on their rules and practice what they preach. These things aren’t always easy to do but in my experience are excellent parenting principles. They also apply to teaching as evidenced by the overlap in Weimer’s book.
Yet Weimer argues that we shouldn’t treat our students like children. But I argue that it depends on how you treat your children. If one takes an authoritarian approach and gives ones children no responsibility, I whole-heartedly agree. However, if we treat our students (and children) as responsible people who are able to answer for and bear the consequences of their decisions, I think we can treat our students like “children.”
Interestingly, as I was getting the hyperlink for the Love and Logic site, I noticed that they have a whole section of their website devoted to education. Maybe the topic of another post?