Fear vs Autonomous Choice

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My frequent visits to Swedish schools with our language exchange have allowed to glimpse into the Nordic school system and to observe how different it is from the Latin approach.

In short it seems that the Nordic approach trusts the students to make responsible choices while the Latin method instills fear in the students hoping that this will prevent them from making wrong choices.

Let me illuminate you with a few examples:

Time: When we visit places with the exchange I have noticed that our attitude towards schedules and times vary. Fo instance my French colleagues announce meeting times and try to frighten the students with all the things that will happen to them (things that sometimes happen) while our Swedish counterparts will just explain the daily schedule.

Computers: My school has computers of course but in rooms that are locked unless a teacher is present. If our students use computers during a lesson, we are supposed to make sure they don’t listen to music or visit websites that will distract them from their work.

In addition a lot of my colleagues are still wary of computers and wish they did not have to use them every day. I even know a few who refuse to have a computer at home.

When we first visited Sweden, computers were at the students’ disposal in open spaces. In the school we now have the exchange with, each new comer is given a Macbook Pro for the length of her/his/ stay in the school by the local authorities. When their students are on their computers Swedish teachers trust that they are working and will rather discuss what they are doing and how than behave like policemen.

I have never heard a teacher moan about having to use the computer.

Internet access: My school has no wifi connection and a lot of websites are banned (YouTube, Facebook, email providers, etc). It seems our local authorities fear the students will either access inappropriate sites or not use the Internet wisely. Similarly I have heard colleagues say the weirdest and silliest things about Facebook, to the extent that I wonder if some of them even know what it is.

In most Swedish school, students can access the Internet via wifi from their computers or smart phones. Sure enough I have seen students on Facebook in class but it usually took place before the lessons got started. Once the students were made to work actively they forgot about Facebook.

While neither approach is perfect – and I hope I am not too naive as regards the Nordic system – I tend to believe that fear is likely to produce immature and neurotic grown-ups rather than healthy, well-adjusted adults.

For those interested in education in general – and you don’t need to be a teacher to appreciate this – I recommend Seth Godin’s latest book Stop Stealing Dreams. It is free for everybody to download.

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6 thoughts on “Fear vs Autonomous Choice

  1. I have yet to download a book – but a free one by Seth Godin sounds tempting.

    Of course, the Swedish approach to computers sounds like one that is more appropriate for students who need to learn technology in order to succeed. It sounds like you unfortunately have a lot of fearful teachers where you are.

  2. I will check the book out. Fear produces guilt and also can produce paranoia. I don’t feel that is a positive force that leads to maturity and responsibility.

  3. Thanks for telling me about Seth Godin’s book–it was very inspiring (although a little depressing, too). Like you said, he talks more about the problem than practical solutions.

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