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Money, music, misbehavior, and missing out

Existential question: if it walks like a duck, but isn't labeled as a duck, is it still a duck? I'd say yes, but that's because I'm just an amateur researcher, not a highly-skilled professional in the general field of education and the specific subfield of the Student-Who-Won't-Learn (SWWL) phenomenon.

With one exception, cited in an earlier column, the SWWL label is verboten for this subject. Instead, real researchers are required to use phrases like "student assent" and "relational power".

You'll find the former in the subtitle of "I Won't Learn from You, the Role of Assent in Learning", a 1992 teachers-are-guilty little book by educator Herbert Kohl and you'll find the latter in "When Students Have Relational Power", a 2006 paper by academic researcher John Smyth.

Kohl explains that student refusal to learn stems from such teachers' faults as using the sexist "he" instead of the inclusive "people" when speaking, and Smyth explains that student refusal to learn stems from the teachers' superior position in the classroom.

The tragedy of my younger life, I now understand, was my subservient behavior in the classroom, my failure to resist various teacher "isms" and my deferential willingness to accept subject-error correction from a dominant single-white-female authority figure.

Had I been more conversant with social justice, I would have saved face by not making errors trying to learn math and reading, by the passive device of choosing not to learn (missing out) and the active device of classroom disruption (misbehavior). Consider the "face" argument as described in the SAGE Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction, Connelly et al., 2008.

Here's a quote from p. 204: "To try to learn something new with a teacher is to display one's self to the teacher as incompletely competent, and these slightly damaged performances by the learner in tandem with the teacher may well be visible to fellow students as well. Thus, the potentially audienced character of every action by a student that was previously mentioned above presents the potential risk of face threat to a student at every moment in which the student attempts to learn something new. Taking the risk of face threat, then, is necessary if one is to attempt a new skill. And, depending on what Dewey (1938, 1963) called 'the total social set-up of the classroom' (p.45), students' attempts to learn can be more or less risky in terms of face threat".

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