Tyranny of the Majority

The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently” —Nietzsche

We are all in awe of the democratic ideal and the rule of the majority:  the concept of “for the good of all”, “vox populi vox Dei”. But how far should one conform [if, at all]  to the dictates of the majority without losing one’s individuality or identity?

I think this is a very important question for us who are engaged in the teaching profession, to answer seriously.  We were trained in teacher’s college to respect individual differences and to always consider it as an important factor when deciding on what approaches and techniques to employ in our classrooms.  We are of course by now well-oriented about the Multiple Intelligences [MI] and Differentiated Instruction [DI] phenomena sweeping the system.  Both approaches support the premise that children are unique and this uniqueness should not only be preserved but also encouraged and developed.  To adhere to this principle, schools design curricula that respond to the need to focus on a child’s learning style, provide him an environment where he can work on his own interests at his own pace.   However, I detect an internal inconsistency, a conflict, within this scheme.  As long as the education bureau imposes learning competencies and conducts achievement tests to measure the extent of academic proficiency,  schools will always be hard-pressed to  level up, naturally at the expense of their students.  I cannot help but groan inwardly when overall standings in the national tests are released and schools and regions who are at the bottom of the list become singled out. The obvious conclusion:  failure to  perform well.  This traditional method of using academics as the measure of learning will always compete with the interests of slow learners. By “slow learners” I mean those who do not do well in academics, assuming they are diligent and well-motivated, but at the same who [could] learn well under different circumstances, i.e. using differentiated instruction consistently.  But I digress.

Educators and parents alike label students as “rebels” when their behaviors deviate from the so-called “norm”.   Adults have certain expectations from, and set standards for,  young people and are often disappointed when the latter do not live up to these standards.  Parents in return, are blamed when their children misbehave.  It is usually their parenting styles that are criticized. Teachers as well, have to take the responsibility  for their students’ penchant for rule-breaking.  Everything therefore, cuts both ways.

On the other hand, the role of discipline in effectuating success and self-realization cannot be over-emphasized. Thus, far from being arbitrary restrictions, they actually  help students develop a sense of responsibility [for the freedom they enjoy], a healthy emotional quotient, and respect for others.  But the hitch is that, in his effort to abide by these rules, the student suppresses a lot of things, including the inclination to express himself, for fear that his ideas and opinions are wrong, unacceptable or corrupt.   And the certainty of punishment  pushes him further to toe the line.  As a result, either the student challenge authority, submit blindly or resign grudgingly.

The bigger threat is peer pressure and the need to belong.  Ostracism is not something young people can easily deal with.  Rejection to them is like a death sentence.  Thus, to earn the much needed approval, they conform and sometimes have to sacrifice their own pursuits, interests or opinions.

[to be continued…]


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