By Tim Middleton
In 2003 the US and UK invaded Iraq on the grounds that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was under a dangerous regime that threatened to use such weapons; the armed forces were sent in to “identify, isolate and eliminate” those deadly weapons as the risk to millions of people was high and far-reaching. In the eyes of many, such an invasion was justified and necessary. As it turned out though, no such weapons were discovered but the invasion did lead to the removal of Saddam Hussein.
It goes without saying that weapons of mass destruction should not be tolerated. They have the potential in a split second to cause devastating fatal consequences. They could kill thousands of innocent honest civilians going about their daily life while their impact on the environment (and indirectly on society) could cause further damage for generations to come. These are not just massive explosive bombs but may be chemical, biological or toxin agents that will contaminate food sources, cause disease and injury, as well as kill life immediately and for a long time thereafter.
However, for all the horror, danger and threat of weapons of mass destruction, there is something equally as potentially dangerous as these weapons of mass destruction, even though it may be diluted by semantics and rhetoric. While some will use weapons of mass destruction to bring about their own ends, to achieve their own aims, to promote their own cause, others will use something similar but less obvious. These are weapons of mass instruction.
For centuries, educators have often used mass instruction as an effective means of getting their points across. It is much easier, requires less concentration and focus and even if a few innocent folk are caught up in the crossfire or explosion, it will for the most part hit most of the intended target. So teachers would toss out the same instructions to every child in the class expecting everyone to grasp it. It would be done at a distance, with no apparent danger to the remitter. It would be used favourably through rapid fire repetition. In effect, much of mass instruction follows the principle of mass production. Everyone must turn out exactly the same, the way we want them to be, even though most are totally different.
Weapons of mass instruction may be seen in two forms, their resources and the results. Firstly, they are found in the way that teaching is done the same way at the same speed to every youngster. The more children there are, then the less individual response there will be and therefore less danger to the perpetrator. The thinking is that we will put everyone together in one place and move them all at the same pace through the same methods so that they will all achieve the one desired result.
Secondly, the use of weapons of mass instruction may be seen in its purpose of getting every youngster to respond in the same way; it is forcing everyone to repeat the same jingles, the same theories, the same responses, the same chants. It is all about ensuring that the youngsters are conforming to the stated position, by regulating their thoughts and responses.
The problem of mass instruction is that it actually serves as a mass obstruction, preventing the growth of understanding; because everyone is to think it, say it, believe it, then no-one will question it. The weapons of mass instruction in fact kill creativity, not enabling people to have their own thoughts or ideas; they kill individuality, not allowing people to be themselves but forcing them to think and say and do what they are told they must think and say and do; they cut down critical thinking, not allowing people to think for themselves; they eliminate two-way communication, not permitting people to express their own thoughts and views but only repeat what is given to them. In such a way, weapons of mass instruction do in fact cause widespread devastation and loss.
As weapons inspectors were sent in to Iraq to ascertain if there was any evidence that the country was developing these weapons of mass destruction, so perhaps we need to call in inspectors to determine if our education system is using weapons of mass instruction for certain ends. We need to “identify, isolate and eliminate” any weapons of mass instruction, lest it brings devastating, fatal consequences for innocent children and generations to come. If inspection fails, invasion may follow.
- Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.
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