Phil posted The Observer, Sunday February 27, 2005
"A new teaching system, revolutionary in more than one sense, has been
developed and tested in secret."
Why a teaching experiment is tested in secret? Teachings are more associated
with and for public, and involve public. Only things that deal with control
usually are kept in secret. Is this a new 'revolutionary teaching' for
controlling the students?
"Instead of simply standing at the front, their teacher, circles them on a
curved 'racetrack', occasionally taking up a position on a podium in the
centre of the room. No longer can reluctant students skulk at the back of
the class or plant themselves on the periphery of the teacher's field of
Mirrors mounted at three points serve as eyes in the back of the teacher's
This classroom works so well because the racetrack around the room means
there is no back of the class.
The round classroom also eradicates the so-called 'attention zone', a
triangle immediately in front of the teacher which inevitably receives 90
per cent of his or her attention."
Why one needs to produce a space for controlling the children in education?
Is classroom a hostile territory to be occupied by the teacher (with help
Jay said it very clearly:
"in fact it all sounds a great deal like Foucault's account of Bentham's
prison panopticon, in reverse (surveillance from the periphery rather than
from the center), and as much concerned with control and surveillance as
with anything to do with the positive side of learning (i.e. learning what
you want to learn, vs. what the state wants you to learn)"
Yes, it looks like the student space is designed in order to provide
complete transparency for the teacher--both from center and periphery . He
'circles them' he is 'in the centre of the room' and he also has 'eyes in
the back of [his] head'.
It also seems to me that the 'old classroom' more corresponded to Foucault's
Bentham of discipline society, while this one resembles more Deleuze's
In the former, social space was segregated between more or less isolated
multiple disciplined spaces --of family, work, military, hospital, leisure,
etc. In the latter, all social spaces are connected-one does not have to
leave one space before entering the other space. One can be in all of them
all the time-with the help of technology--we work at home and on vacation.
Surveillance existed only within each separated space in discipline society
(in military, in jail, in hospital). Once you left the 'prison,' you were
out. Now, there is not any outside to surveillance space. Since 911 this
kind of controlled social space is pronounced, legislated, and normalized in
our daily life. Scenes that were found only in the '3rd world' countries are
now accepted here by most--militarized social space and glorification of it
in public by government and the media.
But all of this brings resistance and opposition too-though less visible so
On the positive side of this spatial experiment with classroom, students
seemed to like their mobility, access to the teacher in their visual fields,
and ability to cluster and work together.
'It is much better than other classrooms, the chairs are better, you can
spin around and see the teacher. 'It is also much more fun. We get the
boards down all the time and work together. This has made maths much more
fun than it used to be.'
"I'm all for experimentation in learning environment design, even this one,
but there is also the matter of evaluating the results of the experiment
critically, and comparing alternative designs."
Coming from the evaluation field, I am for experimentation and evaluation of
the design along the issues suggested by Jay such as "control, information
delivery, dialogue, inquiry, curricular authority, ."
To me, the criteria by which to judge a social space such as a classroom
begins with the degree of presence (or absence) of a 'trust space.' The kind
of social space is spatializing and producing relationships of trust. That
is a space that projects symmetry of mutual relationships similar to the
social space that spatializes friendship and dialogue. A learning
environment in this way becomes the opposite of jail space- the spatialized
(and spatializing) complete asymmetrical power relationships of order and
obedience (eg, Abu Gharaib).
Finally, Jay said: "No amount of good design is going to save a
fundamentally dysfunctional institution." Put differently, a produced
physical space can only support or hinder the kind of social activity that
goes inside it. It is the social activity itself that is the dominant
spatializing force that overrides the already built environments and creates
its own space(functional/dysfunctional). Space is both producing and
produced, it is both produced and destroyed.
Thanks to Phil for 'spatializing' XMCA, even for a few moments -posts!
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