Teachers and parents try to instill obedience into children and disobedience is challenged by families and schools. However what if the teaching and adherence to obedience restricts a student’s intelligent thinking and learning?
Ira Chaleff is a world renowned author and speaker named one of the “100 best minds on leadership” by Leadership Excellence magazine. Ira’s ground breaking ideas about Intelligent Disobedience aim to encourage children to do the right thing by allowing them to make the wrong choices.
AISC: To what extend is it important for us to allow children to express opposition? Why?
Ira: All parenting and education could be said to have two goals of great importance. The first is for children to understand their culture and how to participate in it successfully. The second is to develop each child’s individual capacity to think and act in it independently, creatively and ethically.
History shows us how hard it can be to do the latter when it appears to be in conflict with the former. This has produced grave consequences for humanity in almost every age and culture. Virtually every institution shapes the child for socialization, conformity and obedience; I am advocating giving conscious attention to balancing this with the skills needed for rising above the social training when that is the right thing to do. On a more immediate level, these skills are needed for children to protect themselves against the rare but traumatizing abuse of authority by adults into whose care we trust them.
AISC: It is normal for parents and teachers to hope their children are obedient. If at the same time they hope the children will express opposition, would that create contradiction? How should parents and teachers avoid causing confusion to children?
Ira: It would be meaningless to teach intelligent disobedience without first establishing a foundation of obedience. By the time a child is three or four years old, and even younger, they have learned how to obey walking in line, waiting to cross the street and many other skills. Exceptions can now be introduced. For example, a role play can be created where they are told it is safe to cross the street but they notice a car coming around the corner so they know not to obey. Intelligent Disobedience is simple: do not obey if obeying would produce harm to themselves or to others. Parents already do this. They say listen to adults but don’t listen to a stranger who tells you to get into a car. Clear age-appropriate conversations and practice sessions avoid confusion.
AISC: In what way could mastering “Intelligent Disobedience” help children in their studies and future prospects?
Ira: When we support children thinking for themselves we help them develop their critical faculties. Currently, they are getting a meta message “authority knows best”, which inherently places low value on personal curiosity, exploration and discovery. In teaching Intelligent Disobedience we are saying “authority often is right, but not always.” We are returning accountability to the child for thinking about whether something is right or whether it may be wrong and, if it seems wrong, to question it and search for better answers. This is the very essence of developing the inquisitive mind and the responsible adult.
AISC: What will Ira tell us about “Intelligent Disobedience” at AISC 2016?
Ira: Obedience to authority is so deeply ingrained in our classroom management, our parenting and in our social norms that we need to start with understanding how deep this goes. Until that is achieved we will not fully recognize our responsibility as parents and teachers to create intentional balance in our socializing forces.
If I as the “authority on Intelligent Disobedience” simply prescribed solutions I would be perpetuating the obedience
to authority dilemma we are seeking to resolve. Instead, I will give language to what is felt but not articulated and bring to view that which is present but not fully seen. I will point us to what we know are the crucial skills for making the right choice in the face of authority and to suggestions for how to explore what works best in your culture. There are things that can be done that take only a little time and investment to equip children to do the right thing. There are deeper issues that need to be addressed to create environments that consistently support a culture of personal accountability for both teachers and students.
Ira Chaleff has confirmed his participation as a keynote speaker at Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference (AISC), which will be held this December 9-10 at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
This is your chance to join AISC as a guest speaker and thought leader, presenting your insights into education to your peers at international schools in the Asia-Pacific region. Please click here to submit your outline paper or fill in the form below.