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Teaching: Resilience - A Teachable Skill?

The goals of learning, education and training are often characterized as being beneficial, helpful, and/or good. Optimism, even when hopelessly false, is easier to promote than practicality. We build courses, evaluation systems and state of the art delivery systems to disseminate opportunities for learning. The implied benefit is that we knew less about something before we started an program of learning and upon completion we know more about something after it. Since we know more we are somehow improved and enabled to pursue life more effectively - at least, that is the implication. History is showing, perhaps, that this is not necessarily the case...

A recent email from Tana Dineen, author of Manufacturing Vicitims, reminded me once again of the other side of learning - the side that is unpleasant, manipulative and destructive. Deception is alive and well in learning - even in those that present themselves as optimists or gurus. This is the face of learning that most of us choose to avoid. I originally wrote about Dineen's ideas about vicitimization here and followed it up with a more personal take on the issue of victimization.

Learning, education and training do not, unfortunately, always result have beneficial results - even when our intentions are good. In fact, learning can be a debilitating experience. Some well-crafted learning experiences can be a complete distraction and a waste of attention. Worse, they can deceive people into believing people that there is value to be had at the end of the road when there is not. When a critical mass of people realize that the intended value is absent, the experts search for a new spin. The recent demise of the "first wave" of e-Learning is case and point, and now "new" ideas like the "hidden," "informal," and "personalized" dimensions of learning and the associated technologies are being put on alert to usher in the next wave. The practical life value of this remains to be seen and, I suspect, will result in very little.

In her recent article Tana Dineen describes the emergence what may potentially be a new form of victimization called "resilience." Her attention is focused on Bethany Hamilton's tragic attack by a tiger shark in What Bethany did. In this article she challenges, correctly to my thinking, that resilience may not be a teachable skill - but it may be something that can be learned.

I think the question is an interesting one: "What is a teachable skill?" We learn often inspite of or completely ignoring what we are being taught. People attempt to teach us things that cannot be taught - they have to be learned.

If resilience is a matter of character as Dineen believes, then it is quite possible that the next wave of educational psycho-babble, although the intentions may be honourable, will once again vicitmize people and provide them with a false sense of hope. We're all familiar with the hype from the experts, but when the hope and happiness of a human life may possibly be question, the potential for a learning disaster is ominous.

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Hi Pearl,

Thanks for the comment, it's appreciated. I have been thinking more and more about the differences teaching (education in general) and learning, especially in situations when the idea of teaching is used as a marketing tool to get people to "buy in" to something (i.e. - a product, a service, a diploma, a belief system).

BTW - I really enjoy reading your Humanyms section.

Best regards,

I really appreciate reading your thoughts on teachability of attitude and character. I keep coming back to your site. It's not light reading but it is always engaging.

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