Be-careful, people in power sometimes suffer from hubris!

At my son’s parent teacher meeting the other day I was really excited to hear how he was enjoying school. “Kellen is a pleasure to teach, he gets on well with everyone and he contributes regularly in class”, said the teacher, a good start I thought.

Then somehow the conversation changed without me (initially) being aware, and I found myself listening to what needs to be done ‘in order to improve his TEST scores’. This was important, the teacher said, “because this year we have NapLan”.

I understand it is vitally important that we have some kind of report card for schools – for state and national progress. Without it how would we know if something was going wrong with our education system?

Here lies the first bit of hubris: we give ourselves too much credit for our decision-making abilities. The world is astonishingly complex and the perfect system to maximize utility changes way faster than any testing system can keep up with, even if it could how fast and how often would our institutions have to change and at what cost?

‘So what are you interested in?’ (The question the teacher put to me when I said I wasn’t that interested in talking about his test results anymore as we had mentioned them enough already) My answer was fairly simple. I want to know if he is enjoying school? ‘Oh yes’ replied the teacher. Is he learning? Yes again. Furthermore, is he having fun? Guess what she said?

For me, this is the most important thing I needed to know. I only teach BJJ, granted, which is not anywhere near as difficult or as important a subject area as a school teacher, but I am pretty convinced of one thing – my business as a BJJ teacher is not to teach kids to be good at the subject it is to teach them to enjoy learning the subject. This distinction is vital, especially for the student who should not be incentivized by testing (belts).

That is the incentive of the school trying to meet its targets so it can make money or stay open. It is also the incentive of the government who tell us they can be in control of this complex world.  But it is not mine, mine is that I want my son to love learning for no other reason than the fun he gets from learning and I think that if the powers-that-be interfered a little less they would also find that like most things it would sort itself out for the better, without the need to meddle all the time.

Finally, to bring this back to Jiu-Jitsu, be aware that your teacher should be encouraging you to fall in love with learning Jiu-Jitsu, not teaching you to be good at Jiu-Jitsu, one should supersede the other at all times. Whilst keeping an eye on the incentives remember your instructor maybe incentivized to force you to be good for his/her ego, business etc. and I doubt this is an incentive for any student.

Live Learn Evolve

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