Tell Me What to Do

Richard Dreyfuss, that’s right, the actor, has several things to say in this video that are worth pondering. This is from the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher. Have a listen:

Along with his emphasis on the need for involvement and the need to maintain our democracy by teaching our students the processes of reason, logic, clarity, dissent, civility, and debate, he continually emphasized that without these abilities we have a nation saying, “Tell me what to do…”

I hear this every day from my students – undergrads, master’s, and doctoral. That’s right, they have been schooled so well that they are unwilling to make decisions, do the hard work, and be adventurous. We have schooled them into believing that the person in the front of the room is the Queen or King … in charge … all-knowing … all-powerful. Now isn’t that interesting – it coincides with what Dryfus says about moving from a monarchy to a democracy. Well, we’ve done such a poor job of allowing educators to make the educational decisions that our school system is just that … schooling and not education.

This is one of the reasons that I make some hard decisions as an educator – I do not tell them what to do … and oooh do they get upset. I provide varying degrees of scaffolding for my students according to their experience and educational history. For instance, when I have undergrads work on a project I will give them an outline of what to cover – master’s students get less information from me – doctoral students get very little information. Doc students probably get the most frustrated with my style of teaching, after all they’ve had the most schooling, so they are the ones yelling, “Tell me what to do!!” And guess what … right, I don’t. I provide them with as many vague answers as possible – I want to hear from them, I don’t want an echo of what I say.

So, thank you Richard Dreyfuss for saying what needs to be said. My hope is that the right people will listen AND hear it AND act.


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