Attentiveness and the perils of training

It’s not every day I get to quote Jean Paul Sartre not least because I’ve never read him. But Brian Alger points to this quote, approvingly.

The attentive pupil who wishes to be attentive his eyes riveted on the teacher, his ears wide open, so exhausts himself in playing the attentive role that he ends up no longer hearing anything.

Brian goes on to bemoan training courses where one person talks and everyone else is meant to just sit and listen. What someone called the “flip-open-head-insert-knowledge-close-head” model of learning. Couldn’t agree more; I weary of lectures and presentations unless the speaker is utter scintillating. Seems such a waste of the collective imaginations of all present.

Actually, much marketing seems based on the same idea – sit still while we tell you how marvelous we are. Too much branding is too busy shouting at me to allow for the possibility I might have something to contribute.

Oh, and I’ve not read much Marshall McLuhan either. (What I love about blogs is I can feed on the choicest morsels filleted for me by guys like Brian.) He serves up this little gem from McLuhan:

Environments are invisible. Their ground rules, pervasive structure, and overall patterns elude easy perception.

Which is a rather classy, ten-dollar version of the threepenny “not seeing the wood for the trees.” Ok, I’ll stop being facetious and quote (again, thanks Brian) Erving Goffman who says

Reinforcing these ideal impressions there is a kind of “rhetoric of training,” whereby labor unions, universities, trade associations, and other licensing bodies require practitioners to absorb a mystical range and period of training, in part to maintain a monopoly, but in part to foster the impression that the licensed practitioner is someone who has been reconstituted by his learning experience and is now set apart from other men [i.e. – people]

I think that’s a good example of the way training can become quite counter-productive, keeping us away from the scary but enticing experience of journeying into the unknown together, in favour of the dull safety (?) of experts who “know”. I’ll leave you to complete the comment I could make here about marketing gurus.

1 thought on “Attentiveness and the perils of training

  1. Johnnie Moore

    Yes, Tim. I think the interaction between participants is key. That’s why I love Open Space facilitation of conferences – it recognises that coffee-breaks are usually the best part, so essentially creates a structure for a long, purposeful coffee-break!

    For stuff that is about learning stuff, module on internet has a lot to be said for it, if it’s complemented by real interactivity.

    And Yes too to your suggestion about sale by user forum!


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