Myths About Learning 4-- Professionalization

The recent celebration centering around the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has brought about reflections on various aspects of society. Deja-vu is popping up in a number of places. Sorry to be repetitive, but here is another one.

Why the familiarity? We need to look at some particulars. Martin Luther was, without doubt, a key figure in the reformation process. He was experiencing a world in which a group of people were using their prestige, power, privilege and position to color life so that they could reap more of the same from people who were supposed to be under the care of their system. To start with, Luther spit in the soup of the 4 p's crowd by publicly protesting with the display of his theses. Then, he subsequently did what he could to bring what rightfully belonged to the people back to them.

Average people had been unwittingly held captive by a clergy who designed things so that spirituality was perceived as belonging to the institution, call it professional rights. This probably had built up over time and precedents, but ended up a closed system where elite members (some of whom may have been well-meaning) who had to be authorized through sanctioned education, contacts and basically the 4 p's, were granted a seat of preference. Think of it as one of the pay-to-play's of that era. The people were forced by the system to approach spirituality only through its methods, made promises about their future well-being, even having to pay the system to have their sins forgiven. Not to mention just happening to be born into the situation. And to add another p, the institution profited greatly by it.

In the end, the Reformation brought about change which helped to challenge this and numerous other societal inequities of the time. Most people are familiar with the Reformation, so why re-summarize the whole thing? Because of the more immediate meaning that it might hold for us.

You have to admit that this seems similar to at least one contemporary situation which is dear to our hearts. For the purposes of this article, please understand this is simply a similarity of societal dynamics. Anything further is a different story.

Up to around a couple of centuries or so ago, average children learned from their parents at home. There was no question about whether they had the right and ability to do so or not. That was what happened. Then, over a period of years, an establishment grew up, emphasizing the contrary.

This establishment determined that raising children and learning were matters best not handled by parents. There were people with higher knowledge who were deemed more capable in these responsibilities, a professional clergy of sorts. How do they get there? This is how it works:

Work on an education degree informs understanding. Countless credits on philosophy, psychology, management, and various ancillary aspects of it all, might result in something like, "understands different aspects of and perspectives about education and applies them appropriately to create a good learning environment." Keep in mind this is somewhat abbreviated, but all well and good so far.

Work experiences, student teaching and a number of years' teaching in different institutions bring about a new perspective to professionalism. The angle from management adds a new dimension of meaning. Professionalism now appears more as, "adheres to school policy, philosophy and programs" only now the "professional" is fully embedded with a career on the line. That is, with the previous school of education version assumed as a fallback when all else is lacking. See anything familiar here? Lots of p words.

Apart from the establishment itself, there is no shortage of commercial education products and advertising which are just as adept at re-interpreting terms like "professional" as they are in other markets. There are very lucrative reasons for convincing people that they, or things they use relating to learning must be "professional." This halo props up an entire industry of the washed who act convinced that learning is much more complicated than it appears, and that normal people could never do it properly themselves. Official training in the way the institution operates is needed to do it correctly and normals should never try to learn themselves or encourage others to do so as well. As long as there is an artificial rarity to good learning technique (which is not accessible to average people), inestimable money continues to flow through a well oiled machine.

So what do we have? A compulsory members'-only autocracy which professes to hold the way, sanctions authorized workers and behaviors, performs life activities in the place of others who should be doing so themselves, promises a good future to faithful adherents, collects heartily from its status. If it all looks eerily familiar, that's because it is.

The one thing going for us is that this system is only compulsory insofar as we are assumed to be part, but we can opt out (in a number of places, some countries are still in the other camp). Professionalism, in very direct terms, seems nice in theory, but is as much a part of the system of manipulation as any other.

If we, who are outside of the system, hold on to the attitudes and habits of the system, what does it benefit us?

Happy anniversary, Wittenberg, let's keep on learning for ourselves.

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