Wednesday, October 28, 2020

"Well, Actually . . ."


The man was wearing a T-shirt that read: I don't need Google . . . I already know everything.

It's a joke, of course, one that pokes fun at the know-it-alls and mansplainers out there, including, possibly, himself. I like to think the shirt was a gift from his wife, or maybe his daughter, and the fact that he wears it is an act of self-awareness.

I'm not going to wade into whether or not this is really a gender-linked phenomenon, but we all know what it's about. We've all been annoyed, bored, and even insulted by those who would insist, evidence aside, that they know everything. Either they are rudely correcting you or they are foisting unsolicited information onto you. Most of us have developed defenses that activate when someone starts by saying, "Well, actually . . ." My usual strategy is to just nod along until they finally take a breath, then feign an important phone call or an impending appointment, anything to break away. Although there have been times when I've been sufficiently provoked that I let them have it, especially when it feels they are attempting to wield their "information" to exert power over me. The worst is when I feel trapped, with no option but to tolerate it.

Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that know-it-alls and mansplainers are annoying and infuriating, which is why we mock them and strive to avoid doing it to others.

But I ask you, how does mansplaining differ from much of what passes for education in the US? As a child in school, you are surrounded by adults who hold power of you, and who persist in lecturing on topics of their own choosing. You've not asked them for this information. It is being foisted upon you no matter how tedious or irrelevant you find it. Heaven forbid that you try to change the subject to something that you are interested in or try to insert your own ideas or theories. And you can't just walk away. Even worse, they test you on it. Seriously, imagine if the mansplainers in your life had the power to make you not only attend to them in silence, but to read chapters on the topic of their choice, then write an essay about it. Is it any wonder that children zone out, learning to nod along, feigning attention? Is it any wonder that some of them are provoked enough to resort to disruptive behavior? This isn't the teacher's fault, necessarily, because they have been handed a curriculum from the know-it-alls in charge, and they have to get through it according to a schedule, so while they themselves might not be natural 'splainers, they are forced into it by a system that requires a whole lot of "Well, actually . . ." The worst part is that much of what our know-it-all schools are attempting to mansplain to children is stuff the kids could easily, if by some bizarre circumstance they should ever need to know it, just look up with a Google search. 

Yes, some children thrive in school. Others can't stand it and rebel. But most kids, most of the time are left nodding along, waiting for the droning to stop. What an incredible waste of everyone's time. This is not education, it is mere schooling, the main lesson being that you just have to tolerate it until recess or the weekend or the next holiday when you can finally pursue your own interests, think your own thoughts, and answer your own questions. That's when education happens. This is what school could be if we adults would would just learn to shut up and listen.

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Teacher Tom's Second Book is now available in Australia and New Zealand as well as the US, Canada, the UK, Iceland, and Europe. And if you missed it, Teacher Tom's First Book is back in print as well. 

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