Book Review: Fearless Teaching, by Stuart Grauer
Alternative Education Resource Organization, New York
Fearless Teaching is the opposite of an academic book. Although Stuart Grauer clearly has strong opinions of his own, he does not directly tell us what they are. Instead he asks questions. 'As teachers do we sometimes become so obsessed with our own agendas that we forget to ask our students for theirs?' 'What is the role of the school in the community?' 'What if we assigned, benchmarked, taught and measured student happiness in school?' 'Is the teacher's fundamental allegiance to the school system or to their students?'
Instead of supplying answers to his own questions Grauer simply tells relevant stories, thirty-six of them. The variety is irresistible. The topics include. at one extreme, a visit with a group of students to a tribal village in Tanzania, where they saw him assisting in the slaughter and cooking of a goat, on which they feasted with the villagers and, at the other, simple stories of surf-boarding. Grauer tells how he went with students hither and thither between Israel and Palestine. He describes what he found when he was invited to South Korea to try help the Koreans to take a less prescriptive approach to schooling. He confesses to a sense of guilt about the way he had ignored a lonely British school boy in his class at school in the USA. He describes the effect of the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl on an assembly of two hundred Americans.
From his choice of story and his own comments Grauer reveals, among other things, an energetic opposition to conventional school organisation, an unqualified approval of the benefits of tribal cultures, great respect for the natural environment and an opposition to large schools because teachers and students in such schools cannot really get to know one another. He believes strongly in the value of introducing young people to a variety of experience.
The title of the book reveals one important omission. Grauer wants teachers to be fearless, and asks questions to encourage them to rebel against official requirements. What about the children?