Friday, May 16, 2008

Rational Choice Theory and Teaching

Rational Choice Theory is the basis of much of economic and sociological theory. The theory is highly suspect in most choice situations. 

Much of Buddhism is presented and taught on the basis of RTC. Just look at the expositions in Jewel Ornament of Liberation, for instance.

If RTC is bunk, what do you do when teaching?

My sense is we need to move the emphasis to learning and away from teaching.

In other words, the primary task of the teacher is to create situations and environments in which people learn and build:
1. the possibilities and viability (addresses willingness) of venturing into the mystery
2. skills they need to do so
3. capacities they need to do so

What they do, then, is not up to the "teacher". The teacher has done his or her job.

What the teacher should not do is explain or try to convince the student that this is a good idea!


Margaret said...


I think one of the issues is what is meant by 'teaching'. If your idea of teaching is that someone called a 'teacher' tells you a lot of stuff which you then regurgitate upon required situations (exams, job interviews, dharma gossip, whatever), then it seems to me that you're not going to grow much as a result of receiving that 'teaching'.

A more useful way to look at the 'teaching' situation, in my opinion, is to see the teacher as someone who is there to assist the student to discover new knowledge--but that knowledge already exists within the student, it just has to be brought out. The bringing out of it is the teacher's 'job'. The 'teaching' is simply the process by which the student learns to access that knowledge under the guidance and with the assistance of the teacher.

The first type of 'teaching' assumes knowledge is a thing, a lump of which the teacher hands to the student in a designated setting. The second type is much more process-oriented.

jtk said...

I recall the words of a former teacher: "nothing to teach and no way to teach it" (David Miller, Pacifica Gradate Institute, 2001). These words are at the heart of all my "teaching."