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Where Do Princesses Come From?

: An Essay on Education
JulieReshe
Until now a myth thatthere isa separateworldofchildhood which isdifferentfromthe adult world has
been widely widespread. It is believed that there is something substantial about the child, that there
exists some essence of a child that can be determined by a certain set of features. The main such
featureisbelievedtobe theinnocenceofachild.Thatisto say,childhoodinnocenceisseenasessential
forthechild,itdetermineswhatchildis.
In his work ChildhoodInnocenceand OtherModern Myths HenryJenkinsstates
Inour days no one

couldresistthe attractionsoftheinnocentchild
.Tilltoday wekeeparticulatingthismyth,bythisadding
toitspower.However,themythofchildsinnocenceisextremelydangerous.Amongothersitisusefulfor
conservative and patriarchal agendas as it presupposesthat children exist in a space beyond, above,
outsideofthepoliticalwe imaginethemtobe noncombatantswhowe protectfromtheharshrealitiesof
theadultworld.AsJamesKincaidputsit,themythofchildhoodinnocenceemptiesthechildofherown
political agency, so that it may fulfill the symbolic demands adults makeuponit.hildis seen assuch
thatwantsnothing, desires nothing,anddemands nothingexcept,perhaps,itsown innocence.Child
is only someonewho needstobe protected, it isnotinanywayapoliticalsubject,she isonlytheobject
ofprotection.
In accordance with the myth of childs innocence, home and school are depicted as a shelter where
adultsparents andteachersmustprotectchildrensinnocencefromthethedangersofacomplicated
adultworld.
It isbelieved tobe two separate worlds: the world of adults whoareactive socialsubjects withpolitical
agency and the world of children, who are perceivedas inadequate, immature, irrational,and who are
deniedanypossibilityofactivesocialposition.
Children are seen as supposed to remain in this socially inactive state,which is appropriate for them
until they cross the line of adulthood. Only then, within such view, they can become an active partof

society. However, the child of any age is a social being which means that she already is an active
participantofa social body, wejustsomehow manage nottonoticethisandweteachourchildrennotto
noticethis.
The child adopts patterns of thinking and behavior from her parents, other adults, her siblings, and
cartoonscharacters. Thatis howshelearnstothinkusingstereotypesandprejudicesofasortofasexist
hallucination about a beautiful princess, who is waiting for the prince charming. Princess is not what
naturally inhabitschildsinnocentmind.Andthatishowshelearnsaboutwhatdoes itmeantobeachild.
What we call an innocent world of childhood isnotsomethingwhat childproduces herself, not some
substantial essence of the child. It is a result of the child beingactively social. The mythof the childs
innocencekeepsusblindtothisprocesses.
Children do not exist separately from the adult world. Toassume thatthere existsa separateworldof
childhoodmeansto ignorechildrens active socialposition.Believingthatprincessesare nottheresultof
an active involvementofthechildintothesocialworld,butthe naturaloutcomeoftheimmaturemind,we
aremasking the veryprocess by which child learns aboutprincesses.Doingso, wekeepthechildfrom
developing a critical view, whichis a radicalization of thatmasked childs proactive social and involved
position.

***
Acommon illusion,which iscloselylinkedwiththeconceptoftheinnocenceofthechildistheperception
ofthechildas a passiveabsorberofknowledge. In accordancewiththis delusion itis denied that what
hastheprimaryimportanceintheprocessofeducationisanactivepositionofthechild.
The divisionintoadults and childrenthose who teachandthose wholearnisauthoritarianscheme
thatdividedparticipantsofeducationalprocessintothecontrollingandthecontrolled.
Neither of the participants of this process are seen as researchers. To perceive them asresearchers
wouldmean to perceive them as equalparticipants of aneducationalprocess.Buttheyareanythingbut

equal teachersareauthoritative figures, bearers of knowledge,and studentsareseenasthosewhose


roleintheeducationalprocessistoreceiveknowledge.
What is the most terrifying is that such understanding of education as a transmissionreceiving of
knowledgehasbecomehabitualforus.Torethinkit,wehavetotomakeaneffortoverourselves.
It isnecessarytostress that learning isnotatallapassiveacceptanceofinfluencefromoutthereand
not theprocessof moldinginitiatedand carriedbysomeexternaltothelearnerforce.Itis amanifestation
ofactivityofthelearnerherself.
The distinction between the two concepts of education (habitual and emancipatory) can be further
explainedbyreferringtotheCatherineMalabousexplanationofthedifferencebetweentheplasticityand
flexibility.
InWhat ShouldWe DoWithOurBrain?shestatestoday,thetrue senseofplasticityishidden,andwe
tend constantlytosubstitute forititsmistakencognate,flexibility[]flexibilityistheideologicalavatarof
plasticityatonceitsmask,itsdiversion,anditsconfiscation.
The notion of flexibility grasps only one of the registers of plasticity, namely the receiving of form.
Flexibility is the ability to change in order toadapt to the circumstances. To be flexible istoreceivea
form or impression, to be able to form oneself, to take the form, not to give it. To be docile, to not
explode.Indeed, whatflexibilitylacksistheresourceof giving form,thepowerto create,toinventoreven
toeraseanimpression.[]Flexibilityisplasticityminusitsgenius.
Flexibility is something that coincides with the spirit of obedience, while plasticity coincides with the
powerofresistance.
Habitual concept of education correspondstoflexibility, withinit the processofeducational formation is
understood as imposition of form on an obedient material. Plasticity corresponds to the emancipatory
concept of educationas ittakes intoconsiderationtheactivityofstudentherself.Theprocessoflearning
inwhichstudentadoptscertainformsisaresultofherselfformation.

Plasticity, which is the condition for the possibility of formation, is not the ability to change under the
external influence,it istheability for selftransformation. Without actualizationofthestateofplasticityno
externalsourcesofinfluencewouldbeabletochangethelearner.
It isimpossible totransferthe knowledge andskills tosomeone.Theacquisitionofknowledgeandskills
isalwaysanachievementoflearners,evenifthelearnerisonlyfouryearsold.
It isimpossible toteachsomeone whois not involved in learning,thatistosaytheonewhoisnotinthe
active state of learning. Adults can only help children to learn, but children do all the learning work
themselves.
Inone of hislectures Curtis Wilson asked the audiencetoimagine whatit would belike ifadults would
teachchildren to speakby imparting everything they had to do. Thatisnotwhathappensintheprocess
oflearning.Tolearnchildren have to beset free tospeak,andtobegivenaparticularlanguagetodoit,
howeverthoselittlegeniusesdoalltheworkbythemselves.
But then, ifin both the authoritarianand the emancipatory models of educationis aresultofastudents
active position, what is the difference between them? In other words, if in order to learn the student
exercisesplasticityonherselfintheauthoritarianmodel,too,thenwhytochangeitatall?
The problem is, exactlyas CatherineMalabouputs it,thatflexibilityconfiscatesfromplasticityitsmerit:
an individual educated in todays authoritarian school does all the learning herself, but believes the
oppositethatknowledgeisgiventoherandcan
onlybegiven
toher.
This belief,stillfirmlyheldtodaybymajorityof people,effectivelypreventsthemfromlearningoutsidethe
official framework. Thismeansthat sucha personloses the ability to adapttotheever changingsocial
environment. This means that such a population becomes alienated and separated from the political
world, where decisions are made by important expert people (exactly as childrens world is artificially
separated from the world of adults). And for political establishment, this belief means that in order to
maintainthestatusquotheonlythingtheyhavetodoistocontroltheeducationalinstitutions.

That is why we start the revolution today by emancipating our minds from the authoritarian lie about
education.