Asking to be kidnapped

In his presentation on A New Knowledge Society, Stephen Downes characterized two kinds of learners that both ask for help. One has no motivation problems because the pursuit of knowledge is what she or he wants to be doing right now. These learners can be labeled free ranging, informal, self directed, intrinsically motivated and autodidactic. The other has to ask for help, does not want to be learning this and has motivation problems.

In a comment to my post: Giving control to the learner, Stephen provided a wonderful analogy of getting kidnapped in Rome. Any self exploration, guided tour, use of maps or asking for help -- is free ranging. Getting kidnapped is the learner's experience of formal instruction. Stephen began his comment with:

Free ranging is not abandonment. That is a malicious myth that completely misrepresents what is meant by the concept.

I believe the "malicious myth" is perpetuated by those learners who FEEL abandoned by the "lack of kidnapping". Abuse, domination, persecution are all highly addictive. Battered wives unconsciously marry another abuser after a period in a safe house. Breaking the cycle abuse takes more than giving the chickens freedom. The cooped up chickens don't want to be cut loose to forage. They want more chicken feed. Imagine the sequel to Chicken Run where the chickens are picketing: "Give us feed, not freedom".

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here. Harold Jarche explored this issue as Sheepwalking. Brent asked David Shaffer about this in his podcast interview. It's The Matrix where every Mr. Smith is captivated by conformity. I'm joining this choir with the ways educational psychologists have framed students who "want to be kidnapped" as:

  1. Products of an assembly line, factory schooling

  2. Dumbed down instead of wised up

  3. Exhibiting learned disabilities, helplessness, passivity

  4. Displaying morbid dependency on authority figures

  5. Acting out internalized toxic shame, self incriminations

  6. Convinced to see themselves as defective, deviant or deficient

  7. Acting propagandized, indoctrinated, brainwashed

  8. Incapacitated, eviscerated, depleted, devoured

  9. Stifled, inhibited, given hang-ups, burdened with baggage

  10. Captivated by a dominant narrative, subjugated by a power structure
Implicit in my thinking that the bigger challenge is regard for the learners -- is the idea that most learners are wounded. Their condition calls for healing. They need the higher regard of empathy, understanding and freedom from the pressures imposed by the free range. They need to be weaned off of spoon-fed content before being released from captivity.

I'm not yet convinced of this "healing approach" I'm proposing. I share a concern with therapists who avoid using a "pathological diagnosis" like the ten frames I've listed here. Solution therapists suggest that a negative label keeps the learner out of possibility land where exceptional behavior can be amplified and chronic problems vanished easily. Post modern therapists suggest that a pathological diagnosis imposes a dominant narrative. The negative story fails to liberate the learners from a confining epistemic frame so they can create their preferred narrative in life. Brief/depth oriented therapists discover how any chronic problem is an indication of a "hidden solution in use" that utilizes the symptom to control a relationship or avoid a persistent danger. All these therapies are aware of the potential to do more harm than good; what is called an "iatragenic effect" in the medical field.

All these therapeutic approaches tell me my framing of the learners' problem is as toxic as disregarding their problem. Any thoughts?

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