About the pedagogical value of confidence

by Carl Bossard

The world as a gigantic pile of problems! This impression is given to those who read current publications and school curricula. That’s why confidence is needed.
Those who are on the way with children, those who accompany young people on their path of learning and life, must have a couple of siblings by their side: confidence on the one hand and optimism on the other. Not the blind optimism and not the naive, illusionary confidence with the easily quoted positive thinking. Not even the kitschy look through rose-coloured glasses. No, it is the confidence in the Enlightenment, confidence as a basic human attitude – for young people a kind of mental life insurance and thus the basic fuel of life. Mental resources live from this fuel of confidence.

“Especially pupils with learning difficulties do need teachers who encourage them and thus build a bridge to their success and thus to confidence and understanding.” (picture caro)

“Resignatio” is not a beautiful place

Those who consult the current list of books and study the titles will find food heavy to digest with oppressive findings: “the collapse of democracy”, “how democracies die”, “mankind abolishes itself”, “empty hearts”. The list is long and the tenor often rather gloomy, the social swan song audible and resignation perceptible. Here and there it is even a dalliance with apocalyptic fears, at least with pessimistic words. But “resignatio”, according to the sharp political thinker and somewhat quaint Swiss writer Gottfried Keller, is “not a beautiful place”.1 This also applies to school. It must not cultivate a positive anthropology on the one hand and on the other hand sound the pessimistic trumpets. “Resignation” means poison for the children. It would be a climate crisis of a different kind. The school must resist and educate to confidence.

The world is more than just a pile of problems

Curriculum 21, a reflection of our time? The question arises to those covering the 470 pages and studying the 363 competences with their 2,300 competence levels. Here, the human enigma tends to be downgraded to the concept of competence and the world essentially appears to be a gigantic, monotonous pile of problems, where primarily the thing to do is: to solve problems and acquire controllable competences. Highly complex world problems are formulated here, combined with a lot of answers that can be retrieved anywhere.2 They are to be dealt with in a competence-oriented and self-directed manner. In this way, each pupil will become his own learning manager and thus learning will be left to self-experience. Many children cannot cope with this complexity, especially those with learning difficulties and pupils with medium levels. They do not experience enough of how learning can be successful and enjoyable and that it can make sense. However, that is exactly what young people need; that is what strengthens them and conveys confidence.3 Nothing is more stimulating than (learning) success.
Of course, being able to solve problems is part of human existence. That is imperative. However, is this why the entire school education must be reduced to ability and handled technically? But that happens. “All goals in Curriculum 21 are formulated with the verb ‘can’,” the Zug Education Directorate recently announced to the public.4 This sounds as follows: “Male and female pupils can perceive their bodies senso-motorically differentiated, use them and react in a music-related way. And furthermore: “[They] can orient themselves to music in the room and in the group”.

There is an education beyond verifiable ability

When everything is turned into a problem, music and poetry, communication and aesthetics, the school forgets that the world still invites us to marvel and to be carefree, receptive to beauty and mystery, to passion, to devotion to a task, to confidence. Also to wilful behaviour, to thinking out of the box and to resist. Competence is not just what you can do and know. Both can be acquired and implemented; both can be kept under control and tested and certified. But beyond that there is something else: the human being, the basic human attitude. Am I my own competence? Am I curious and reliable, sensitive and committed, respectful of others and the environment, confident?

Loving the world and caring for it

There is a duty to confidence, wrote Immanuel Kant. Especially in precarious times. Children must be given examples set by adults. Also at school. According to effectiveness research, teaching is an encounter from person to person, a dialogical occurrence. Every Socratic pedagogue knows this. The competence and attitude of the teacher are decisive; their trust and confidence, their role model and their expectations, their confidence and their passion for the world.5 From this grows the passion for pedagogy and teaching.
Not without purpose did political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, said: “Education decides whether we love the world enough to take responsibility for it.”6 Love the world to take care of it responsibly. Perhaps the French poet Romain Rolland, with his sentence from the Michelangelo novel, hits the nail on the head: “There is no heroism other than to see the world as it is and to love it nevertheless”. How trivial is that! And yet so difficult.

Children need human bridgeheads

Especially pupils with learning difficulties do need teachers who encourage them and thus build a bridge to their success and thus to confidence and understanding: “I can do it!” Often these bridgeheads are not the heads, but the hearts. What happens at school between teacher and pupil, between pupil and teacher, does not happen foremost from brain to brain, but from eye to eye, from mind to mind. Thus, physically and emotionally. Encouragement and the living example of confidence too. The pedagogical duty of confidence is today at the top.
The world needs people who venture out into the world and make their contributions, people who, like Faust, confidently say: “I feel courage to venture into the world, to endure earthly weal, earthly woe”.    •

1    Pestalozzi, Karl. Gottfried Keller. Kursorische Lektüren und Interpretationen. Basel 2018, p. 237
2    cf. Kaube, Jürgen. Illusionen der Pädagogik, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung from 19 May, p. 33
3    see Schnabel, Ulrich. Zuversicht. Die Kraft der inneren Freiheit und warum sie heute wichtiger ist denn je. München 2018
4    Endspurt für den Lehrplan 21 in den Zuger Gemeinden. In: Zuger Zeitung from 22 April 2019, p. 21
5    Hattie, John & Zierer, Klaus. Visible Learning. Auf den Punkt gebracht. Hohengehren 2018, p. 146f.
6    Arendt, Hanna. Die Krise der Erziehung. In: Dies., Zwischen Vergangenheit und Zukunft. Übungen im politischen Denken I. München 1994, p. 276

(Translation Current Concerns)