What is “Old School”

Something I have been hearing a lot, in teaching and coaching, is people referencing being “old school” in their approach. This got me thinking about what the term “old school” means. Essentially there are two things at play here; the first is the attitude of hard work being the key element in success. By this definition I absolutely subscribe to the old school mentality.

But most often the thought process behind old school seems to follow a different pattern. People who call them old school seem to have several strongly held beliefs about how students should act, think, and be controlled. Old school people seem to think all children should do whatever they are told by an adult, no questions asked. Old school people think the wold is black and white and everything falls into these categories, they don’t allow for the grey areas in life. Because of this philosophy they are not flexible, they don’t account for individual differences, and they come off as grumpy and mean most of the time.

Old school people yell a lot, maybe kids “listened better” a generation ago when they got yelled at but did they really learn anything? How to be compliant maybe but do we really want a world of just compliant kids?  I would argue that we want a world of kids who are willing to question things, if kids are questioning they are seeking a deeper understanding. They want a rational for why things should happen, that is teaching and learning.

Old school people seem to be demanding in ways they wouldn’t accept for themselves. Their rules seem to follow a pattern of do as I say and not as I do, at best a terrible way to model things. If you as a coach or a teacher don’t hold yourself to a higher standard, or at minimum the same standard, how do you expect someone to buy into what you are wanting them to do?

Old school people seem to be terribly inflexible. They think students fall into a few categories and either refuse to or can’t comprehend the idea that students are unique and have unique circumstances that factor into how they act and why they act that way. Old school people seem unable or unwilling to take other viewpoints into account. Again, we are back to the black and white perspective of life, there is always grey area that has to be considered. The idea of fair isn’t always equal and equal isn’t always far doesn’t register with people who subscribe to this mentality. Because of this they are unable to reach a large portions of the population who don’t fit the “mold” they believe students should fall into.

I believe there are several other categories that could be discussed here but this is something to start the conversation.


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