Playing chess with the enemy #blimage

Here's my latest contribution in the series of #blimage challenges. (Someone sends you an image and you write a blog post about learning based on it - that's the game of #blimage). This image was sent to me by Australian educator Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs). So what do I make of it? How can I frame this image in an educational context?

It looks as though Bart Simpson is having a cup of coffee with Darth Vader (how surreal is that?). Maybe they have been playing a game of chess ala Seventh Seal (the film directed by Ingmar Bergman in which a medieval knight plays a game of chess with Death), and are now taking a break. Coffee or chess anyone?

Drinking coffee with the enemy is less risky than playing chess with him. Generally it's not as formal, and the rules assume less importance. Strategy is still involved in conversation, but its a different kind of strategy, low stakes. Playing chess with the enemy can be very dangerous because ultimately, it results in a winner and a loser. Chess could be a metaphor for formal education where testing separates those who are 'bright' from those who are 'not so bright'. Testing naturally promotes success, but it can also generate failure and stigma. Personally, I prefer the coffee drinking analogy, where everyone participates, and where there are no winners and losers, just a community of people, all interested in the same end. To learn as much as they can, and to share their ideas together, simply for the joy of learning. To me, this is the kind of learning you will see in schools where teachers take a back seat, and where students are assessed on a continuous and formative basis. There is plenty of latitude for improvement, and plenty of opportunities to learn better next time.

Drinking coffee with your enemy may also bring its own rewards. You get to know them better, and the more you discover, the more you are prepared to meet future challenges. That quite easily relates to he deployment (or not) of technology in schools. We should be preparing our students for challenges that are unpredictable, so exposing them to technologies such as the Web or social media at an early age, and in the safe environment of school has to make more sense than banning them completely.

...and what if you don't like coffee? Well you can always eat Bart's shorts.

Photo by Justlego101 on Flickr

Creative Commons License
Playing chess with the enemy by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Maha said…
Not all the same . As you said - some ppl don't drink coffee :) Mormons aren't allowed to; some prefer Turkish coffee, others drink Cappuccino, some ppl can afford Starbucks and some can't. Some ppl respond to coffee-drinking differently from others. No participatory activity is egalitarian because lots of power dynamics and more... If Bart and Darth were having coffee... Would it be a meeting of equals or?
Steve Wheeler said…
I would rather drink tea than coffee me-self. There are always power dynamics, in every relationship. The trick is to provide an environment (culture?) in which teachers and students assume a form of equality - where perhaps teachers learn from students (I try to achieve this myself with mine).

So can Bart overpower Darth and get him to eat his shorts? May the farce be with you.

*This is not the blog you are looking for...*
Simon Ensor said…
Each time I have been sacked (twice) I was asked to come and drink coffee; was never asked to drink tea or play chess.
Doug Smith said…
Sharing coffee with your enemy could be the first step toward understanding each other. It could bring about a change in the relationship that leads to deeper learning. We grapple with the problems of education and how to be valuable, meaningful, and fair about it. Our enemies may not cooperate. But by sharing a cup of coffee and some time together we start the conversation moving toward cooperation and even collaboration. Education dares not ignore the enemy, because that may be us.

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