In So Many Words: Structured Learning

Sometimes I like to step back from blogs about educational reform and schooling for democracy to indulge in my other love: word origins. Words have always been special to me, even as a child. Early on, I attributed magical qualities to them, believing that locked within were mysterious insights which could help guide me through life.

What you are about to read is a work of etymology from a comic series I wrote in a previous life called, In So Many Words.

Call it just so much bunk, gibberish, babble, and hokum–but do enjoy!

Structured Learning, A Comic by Larry Paros
from the comic series In So Many Words by Larry Paros

Text only version

Structured Learning

Current educational theory holds that students achieve their best when under intense academic pressure. And there’s no better way to increase that pressure than by increasing the load they carry, with the Latin struere, “to pile things.” Taking their cue both from the roots of their profession (adding the prefix, in) and from official directives — instructors tend to “pile things,” “on,” their students — one after another (believing that to be their mandate).

This piling on is not meant to be indiscriminate. Hopes are that by joining their efforts with the prefix con, “with,” that it will be done with a guiding principle in mind, rendering the entire process constructive — culminating in structured learning.

Critics, however, consider the entire approach “destructive,” (“a pile away from”) and obstructive (“a pile in the way of”) real learning, if you construe what I mean. As an educated person, you should be able to put those pieces together properly.

If all of schooling is ultimately reduced to nothing more than a pile, how can we hope to instill in students a proper attitude towards learning? Could “pouring it on,” be the way to go? Noted educator Paolo Freire called it “jug to mug education,” whereby the teacher pours from his jug to the student’s mug. Come examination time, the student returns the favor.

Instill originates with the Latin stilla, “a drop,” giving us the verb stillare “to drop” and the derivative compound instillare, “to pour in drop by drop.” The process as described is anything but a “pouring on.”

Could that possibly be the best way to approach teaching — drop by drop, gradually imparting qualities of heart and mind to students? Rather than inundating them with data or piling it on, could that be the truly instructive way to go?

You can find more comics by following this link to In So Many Words.

Published by Kvetch Press, a Division of Neurobics, Inc.

Author Larry Paros

Illustrations by Sam Zaninovich

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced — mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system — without written permission from the publisher.

All violators will be towed or forced to repeat sixth grade.


Larry Paros has worked in the field of Education and Human services for more than 30 years both as a teacher and administrator. A pioneer in the creation of alternative settings, he is best known for his work with young people from varied ethnic and racial backgrounds in contexts of his own making. His book, Dancing on the Contradictions: Transforming our Schools, our Students, and Ourselves, will be available in September of 2019.

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