Getting out of the misunderstanding of labor education practice: "gamification" can’t gain labor interest

Getting out of the misunderstanding of labor education practice: "gamification" can’t gain labor interest

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  editorial comment/note

  Labor refers to the activity that people create material wealth and spiritual wealth necessary for their own survival and development through their own hard physical or mental efforts. In the new era, labor education has been picked up again, and schools have gradually begun to jointly carry out labor education practice with society and families. But in reality, labor education is often reduced to a simple task in daily teaching, a simple physical education, skill learning, and even alienated into entertainment, punishment and domestication. This paper holds that the lack of understanding of the connotation of labor and labor education still leads to some misunderstandings in the practice of labor education, such as the "servitude" of cognitive mental work that makes learning and labor oppose each other, the "play" that replaces the real pleasure of labor, and the lack of continuity in labor education, which needs serious reflection based on the connotation of labor education, and has certain practical pertinence, hoping to bring inspiration to readers.

  1, learning "servitude" put learning and labor in opposition.

  In recent years, labor education has been promoted to the same position as moral education, intellectual education, physical education and aesthetic education, so some schools have vigorously carried out labor education practice. Some open up schools to build farms and guide students to carry out productive labor practice; Some combine social resources and rely on labor education practice bases to organize students to experience labor. Social practice activities of learning agriculture and learning industry are carried out regularly every year in many places. However, while increasing the opportunities of labor experience, we will find a conventional concept that students’ daily study is not labor. This is really worth reflecting on. Isn’t learning itself labor?

  In fact, learning itself is also a kind of labor, and learning is cognitive mental labor. Soviet educator Suhomlinski believes that "labor education begins when students sit behind desks and study. Desk is the most complicated machine tool, which makes children, teenagers and teenagers feel that it is shameful to be careless, and laziness and idleness are sad. It is the most difficult thing for students to establish this understanding in education". Learning is a kind of labor that promotes the combination of wisdom and hands’ efforts. In this labor, learning is labor, while knowledge is the result of labor efforts. Under the background of digital labor era, the function of labor gradually turns to the existential function of realizing personal self-worth and obtaining the sense of value and meaning of existence. From this perspective, completing labor outside of learning may not be able to obtain more sense of value and existence than learning process.

  If learning is labor, why talk about labor education now? Why didn’t the mental work, which occupies the main position in students’ life at present, achieve the purpose of labor education? Why do schools often oppose mental labor and productive labor, and think that too much emphasis on intellectual development leads to insufficient labor experience? This is because the mental work of learning is alienated, and learning has been externalized as "labor".

  To recognize that learning is externalized as "labor", we need to trace back the essence of learning, a mental labor, and re-examine the current learning process of students. From Marx’s definition of labor, we can see that labor is firstly a process between man and nature. In the process of material exchange with nature, people increasingly realize the common attributes of things and phenomena, and find the regularity and connection between them, while mental labor is expressed in the form of representation, concept and reasoning. Learning this mental work ultimately points to scientific understanding of things, which is also an essential attribute for learning to become mental work. At present, students’ learning has gradually become "externalized labor" pointed out by Marx. Marx said in the Manuscript of Economics and Philosophy in 1844: Labor is an external thing for workers. In labor, he does not affirm himself, but denies himself. Instead of feeling happy, he feels unfortunate. Instead of freely exerting his physical strength and intelligence, he makes himself physically tortured and mentally destroyed. Once the external force stops, he will escape from labor like a plague. This exposition of externalization of labor seems to be just right to describe the study of today’s students. Students’ study is not to scientifically understand reality, but to pursue external material needs. The "tearing books after the college entrance examination" repeatedly exposed by the media reflects the students’ escape from this externally imposed task. Therefore, learning is no longer real labor, and it no longer has the function of liberating physical strength and intelligence.Instead, it becomes "hard labor", so it has little effect on improving students’ labor literacy.

  2. "Gamification" makes students lose their interest in labor.

  Corresponding to the fact that learning has become "hard labor", other forms of labor education that are gradually emerging show a trend of "gamification". Some schools carry out interesting and wonderful labor activities to attract students, and some schools integrate labor education into spring outing. On the one hand, this can improve students’ enthusiasm for participating in labor, but on the other hand, we need to pay attention to avoid blurring the difference between labor and games. Labor is the process of externalizing oneself, while game is the process of internalizing reality. The fuzziness of the difference between labor and games is more obvious in the digital age. Digital labor blurs the time-space boundary between entertainment and work, and dispels the traditional antagonistic relationship between play and labor.

  Labor is a serious process of giving, and the joy of labor lies in creation. This kind of giving also explains the self-externalization of labor. Students devote their physical strength and intelligence to the labor process and gain certain results. The pleasure that students feel in their work is the pleasure of creating things because of self-sacrifice, not fun. There is a difference between labor and games. Games can naturally bring satisfaction to children, but labor itself has no interest in children, so the interest in labor needs to be cultivated and developed consciously. The "gamification" of labor makes many activities look interesting, but there is no labor in essence, and students can’t gain interest in labor. Suhomlinski believes that the interest in labor should be manifested as "they realize that they can act on nature, make plants give fruits, and use tools to process wood or metal into needed shapes". Therefore, in the practice of labor education, we need to judge whether the interest in the labor process comes from giving and creating, or is interfered by other factors such as gamification.

  The contribution in the process of labor can cultivate positive labor values and make students love the working people and respect the fruits of labor. At the end of the 19th century, a "new" school appeared in France to train people engaged in "advanced knowledge occupations". In this school, students treat manual labor just like games and sports, because they don’t have to live by manual labor in the future. Although this school is located in the countryside, the students are far away from farmers’ lives. Although they are also working, they can’t really understand and study various social relations. Rousseau believes that only by taking part in labor in person and understanding all its complexity and arduousness according to experience can students judge the social significance of a production department in the future. Therefore, if we don’t regard labor as a serious process, we can’t cultivate our feelings for the working people, and we can’t cultivate our appreciation for the obtained survival materials.

  3. Labor education stays in experience and ignores daily self-service labor.

  At present, the labor practice of studying industry and agriculture in some areas is vigorously carried out, and an institutionalized labor experience system is gradually formed based on the construction of learning industry and agriculture bases. However, the persistence of these activities is worthy of attention. Most schools spend one week each semester leading students to experience labor, but they only stay in the experience once each semester, and there is a lack of cohesion between the activities, which is easy to make the labor experience become a casual entertainment. What’s more, some schools organize students to pull weeds in wasteland, and students regard pulling weeds as a kind of hard labor. This kind of labor experience of "working without teaching" deepens students’ rejection of manual labor. Therefore, the experience of labor must be complete, so that students can see the results of labor and feel satisfied with the achievements they have made through their own labor. If we just stop at pulling weeds without letting students experience the significance of pulling weeds for the growth of saplings, it will be difficult for this labor experience to play its due role. To lead students to plant wheat seedlings, we should let them see the process of wheat seedlings growing, heading and harvesting, and even let them see the process of wheat grains turning into food. At this time, the sense of pleasure comes not only from obtaining external products, but also from experiencing the sense of value and existence of labor.

  In fact, daily self-service labor is just the way to implement the principle of continuity of labor education. However, these are often ignored in schools and families. Schools spend time and energy to organize off-campus labor practice, but at noon, catering staff bring students lunch to the classroom, "depriving" students of the opportunity to experience self-service. The relationship between man and self is at the core of the three attributes of man, which also means that students’ self-service labor plays a vital role in students’ all-round development. Self-service labor can be regarded as the beginning of labor education. No matter what kind of productive labor he is engaged in in in the future, self-service will become his obligation and habit, and it is also the habit of cultivating people to observe discipline, meet their personal needs by doing it themselves, and form the habit of respecting others. When students get food effortlessly, it is difficult to ask them to respect food and labor.

  4. Strategies and suggestions for getting out of the misunderstanding of labor education practice.

  "If there is labor, there may not be education". Labor needs to satisfy three relational attributes, namely, man and self, man and nature, and man and society. The basic contents of labor are: self-service labor, productive labor and social welfare labor. Labor education is a practical activity based on physical labor and material production labor, exploratory innovation labor and artistic aesthetic labor, which is manifested in independent life in family life, practice and hands-on operation in study, public welfare activities in society and various professional labor. Therefore, the strategy to get out of the misunderstanding of labor education practice is to balance people’s different forms of labor demand through diversification.

  First of all, set up a cohesive and comprehensive labor education course. Dewey once said in The Waste of Education that all aspects and stages of education lack the necessary connection and cohesion with each other, which leads to conflicts and even negative effects. Similarly, in order to avoid the waste of education caused by labor education staying at the experience level, the labor education curriculum needs to pay attention to the cohesion of labor content and skills, which is reflected in the cohesion of curriculum content and the cohesion of education system. In terms of course content, it is necessary to set up labor courses that echo and connect properly according to the needs and characteristics of students of different classes and grades. In the education system, it is necessary to consolidate the skills and concepts of labor education through the cooperation between family and society. Schools can encourage students to find service jobs at home, take the initiative to participate in housework, and learn some labor skills. In addition, the content of labor curriculum also needs to take into account three basic labor education contents, namely, self-service labor, productive labor and social welfare labor.

  Secondly, change the concept of labor education of parents and educators, so that parents and educators can establish labor education awareness. The promotion of the cooperative mechanism between labor educators and schools puts forward higher requirements for teachers and parents’ awareness of labor education. For example, some schools will arrange "homework". If teachers and parents can’t pay attention to it, the effect will be greatly reduced. In order to avoid staying in the curriculum, labor education needs to enhance the awareness of teachers and parents. On the one hand, it is necessary to interpret the connotation, function and significance of labor education in combination with the development of the new era. On the other hand, it is necessary to change the concept of labor education through necessary education and training, so that they can voluntarily carry out and cooperate with the development of labor education activities.

  Finally, actively develop creative forms of labor and promote the combination of physical strength and brain power. Creative labor enables students to use the power of wisdom in physical labor, realize the unity of "internal thinking" and "external doing", and thus experience the happiness of labor. Wang Shaoliang, a scholar, believes that the labor values of contemporary teenagers have changed from "labor glory" to "labor happiness", that is, from "a kind of praise obtained from the outside through labor achievements" to "confirmation and affirmation of an essential force from their own labor achievements". Therefore, the development of school labor activities can not stay in simple physical labor, but needs to develop challenging creative labor that can show students’ physical and mental potential. Suhomlinski’s "creative labor theory" also points out that the content of labor education should be enriched with enough knowledge, abundant wisdom and refined talents.

   (Author: Ning Bentao Feng Linlin, respectively, professor of the Department of Education, Department of Education, East China Normal University, researcher of the Institute of Basic Education Reform and Development; Master student, Department of Education, East China Normal University)


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