Meet Riane Eisler
Riane Eisler is a social scientist, attorney, and author whose work on cultural transformation has inspired both scholars and social activists. Her research has impacted many fields, including history, economics, psychology, sociology, and education. She has been a leader in the movement for peace, sustainability, and economic equity, and her pioneering work in human rights has expanded the focus of international organizations to include the rights of women and children.
Riane Eisler was born in Vienna, fled from the Nazis with her parents to Cuba, and later emigrated to the United States. She obtained degrees in sociology and law from the University of California, taught pioneering classes on women and the law at UCLA, and now teaches in the Transformative Leadership Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She is a founding member of the General Evolution Research Group (GERG), a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and World Business Academy, a Councilor of the World Future Council, and a commissioner of the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality, along with the Dalai Lama and other spiritual leaders. She is co-founder with Nobel Peace laureate Betty Williams of the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SAIV), and president of the Center for Partnership Studies, www.partnershipway.org, dedicated to research and education (RianeEisler.com)
Read chapter 2 of the book, Educating for a Culture of Peace by Riane Eisler and Ron Miller. In it they explore what they refer to as partnership and domination models of education.
This chapter…identifies the configurations of beliefs, behaviors, relations, and institutions that, regardless of other differences, support a peaceable or violent culture. It also shows how education can help develop and maintain a culture of peace – or rather, the core configuration of such a culture in a wide variety of cultural contexts (Eisler & Miller, 12).
Reflection Question: Overall, have the relationships fostered in your educational experience, between teacher and student, leaned more toward the partnership model or the domination model? How have these models manifest themselves in the classroom?
In all aspects of my pre -college education I was exposed to the domination model of education. As a result when I started my teaching career in Jamaica, that was the model that I enforced in my classroom. The students “must be seen and not heard.” They had to come in, do the appointed assignments and move on to the next class. And as Riane Eisler mentioned in her book, students would get a whipping if they did not follow the rules, do their work, and worse misbehave or disrespect the teacher. I have experienced the whipping from my 7th grade teacher Mr. Johnson for making one error on a math problem. Certainly, I was embarrassed and disheartened but I can assure you that I was more careful with my other assignments from that day forward.
As an educator in the DCPS, I can attest to the transition over the years to a more Partnership Model in the administrative and classroom environment of individual schools. The administrative team in some schools are now reaching across the aisle to get teachers, parents, and students more involved in the education process. Although there is a lot more to be done, I believe we are on the right track. When I started teaching in DCPS, I was the dominator in my classroom, but now I am more of a facilitator who inspires to promote “learning experiences where students learn to work together, [know that their] unique capabilities are honored, [and they] are treated with empathy and caring”
(Reisler p. 26). I endeavor to be a teacher that now facilitate learning than one that controls and indoctrinates my students.
After reading the article, I found answers for the “myth”! I grew up in China, and was raised in the way that students have to respect teachers. To show respect, we were told by parents that “you have to listen to teachers. Everything teachers said is correct!” When I looked it back, I realized that as a kid, I already had a fear before I went to school. Teacher is an authority and we couldn’t challenge him/her. Besides, I realized most Asian countries share a similar culture background. For example, I heard of there were a high suicide rate in Japan among teenagers. The teachers may not physically punish students, but they humiliate students in a way that hurt students’ feeling.
I totally agree that partnership model sets a healthy and mutually respect environment for both teachers and students. It is a precondition for any forms of education.
This framework of trying to create a “partnership society” rather than a society in which some people dominate others is helpful. The writer recommends that history teachers should be teaching less about war and more about how people worked to increase the rights of groups who were discriminated against. When I reflect on my own teaching, I see that I’ve been teaching a lot about how some groups got short shrift in U.S. history (African-Americans, children, women, Chinese, Native Americans, etc.) but I haven’t, with the exception of spending a lot of time on the Civil Rights Movement, stressed how rights were improved to where they are today.
Absolutely. My educational experiences while in college have mainly been a partnership model, which directly contrast with my highschool experiences. Balancing both of these perspectives has shown me how positive and how much more I develop when a partnership model is in place. These situations has challenged me, while also teaching me what it means to actively respect a different lifestyle and manner of thinking. I think this is where most of my growth has been- realizing differences are good, and that no one can claim to be the absolute “right.” Structuring a classroom in a manner where everyone’s opinion is valued encourages multi-culturalism and the elimination of power structures. In real life, these classrooms have had a socratic method, student driven projects and evaluation and an immense amount of personal reflection.
Maria Schneider- Overall throughout my experiences in school the partnership model has been the most common model. Most of my teachers in elementary school, high school and college have fostered relationships with students where they were respected as individuals and where student backgrounds were valued both in and out of class. My teachers spent a lot of time doing cultural autobiographies, talking about student backgrounds, reflecting and working collaboratively in groups.
In middle school (with one or two exceptions) my teachers all used the domination model which looking back now couldn’t have been worse for 12 and 13 year olds. I have always been a fairly well-behaved student in class and done well academically, however in middle school I was very vocal and spoke out in class frustrated with my teachers. This got me into trouble. I think that my defiance in class when I was in 7th and 8th grade had a lot to do with the relationships that I had with these teachers. I did not feel respected by my teachers, nor did I feel that they understood my background, learning needs or feelings toward the class assignments or class structure.
I think I’ve had more teachers that exhibit the partnership model with their students. I was very fortunate to have excellent teachers in K-12, no doubt because I went to magnet schools with specialty programs. I believe that having teachers who were more partner oriented helped the classroom dynamic but also the students in their classes excelled. Did the students excel because they were all honors kids or because the teachers’ method of teaching invited success—I’m not sure. It’s probably a combination of both. All I know is that I had close relationships with several of my teachers which made it easier for me to ask questions or get clarification. The few teachers I had which leaned more toward domination were less approachable and I don’t think the students did nearly as well in their classes.
Daniel Knoll – In my educational experience, there has been a mixture of the domination and partnership model within the classroom. However, as I’ve gotten older there has been a significant shift to the partnership model, especially in college. To, the domination model manifests itself in a very lecture style, teacher talking students listening model. There is little to no interaction within the classroom between students. Put very simply, the teacher is dominating what information is shared, and how. As I’ve gotten to college, more and more classes are discussion based, where opinions and ideas are shared, and there is not a value or hierarchy of information, especially when it comes to who is speaking. I think there is a shift in education towards the partnership model, especially at a younger age where students are encouraged to engage with their classmates in an “everyones a winner” type system.
Richard Cambridge: My education in Guyana was totally the domination model. I attended an all male school where Teachers were to feared and listened to, learning was rote for the most part, the male dominance theme and the interpretation of history was about winning and losing wars. The education in an all male school was homophobic, with lots of emphasis given to superior athletic prowess and the accomplishment of many things.
My education in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies was mostly of the partnership model. Wow – was that new for me. The Presbyterian college may not have been consciously promoting peace education but became a center for anti- war and civil rights protests. Professors were supportive, and process, content and location of teaching and learning was diametrically opposite to what I experienced in Guyana. I have witnessed, felt and understood the meaning of partnership with professors in graduate education.
My education, as most I would assume, was a mix of domination and partnership models. It varies with different teachers and teaching styles and also with the same teacher in different circumstances, subjects and probably on day-to-day attitude. I think there is a tendency to use more of a domination model with younger students, and allow for more partnership attitudes with older students. I know this is the case with my parents as well. The older I became, the more tendency to have a partnership attitude to our relationship, although sometimes the domination model would rear it’s head as well. As a teacher, my methods of teaching definitely depend on how much sleep I’ve had, what kind of mood I’m in, if I’m feeling well etc as to how conscious or dedicated I am to the way I’m teaching and interacting with my students; which I assume might change the model that you practice on a daily basis. I think that the domination model is often exemplified in courses where teachers are telling the facts versus allowing for inquisitive learning such as the ‘banking’ model as described by Freire. The partnership model is a more constructivist view where students are actively learning.
Ah yes, the importance of sleep and self-care when it comes to our profession as educators.
I’ve experienced both the partnership and domination model, not only in the formal classroom but also in other mentoring-type activities I did as a kid. In the best scenarios, my teachers were encouraging and motivating, and offered constructive criticism that didn’t make me uncomfortable or uneasy about learning. My horse riding instructor was one of those educators who really fostered a partnership based on mutual trust and respect. In the classroom, my favorite teachers are ones who I respect not only for their knowledge, but also for their manner with students; thinking back, they are the ones who treated every student with equality and who made it clear that learning was a team effort.
My closest brush with a domination model of education was when I attended high school in South Africa. Their schools are modeled after the British system, and my public school was particularly bad and outdated. There were no instructors of color, even though the majority of the student body was black. Afrikaans was often spoken even in classes meant to be instructed in English, and was usually the de facto official language of the school. Students were expected to be stiffly formal and subservient to teachers, and we were slapped across the knuckles with a ruler occasionally.
Most of my experiences as a student (with only a couple of exceptions) have leaned much more toward the partnership model. The only extreme non-example of this that comes to mind is my 2nd grade teacher. We knew not to speak unless spoken to, she never wanted our opinions and her classroom walls had not a single piece of evidence that children were ever in the room. I had a few other teachers that aligned more with this model, but not to such an extreme degree.
The majority of my teachers growing up – I was also lucky in attending good public schools – really fostered relationships with students that got us involved in the decision-making process, valued our opinions and questions, and taught us to respect each other by showing us respect. My college experience was the same.
I did have teaching experience similar to Leah when I was teaching in West Africa – teachers are held in very high regard and many students would not look me in the eye and would bow to me. This was a role that I never successfully adjusted to; eventually, most of my students came to understand that we had some drastic cultural differences in terms of how students and teachers interacted, but until we reached that point I was the weird American teacher that asked their input and let them ask questions.
Additionally, I was a female teacher in an extremely male dominated society. My middle school had about 35 teachers; two of them (myself included) were women and it took me a long time before I was taken seriously by my male colleagues. By some of them, I was never taken seriously in the almost two years that I taught with them and this was an incredibly frustrating experience.
Annsleigh Carter: I think that my primary school and secondary educational experiences have been more like the domination model. Most (but not all) of my K-12 teachers taught from a position of authority where they controlled not only who got to speak in class, but what answers were considered correct. To some extent, this has to happen, but I remember being afraid to speak in many of my classes growing up because I was afraid I would have the wrong answer. When I got to college, speaking in class was not only encouraged but required, and it was a bit of an adjustment for me. While I have had professors at AU who have told students there answers are wrong, generally speaking, each person’s comments in class has been taken as another point of view or a valuable contribution to our definition of knowledge. I have always felt more comfortable with my college professors than with any of my K-12 teachers as a result of this.
My primary and secondary education primarily fit into the domination category. The teacher/student relationship placed authoritative emphasis on the teacher. Knowledge was controlled by the teacher and given to the student. Learning, primarily about history, was usually divided into eras of conflict and war with a focus on the most powerful. Especially when learning U.S. history, most things surrounded either responses to wars or repercussions of wars. One big area of difference, however, was control of males over females. Of course it is arguable that structural violence in the education system worked strongly against females, for me it seemed that there was relative equity. The only difference I noticed was that there seemed to be more female teachers than male teachers. It wasn’t until I went to college that the partnership model became more prevalent. It seemed to me that my university focused on educating for mutual trust, partnership, and deconstructing violence.
Overall, I think my relationships in my educational experience lean more towards the partnership model. I have always held my teachers in high regard and with much deference but, at the same time, have felt that my teachers were approachable and a partner in my education. It is a delicate balance in the classroom for the teacher to be authoritative but not authoritarian, and to command respect but not be domineering. I feel that my teachers exerted some power, but in a way that contributed to my learning environment and empowered me as a student.
Conversely, working as a teacher in Thailand, I was thrust into a domination model with which I was very unfamiliar. Teachers in Thailand were held with much esteem, and my students constantly greeted me with the traditional wai and bow. When walking past me, they lowered their head and crouched, as to not have their head taller than mine. And when they came to my desk to ask for help, they knelt on the ground, and never wore shoes or let their feet point towards me. I witnessed teachers smacking students, pulling their hair, pinching them, and hitting their hands with sticks. At times I felt uncomfortable, not deserving of this place in the hierarchy, and very unfamiliar with a model so different from the one I to which I was accustomed.
In my educational experiences, I would certainly say the domination model was the prevalent model. Learning environments were very teacher centered – and, honestly, effective. This should come as no surprise, but as a white kid in the suburban South, I definitely knew my place in education, family, and community. Whether I wanted to maintain that place was a bigger question.
Graduate school was where I felt the partnership model as most effectively implemented. It was not about what I should take from the teacher, but what we could do together.
I am trying to make my classroom more of a partnership where the students and instructors know their roles and execute them with impunity – but towards a common goal. This means I try to step back and be more of a coach – training students to perform skills on their own. There is often pushback at the beginning of the year – and I would love to be able to simply engage the students in a lecture or classical discussion – but eventually the students take ownership of this style of class where we interrogate the world around us.
Eisler notes that so much of the society is ingrained in students before they have the mental capacity to think critically. As an 11th and 12th grade teacher, I am currently trying to teach critical thinking skills to students who are developing the capacity – but several of them already have children of their own. It is easy to see the perpetuation of social systems in the classroom.
Hands down, the partnership model is what I have experienced in the classroom – both as a student and as an educator. In fact, I can’t imagine how it would be to be in a “domination model” classroom. I think this is largely because I was blessed to attend excellent public schools, which established the paradigm of education in my mind. Girls’ voices were valued as much as boys’; student-centered classrooms reigned; adults invested themselves full-throttle into our lives. Now, I strive to create the same atmosphere in my classroom – to the degree that I can control it. I want my students to understand that they teach me as much as I try to teach them. I find myself constantly saying the phrase “learning community.” I can only hope I’m getting somewhere…