Is the eraser ‘an instrument of the devil’? | Portsmouth High School

Is the eraser ‘an instrument of the devil’?

Guy Claxton, visiting professor at King’s College, London and Emeritus Professor of the Learning Sciences, Winchester University caused a bit of a media storm by calling erasers the instruments of the devil and he said that schools should ban them.

There was a very lively debate on the radio and very heated discussions on Twitter and educational forums about the merits of an eraser. Anyone who knows Professor Claxton’s work will know that he believes in a holistic education system that turns out young adults with character who have the resilience to cope with making a mistake. He is particularly critical of schools that encourage “little miss perfect”.

Professor Claxton was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying “Instead, we need a culture where children are not afraid to make mistakes, they look at their mistakes and they learn from them, where they are continuously reflecting and improving on what they’ve done, not being enthralled to getting the right answer quickly and looking smart. They need to be interested in the process of getting the right answer because that’s what it is like in the big wide world.”

I agree with Professor Claxton in that neatness in exercise books can be too much of a focus rather than legibility. My husband’s handwriting is totally indecipherable, even by him at times and yet it is neat. This is a result of an education system decades ago that put much emphasis on the appearance of written work rather than focus on the content.

There is a balance to be made. Children should be taught at school that making a mistake helps you learn but they also need to know that when writing an application for a job, for example, that they won’t get far if it is full of crossings out.

It did occur to me though about the relevance of an eraser – older students are used to drafting and redrafting essays and word processed answers – digital versions of an eraser. Beyond learning to handwrite will children even know what an eraser is in time?

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