William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Wednesday, 22, June, 2011


Filed under: Social Commentary,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 11:11

From the Uni’s Faculty Development folks, comes this seminar:

After observing how adult wolves teach pups within the pack to recognize and respect their authority, some dog trainers suggest that one way to establish authority over new dogs is to gently, but firmly, flip them onto their side on the ground, hold them steadily until the dogs are completely calm, and then let them go. Following this exercise (so the theory goes), the dog will remain devotedly obedient to the person who did the flipping.

This suggests the interesting question as to whether adults (unintentionally or deliberately) do the verbal equivalent of flipping to establish dominance in conversations. It has been observed that within many a discussion on campuses, some voices are drowned out, while stronger ones command. This can happen in many ways such as interrupting, louder volume, physical gestures, invoking seniority, etc. Some people are just more adept in controlling a conversation, it would seem.

I am not sure how generalizable wolf behaviour is to humans, particularly because most of what we think we know about wolf pack hierarchy is baloney.  But this question seems to be biased against the STEM disciplines.  If content matters, an important part of pedagogy, indeed the most important part of it, is imparting that knowledge.  If I don’t know how to get an aircraft out of a spin, say, what I as a tyro THINK the answer should be is a whole lot less important than actually knowing the procedure.   Free flowing academic discussion is great when we’re talking about Julius Caesar, or the categorical imperative, or analyzing Monarch of the Glen.  When it comes to keeping a bridge from falling down, or when you should do a spinal tap, or the difference between 400 milligrams of magnesium and 400 millequivalents of magnesium, less so.


  1. There’s a reason most engineers aren’t liberals and most academics are.

    Comment by alan — Wednesday, 22, June, 2011 @ 12:00 | Reply

  2. Good point William… I sure as hell didn’t want a ‘discussion’ when we were flying a mission 🙂

    Comment by Old NFO — Wednesday, 22, June, 2011 @ 19:11 | Reply

  3. So….you guys are going to be flipping over the students and rubbing their bellies? Not sure I like that.

    Comment by oleandertea — Monday, 4, July, 2011 @ 09:46 | Reply

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