Dear Friend,Did you recoil at the thought of having to teach your students to disobey adults? We did, when we read about it the first time!How on earth can anyone recommend that schools must teach children such a perilous vice like disobedience? Will it not result in us preparing a generation to be a bunch of uncivil, anti-social, irreverent, and immoral individuals? You are not alone, if similar questions surfaced in your mind as you were thinking about teaching your students to disobey adults.Across the world, we assign educators the responsibility of instructing our children that obedience is a virtue and disobedience a vice. We initiate Obedience Instruction in our classrooms the very day a child steps inside a school. Teachers constantly and inflexibly use every possible teachable moment, inside and outside the classroom, to remind children that they must always obey adults. Our children work their way through schooling believing that adults can never be wrong. By adults, we eventually mean those in authority. Often, we demand immediate, 'first-time' obedience from children. If one does not see immediate obedience, we silently permit the educator in charge to resort to a series of obedience-inducement strategies to break a child's will, ranging from physical violence to emotional abuse. Disobedience is a virtue.Do we realize that disobedience is at the heart of all scientific and social progress we have ever made as a species? Italian astronomer Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei flouted the Pope's instructions to help the world learn that, contrary to popular belief those days, the earth was not the center of the universe and revolved around the sun. American pastor Martin Luther King Jr disobeyed the US Government to let Americans dream, learn, vote, and live equally and inclusively regardless of their ethnicity and color. Indian lawyer Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi defied the British Queen to ensure that Indians are free to govern themselves and safeguard the nation's sovereignty. Yet, we demand unconditional obedience from our children and teach them that disobedience is a vice.These days, educators and policymakers alike are very vocal about the need to teach critical thinking in our classrooms. We clarify the relevance of teaching critical thinking in our National Education Policy. We organize school leader seminars and teacher conferences about teaching it. Yet, when we asked a few school leaders and teachers we are in touch with about teaching children to disobey adults, their first response was an unmistakable expression of shock. The idea that disobedience is a social danger seems deeply embedded in our teaching philosophy. While we are busy designing policies and frameworks to promote critical thinking among students, many of us would also fight tooth and nail to retain the hidden curriculum in our schools which ensures that our students practice immediate obedience and absolute submission to authority, no questions asked. We do not seem to notice that critical thinking is primarily an act of disobedience. We resist the idea of teaching our children to disobey because we misconstrue disobedience as an anti-social act of rebellion. However, German social psychologist Erich Seligmann Fromm, who wrote the book On Disobedience, says: "By disobedience I do not refer to the disobedience of the “rebel without cause” who disobeys because he has no commitment to life except the one to say “no.” This kind of rebellious disobedience is as blind and impotent as its opposite, the conformist obedience which is incapable of saying “no.” I am speaking of the man who can say “no” because he can affirm, who can disobey precisely because he can obey his conscience and the principles which he has chosen; I am speaking of the revolutionary, not the rebel." When we ask you to teach your students to disobey adults, we are talking about giving them the freedom to use critical thinking and disagree with even you if they need to. In other words, Disobedience Instruction is about opening up an authentic space for student choice and voice in your classroom. It is about thoughtful revolution and not pointless and violent rebellion. How does Disobedience Instruction help? Disobedience instruction is mainly about teaching children to say no to adults and authority figures. American educator Jonathan Kozol describes the idea of Disobedience Instruction in his book, On being a teacher. He designed tasks that allowed his students to disagree with him, question his point of view, and attack his opinion. He used to invite another teacher into class, someone who disagreed with him on a dead-earnest issue, then start a heated disagreement with that teacher. Here is how he describes the result:"Grade-school children at times appear alarmed by the idea. It takes a bit of work to make it clear that I do not intend to urge them to go home and be malicious to their folks, nor do I hope that they would feel the urge to be malicious here in school. I draw a line, as well as I can, between two very different states of mind: the sheer vindictive make of defiance and aggression on the one hand, and a vigorous note of ethical irreverence on the other. The first attacks the person, while the second concentrates on that person's viewpoints and beliefs. Students, in my experience, are wholly capable of learning to say no, with both control and dignity, not only to each other but to adults too, and to the teacher first of all, and to distinguish between anger at a person's point of view and hatred for the person who expressed it.”We hope this mail inspires you to implement Disobedience Instruction in your classroom or school. If you would like to consult us about pulling it off in your school using research-informed school improvement approaches, feel free to write to us. You can mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org about it. Besides the idea of Disobedience Instruction, we have included a few bonus readings in this issue of #WorkLessons @Innerkern for you.