Cognitive Scientist Guy Claxton Says Erasers Should Be Banned from Classrooms
Erasers are an ‘instrument of the devil’ and should be banned from classrooms because they encourage children to feel ashamed about mistakes, a King’s College visiting professor says.
Guy Claxton, who is also a cognitive scientist, said schools should encourage students to acknowledge their mistakes because that’s the way the “big wide world” works and move away from placing too much importance on grades.
His comments followed research that has suggested resilience and curiosity are two essential ingredients for pupils’ success.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, professor Claxton said: “The eraser is an instrument of the devil because it perpetuates a culture of shame about error. It’s a way of lying to the world, which says ‘I didn’t make a mistake. I got it right first time.’ That’s what happens when you can rub it out and replace it.
“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.
He added: “Ban the eraser, get a big road sign with an eraser and put a big, red bar across it and get kids to say you don’t scrub out your mistakes, highlight them because mistakes are your friends, they are your teachers.
“Out in the big wide world nobody is going to be following you around, marking your work, organising your time for you, in the 21st century you are going to be the designer, the architect, the curator of your own learning.”
His point about banning erasers in the classroom are part of a wider debate about moving away from just grades and work on building character in students to prepare them for their working lives.
The author of Educating Ruby, a book that deals with how to build character in students, said: “School should not be just a place for getting right answers to pass tests, it should be a real preparation for all kids to embark on life. We should narrow the gap between what learning is like in the real world and the way it is configured in school.”
Professor Claxton cited the research US author Paul Tough, whose book How Children Succeed, showed resilience and curiosity help children do better in their exams but also in life.