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A "pseudo-choice" or "pseudochoice" is a threat in disguise as a real choice. Educational expert Alfie Kohn has used the term when describing the "choices" given to students, children and teenagers by teachers and parents, but it could easily apply to any power-based relationship. Here is a copy of Alfie's article on pseudochoises.

Kohn says that one of the main reasons students are burning out and disengaging from school is that they feel powerless and have a lack of a say or choice in what happens to them in school. As Kohn puts it, the "choice" is really just "Obey or Suffer." This "choice" can be presented in a way where it’s obvious that coercion is used or it can be done in a way that’s more subtle, but either way it is not a real choice.

Kohn explains the "Obey or Suffer" situation as follows:

A teacher or parent may appear to be giving a choice, but it is deliberately limited in such a way that there is little true reasonable choice. For example, there are typically just two options given, and neither of these two "choices" are something the person would freely choose on their own. One choice is always something which is obviously very undesirable while the other is obviously something the teacher, parent, etc. wants the other young person to do. Thus, the giving of two "choices" is really just a threat that’s been sugar coated, or as mentioned above, a threat in disguise as a choice.

A parent might say to a child, "You can either chose to stop jumping the bed or have a time out." Obviously, the child would not voluntarily pick either option because they are enjoying jumping on the bed.

2. A parent or teacher wants to make it appear that the student/child/teenager "chose" the punishment, so therefore deserves it and has no reason to complain. For example, a father might say, "You chose to have your cell phone taken away," when the father wants to punish his son for talking on the phone after the father ordered him to stop. But the motivation for staying on the phone was not to get the "reward" of having it taken it away so the father is acting fraudulently and an intelligent person would realize this.

Here is an example of pseudo choices


more unfinished work on pseudochoices.htm

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