As this video suggests, we have to get out of the “assembly line” approach to education. It isn’t easy, we are addicted to quantifying “learning”. We are addicted to “cosmetic tinkering”. We are addicted to the “herding” of children into rooms. We are infact scared of the truth.  (see John Taylor Gatto for a whole plethora of info. on the history of the assembly line education following the Prussian model)

Most of us teachers pretend we are “modern”. I don’t think we are at all. Mostly because the underlying principles which maintain the factory approach, still rule. Timetables – punch in, punch out. Memorization, recall. A focus on efficiencies, rules, order. Age grouping. Class lists. Command and control from curriculum bosses. I could go on and on ….. don’t let all the fancy “reform” ideas fool you. If you teach these days, you are most likely dancing to the tune of a grammaphone.

Yesterday, attended a delightful talk by Kieran Egan about his Learning In Depth initiative. He’s one of my heroes, for many reasons but mostly for his focus on what works in student development/learning. Students connecting with ideas in a passionate, literate, human way.  Creating learners rather than creating “knowers”.  Here’s one other teacher’s appeal.

Let me be frank and “take out the cork”. School is so irrelevant these days. Truly. That’s sad, I’m saddened that these places of so much potential – do so little to light a fire and better the world.

I joked during Kieran’s talk about “not letting schools get hold of this” (his project), “they’d ruin it”.  And that is true. Why? That’s what we have to look at.

I see 3 fundamental problems with schooling. Unless these are fixed, we don’t stand a hope in hell of “reform”.

1. It’s compulsory. Meaning, there is no value given to work done outside the factory. The informal side (but I hate this term) has no relevance but truly that’s where things are happening in our world.

2. It’s one size fits all.  Students are grouped by age when there are more important criteria to consider – learning style, personality, interests, skills, maturity level, motivation/goals for learning etc…. Further, there is little attention to which teachers get which students. A crucial thing in the whole mix. Please read Ira Socol for a full report on this “illness”. 

3. Learning is commanded. We know this doesn’t work these days. Knowledge is too vast, we can’t control it any more. It’s about “how” not “what” these days. Yet we continue with this silly model of “the system” dictates, “you” regurgitate. No matter how you lipstick it – it still is this pitbull approach which we go by.

It would be a long discussion to address all the issues in these 3 points. Let me just pose a few questions to leave you thinking – a few questions about point #3 – the command approach.

Why don’t we have schools where the students decide what to learn?

Why can’t they learn the basics through things that they are “sparked by” instead of having to wait hours to ask a question or days until the curriculum hits upon something they are passionate about?

Why can’t we let go? Why can’t we start educating children to be adults instead of just “better children”?

Knowledge is now accessible to most in Western societies. The school no longer has a stranglehold on “the rabbit in the hat”. So why don’t we let students run free in the garden of knowing? Why do we keep the apples hidden away?

How can we bring back student interest in school? So they want to go to school for knowledge’s sake and not just sports or to socialize with their friends?  What if Johnny went to school to learn what he wanted?

Ending with a few thoughts from “Kids Aren’t Cars”.

If you enjoyed this post – you might like “Giving Students Room To Do Their Own Thing.”