13 April 2007

More Thoughts on Education Reform

When I talk about "education reform," I'm not referring to tinkering with curriculum. Rather, I'm talking about a serious re-examination of, and conversation about, the foundations and philosophy that underlie contemporary education. Here are five principles that I've been thinking about to move the conversation along:
  1. People should learn when they’re ready to learn; they should be taught in the places where they will learn most effectively. This means that,
  2. Learning should concentrate on context and process; content is largely irrelevant to education and is therefore quite interchangeable and replaceable. This is another way of saying, “education is what remains after you’ve forgotten everything you’ve been taught.” Consequently,
  3. Intellectual networks replace experts, traditional forms of knowledge authority, and disciplinary boundaries that create subjects. This, in turn, suggests that,
  4. The world is a collaboration, not a competition; Darwin is quite misunderstood and misapplied. That distinction is important, since education is political, establishing the foundation of relationships of power that underlie the social fabric of society. We all wear what we sew from that fabric. All of these taken together mean that,
  5. The goal of education is to learn how to make sense of the complexity of the world as it lived and experienced, and from that sense-making, to construct a world in which we would all want to live, together.

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Unknown said...

Yes, to all five. Now tell me how this gets done.

I promise not to be one of those contrarians who denies real change on the basis of surface-level impracticality, but working as I do in education, and believing as I do that there has to be a philosophical shift towards something that looks like your five principles, these ideas will take forever to trickle down into the mainstream.

Parents, grandparents, and anyone who has gone through the American or Canadian educational system most likely will cling to some degree of "if it was good enough for me, it's good enough for my kids/those kids." In the U.S., those voices mean a lot due to the fact that those voices decide to what level your schools are funded through their tax dollars.

It's the idea that learning can be amorphous, not housed in a physical construct, not taking place in rows and within rooms that smell slightly of stale milk, that won't sit well with people. Yes, we should start this now, so that we have a generation who recognizes collaboration and sense-making as the most cogent skills. I just wonder how we will slip it past those who are in charge of paying for it.

Mark Federman said...

I think the key element of your comment is the assumption that the education that the older generation received was "good enough." As more people begin to realize that the many problems of the contemporary world are created by those who have been so educated, perhaps they will also begin to agree that it wasn't good enough. History has shown that such logic has held through the last two epochal changes, and it will likely hold through this one as well. The changes, as they come, will appear to be slow, as we still have another 100 to 150 years to go until the ground completely shifts.