It occurs to me that the institution of education is like the Big 3 automakers. For years they kept churning out gas guzzling, big cars and SUV’s even as the world around them was changing. Today, they sit in front of Congress being criticized for not making cars that people want, for not changing with the times, for not paying attention to the warning signs that were everywhere.
“A Nation at Risk” came out in the ’80’s and indicated that our system of education was broken.
Experts keep telling us that our schools are not preparing kids for the 21st century. They warn us that NCLB is merely an attempt to perfect the educational approach of the last century. But on we go, much like the BIg 3, ignoring the experts and churning out the same familiar products.
Isn’t continuing on in this mode analogous to building Escalade SUVs during a time of major economic transformation and climate change. The icecaps are melting, weather patterns are shifting, droughts, floods, and hurricanes are larger and more forceful than ever and yet we keep building those Escalades and other SUVs, getting 14 mpg, spewing Co2 into the atmosphere, and paying no heed to the kind of car that is really needed.
And we technologists…is what we consider meaningful educational change akin to adding a 9 speaker stereo system to the Escalade, or redesigning the ashtray to a cupholder? We think we are making educational progress, especially in educational technology; but are we merely adding Onstar, a GPS, and a voice activated radio, to a polluting hunk of metal, in a time of $4 a gallon gas.
It’s not nearly enough.
Our industry is in the same shape as the auto industry but because we are not market based, (we have a captive audience) we are not feeling the effects the same way the Big 3 are. They have finally hit the economic wall. It’s brutally black and white for them…change or go out of business!
It is either our good or bad fortune that because of the way education is funded, we won’t hit that economic wall the same way the car companies have. Yes, finances have always been tight for us, but schools aren’t going out of business anytime soon. This allows us to keep making the same mistakes over and over without consequences.
Pumping out dis-empowered learners into a world where manufacturing jobs have disappeared, where we are competing with others globally, where the jobs of tomorrow require curious, self-directed, self motivated, collaborative workers, and confident, life-long learners is analogous to pumping out Hummers in a time of great global transformation.
The “Sshh! be quiet and listen” approach to education is deeply dis-empowering.
Think about our public schools. How do we empower students? What control do students have in regards to their own learning?
The curriculum is predetermined. The sequence of teaching is predetermined. The pedagogy is predetermined. The teachers are pre-selected, as are the textbooks, tools, activities, assignments, and homework. Most seating arrangements are pre-determined. Students rarely are part of any decision making body in the school including the school board, or tech planning, or textbook selection, or software selection. You name it, if it’s important to the overall learning environment, students aren’t involved.
It goes farther than that. Students aren’t even involved in the little things like lunch menus or the colors of the walls in the hallways.
BTW we have also dis-empowered parents from any truly meaningful role in the education of our kids AND parents are all too happy to abdicate all the responsibility for their own children’s learning to the schools.
John Taylor Gatto says that we have constructed our schools so that they re-enforce the message that students, our children, have nothing important to give to the world until they reach the age of 18. We treat them like parasites. If we want to teach them responsibility we need to give them real responsibility. Homework? Gatto considers that a phony responsibility.
At whose feet do we lay the blame for the horrendous lack of decisive action? Who will we call before Congress to explain why we kept doing things the same way when we, as educators, knew better? Who will explain why we were so out of touch with the times? Why did we keep manufacturing Hummers in our schools? Why didn’t we re-tool and build more fuel efficient cars, the one’s needed for the 21st century? How did we lose our worldwide dominance?
Why didn’t someone step up and say, “Stop!, This is madness?”
Where were our leaders?