It’s almost the end of academic marking period #1. It’s also the autumnal equinox. Blessed season! You know me; I work in cycles and as with any harvest season, it’s time to harvest a few thoughts about school as a place to learn in the 21st century. To back up a bit…
In the early years of common schooling, the challenge was to efficiently assimilate the flood of new Americans that washed ashore just before the industrial revolution. The American revolution’s Liberty Tree evidenced its bedrock-deep, widespread root system by bearing the fruit of a society based on essential morality and goodness.
The point of schooling back then was to develop a population that would accept as the norm cooperation with (obedience to) a just and benevolent (paternalistic) government, industry, thrift, kindness and all those virtues thought to characterize a “good citizen” of a republic. Contrast that with post revolutionary thinking about a society headed by a monarchy (prince-priest) with the wind of an outrageously wealthy aristocracy supporting it. John Adams put it, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”. Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters”. We get educated, then, to remain good and therefore remain free.
As the nation’s social “tasks”/issues came and went, school reforms movements have followed suit. School became the orange rag knotted over the mud-hole pulled back and forth by various thought systems and interest groups. When I was doing the work for the masters in education, teaching children to read using “phonics” was a cardinal sin. Phonics was the way the “backwards religious right” taught kids to read. As a child growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s, phonics was touted as the best way (right and only way) to teach children to read. I informed a professor I would not be in class one session so that I could attended a Christian women’s conference on the very day everyone else chose their subject for a paper. The next session, I got my subject: the only one left–phonics. There was a noticiable chill towards me in that class for weeks. It’s not nice to be branded the “class evangelical Christian”.
As a result of the “tug of war” school became more and more insular to the place where school today is another planet. It “protected itself” from threat as any organism would by adjusting externally through “education fad-of-the year” antics, but dragged its feet internally. So, the classroom walked 20 years behind business and society.
That is one of the reasons new graduates complain about their “lack of readiness”to join industry as employees and their employers complain about the”lack of quality applicants” as if it were a “quality control” issue. New grads simply have not been living on the same planet as their employers.
However, school is now poised to enter a revolution itself as it lets go of the industrial model…