What revolution?

Term break means a time to relax, a time to reflect, and a time to regroup! It is also inescapably time to stop and reflect on professionalism. My head has to stop spinning and my mind has to stop being excited on the one hand, or screaming with frustration on the other.

Like many others in my personal learning network, I am passionate about the changes in the learning environments of our students – at least the possibilities if not always the actualities. I’ve been blogging about this and the information frameworks, tools, concepts, and activities since May 2006. Yes, I know that’s not long, but it’s longer than some and long enough now to know when I am hearing or reading rubbish!!

Doug Johnson in Continuum’s End said

It seems to me that that the continuum between reactionary educators who still find overhead projectors a cutting edge tool and progressive educators who seem to master each tool and philosophy du jour is stretching ever longer every year. As a classroom teacher in the 70s and 80s, we all taught pretty much the same way, with the same sets of tools.

The question of importance to me is not the mastery of tools, but the underlying processes that are important. This is the rub – there are those who, rightly or wrongly, are amongst the elite in terms of commentary or influence on directions in education, who it seems to me have become what my own family constantly remind me not to be…..they are ‘clique-bags’.

“Those” clique-bags are the smart ones – not me, not you – but people who make decisions on our behalf.

Finally I have had enough of the clique and rhetoric!

I’m churning my way through a ton of books on digital schooling, digital kids, 21st century society etc etc.

And its always the same – rattle out the cliches, dismiss everything about the past, bang on about the digital generation and bingo you have 21st century learning frameworks.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I don’t agree with some of the key elements – I wouldn’t be a blogger if I didn’t have my headspace in the 21st century – but please slap me with a cold fish if I ever start saying the following:

In many ways, schools as we have all experienced them, are offspring of the industrial age. So powerfully influential were industrial processes and their effects on all aspects of society, that schooling was actually modeled on these processes, designed to meet the needs of a particular society in a particular point in history……..G. Whitby in “Leading a Digital School: Principles and Practice” ed Mal Lee and Michael Gaffney

What has happened with cliques is that educationalists have been ranting about ‘industrial age’ schooling, related to the economic and communication environments that shaped society in the 19th and 20th centuries. So with the globalisation of world economies and the emergence of the flat classroom concepts, the thought leaders have adopted the ‘industrial schooling’ argument as the reason for wholesale deconstruction of education structures across schools or systems.

I would suggest that we not forget the history of education in society. Unique combination of technological, cultural and economic factors led to the Industrial Revolution and a spinnoff in this era was the eventual emergence of the right to education for all. The much criticized ‘industrial age’ of schooling of the 20th century was in fact the endpoint of an age of great achievement where education was sought after and available for every child in western society. It was an age of great sacrifice, of economic battles for the right to either secular or religious education, it was an era that carried forward the ideals of knowledge first cemented by the Greek philosophers, and valued throughout history and the transitions wrought by the age of the printing press and beyond.

The ‘industrial age’ of schooling was the pinnacle of many achievements. My children’s grandfather rode a horse to school, had no electricity or running water at his home, yet without basic technology or the accouterments so urgently demanded for all our students, was able to learn so much that made him the thinking man he is today, who can hold his own and challenge the ideals and deep knowledge of his geeky young grand kids.

It was a major achievement to be able to educate all young members of our society. In third world countries, this right is still being won! It is not technology or web 2.0 or fancy new ways of arranging staff and learning spaces that makes the real difference. It is what we say, how we say it, and how we support deep knowledge that makes it possible for our students become good social, ethical and moral citizens of the world.

No more cliques please. Rather, acknowledge the value of past efforts, and build on them to create future opportunities – which incorporate the demands that our 21st century makes on us. If I go back to John’s post The Continuum’s End – I’d venture that the continuum between reactionary and progressive education spans many centuries.

Unfortunately there are some amongst us that are so poorly read themselves that they can’t see how silly it is to tout 20th century ‘industrial age schooling’ as the reason for educational change. Oh but they are probably the same people who run your education system, or institution and are good at verbose cliques to justify their actions.

Yes, there’s a lot that needs to change about schooling. Let’s focus on the facts to get there. Cliches are born of ignorance – that’s all. Focus on the revolution not the rhetoric!

Photo: Revolution Banner, Froglette’s Swimin

4 thoughts on “What revolution?

  1. Pingback: Greg's Blog - principal (le?) learning ยป Rhetoric, cliches and claptrap.

  2. Hi Darcy, you make a very solid point about schools needing to catch up – the underfunding of our schools is ensuring that problems, even when identified, remain entrenched. This is where cliches really begin to annoy me – both in the literature, on the podium, in ed departments and more. We have such a serious job to do, and some great people doing it. Rhetoric does not produce change – but grass-roots action can and does!

    Oh, and I have a copy of the book recommended by Penny too – and it does look like a good read as well. That’s next cab of the reading rank. Maybe I will say something inspirational after reading it!

  3. You might prefer “Born Digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives” by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. I am a bit sick of reading cliche after cliche too, and was a bit apprehensive of this book, but gave it a go after reading danah boyd’s blog post about it.

    And it’s not bad :)

  4. Hi Jude,

    Marshall McLuhan is always good for a quote and I think you are saying in this post that:

    “We (should) look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

    but may have that wrong. No?

    You seem unusually cranky about something not mentioned specifically – unless I misread the tone. I am not sure I get your point but what interests me is that the Industrial Revolution commenced waaay before the 20th century ‘Industrial Age’ schooling (being bemoaned) actually caught up. Not sure we, in the 21st century, can wait that long this time ’round and for us who work in poorly funded State schools we need change very fast to move way from outmoded models of education. Those chalkboards feel more 19th than 20th century.

    NB For those ‘poorly read’ (and if you have no time to read Hobsbawm or Toynbee) you could brush up here using Wikipedia ;-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution

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