It’s not a revolution unless someone gets hurt

I think it is becoming increasingly clear that our current system of education is going to go away. There are simply too many societal pressures and alternative paradigms for it to continue to exist in its current form.

The only question, then, is: How long are we going to thrash around before we die?

21 Responses to “It’s not a revolution unless someone gets hurt”

  1. In honor of Wes Fryer, here’s the exception that proves the rule… =)

  2. It’s increasing clear that our current educational system is not working. I’m not at all certain it will disapear anytime soon. Our traditional school structure is cemented in place by politicians, parents, and educators who fondly remember their time in K12 and believe the same basic system is still valid going forward. This why almost all “reform” proposals don’t touch the standard framework.

  3. Interesting, Scott. I’m inclined to agree if I understand you correctly. It’s not that I think sweeping reform will change the existing pedagogical models and methods of public schools; rather that pressure from alternative options will diminish the relevance of the existing models and methods as those other options prove successful. How will it manifest? Will certain interest groups or large corporations insist that their local schools redefine themselves and their roles? Will it be an internal shift, with teachers and students forcing change?

  4. How cemented is it? The school year is still tied, with a few exceptions, to the agrarian calendar. My kids help with the garden, but they really don’t need the whole summer off to work the fields.

    In some ways we are going to have to skip the industrial revolution to get to the information age.

  5. It will take time – perhaps a long time given the forces that Tim so aptly describes above – but schools will change. Or perhaps more likely, traditional schools will slowly die as they are replaced by charter schools, home schools, independent schools, and other alternatives that will crowd out traditional schools.

    As you say, Scott, it’s not a revolution unless someone gets hurt. I hope it is not the children, but I fear it will be. And indeed, we can make a case that children are already being hurt by our failing schools.

    Perhaps the most radical thing educators can do is to vote AGAINST tax increases for school districts that are failing. It may be that a quicker failure rather than the death of a thousand cuts will in fact result in more children benefiting. If the adage “put your money where your mouth is” means anything, then its corollary is also true: “Don’t put your money where your mouth isn’t.”

  6. A recent Time Magazine lead story from 2006 begins with what it calls ‘a dark little joke exchanged by teachers with a dissident streak: Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred year snooze and is of course utterly bewildered by what he sees’. ‘Every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when finally he walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. “This is a school”, he declares. “We used to have these back in 1906”’

    I predict that 30 years from now, things will still primarily be the same. Maybe different window dressing, but school will be the same.

  7. How do you define WE in your question? I agree that schools must change. I agree that many will “get hurt”. I’m not sure the model of the future is kids getting their education completely on their own. Someone will need to provide the guidance, wisdom, and facilitation to take technical skills and learn their relevance in a global world. Online content, simulations, social networking are incredible tools for learning, but they don’t replace good teachers. (Note the word good in the last sentence.)

    If schools disappear or adapt or reinvent themselves, there will still be a need for good teachers. They may not be employed by state funded institutions, but they will be there.

    So back to your question. Schools (and some teachers) are being put on notice. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity for them as well.

  8. Uh, how long are we going to thrash around? As long as I keep getting a paycheck?

    The death of traditional schools has been predicted for quite some time. Lewis Perelman’s book, Schools Out (1993) was the one that had me convinced that technology would quickly supplant bricks and mortar.

    Publishers Weekly wrote:
    In this stimulating brief for technology-based “hyper-learning,” Perelman argues that school systems, classrooms and teachers have become obsolete.

    Looks to me like the reformers are doing more thrashing than the reactionaries in schools today.

    All the best,


  9. I think that athletics and the whole notion of school and community spirit are the last tenuous thread holding this thing together. Communities still like going to ball games and identifying with the school.

    But times have changed – in many places attendance is down. With a mobile society many baby boomers have left their towns and gone somewhere else where they don’t have the loyalties.

    But….what would we do with all those multi-million dollar facilities?

    The Stock Mark Report

  10. We? Before WE die? Do you have a frog in your pocket…?

    But seriously, I’m hoping to Thrive in whatever comes next.

  11. If I have my way, the following presentation (which is still in Beta mode)will hopefully describe “whatever comes next.”

    I would love to hear any feedback anyone has about this idea or about this presentation.

  12. Although changes will come, I have yet to talk to a parent that said, “When are you going to reform schools?” Until this happens, I think change will be a long time coming and even small changes will be hard to make.

  13. I also think we’re going to be thrashing about a long time!

    Barry, to your point that things won’t look different in 30 years, I have to point to the powerful computers which are showing up in the hands of a majority of learners in many classrooms. I do think it will continue to be more and more apparent to decision makers that purchasing analog textbooks on a 5 year adoption cycle is fiscally irresponsible, as the price of Netbooks continues to drop. When all students come to class with a wireless laptop, it becomes increasingly difficult to simply teach the same with 19th century methods. Blended learning is going to become more and more the order of the day, and I think that will be a good thing.

    I think we have a lot of work to do, especially in the areas of curriculum and assessment. I wonder if our tough economic times are going to serve as an encouragement for communities and states to retool their educational systems? Our needs to be able to renew and expand our skill sets certainly don’t end at some point… we all need to remain lifelong learners. We’ll still in this silly mode of paying for seat time and paying institutions for pieces of paper which allege that “the bearer has learned valuable things.” We’ve got to transcend that model, and I continue to think web 2.0 technologies can play a big role in that. I think we need to see digital portfolio systems which are truly learner-centered rather than organizationally motivated (to help with things like NCATE accreditation, for example) need to REALLY expand and develop in the months and years ahead.

  14. You are very right, Jim. Parents in general are very comfortable with school as it is. The basis for this I believe is that it is a known entity that they/we can manipulate and traverse in order for our kids to be successful. Our families that are more affluent have better results with the current system and so see them as successful, not needing change. They also have the ability to provide the technology that we frequently discuss and/or reference her and other sites, thus supporting their kids’ learning and success. Don’t look for major initiatives coming from this group…As for those struggling to make ends meet and pay the rent, etc. there is no time to spend thinking of new ways to get a better education for their kids. They are trying to provide for here and now.

  15. We all have seen plenty of data that states that our schools are fine, it’s those others that need reforming, no matter who gets bloodied. Scott, you want to really get things going in the Hawkeye state? Let’s start to petition the Governor to not renew Judy’s job and replace her with you! There’s the start to the revolution.

  16. @Wes

    While I think your points are very valid; I would do think we underestimate the power of the institution to not change.

    Let’s take an issue that is much less complicated then the one at hand to illustrate: Why do we (largely) still go to school on a 9 month cycle?

    –It is likely that 9 out of 10 people would agree that it is a poor model for learning.

    –It is also likely that consensus could easily be built around a solution (some variation of an on/off schedule).

    So, two very important conditions for change (consensus on the problem, and consensus on the solution), are present to a high degree.

    But, the institution will not allow it.

    Education has too many “faces” – too many places where the work of education butts up against something else. In this example, how many hurdles are there…?
    –Summer Employment (how strong are commerce lobbyists in your state?)

    With the school reform considered by posters and respondents, the issue is complex on a level that blows the 9-month school year issue out of the water. There isn’t consensus on what must happen, there is little agreement on how to go about it – and zero analysis of potential stumbling blocks.

    While I would like to be hopeful that schools will dramatically change, my gut instinct is that we underestimate what is in front of us.

  17. I agree with you 100% Scott. My answer to the question:

    I’m not sure how long we’ll thrash around, but I’m not going to be the last man in the boat. If an opportunity presents itself, and I feel it has the potential to educate students more effectively….you better believe I’ll ditch this sinking boat for the potential of another one floating in a heart beat. What scares me is the more educators I meet the more I realize just how far behind we really are (globally). One day we’re all going to show up to work and wonder where all the kids have gone.

  18. If you fill a sinking ship with rafts, as the ship sinks we can all float on the rafts. As that ship sinks the raft become our new vessel (perhaps this could be done with rowboats instead). The other option is to just swim ashore. Point is, there is no need to abandon the sinking ship so long as it still serves a purpose and is preferable to floating on rafts. At some point the rafts will be a better option. Those who survive this shipwreck will be the ones with enough foresight to have rafts or rowboats aboard before they set sail.

  19. KIds are already getting hurt. The middle schoolers I teach are %80 Hispanic and this system is not effective in serving them well. The problem is, I’m not sure yet what exactly school will look like that does serve them well.

    Year round…good start. Teachers who know how to create online/interactive technology lessons…looks good for them
    more fluid definition of “grade levels” and meaningful ways to report to parents (number grades are meaningless in anything but math)…reaching proficiency before moving on to next step of an objective in a vertically aligned, definable curriculum (NOT a grade level move, a next objective move)…
    just some of my thoughts

  20. I;m not sure how many people are advocates of making those adjustments. And I’ll bet a lot of teachers don’t feel like making any changes.

    Hall Monitor

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