Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Changing the System

I disagree about the concept of working in, around, outside of the current system in order to change, improve, or save it. The current educational system needs to implode and from it's ashes a new system of education can emerge.
We must be careful at the same time this system is imploding not to alienate the people. It is the system that must end, not the people. We all need to be re-educated to disperse strategies / skills, facilitate expertise, & engage learners in different ways. The status quo worked perfectly for educating people to work in a past era.
However, those crowding our schools now attend school for two reasons: their friends are there (at school) and we make them. They don't come to learn. Oh, they earn grades for parroting things back to us and they learn to do just enough busywork to get the grade. But do learners ever really increase in abilities...until they get out of school?
Christensen said, "To succeed, disruptive technology must be applied in applications where the alternative is nothing." In a recent post, Shirky describes the demise of print newspapers. Apply his thoughts to the current mandatory public schooling in this country.
The old model is just not salvageable, much like the newspaper industry. It must fall. But what will rise in its place? Shirky refers to Eisenstein's book, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. She said that in the 15th century an upheaval took place as a result of the printing press. Shirky claims (and I agree) that another cultural upheaval is taking place right now as a result of the widespread use of digital media.

Ancient social bargains, once disrupted, can neither be mended nor quickly replaced... (Shirky, 2009)
Our present educational system is a social bargain, a cultural contract that we all have signed. The old system is broken and cannot be fixed. Like the lady in the commercial, it has fallen and cannot get up. What will happen next, none of us can predict. I just wish it would hurry up and happen.
Last night in the ISTE Eduverse Talks in Second Life, Peggy Sheehy (Maggie Marat) said something intriguing that had me scrambling for paper, as opening anything while running SL might have made the application crash and I didn't want to miss anything!
She said a colleague said to her,
"...wherever you put me, I know how to swim." (Sheehy, P. ISTE Eduverse Talks, March 17, 2009)
That is so true for education. I earned my teaching credentials and I know how to teach. Doesn't matter where, I can swim.

Photo courtesy of paul goyette available at and covered under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license.
Christensen, C. (2008). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Eisenstein, E. (1979). The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
Shirky, C. (2009, March 13). Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. Retrieved March 18, 2009, from Clay Shirky Web site:

1 comment:

Joseph Thibault said...

As a current outsider (vendor) looking in, and a potential insider (teach for america) we're really only now realizing the true extent of the problem at hand. While out of half of our mouths we cite small classes as a means of elevating success, the other side is condemning students to huge classrooms (look what just happened in CA: 30,000 layoffs).

There's something terribly, terribly wrong with this picture. Great post, I've got Disrupting Class on loan from the Carnegie Library and can't wait to jump in.

Loved the quote, now i just need to learn how to swim.