Schools at the Crossroads
John Hagel, from his “A 21st Century Global Declaration of Independence:”
We find ourselves now at a crossroads in history. The institutions – commercial, educational, political and civic - that we created in an earlier era in an effort to expand our potential have now become increasingly significant barriers to progress. It is not surprising that our trust in these institutions is plummeting around the world. We see so much opportunity and yet the institutions that are supposed to be helping us are increasingly standing in our way.
It’s not schools themselves, obviously, that stand in the way of progress. It’s our nostalgia for what schools are supposed to be. It’s our lack of a modern context for developing a vision for what schools might become.
Saturday, I asked 500 or so school trustees from across Canada this question: “How can you make relevant decisions about curriculum, budget, technology, assessments, staffing, infrastructure, pedagogy, scheduling, support and all the other things you deal with on a daily basis if you yourselves are not powerful, connected learners with technology in a modern context?” I’m not saying that those folks weren’t trying their best to serve the kids in their boards. I’m also not saying that their current decisions are all terrible. But, to paraphrase Gary Stager, you can’t make relevant decisions about 21st Century learners if you haven’t learned in this century.
As I’ve noted before, the rhetoric coming out of Canada is pretty “enlightened” if you will. The British Columbia Ed Plan says
Our education system is based on a model of learning from a different century. To change that, we need to put students at the centre of their own education.
Ontario’s Vision for Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age states
The new role of education is to ensure all students have the opportunity to use their interests and passions to connect to all areas of knowledge.
And in “Inspiring Education,” the Ministry in Alberta writes
To achieve their full potential as expressed in the vision children must be the centre of all decisions related to learning and the overall education system.
As with anything the devil is in the details. I can’t help wonder, at the end, how much of the rhetoric actually translates into practice. I wonder, for instance, how much students will truly be allowed to organize their own learning and pursue their passions in ways that actually create a new narrative for schooling as opposed to simply tweak our nostalgia.
Reagrdless, the rhetoric of “progress” grows more interesting by the day…