September 5th, 2012

Toward a New System of Education

Stephen Downes:

We must develop the educational system outside the traditional system because the traditional system is designed to support the position of the wealthy and powerful. Everything about it - from the limitation of access, to the employment of financial barriers, to the creation of exclusive institutions and private clubs, to the system of measuring impact and performance accordiung to economic critreria, serve to support that model. Reforming the educational system isn’t about opening the doors of Harvard or MIT or Cambridge to everyone - it’s about making access to these institutions irrelevant. About making them an anachronism, like a symphony orchestra, or a gentleman’s club, or a whites only golf course, and replaced with something we own and build for everyone, like punk music, a skateboard park, or the public park.

And, later:

What is most important is how education is thought of in such a system. It is not something that is ‘delivered’ or ‘transferred’ from an institution to a person. An education is property of a person (‘property’ in the sense of ‘quality’ or ‘attribute’, not in the sense of ‘ownership’ or ‘possession’) just in the same way as health and fitness are properties of a person, something they have all their lives, something they develop and grow and maintain, something they are themselves ultimately responsible for.  

Just as a healthy person needs affordable and accessible food and water, housing and transportation, so also an educated person needs learning resources, intellectual challenges, role models and examples, employment and invigoration. They need, in the words of Seymour Papert, hard fun. There are many ways this can be provided in a technologically advanced society - transmission (via books and videos) and programmed learning are only two possibilities, and (probably) the most minimally effective of those.  

In this model, the public education system isn’t something you put aside 18 years your life to go to and ‘access’, no more than a child spends the first 18 years of his or her life in a health institution developing strength and fitness.

Stretching my brain. 

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