Everybody has a viewpoint on schooling and each viewpoint comes from a position of experience in one form or another. For many, it is based upon the fact that at some time in their lives they went to school. The experience might have been joyous or destructive; meaningful or meaningless. Each experience depended on the school and its fit for the particular student. It depended on the values and beliefs that the student and his or her parents had about schooling. And it depended on the unique interaction between each individual student and the people they interacted with at school and in the community.
In his latest book
Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling John Taylor Gatto reflects on schooling from one point of view. His view comes from that of an informed educator and leader, but it is still one person's opinion. Gatto has had many years pondering the state of compulsory schooling and so perhaps his opinions hold more sway.
Like many, I believe Gatto's viewpoints have a great deal of merit, although they relate particularly to the systems of education in the USA. Even though other countries may say that's not what education is like in our country, there are many 'dark worlds' for students in every education system. Is it time to move forward in our whole definition of a school and maybe to even ponder if we need to look for a whole new metaphor of learning? New times need new ways.
But let's hang on here. There are some good things that happen in 'traditional schooling' and some not-so-good things happening with new approaches to learning. Do we have to have an either-or? With the increasing diversity in the world, within countries and even within small geographical areas we must move to an and-but understanding. Don't try and ram one type of education down the throats of all. Let models of education be more flexible in approach. Concentrate on developing great relationships that build knowledge, skills, values and attitudes from the needs of the students.
My next few postings will be dedicated to how leaders can be more flexible - from the Ministry of Education, to principals and to teacher training establishments. Rigidity prevents innovation and right now we need lots of innovation...