Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ending The Boredom Of School Reform

At the Answer Sheet blog, Mark Phillips writes an important post that many education reformers will probably ignore because it challenges entrenched paradigms.

Phillips contends that the current debate bores him because it repeats the same questions:
Standardized testing, useful or harmful? Charter schools, the answer or the new problem? Teachers maligned, teachers defended, teachers resistant to change. No Child Left Behind, revise or eliminate?
Phillips then offers a few thoughtful and thought provoking suggestions, a few based on Native American culture and mythology. First,
Perhaps we need a trickster to wake us up and boot us into another dimension. To many Native American peoples the trickster is the raven, the rabbit, the coyote.  The trickster is the teacher who surprises people and wakes them out of their routines. It is also the trickster who sometimes provokes us into leaving the safety of our present worldview.
Of course, Phillips never had to deal with parents who begin every conversation about education with "when I was in school. , ... "  That fact allows him to make this provocative proposal:
we’ve had ideas from educators with some vision that extends beyond our same old room, ideas . . . .  And there are teachers who could help take us there, if we would provide them with the luxury of time to develop their ideas.
As one example, years ago Louise Berman, in New Priorities in the Curriculum , challenged the idea that we must organize our curriculum in the present way. She focused on processes rather than our traditional way of organizing subjects. Her organizers (perceiving, communicating, loving, knowing, decision making, patterning, creating, and valuing) are debatable, but at least she stepped out of our present dimension and challenged our preconception of subject organizers.
I've long advocated breaking down department barriers and having more team teaching. No one seems to want to listen.  I believe debate seems to cover "communicating," "knowing," "decision making," "creating," and "valuing" as the terms are commonly understood, so a department of argumentation might be fun.

Phillips goes on to suggest placing
a teaching consultant in every school, a seasoned tribal elder, to continually guide younger teachers. Certainly too, each school would have a full-time psychologist/counselor, not just a part-time person or one who focused almost exclusively on college admissions.
This suggestion makes a lot of sense, but I fear that administrators would turn the consultant's main job into creating cookie cutter teachers.

I realize that Phillips and I might argue vehemently about the details.  I certainly agree with him about how to start:.
I also think it would be refreshing if educational reform wasn’t such a ponderously serious business. Maybe we need a Brigade of Educational Tricksters, to keep waking us up, making sure we aren’t taking ourselves and our varied positions too seriously, helping us to see beyond our present paradigm, and making sure we are able to laugh at the absurdity in the educational world we inhabit.

1 comment:

Deb Geelsdottir said...

Yeah! Go for it! I last taught in 1980. My grandmother started in 1918. Not much has changed. Radical re-thinking is what is needed. Top to bottom, not just readjusting what is already being done.