Monday, March 21, 2011

To Create, To Design

A video and education reform's 100 year failure

A timely video inspired by Michael Wesch came across my desk today and it comes at an interesting time in my thinking on education. The Future of Ed Reform? weaves a very short yet potent story about the realities so many of us face who seek to radically change the structure of education from "places of schooling" to "places of learning".

I have written about critical education in many posts and realize that most of my ideation, design and praxis towards democratic education has met with the realities of institutions, schooling an societal structures around education and official knowledge. I would like to say I met these challenges and take the path I do now, knowing I stand on the shoulders of progressives and a hundred years of work from John Dewey, L. Thomas Hopkins et al., and their contemporaries James Beane, Micheal Apple, Deb Meir and so many others who are in the field not writing prolifically but fostering experiences and learning.

The Future of Ed Reform begs questions of reform and stasis in education. "If so many years of reform, (including some almost 100 years old that espouse the same reform we are seeking in education today) have failed why do we think it will work....this time." A good question and one I had with a visionary leader and progressive educator in the field just yesterday: More on this in future posts.

The author of Future of Ed Reform is right to question these new "reforms" and their ability to succeed. The authors points at "the revolution failed" are right. The use of Dewey as an example is illustrative of the issues here. Dewey, Francis Parker, L. Thomas Hopkins et al. faced a backlash from an American society bent on order and standardization. Though their reform was brilliant and on the mark in many ways, school in the 20th century was an institution based on order and control just as it is today. Today as in the 20th century, linear schedules, corporate curricula, and the extra-curricularization of energy and interests still combine to hold firm what has been at the expense of what is. The School structure and its meanings are the issues of today just as they where a century ago.

Dewey did call for a revolution from schooling to learning, and espoused among so many brilliant ideas a call for deschooling on the grounds that control and order do little for learning. Dewey (1938) reflects,

Almost everyone has had occasion to look back upon his [and her] school days and wonder what has become of the knowledge he was supposed to have amassed during his [and her] years of schooling....but it was so segregated when it was acquired and hence is so disconnected from the rest of experience that it is not available under the actual conditions of life. (p.48)

We must reflect presently on the "reform" engines of today motoring throughschools and quietly accepting the structures imposed in what amounts to seeing learners and their communities as commodities and economies of scale, versus dynamic realities of human possibility. The author of The Future of Ed Reform? is calling out the realities of societal structures and the school not the reform which may have similarity to our 100 year past.

To Create, To Design

It is no mystery to many that I favor the design of new learning Ecologies that leverage much of what Dewey espoused and practiced in the fields of experiential and democratic education. I have also focused my work on the networking of blended learning ecologies. A combination of Illich's learning webs, the mesh ideas of OLPC and my roots in experiential and mobile learning in the big outside. This design like so many is at risk when placed against the onslaught of stasis in education. No Softballs here, we have heard them in detail. Yet I find myself asking are we ready for a networked learning ecology? Is society? What will it take?

So anthropologists, critical educators, deschoolers, unschoolers, reformers, what will make your vision work? Are you part of a revolution? If so why, and will that revolution be enough force to break the dam of traditional control and order schooling to create or recreate places of learning for society? I am interested in hearing your voice and working with you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Yong Zhao on Educational Risk and the Reason to Deschool

From: Yong Zhao » Blog Archive » A Nation At Risk: Edited by Yong Zhao. (n.d.). Yong Zhao. Retrieved March 11, 2011, from

Indicators of the Risk

The educational dimensions of the risk before us have been amply documented in materials read by this editor. For example:

Time to Deschool

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