The first course I took on teaching was Grad 8101 Teaching in Higher Education, taught by our very own IleneDawn. There were countless breakthrough “Ah-ha” moments throughout that semester. One small nugget that blew my mind at the time, and one I’ve returned to again and again, was an RSA animation illustrating a talk by Sir Ken Robinson. The talk “Changing Educational Paradigms” identified many of the problems with our current education system. I’ve shown this little clip to everyone I know with the slightest interest in education. All have, like me, been amazed by it, save one.
A long time family friend and retired Kindergarten teacher took issue with the very premise that anything is wrong with our current system. The only problem she saw was an ever increasing pressure by “budget obsessed administrators” to try “gimmicky” fixes to problems they caused while attempting to save money. She dismissed my references to learning and educational psychology research going back to the 1960’s as “nonsense”. When I took issue with our current fixation on standardized test, she simply stated if administrators just left teachers alone to teach as they have done for decades, there would be no need to teach to any test. When I pointed out that our education system hasn’t changed much in 150 years, she said, “That’s because it works so well.” A quick summary of her beliefs: Everything is fine and any and all problems come from wrongheaded administrators and a very few lazy teachers.
I imagine it is uncomfortable to allow for the possibility that the system encompassing your life’s work is fundamentally flawed. By the same token it would be easy to label any and all contradiction and change as nonsense or wrongheaded. It would seem that our education system, like so many human constructs, will only see real change over generations. I consider myself very lucky to be here as our change gains momentum.