A giant step forward for schools

We’ve sent humans to the moon, scaled the highest mountains on the planet and developed 3D printers – all giant steps in human endeavour. Yet I believe the one area where we struggle to make the greatest leap forward is schooling.

As an educator, I am flabbergasted when I re-read the likes of John Dewey and Raymond E. Callahan who recognised the inherent flaws of an industrial model of schooling and were championing for change long before the digital revolution transformed the social and economic landscape.

In 1971, a collection of essays was published called The Underachieving School. It was written by a progressive American educator by the name of John Holt. Holt, like Callahan and Dewey before him, envisaged a schooling experience that enriches one’s life; moving people towards something worthwhile. The first page of The Underachieving School includes a Q&A between Holt and the editors of Education News (NYC). I’ve included it below as something to ponder over the Christmas break.

Ed News: If America’s schools were to take a giant step forward this year toward a better tomorrow, what should it be?

JH: It would be to let every child be the planner, director and assessor of his/her own education, to allow and encourage him/her with inspiration and guidance of more experienced and expert people, and as much as he/she asked for, to decide what he/she is to learn, when he/she should learn it, how he/she are to learn it, and how well he/she is learning;

It would be to make our schools, instead of what they are, which is jails for children, into resources for free and independent learning, which everyone in the community, of whatever age, could use as much or as little as he/she wanted.

I’ll let you determine how far we have come since that interview was conducted in 1971. Perhaps the questions we need to be asking ourselves is firstly, why we are so resistant to change in the face of all we now know about improving student learning today? Secondly, why we lack the imagination to conceive of new models of schooling and lastly, what are we going to do to take a giant step forward next year to change the schooling experience for all learners?

Having got that off my chest I remain extremely positive about the future work of schools, and on that note, I take this opportunity to thank all of you for your continued support of bluyonder. A safe and Merry Christmas – see you back here in 2019.






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