This is the final post in our 3-part guest series by Jesse Langley. We sincerely appreciate Jesse’s insight throughout this week!
When Sir Ken Robinson spoke of a need for an education revolution rather than education evolution, he used an example that still sticks with me. He asked the audience how many of them under the age of twenty-five were wearing a watch. None of them were. He went on to ask how many over the age of twenty-five weren’t wearing a watch. Nearly all of them were wearing watches.
It posed as a great example of how we focus on routine and habit rather than what’s most effective. The difference in the generational responses was due to the fact that folks over twenty-five grew up before the digital revolution, when if you wanted to know what time it was, you needed a watch. It’s no longer necessary to wear a watch.
Time-telling devices surround us. We’ve got our smartphones, laptops and iPads. Sir Ken said that his daughter referred to a wristwatch as a “single purpose device,” and she’s right. A wristwatch only does one thing or maybe two: tell time and look good. That’s it. After hearing this analogy I began to look for wristwatches among my colleagues. It was uncanny to see the results replicated in the same fashion. We tend to do things because we’ve always done them, not because they work. And education is no different.
There is very little happening in education in terms of structure that is designed because it works for our needs at this moment in history. We have an education model designed for the dawn of the Industrial age. We constantly talk about the need for innovation in the classroom, in the way we think about education. The problem inherent in this is that it doesn’t deal with the underlying problem of conflicted paradigms. Our public education structure is an agricultural-age relic in a digital age of online degrees and iPads.
When I was growing up on my family’s farm, having long summer breaks made sense. My brothers and I were needed for haymaking and all sorts of backbreaking chores. For us, it wasn’t a summer vacation; it was a six-day workweek from sun-up to sundown. But our society is no longer agrarian based. Even in my childhood, small farmers like my father were outliers in an industrial social landscape. We live in a largely post-industrial milieu, yet stuck with the same education structure/routines we had during the Victorian era.
We’re stuck with it largely because of entrenched routine and habit. We tend to do things because it’s the way we’ve always done things. And because that’s the way we do it, we continue to train teachers in the same methods. Inflexibility in our teaching model and methods continues to influence new teachers too as they’re taking education classes. We place a lot of emphasis on classroom management. That’s just a fancy way of teaching control. We teach control but not creativity. I’m not claiming that we haven’t improved classroom-teaching techniques, but all we’ve really done is streamline the design of an old-fashioned shiny wristwatch.