Will Richardson’s most recent blog post provides a list of thought provoking questions. As I read down the list and the subsequent comments from readers, I could not help but reflect on my own schooling. I attended a public school kindergarten and first grade. My parents pulled me out of the public school (that was right next door!) and shipped me off to a private Catholic school 10 miles away so I could get a ‘good’ education from the nuns. I will say, this is where I learned to speak French, but the rest is a blur, except of course for the ruler that was used to ‘control’ unruly children. Three years at that school, and my family moved from the big city (the great white flight) to the suburbs, where I again attended public school. It was the late 60’s, the summer of love. Public school was a little more relaxed than what I was accustomed to. After high school, came college. Although it was college and we could actually smoke (amazing, eh) in the classroom, we were still being taught in the same old way: teacher talks, you listen. Not very different than being with the nuns, except of course for that ruler!
Over 30 years have passed since I attended college and one would have thought that the institution of education might have made a giant leap forward. I am not sure it has. Richardson’s questions started me thinking about why education has remained the same all this time. My thought is because up until recently, it worked. The US was at the forefront of education, other countries followed our lead and went so far as to copy our educational systems. We set the world standard, but now we’re slipping. If we don’t ask and then answer the question ‘do we need to change how we educate our citizens and what does that look like’, how can we expect to compete in the world economy when other countries are surpassing us in science, math and innovation? The assignment was to answer the question, is there a new pedagogy emerging. I would like to say I think there are some new thoughts happening in education, but we have to actually make the transition, implement and see what happens. Given Richardson’s questions, I don’t think there has been a pedagogical shift. Reading further on his blog, he posts a quote from Neil Postman (Teaching as a subversive activity), written in 1968. In the quote, Postman posits that education must change to prepare students for a “rapidly changing world”. How is it that we’ve changed how we educate our citizens, if over 40 years ago it was a concern and we are still talking about it today?