I realize that the title of this Blog Post suggests that I feel that the fundamental structure of education is somehow tainted. That was not my original intent. I was actually grasping for an agricultural metaphor, but oddly enough, while composing this post and mulling over my readings and research of the week, I realize that this unintentional connotation may not be that far off. We have a tendency in education to keep pouring fertilizer over the already fertile soil accomplishing nothing more than the burn out of the bright seeds, to rotatil the so-called “weeds” in an attempt to stifle them, and to prune and trim the promising growth so that it is uniform, orderly, and utterly predictable. – growth determined by finite school years and proscriptive curricula. Is this what education is supposed to be about? Fueled by this week’s ECI 831 discussion on rhizomatic education led by Dave Cormier
, and his recent Blog Post Workers, Soldiers, Nomads – what does the Gates Foundation want from our education system?,
I mused over four standard, static, and cliché answers to the very foundational question, why do we educate students?
To prepare them for the workplace?
How can we do that when we know that the jobs they will seek likely do not even exist yet (If you haven’t yet seen the Youtube video “Did You Know?”-
check it out!). Certainly, Dave Janosc argues in his podcast “Education for Innovation
” that the critical skill in the 21st
century business world is innovation . Are our schools in their current curricular focus and structure nurturing this? Gever Tulley
would argue that not only are schools not cultivating this, society in general has advocated the virtual bubble wrapping of kids, protecting them from danger to such an extent that their curiosity and creativity are squelched. Check out his TEDtalk presentation Do Schools Kill Creativity
. Founder of the Tinkering School, Tulley, advocates letting kids do dangerous things such as playing with fire, owning pocketknives, playing with spears, deconstructing appliances and breaking copyrights. Although he is discussing this in a literal sense, he is also making a figurative point for educators. Do we encourage our students to make mistakes? Are we and they so focused on the test and the outcomes that we forget about the journey and the many possible paths on the way to that destination? Furthermore, does that test have to be the final destination?
To provide them with a liberal arts education so that they are prepared for university?
Statistics according to Human Resources and Skills Canada
tell us that on average 24% of the national population ages 18-24 pursue a college education; and although that statistic has risen over the last several years, the successful completion of college degree programs is much lower. Sir Ken Robinson
in his critique of education states that “we are obsessed with getting kids into college.” He argues that learning is about passion and all of us have important gifts which are rarely nurtured. Similar to Dave Cormier’s belief that educators need to be gardeners, Sir Ken Robinson advocates the transformation of education from an industrial model to an agricultural model stating that “human nourishing is organic”. We as teachers must provide the conditions under which our students can flourish.
To teach them citizenship and community responsibility? For what world and community are we providing them education on citizenship? Technology and the internet have made the world smaller. The community one lives in is not the only community one knows. As I muttered in last week’s blog post , we need to address digital citizenship in a global society, this cannot be done if we restrict internet access and limit or ban personal electronic devices in educational settings.
To teach them to be life long learners? As Cormier, Robinson, Tulley, and numerous others have posited, there needs to be a “rethink” around the whole concept of learning. Education, the institution, is not necessarily developing a community of learners. Cormier’s metaphor of the nomadic learner suggests that a learner will go to the places he/she needs to find the answers he/she seeks, refusing to be bound by a directed path. How do we reconcile the need to develop life long learning, nurture curiosity and cultivate and harvest the rhizomatic learners within our time bound and rigidly structured curricula and school design. How do we avoid streaming or to use a provincial categorization – pathways – which predetermine roads for learners, stripping them of nomadic adventures? To find this answer, we must dig deep into the soil of education, and prepare to to get our fingernails dirty.