Best Practices on a Sinking Ship

The problem, you see, is that we do it in school. That warps our thinking. Socrates used to do it in the Agora, the market place, or, perhaps better, the public gathering place. Granted the Greeks had gymnasia, but that was only a portion. The ancient Hebrews did it on the way, in the temple, in their homes. The Romans might have had something approximating a school, but it would have been small.

With the rise of the 20th century factory school, our norms and expectations were severed from reality.

Now when we think about education, for that is what I’m writing about, we have forgotten about the nature of the thing we are doing because the forms we use are so alien to it. It is as if I were describing how to improve football and made player safety my highest goal. Oh, wait, that might not be the best example right now.

Now when we think about education our experiences are so alien from what education had been before our time that we don’t know how to get back to it. We don’t know how to think clearly about it. The trouble is, you can’t transform a world when you conform to its forms.

That is why imitating the “best practices” of the conventional school won’t help, but it’s also why I’m optimistic. In Salman Khan’s The One-World Schoolhouse, he shows some things that can be done with the new technology. I recommend it. (For the squeamish, that doesn’t mean I “endorse” it. I like reading books that challenge assumptions, not ones that I agree with beginning to end).

America’s schools are crashing. The only question is how much of America they take with them. That will be determined by how much we convince ourselves we need them.

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