December 02, 2005

cj's: On the virtues of loopiness

Chris Bigum of Deakin Univ, Australia, blogs thusly about education:
We live in what is argued to be an "evidence-based" world. Anyone care to offer any evidence that the current system does much other than impress on the young that they are stupid, dumb, can't cut it? Where is the evidence that "the system" actually prepares the young for the contemporary world? Much huff and puff, zip evidence.

There is much to be said for systems that encourage and nurture idiosyncracy, loopies, people who will think way outside the tiny little square that claims to capture all of human wisdom. It would be ok to have a uniform system if we lived in a 1950's world where much was predictable, linear, not much different from the year before. But we don't. We need a system that supports people to think, to challenge, to be rewarded for being loopies (well argued loopies). In a dangerously unpredictable world, educational certainty is a handicap we can well do without. A system whose sole purpose would be to produce eccentrics would do more to secure the future of humanity on the planet than the deadeningly dull certainty and conformity of the educational here and now.

This continues a theme cj started earlier (and perhaps even earlier than that):
The more one reads research, talks to teachers, students and most other folk who are somehow involved in or with schooling it is clear that, at least for secondary schooling (I think similar crits of primary and tertiary are possible but it is at its most glaring here) is a game that almost no one believes in.

There are many instances where humans do foolish, sometimes heroic things for no good reason. Indeed, biologists tell us that along with a blind mole rat in Africa, we are the only species capable of giving up our life to save the life of another of our species. One can understand moments of foolishness and heroism. It is part of being human. These are events which contribute to a sense of who we are and why we are.

With Secondary schooling we have a system which, in my view, is increasingly difficult to justify. It is a form of what might be called organised child abuse which repeats itself over and over again, year in, year out.

At another blog, cj has this interesting posting, which includes a link (Word doc) to a very interesting set of questions, entitled "Are we there yet?":
A colleague passed this short piece by Herb Childress on to me. While it is written about High School, much of the commentary could apply to schools generally. I know there is a lot of this kind of material about but if I have learned anything about formal systems of education it is that winning a battle never means you have won. Just as in a war, you have to maintain your position, reinforce it, repeat it, rework it and sell, sell, sell it. There is a way to think about this that can be derived from my weird little interest in actor-network theory but I don't want to muddy the simple notion which is about vigilance and the policing of wins and boundaries.

Herb's piece reminded me of the terrific checklist of questions that Trudy has developed in relation to good learning.


The piece by ethnographer Herb Childress, 17 reasons why soccer is better than school, is worth reading: his observations of highschool students (tho I wish he'd chosen a more readable design than red on black, urgh! squint!)

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