One of my favourite speakers in the realm of education is Ken Robinson (check out a couple of his videos in my Cool Links section) has said something which seems to have been taken up in by a variety of thinkers and institutions as a mantra, which is that education needs to be reformed, and that the current system is ‘broken’.
Anytime someone tells me that the system within which I try to help kids and have worked my entire adult life thus far towards entering is ‘broken’, I get understandably a little uneasy. But it’s not because I disagree in principle, it’s because I’m anxious about the passion involved. You’re not going to find many teachers who are more eager than me to learn new ways of educating people from all sorts of colleagues, gurus, and teachers.
I worry, however, about how excited, inflamed, and stressed we’re getting as a group about reforming education. Anytime you have such a diverse group that are ALL passionate about something, there’s bound be disagreement, and in circumstances like this often extremely stubborn and challenging disagreement to boot. If side A (let’s say they’re in favour of standardized testing as the tool to improve achievement) is relatively well-represented, and side B (let’s say that they favour holistic and authentic assessment) is similarly represented, there will be an incredible delay in actually getting work done on reform, because in Western society, we like to have large-scale standardized systems. Getting those two sides to work together can be a monumental challenge.
Over the past few years, I’ve heard innumerable opinions on what we need to do to make education better. And I think in the end it doesn’t matter as much what or how that final form ends up being. I see teachers every day doing absolutely everything in their power to make sure that the students in their classes learn and develop as better people. Someone once asked me if it was even possible nowadays to have ‘bad teachers’ given the focus on teacher education and development in many Western countries (my apologies to the education systems of other areas of the world which I am not familiar with in the slightest). My answer at the time was ‘yes, but that’s only because you always have a few in each group who are barely adequate’ (ah, the power of statistics and human nature).
I think that answer still stands, but the thing to realize is that the vast majority of people in my line of work, regardless of what public opinion has made out, are truly dedicated to making sure that everyone’s children are equipped to be the best people they can be. That, more than any other factor, is what reduces my stress level about any possible reforms. Everything will take a long time to sort out, but because we have good people working their best to simply help people learn, I have great hope for the future.
Cheers to anyone who works to make the world a better place, teacher, student, doctor, or anyone else (to cover the 7 billion people on the planet – 7 BILLION, how crazy is that?)!