Recruit the Restless

As Seth Godin points out in the blog post link below – change is never going to come from those who signed up for the status quo, for certainty, for an environment within which getting everything right is the expected norm.

Seth Godin Blog Post – In Search of Familiarity

In fact, worse, it’s not enough to just recruit good people who believe that they are ‘safe hands’ to educate children. Not only will these people not initiate change, they will resist it by every means at their disposal. They’ll demand data and evidence in bucketloads. And, even when you produce evidence they’ll have to refute it, doubt it and ultimately fall back on, “my way has served well in the past.”

This is almost certainly the reason why we’ve gone so many years since Dr Ken Robinson spoke up in the first TED conference about what needed to change in education if we were to avoid short changing a generation of youngsters in their preparation for a vastly different world, yet we have really seen so very little change. In fact, when we see the obsessive zeal applied to the gathering and endless tweaking of data, we have to suspect that people have inadvertently set about entrenching and solidifying the existing ways of doing things. Too many have convinced themselves that the old way is perfect, provided we can just measure more, gather more data and carry out more assessment.

Instead of humanising an education of curiosity, creativity and engagement with thew world around, we’ve sought incremental improvements in the existing systems by focusing on turning children in to so many data points to be graphed and mapped through to academic success.

The curious, the challengers, the restless – they do show their faces in the education world, but too often in programmes like Teach for America, Teach for India, Teach for Malaysia. They stay for a couple of years, but too often see that they’re never really going to change the system, so treat it as an interesting experience before they head off to other fields where change is more accepted.

We have to figure out how to get more restless people in to our profession, and then keep them here long enough to make a difference.

World’s Largest Lesson

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The World's Largest Lesson 2016 – with thanks to Sir Ken Robinson and Emma Watson from World's Largest Lesson on Vimeo.

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Once upon a time there were the Millennium Development goals - a laudable set of goals and targets set by all the world's most powerful nations for bringing major and significant changes and improvement in the world that would address fundamental issues of human rights, equality of opportunity and reduction of poverty. Whilst there was some progress made, all too often the big powers seemed unwilling to back up the words with adequate finances or action. The result was that the goals weren't achieved.

So, the new, replacement plan was the Global Goals for Sustainable development. These have a 15 year time horizon, strong words and high aspirations. With justifiable reason, there are efforts to get children particularly interested in the Goals and focused on playing a part in their achievement. One such way is through the 'World's Largest Lesson' taking place this week in schools throughout the world;

The World's Largest lesson - Global Goals

Incidentally, that website contains massive of great classroom resources and downloadable materials in relation to each of the 17 goals, plus activities that learners can engage in.

The Goals Explained - The Guardian

However, little more than a year after the Sustainability Goals were put in place, there's clear evidence of the same levels of failure, under achievement and actions failing to live up to the rhetoric;

The Guardian - World Lags Behind on Global Education Goals

Goal number 4 is, in my view, one of the most vital of all in the longer term. if it isn't achieved, then i believe it's extremely unlikely that the other goals will be achievable. A viable primary level education for every child must be taken seriously as a worldwide goal, with priority over petty political issues.

Get Outside!

Here’s a report which, whilst initially shocking, is not really at all surprising;

TES – Sir Ken Robinson Urges Schools To Help Increase Outdoor Playtime For Children

We can only begin to imagine what the implications are from this in terms of both physical and mental health. I even find myself wondering whether this has a whole set of implications that I and many others haven’t thought through yet. many in the medical field have suggested that, as science and medicine have moved forward, today’s generation of young children is the first with the potential to live a life beyond 100 years. What if the result of mistakes in childhood lifestyle, diet, exposure to sun and lack of physical exercise mean that they are actually the first generation that will see a shorter lifespan than those older.

There is no excuse for this. It shouldn’t happen. Do we have the willpower and the sense to arrest the negative trends?

Hacking the Factory Model

As educators, if we stop and challenge ourselves every time we see, here or feel something in a school that is redolent of the ‘factory model’, we’d still spend way more time stopped than moving!

I’ve often written in the past about the incongruence between educators who nodded and applauded whilst watching Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Conference speech (which is now nearly 10 years old) and the slow pace of real change in schools.

I recently read this article from Education Week, written by a teacher working in an International School;

Edweek – Why The Factory Model of Schools Persists

Quite rightly, he highlights that most educators, working in government ‘state education’ systems have blamed those systems for the inertia that has seen change and progress so slow. However, so many international schools operate in environments where they really have a great deal of freedom and autonomy. So, all this begs the question – why is change happening so very slowly?

The writer, William J Tolley highlights a number of issues; educators whose best interests are served by not changing, the rigid nature of the college admissions system and/ or the workplace – motivating all to continue to prepare children for the future in the same ways as the past. I believe there’s another factor that shouldn’t be underestimated – parents. There is an incredible level of comfort for a parent when the schooling their child is receiving looks, sounds and feels like a good quality version of what they got in their most formative years.

As a result, parents often ‘want’ something familiar, tried and tested (even if in a different age). Then, for the educators the question becomes – is our duty to give people what they want/ ask for or to have the courage, the conviction and to put in the hard work to educate them as to what they (their children) need, and how to ask for it?

The article’s also very good for the links it provides to some interesting organisations and to conference talks by key educators.

Sir Ken’s New Book

The educator’s educator has a new book out – another to go on to my ‘To Read’ list.

This is an informative interview with Sir Ken where, amongst other things he talks extensively about ‘standardisation’, favouring personalization and a move away from trying to treat pupils as data points and to get the rampant ‘testing’ machine under control.

Edweek – Q & A with Sir Ken Robinson

He also has some very interesting things to say about dismantling the hierarchy of subjects within education, particularly giving due importance to vocational learning. This was an ironic one for me to hear as it mirrored a conversation with a parent just yesterday.

In the interview, he also touches upon issues such as teacher selection and training.

Well worth a listen – and I’m sure will inspire some like me to look out for the new book.

The Best of TED

I’ve spent many thought-provoking and pleasurable hours over the last few years watching TED talks online. There are those who turn their noses up at the whole concept as a dumbing down of intellect and the exploration of meaningful issues. However, i believe that is a very elitist and separatist perspective.

If what they do is open ideas up in meaningful and understandable ways to involve and draw in more people, then i believe that’s a worthy and worthwhile aim. Some, such as Sir Ken Robinson’s first TED talk on how education stifles creativity has drawn millions of educators in to debates about innovation in the field of education and where it needs to go, in ways that weren’t happening otherwise. It is wrong for a handful of academic education experts to believe that only they have the right to be part of such debates and this demeans the practitioners who must ultimately take full ownership of the innovative practices.

For those who are yet to taste the delights of TED lectures (where the process is very simple – some of the world’s greatest thinkers are asked to present on a single perspective or thought related to their work, usually for no more than 18 minutes) I was pleased to see Mashable recently put together a shortlist of 15 of the best and most powerful TED lectures:

Mashable – 15 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life

The 15 inevitably includes the one by Sir Ken already mentioned.

Enjoy! When you finish with those, there are 100’s more!

TEDxLondon – On Education

The TEDxLondon Conference a few months ago was entirely dedicated to issues related to education. This was great, acknowledging that the world needs to wake up to the extent to which the answers to tomorrow’s challenges and key issues in society lie in education. To me, it is tragic to see that when economies around the world are struggling short-termist governments and those in positions of ‘power’ do two things;
(i) cut expenditure/ seek cost savings on education,
(ii) give more handouts (social security benefits, subsidized food etc.) contributing to a sense of dependency and beliefs that people do not hold the power to really control and/ or change their own lives.

The TEDxLondon conference included 3 contributions from the world-renowned educator, Sir Ken Robinson, which I’m sharing here. I really feel, though, that it’s high time that educators stop nodding wisely about what sense Sir Ken makes and how “it would be lovely to have that” and start taking real action on the proposals he puts forward and the fundamental weaknesses of the current education system that he highlights.

Let’s have education that empowers every person to take full and complete ownership for their contribution in the world, equipped with the tools to do so effectively!