Thursday, October 27, 2005
Industrial age systems past their 'use by date'.
Charlie Chaplin was aware of the problem im the early years of the last century!
It was Thomas Kuhn who was the first to introduce us to the idea of paradigms – the idea that we all live in world that we have all 'bought into' unconsciously. A potential for a shift happens when we are exposed to new ideas but, all too often our mindsets are so fixed, we cannot understand new ideas let alone make the change. Kuhn was talking about the difference between traditional science theories and new revolutionary ideas.
An example of such an 'earth-shattering'change was when Copernicus first talked about the idea that the earth goes around the sun, rather than then current view that believed in the opposite. In Copernicus’s day it was heresy to even think of such a thing as Galileo was later to find out. Columbus, in his turn, knew that world was round but his crew still believed the earth was flat.
Changing paradigms is not easy.
As someone said, ‘fish are the last to discover water.’ Even respected scientists have been shown to ignore data that does not fit in with their theories. Someone once said that paradigm only lose their power when those who hold past views die.
Paradigms are nothing new. Students are continually changing their paradigms (changing their minds) but only when it makes sense for them to change;this is called learning.
The cuurent Industrial Age ‘mindset’ has been the ‘world view’ that has dominated thought the past century or so. When it was first introduced it virtually destroyed the world it was to replace, causing considerable dislocation in peoples lives. All our organizations are currenty modeled on the efficiency inroduced by the industrial paradigm, including schools. The industrial mass production and assembly lines concepts 'morphed' into the dream of mass education for all. School became all about clocks, timetables, grading, periods, uniforms (uniformity) and bells. It was as if schools were some sort of machine to process people.
It was so successful that most people now find it impossible to envision secondary schools in any other shape than the endless 'egg crate' buildings in which students are passed from teacher to teacher, on the sound of the bell; each teacher ‘delivering’ their specialty to the students. Today we have all most come to accept that 20% of students as waste products are OK. Ironically no modern business could survive with such a failure rate in their products!
The world no longer needs compliant industrial workers – the new value is human capital – the creativity and imagination of all our students.
New paradigms for education do exist. But so far conservative schools, and even more conservative patents, stick to their 'flat earth assumptions' and, where there are calls for change, it is more often to revert back to earlier more basic models. Standardization still rules with its ‘one size fits all’ approach, like some procrustean bed – those who don’t measure up are rejected.
We need a new schools. The current system is under stress. The failure rate is beginning to worry us all. We need to think about how to create our schools as 'learning organizations', flexible enough to personalize learning so as to develop the talents and passions of all our students.
We know how to do this. Educators of young student are already well on the way and there are creative teachers, working away at all levels in our current schools, that we could listen to.
The real problem is to accept this fragmented machine like industrial paradigm, or 'mindset', is now part of the problem in every aspect of our lives. Once we appreciate that our outdated fragmented ‘mindsets’ are the real problem we can start to imagine a personalized world to replace the current model.
To change our schools, not only do we have to accept that the ‘machine aged’ schools are out of date, we also need a government courageous enough to discover courageous leaders, and to create the conditions to encourage new alternatives.
We need leaders to scan far beyond the current horizons.
This will require new eyes to envision new mindsets for a new millennium..
Changing schools into ‘learning organizations’, which have the power to continually evolve, and that work in concert with all other organizations, are the answer.
We should start now.