Saturday, October 28, 2006

How our school system developed!

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Start with a cage with five monkeys whose natural food is bananas.

Inside the cage hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long a monkey will go to the stairs and climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs spray all the monkeys with cold water.

After a while another monkey will make another attempt with the same result – all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water. This continues until pretty soon whenever a monkey tries to climb the stairs all the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now put away the cold water and remove one of the monkeys in the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey will see the banana and will attempt to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror all the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt, and attack, he knows if he climbs the stairs he will be assaulted.

Now remove another of the five original monkeys and replace it with another new one. The first newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm. Continue replacing the monkeys until none of the original monkeys remain. Every time a new monkey takes to the stairs to get the banana all the other monkeys attack him. The monkeys have no idea why they are not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

None of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try to get the banana.

Why not? Because it is, as far as they know, the way it has always been done around here!

And that is how school systems ( or cultures) develop.


It seems we have all allowed ourselves to be made monkeys out of.

What unexamined assumptions, behaviors and practices about out Industrial Aged system do we need to consider in our schools?

What current ‘mindsets’ currently limit or perception of what schools could be?

How can we change limiting assumptions, practices, behaviors and mindsets of teachers, students and the wider community?

What is the ‘cost’ if we can’t get rid limiting ideas?

Are you happy doing things that make no real sense to you except it is the way it has always been done?


Anonymous said...

Great questions to reflect on Bruce.
These are some that Tom and myself are asking each other and trying to have a 'conversation' to find what our answers are.
Thanks once again for not just posing hte questions but for trying to show solutions too.

Anonymous said...

It takes vivid, inquisitive teachers to break the mould and, sadly, it is difficult to get a critical mass of such people even in one school who are capable of striking out in new directions. Perhaps, like GT programmes and e-classes that are not always equitable, we need to try out some more 'free-ranging' classes in our schools that parents opt into. No sense starting with a curriculum - begin by setting free some amazing teachers.

Anonymous said...

Good to hear from you Jody.

Undersatnding the big cultural 'mindset' thing - the hidden assumptions, hold the key to change. An excellent read is, 'Catching the Knowledge Wave by Jane Gilbert NZCER Publication.

Regards to Tom

Bruce said...

Welcome Paul.

You are right.If schools could set up some structures to 'break the mould' there are teachers who would love to be part of such an adventure.

What are GT programmes?

Have you 'googled' the 'Big Picture Company'?

Anonymous said...

This is all about the invisible culture we all live in and take for granted.

I wonder if anyone queries why students are segregated in age classes, receive their 'knowlege' in separate packages from different specialists in 40 minute periods signaled by bells?

Schools , no matter what is said is about about developing every students potential, is really all about control , obedience, conformity and sorting out the 'wheat from the chaff'. All designed to fit students into a past Industrial Age. No wonder so many students no longer fit. And worse still few schools question such antiquated anti -learning arrangements - fish, they say, are the last to discover water!

Anonymous said...

To many conservative, or 'shellshocked', secondary school teachers 'throwing cold water' on any innovation that might be an answer to engage 'all' their students; they really prefer loking after their 'academic' ones! Like looking after like! They are, at bes,t wonderful 'living museums' of a past era - great only for school jubilees.

It is these teachers who are the unthinking monkeys