Thursday, November 20, 2008

The end of the world as we know it!

Most of our organisational structures, and the 'mindsets' of those work within them, reflect the industrial age they originated from. Most now no longer work and any amount of 'tinkering' will not help them survive. A new interconnected world awaits those prepared to let go of the past - in reality they will have no choice! Change will be painful for many but it will be inevitable.

I was convinced in the 80s that we were to enter a new age. Marilyn Ferguson supported my thoughts in her book 'the Aquarian Conspiracy'. Her idea was that slowly, by natural evolution, all organisations were in the process of being transformed. I think now she was wrong to believe things would naturally change just because good ideas were in the air. The past has away of clinging to power whatever happens.

The dramatic financial crisis the world is now experiencing is more an earthquake than an evolution. It is the result of a build up of pressure, but my feeling is, when the dust settles,it will result in a transformed world. At least I hope so! Perhaps we needed such an earthquake to remind us we should take nothing for granted.

We now are at, what physicist Frijof Capra calls, a 'turning point'. A time of dramatic and unannounced change that will transform human consciousness. An industrial 'mindset' of growth at all costs by faith in progress will be replaced by an ecological interconnected sustainable world view.

Such turning points have punctuated human development since the dawn of time. First farming and agriculture reshaped human development, then the Renaissance ( with the aid of the printing press) and in the 19thC the Industrial Revolution. Now we have the immense power of new technologies that are eroding away all barriers.

A new wave of change is upon us which will replace the mechanistic assumptions of our present systems.

It is at such times, when old paradigms crumble ,and when new ones are not fixed in place, that we get a great burst of creative thinking. There are those who say we are entering a new Creative Era or a Second Renaissance.

This certainly is my view. We will all have to think differently - we will need 'new minds for the new Millennium'. Education must be at the centre of this revolution. This will require us to change our whole education system. For some this will be frightening ( and some will try to return to past certainties) but for others it will be exciting.

In the meantime ,as in any transition, it will be messy as people search for solutions in time when no one seems to have any answers.

The demands of our times require people to develop new capabilities. Courage, innovation, experimentation and creativity will be at a premium. Not attributes one associates with current education!

Courageous school will have to let go of old ideas which are failing our students and embrace the new. This must go well beyond the current 'tinkering' we all too often see. One thing is certain those who currently 'control' educational development have little idea of what do do. If there is to be a change it will come from creative ideas from the 'edge' but for ideas to survive they conditions to grow and spread. As the poet Yeats wrote, 'Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold'.

At the centre of our survival will be our innate ability to learn to see new patterns and take advantage of new ideas that will 'emerge' out of the chaos.

Our 'new' New Zealand Curriculum, with its vision of 'confident, connected and creative' students is timely. It asks schools to ensure all students appreciate that learning is for life; to be 'seekers, users and creators' of their own meanings. The important attribute of a future learner will be to know what to do when they do not know what to do, to paraphrase Jean Piaget. Or to act in the way that all two year olds already do and which is put 'at risk' as soon as they enter formal schooling!

The rhetoric of 'new' New Zealand Curriculum is far from being realized. What we have in out school is not a student 'achievement gap' but a 'rhetoric reality gap'. It is our industrial aged schools that are out of step with the future.

We urgently need to transform our school system to develop both the 'learning power' ( or 'key competencies') and the talents and gifts of all our students.

We need a new story to replace the mechanistic 'mass' education sorting system we now have. If all students are to leave school equipped to solve the tremendous social, economic,and environment problems that our world currently faces schools have to change. Schools need to be 'personalised' so as to ensure all students succeed to realize their potential and not just the academic students. And we now know enough to achieve this but only if we change our minds as teachers first.

Now is the time to reflect on the purpose of education.

We need, as UK educator Guy Claxton writes, ' to inspire students to become brave and confident explorers, tough enough in spirit, and flexible enough of mind, to pursue their dreams. We must help them discover the things they most passionately want to get better at. To develop the confidence and capacity to pursue their passions'.

If we are to achieve this it will be because of the efforts of creative teachers and schools. It is no use waiting for the politicians because , as Michael Fullan says, 'they always get it wrong'.

The crisis we are in goes well beyond the financial - is marks the end of past thinking and the beginning of a new world.


Anonymous said...

You sure are into the big picture here? And you may well be right.Unless we make some dramatic changes we will always get more of what we have always got!

Bruce Hammonds said...

It is the big 'world view' that effects us all whether we like it or not. Most organisations are still living in the industrial age - the 'living dead' or the 'dance of the dinosaurs'! At least they know the world is no longer flat! Schools are poor learners!