Alistair Fitchett (@unpopular) on the challenges of achieving radical, far reaching change in schools

Also an interesting perspective on the government’s Free Schools initiative and the risk that ‘take up’ will come not from those committed to transforming teaching and learning (can we still call them ‘progressives’? probably not) but from private and niche interest groups.

It is the thesis of this book that change—constant, accelerating, ubiquitous—is the most striking characteristic of the world we live in and that our educational system has not yet recognized this fact. We maintain, further, that the abilities and attitudes required to deal adequately with change are those of the highest priority and that it is not beyond our ingenuity to design school environments which can help young people to master concepts necessary to survival in a rapidly changing world. The institution we call “school” is what it is because we made it that way. If it is irrelevant…if it shields children from reality…if it educates for obsolescence…if it does not develop intelligence…if it is based on fear…if it avoids the promotion of significant learnings…if it induces alienation…if it punishes creativity and independence…if, in short, it is not doing what needs to be done, it can be changed; it must be changed.

Neil Postman
Teaching as a Subversive Activity

change is certainly possible at individual level and maybe even on an institution level, but scaling beyond that? I am sceptical. And part of the reason I am so sceptical is that I’m afraid I’m not convinced that many people outside of the small group of interested educationalists really believe there should be radical change in the first place. 

Others comment that perhaps these interested educationalists should take their children out of the system and force the hand of schools. That’s a very interesting thought, and in the UK at least it is something that could lead to the provision of some of Gove’s ‘Free Schools’. Except the very people in the UK who, I think, are passionate about transformational learning and teaching are also those who are passionate about the provision of state education and who see Gove’s plans as little more than a thinly disguised scheme to privatise the entire education system. I suspect the kinds of people who are more likely to form free schools are coming from the opposite end of the spectrum: people who feel that state schools have already become too far divorced from the ‘traditional’ notions of schooling with which they are personally familiar and are afraid of losing. I might prove to be wrong on that, but at the moment that’s how it feels.

So all a bit pessimistic and depressing. And yet, and yet… these small pockets of informed and passionate interest in transformational learning will hopefully continue to grow. Individuals will hopefully continue to take a risk. Leaders in schools will hopefully feel the confidence to encourage that risk-taking as a positive part of the professional development  of their staff and of the growth of their school/learning community. I suspect however that the rate of change will be painfully slow and that it will seem especially so to the very excitable and passionate band who are currently exploring the implications of the myriad possibilities they identify on an almost daily basis. Still, I bet even Neil Postman never thought it would be easy…


2 Responses to “Alistair Fitchett (@unpopular) on the challenges of achieving radical, far reaching change in schools”
  1. RT @agilelearn Alistair Fitchett (@unpopular) on the challenges of achieving radical, far reaching change in sc…

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