“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.” – Michel Foucault
I have previously written about the factory of schools and my early university studies influenced with the philosophies of Foucault, Bentham and Nietzsche. These social philosophies still influence the way I see the world and the structures and organisations I am part of. A colleague said to me recently how much I had challenged the way she sees her role in school. I thought what I was saying was just common sense, but I guess at times my take on the world is far from how many within the “Panopticon” see it.
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. – Friedrich Nietzsche
There are a few things that concern me about our continued actions as educators:
Firstly we continue to make decisions based on what we have always done in schools, not necessarily what is best for kids. We continue to work within a structure that controls how we measure our students success and even when we have opportunities to step away from such practice, we choose to reinforce old understandings by giving awards/rewards based on academic achievement which reflects a standard external to each individual (that’s for another post!).
Secondly, I hear colleagues saying we should be taking on certain programs, or practice because the school down the road is doing it that way. But I don’t want us to be the school down the road, I want us to be better. I want us to challenge what others do, what is expected of us and take risks that give our students unique opportunities. I don’t want our students to be like other students down the road. I don’t want us to churn out clones of graduates gone before with the same skills and knowledge. I don’t want us to make average. That’s not to say we can’t learn from others, but let’s make it personal not a duplicate.
Finally, I don’t want to hear “I have to teach it because that’s what is in the exam” or “they have to learn it because they need it for year x”. Recently I was in a workshop at a conference and we were discussing how technology should be transformative. I have immense respect for the presenter and agreed with what he was delivering. At one point though he mentioned that he would not replace the pen and paper with a computer because that was purely a substitution. I questioned why would you do that if the child could do better on the device. This started a discussion around handwriting and that kids need to be able to write. There were fair arguments on both sides with access to equipment being the most valid as I could see. One argument was raised by a high school ICT teacher who explained that in his senior computing class he had to provide them with practice at hand writing for long periods because their exam required them to do so! Hang on a minute…….did you say your computing topic requires hand written exams? Does anyone not see the problem with this?
I respect what Wayne is saying, in that he does not want to compromise his students opportunities for university entrance. At the same time, if we continue to comply, how many students will we disadvantage not just in the test but beyond?
I resist doing things the same “just because” that is the way it has been done. I want all my decisions to be based on what is best for kids, not what is expected, or status quo. I want us to say “no” to practice that is constraining our kids. If we don’t say no, who will? Let’s not leave it up to someone else but be “the change we want to see”. Let’s not sit by and play our role in the machine and keep churning out average when we can twist the cogs, shake the machine and help make school better.
Nothing ever changed with a shrug of the shoulders and placing it in the “too hard basket”. Change will only happen if we are prepared to make some tough choices and stand up for what is right.
Are there other actions we need to change to eliminate the school factory?