To start, it is suggested that you watch the following video, as this post will be largely a response to it.
Now, one of the major ideas presented in this talk is that we, in the modern world, are using old methods and expecting them to suit our times. Education is a function of both social and economic factors, but our current education system was conceived during the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. And what’s surprising is how extraordinarily silly that sounds. Someone wouldn’t expect to receive positive reactions to wearing a powdered wig on a daily basis, and yet we expect centuries-old ideals to suit our current society.
Perhaps we should start with the economic portion. Robinson suggests that back in the day, going to school and then going on to a good college was generally a guarantee of securing a good job. Now, in the face of an uncertain economy, it’s harder to predict the job market and thus harder to tailor education to it. This poses a major problem when it comes to reform – if we don’t know what students need to be prepared, how are we meant to prepare them? And for the time being, it doesn’t seem as though there can be one right answer, only many theories.
Moving on, not only is our education system rather outdated, but it’s also increasingly focused on standardization. We try to push millions of squares through circular holes and then we’re surprised when a large portion of them don’t fit. Rather than recognize the fault in the system, instead more often than not the squares that don’t manage to smooth down their corners are essentially told that they are failures, that they have no place in society. When the reality is, that every child learns differently, no test will adequately assess all students, and all students have the capacity to think and to learn. The system benefits the few, just like the economic system it was modeled on.
The question is then, how do we reform the system? And, if it is as broken as Robinson suggests, why not overthrow the entire system? Organize classrooms based on learning level and learning style rather than on age, develop better ways of assessing students, and recognize that there is not only one right answer. The economy has changed, society has changed – shouldn’t education be changing with them?