Tag Archives: factory model

Attacking Teachers, Not the System: When Schools are the Problem, Not the Solution

Attacking Teachers, Not the System: When Schools are the Problem, Not the Solution

Kids attacking teachers is a symptom of a system that does not serve those kids. We need to move beyond bandage solutions and ask what’s wrong. It’s not a shortage of money.

When a teacher complains about being” routinely attacked and abused” by her students, “going home with bruises, scratch marks and bite marks,” and being “slapped and punched in the face and hit multiple times” by her four- and five-year-old students, there is a problem that’s way bigger than lack of classroom resources.

The situation referenced above involves a years’ long fight between a teachers’ union and a government, culminating now in a forced contract. The contract will leave a bad taste all round. And it will not solve the problems that plague public education.

In all the media coverage of this situation, I’m not seeing any discussion about why four- and five-year-olds are attacking teachers. Nor am I seeing discussion about why “teachers are seeing more and more students with a variety of learning challenges who require individual program plans because of autism and other physical or mental challenges.”

You can throw all the money in the world at providing more teachers, more psychologists, and tweaking the system in other ways. But those are just bandages. Parents, teachers, and governments must start examining the root causes of the problem with schools. Why do little kids attack their teachers? Do they not want to be in school? If so, why not? What are the social and human rights issues lurking behind that? Are children respected and trusted in our schools? Why are there increasing numbers of children with “learning challenges” like autism and other “mental challenges”? Why are more children being diagnosed? Are those real diagnoses or symptoms of underlying environmental, health, or economic issues? Are our society’s (and economy’s) priorities for parents and families skewed? Are they evidence that schools as currently configured are bad places for kids to learn? Does anyone care about whether or not children want to be confined to classrooms for many hours each day, for many years of their lives? Has anyone cared to ask the children?

Much of my writing over the past thirty years has addressed those issues. Other people are also asking those questions, of course. But real change will take more than just a few renegades talking among ourselves. If there is public money to be spent (and there is, if our children are considered to be a priority), let’s use it to ask the deep questions, and to challenge the current model of education. Let’s be honest with our questions and our answers. Let’s free all those well-meaning people who want to be teachers so they can actually help kids rather than be attacked by them.

It is no longer subversive to ask about the elephant in the room. Are schools the problem rather than the solution?




On Walking, Laughing, and Trusting Children to Learn

On Laughing, Walking and Trusting Children to LearnI think there are two important things to keep hold of amidst all the talk about how much influence parents should or shouldn’t have in their unschooled children’s lives. One is to retain our sense of humor about life (and parenting), and the other is to remember back to the days when we were trusting children to learn some of the very basics, such as walking, and what our role was in that learning.

Blogger Amy Milstein posted this smart piece today that covers both of those bases. And that reminded me of this humorous piece that we published in Life Learning Magazine back in 2011 about trusting children to learn; it is a sort of forerunner to Amy’s post.

Enjoy…and keep trusting your children to learn, as well as your parenting instincts. Oh, and don’t forget to laugh!

Moving Beyond the Factory Model of Education

stop schoolAn article from LinkedIn about schools and the future of education was shared with me yesterday. It was written by Heather Hiles, founder and CEO of Pathbrite Inc., a start-up that markets an educational portfolio platform.

She has decided that our education system is no longer relevant, that our current economy doesn’t need the factory model of education designed for the Industrial Era. Instead, she writes, a whole new set of skills is required now and in the future – things like problem solving, creative and independent thinking, and adaptability. That’s not exactly news to me and most of my readers! Here’s an article I wrote about that in Life Learning Magazine three years ago.

Hiles has been recently inspired by the work of Sugata Mitra. He’s the person who, in 1999, dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected computer, and left it there, with a hidden camera filming what happened next. Kids from the slum played around with the computer and, in the process (and without adult intervention), learned how to use it and how to go online, and then taught others what they’d learned.

In her article, Hiles springboards from describing that to presenting a vision of self-direction and applied learning that is, she writes, the way of the future. Here vision involves replacing rote learning and testing with “inquiry, search, discovery, application, presentation, encouragement and validation.” Of course, life learners / unschoolers (and all babies) already do that. But it’s great to see the light bulb turn on for others.

Then, she gets confused. In spite of her excitement about the kids in Mitra’s projects who learn naturally without being taught, Hiles’ vision also involves the nonsensical notion of students “learning how to learn.” As I’ve written countless times – and as Mitra’s work illustrates so well – children are hard-wired to learn; they only need to re-learn that ability if it has been stolen from them by school or other circumstances.

Hiles displays no other evidence of adultism. So maybe she arrived at that conclusion because she is, after all, marketing an educational product to teachers. But I think she has displayed a common logic lapse resulting from inadvertently being as stuck in the status quo as the system she criticizes. She is not alone. So often, I encounter people who understand the problem with how we’re currently educating children and young people, but aren’t able to take their concerns to their fullest conclusion of abolishing compulsory classroom teaching, curriculum, and testing. And they have an ideological block that doesn’t allow them to learn about homeschooling / unschooling in order to take it (and its lessons for the future of education) seriously. Remarkably, the school model has become so entrenched in our cultural worldview in just a few hundred years that most people – even those who understand that it’s past its best-before date – have difficulty envisioning anything much different.

As I’ve written elsewhere, home-based education is not an experiment. It’s how people learned to function in the world for millennia. And there is no reason that people today can’t do the same thing. School is the experiment, not the lack of it. That experiment is in trouble and we urgently need to use our understanding of how people learn to invent something more relevant to our kids’ needs, as well as those of our society and its economy. It might not be unschooling for every learner, but if there is a will to think outside the compulsory factory model box (which writer David H. Albert calls the “day jail”), the alternative model is there.

And, by the way, the teachers who are insulted or otherwise bothered by such statements (like those commenting on the Hiles article) need to realize they can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Many of their colleagues have already joined us in making the changes that are clearly overdue.