What if there was nothing called school until today? What if the concept of formal education never existed until right now? Would we create a system that has evolved to its current state in the year 2023? I think it’s easy to answer the last question and more difficult to answer the first two. But my point is that the system of formal education that exists in 2023 is the product of an evolution of ideas over the past 200 or so years that were designed to serve various purposes at various times. And I’m sure that no time needs to be devoted here to rehash these advancements or lack thereof and explain how we got to where we are at today. The very basic and simple point is that the system that we currently have is highly ineffective given the needs of current learners.
I would actually argue that the system that’s been in place for most of the past 100 years was highly ineffective at meeting the needs of learners during most of that time. But I’ll return to the question and my original point. What if we could design a system of education right now based on the ways that we know people learn, their needs, and the current and future technology that’s available to us? I hope the created system would look almost nothing like we have. The truth is that this system will not change much because changing this system is mostly impossible. That’s hard to admit for someone who is most interested in educational change but a quick review of reform efforts over the past 100 years reveals little to no change in any discernable way.
So if we can’t change the current system what are we to do? I believe the answer to solving the problems created by the inadequacies of the current system requires that a new system be created. I don’t think we need to make small incremental changes over time to fix the existing small problems. The problems are huge and they’re not going away. Our system is focused on achieving the wrong goals and uses the worst possible methods to attempt to achieve those misguided goals. The answer is to start fresh. We must create a new system that is nothing like what we have. We shouldn’t even call this new system school because if we do people will bend it back to being too much like what school is and school is BROKEN. I’ll devote some future posts to imagining what this new formal education system could be and how I believe it could be achieved. A brighter future for education is possible if we’re able to let go and create anew. Not everyone will be able to do this and many will cling to the system of the past. That’s ok and they can have it. I will continue to work toward the future and see what is possible for the young people of today who deserve so much more from their educational system in order to be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.