Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Easier vs. Better

In his latest Tumblr post, "Easier vs. Better", Will Richardson reminds us of how we came to the heavy, and often-times bureaucratic system of brick and mortar schools, bells, rows of chairs, etc.  In the early 1900s we were concerned to transform a whole population of rural children into adults who could perform adequately in urban and industrial society.

What I like about this post is what he writes next to remind us that it is, you know, the 21st century:

But now the premise has changed. We’re getting more and more easy access to “quality” content and instruction (if we’re literate enough to know it when we see it), and that means that some of those once fine ideas for “getting an education” just don’t fit any more. Many of those old answers are feeling less and less useful when it comes to actually developing learners out of our kids instead of workers.
Yet we stick to them. And I know the reasons are many and complex (it’s what we know and what we expect schools to be,) but I think at the end of the day, we’re loathe to change because it’s just easier this way. It’s not what best for our kids, but it’s what’s easiest for us. (I know…a lot of you are thinking “there ain’t nothing easy about this,” and you’re right. Caring for kids and doing right by them educationally in whatever system we have is hard, hard work.)
But I’m thinking it’s time to call some of these old school habits out and ask, “are we really doing what’s best for kids, or are we doing what’s easiest for us?”
  • Is it better for our kids to be grouped by chronological age, or is it just easier for us?
  • Is it better for our kids to separate out the disciplines, or is it just easier for us?
  • Is it better for our kids to give every one of them pretty much the same curriculum, or is it just easier for us?
  • Is it better for our kids to turn off all of their technology in school, or is it just easier for us? 
  • Is it better for our kids that we assess everyone the same way, or is it just easier for us?
  • Is it better for our kids for us to decide what they should learn and how they should learn it, or is it just easier for us?
He is right on target here.  After 16 years in the traditional public and alternative public classroom I have had it with the hyper-reactionary resistance to trying new forms of education.  The legit question is not "Is this new, and am I comfortable with it?"  The question is "Will this improve my students' lives and move them forward into this new century."  What do you think?