School: Something’s Gotta Give

Something’s gotta give. The Industrial-Age model of schooling, which benefited 20th-century generations by serving as a legitimate ticket to the middle class, has clearly run its course. In its place, we need a model for a new age — the Democratic Age. And we need strategies for ensuring that young people learn how to be successful in the 21st-century world of work, life, and our democratic society.

Sam Chaltain, in an old Huff Post piece.

You can watch and listen to Sam speak at TED.

He makes a lot of sense, although like most American educators, his focus is primarily on the US public schools’ system. I do like his emphasis on an education for freedom. My only gripe is that he still sees the institution of the school (and the college and the university) at the heart of an education for ‘the democratic age’. It means that, when we could really be talking about education, we often just find ourselves talking about schooling; and we know they are not the same thing.

.…what it means to be free would mean having the space to discover one’s full worth — and developing the capacity to unleash one’s full potential. Our schools and colleges would be places where we proactively created healthy, high-functioning learning environments. And our graduates would know, embody, and be able to apply the essential skills of a free people.

The answers we seek for creating such a system of schools are all around us. We just need to start asking the right questions.

Given the sheer persistence of the concept of the school, he might well be right to keep that focus — however, I would really like to see the debate widened to question not only what the school actually ought to be in an age in which we agree that the ‘industrial-age school’ is no longer relevant, but also whether we even need the school at all. Can we envision an education system that makes the school much less relevant than it is just now and possibly even completely irrelevant in time?

When I ask these questions, I always feel that the answer, ultimately, is age-related. Perhaps the very youngest learners will always need school, or something like it. But, beyond those youngest learners, so dependent upon guidance, wisdom and knowledge, do learners really need school as we know it?