Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Importance of Creating New Stories About Education, and of How We Do So

(This is actually a re-write of an earlier post, but this is a bit more descriptive.  I could have just posted over the old one, but wanted to keep the progress of thought available.)

I get to spend a lot of my time talking about education at my Elluminate-based FutureofEducation.com interview series--or, at least, I get to ask very interesting people questions about teaching and learning in the Internet Age.  Lately I've been interested in how our "stories" about education are changing, most noticeably as I interviewed John Taylor Gatto this past May.  Twenty years ago, when he wrote his famous diatribe, Dumbing Us Down, and cataloged the ills of compulsory factory-model schooling, his "story" was well out of the mainstream.  But something has changed in those twenty years, since my interview with Mr. Gatto was not a whole lot different, in tenor, from my recent interviews with Sir Ken Robinson or Seth Godin--who are currently much more in the mainstream.

This has helped me to understand that the old stories and narratives of education that I grew up with (factory-model, top-down, compliance-driven) are breaking or are already broken.  It is not that those stories ever really worked for all people, it's just that they worked for enough people to have been generally accepted--even by those whom they were failing.  However, the advent of Web 2.0--or the fulfillment of the Internet's promise of broad participation--is releasing an intellectual energy from our latent desires as human beings to have a voice, to create, and to participate.  Because of this we are in the midst of large power shifts away from institutional messaging and toward mass authentic communication.  The building of new stories brings meaning to our lives, and we're trying to build new stories about, and trying to give new meaning to, education.

These new, and often conflicting, stories are being told each week at FutureofEducation.com.   We're in a renewal phase, but it's becoming clear that stories about education that don't encompass many diverse and valuable perspectives are no longer going to be acceptable.  In an age newly democratize "voice," we will not be satisfied, nor does it make any sense, to try to replace our old story with a single large story again.

Intriguingly, political and institutional activities are continuing to promote one-size-fits-all stories about (and programs for) education that are highly-structured and defined from above.  These will continue to drive policy and practice unless and until grass-roots efforts to declare new models, beliefs, and vision encourage a new dialog.

Ergo, the creation of EducationDeclarations.org, a website for submitting and voting on education "declarations" that my bring us a step or two closer toward creating a broader, healthy perspective on educational culture that reflects individual ideals.  I hope you'll join us there to view and vote on individual education declarations.  Then declare your own strong beliefs about education, teaching, and learning.

The more ideas, the better the dialog!
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