Not sure about you, but I get a wee bit tired of the “this too shall pass” mentality of some professionals. It’s been around since I entered the profession a few millennia ago and it seems to have not lost much steam. You know the mind set I am talking about, right? “We’ve seen this before”, I already do that”, “This isn’t new”, and “Let’s not fix something that isn’t broken”. Ring a bell?
The people who continually recite these phrases are not entirely wrong by the way. Sometimes education reform does seem to come in cycles. We look hard at exploration in education and then realize we need more structure and do an about face. I’ve seen this trend. But, I must confess, I believe the current trend in education away from content based teaching is here to stay. Unless our access to the internet changes, content is so readily available that to waste our time on the memorization of small pieces of unconnected data seems a little ridiculous. That’s not all our educational history has focused on in the past, is it? I’ve been teaching for a whole lot of years and I know for a fact that while content was important, we also made sure that students felt empowered, that they had potential in their thinking and that we valued their ideas. We made our environments safe and planning suited the needs of the learners in our care. Those are still important attributes to respect in this move towards a more skills based curriculum. We’ve already been doing some great work, don’t discard that.
If there is one thing I have learned in my educational journey it’s to be wary of radicalism. When I hear someone espoucing a view that says we either need to go back to basics or we need to blow up our current system, I get a little wary. In terms of going back to basics – what does that mean? Are the basics of life in the 21st Century the same as the basics of life in the 19th Century? While I agree that some educational foundational pieces are important in our move forward: basic math knowledge , gooder grammar, see what I did there, and a understanding of basic world history, I also believe that we can get rid of some of what was considered basic. In today’s reality, things like internet navigation, keyboarding and determining valid data are likely things we need to consider 21st Century basics, no?
So, as you hear the hullabaloo in the press as we banter about what education should look like, let’s remember – what do we need to do to prepare kids for the society in which they will live – not the society that we live in now. Let’s keep the essentials that we need and look towards the competencies that will help our young find their way in this changing world. I tip my hat to Alberta Education as they navigate these waters.
Keep on learning,