What’s so wrong with schooling

What’s so wrong with schooling?

The old factory system just cannot keep up with the speed of change.

Many students reluctantly sit in their seats all day but their hearts and minds are yearning to be set free to learn in the community.

These students are ready to step up and take ownership for their learning.

Alan McCluskey from the Swiss Agency for ICT in education sums it up: The 7 Tacit Lessons Which Schools Teach Children:

  1. Knowledge is scarce.
  2. Learning needs a specific place and specific time (lessons in classrooms).
  3. Knowledge is best learnt in disconnected little pieces (lessons).
  4. To learn you need the help of an approved expert i.e. a teacher.
  5. To learn you need to follow a path determined by a learning expert (a course of study).
  6. You need an expert to assess your progress (a teacher).
  7. You can attribute a meaningful numerical value to the value of learning (marks, grades, degrees).

(Inspired by post from Ewan McIntosh)


Why work does not happen at work

Well, this video hit a real cord in me. I have had great difficulty working in an office environment with others because I was continuously disrupted by others talking and the many distractions to my thinking.

As a teacher my planning and thinking time is crucial and easily interrupted by what is happening around me.

Also I use a great deal of technology and Web 2.0 tools and these are generally not available due to web filtering or banned at work.

This is why my workplace of choice is my home office as it is the perfect environment for me to get the greatest amount of work done and it is so enjoyable and stress free.

The Homeschooling Trend

I am a great fan of John Taylor Gatto and John Holt who are both brilliant educators, and both became the adopted parents of the Homeschooling Movement.

Here is a brief passage by John Taylor Gatto which sums up the ‘system of school’ situation quite well:

Here is another curiosity to think about. The homeschooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and a half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents. Last month the education press reported the amazing news that children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers in their ability to think.

I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools anytime soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what is rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution “schools” very well, but it does not “educate” – that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent, it’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.

Here are some famous quotes from John Holt. Very challenging thoughts indeed:

Education… now seems to me perhaps the most authoritarian and dangerous of all the social inventions of mankind. It is the deepest foundation of the modern slave state, in which most people feel themselves to be nothing but producers, consumers, spectators, and ‘fans,’ driven more and more, in all parts of their lives, by greed, envy, and fear. My concern is not to improve ‘education’ but to do away with it, to end the ugly and antihuman business of people-shaping and to allow and help people to shape themselves.

The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.

It’s not that I feel that school is a good idea gone wrong, but a wrong idea from the word go. It’s a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life.

And a final comment from John Taylor Gatto:

Two institutions at present control our children’s lives – television and schooling, in that order. Both of these reduce the real world of wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice to a never-ending, non-stopping abstraction. In centuries past the time of a child and adolescent would be occupied in real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach what you really wanted to learn. A great deal of time was spent in community pursuits, practicing affection, meeting and studying every level of the community, learning how to make a home, and dozens of other tasks necessary to become a whole man or woman.

World Challenge Exhibition

What a great opportunity for real world learning. Congratulations to Shepparton High School for allowing students this opportunity.

See newspaper article (from the Shepparton News) below.

To make such a trip more relevant I would hope that the school would be flexible enough to allow Mitchell to do the following:

  • link his organising, planning and work for the trip to his school subjects thus giving credit for his learning
  • his studying of the culture could be linked to geography and english
  • teaching the kids to kick a footy could be linked to PE and Sport
  • his fundraising could be linked to maths
  • hosting the auction night could be linked to english (public speaking) and personal development
  • teaching english in the orphanages speaks for itself

Let’s hope the school hierarchy can adjust the curriculum for all these students so as to make their learning more real and relevant.

Such learning will help the students to be more engaged and then want to go to school even more.

Student art work – real world learning

One of my students from last year, Shannon, had the opportunity to do a logo for Koorie Cycling. Shannon’s passion was Aboriginal art so it was a perfect fit for him to match his passion with some real work in the community.

Normally Shannon would do his art by hand; with pen or brush, but in this instance he needed to do it digitally. Since he was being mentored by an art teacher at GOTAFE he sought out a mate he knew who was doing a graphic design course (at GOTAFE) and learning digital design. Shannon learnt enough of the skills to then design the logo digitally.

This experience was so successful that Shannon is now enrolled in a Certificate of Graphic Design at GOTAFE (Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE) and has just completed his first year.

This is what the Big Picture model is all about. Getting the opportunity to work with adults in the community doing real work and relevant learning. This then motivates the students, encourages them to aspire for further learning and then match them to certificate courses at TAFE or graduate courses at university or work in the community.

Here is Shannon’s Koorie Cycling logo that featured in our local Shepparton News.

Schools are like factories, the asylum and prison

Montessori School Phoenix Arizona. www.AnnieAndre.com 


Quote from:


Brian J. Caldwell

David Hargreaves, formerly Professor of Education at Cambridge declared that ‘schools are still modelled on a curious mix of the factory, the asylum and the prison’..

…any wonder some kids wanna get out!

Curious why so many decide to stay…

There is much on the web about schools being like prison:

Freedom to Learn by Peter Gray

“But I think it is time that we say it out loud. School is prison.

If you think school is not prison, please explain the difference.

The only difference I can think of is that to get into prison you have to commit a crime, but they put you in school just because of your age. In other respects school and prison are the same. In both places you are stripped of your freedom and dignity. You are told exactly what you must do, and you are punished for failing to comply. Actually, in school you must spend more time doing exactly what you are told to do than is true in adult prisons, so in that sense school is worse than prison.”

I read somewhere that prisoners have more freedom than children in school.

Ten Reasons Why America’s Public Schools Are Like America’s Prisons

Learning from the past

I have been reading the History of Victorian Education and I have found it fascinating reading as I can now understand how an educational revolution will require great courage and perseverance to bring about necessary change.

In 1905, there was only one Departmental secondary school. In 1910, there were 10 schools, the pupils numbered 1,338, and the teachers 52.
In 1912, eight new schools were opened. To-day (1922), the 31 schools contain 6,980 pupils taught by a staff of 232 teachers. Besides these, there are the higher elementary schools, the junior technical schools, and central schools of different kinds, all providing some form of secondary education.
It is typical of the obstacles that have beset the path of the reformer in Victorian education that practically no new type of school has been tried unless it could be housed at little initial cost in some old and abandoned school-building, or could be attached to an existing school.
Of the secondary schools that were early established, Melbourne, Ballarat, and Bendigo were so housed; and, when, in 1910, the University High School was opened, a disused State-school building was furbished up for its use. It was not until the present year (1922) that financial provision was made for improved accommodation for the Melbourne High School and the University High School.

Throughout the history of education I have also read how difficult it is for reform to take hold.

Nor must the example and guidance of the mother- country be ignored. In these new lands and young dominions, we are apt to delude ourselves with the belief that, in all essential matters of national life, we are ahead of the old land. In whatever other concern this may be true, it is not always true in that of educational development. The young, rich, democratic State of Victoria has, in its organization of public education, often lagged behind the mother- country, and its educational leaders have had to fight a conservatism as strongly entrenched as that of England.

The air was full of hope, and bright with possibilities.” So felt many teachers and inspectors in the dawn of 1902. But they and the Director were to find, after much uphill struggle, that reforms in such a field as education are not easily won. Obvious practical difficulties were the lack of professional training of so many teachers, the natural conservatism of many others who had succeeded under a narrower system, and the apathy and indifference of a public which had come to look upon the school as the concern of the State and not of themselves. The daily papers were full of criticisms of the new order and of the absurdity of the changes which were being introduced. The first task, therefore, was to make sure that the teachers appreciated the new ideas.

Read here about the introduction of a technical education around the years 1893-1910.

There can be little room for doubt that mistakes were made in the establishment of the complicated educational machinery of technical education in this State.
In the first glow of enthusiasm, it was too frequently believed that the establishment of a school ensured a steady stream of learners.
When disillusionment came, but before the authorities had learned how to adapt the school to what was needed, the “boom” burst; and, in the impoverishment that followed, both they and the workers grew disheartened, or merely plodded along without much vision or hope.”