Education Part 2: What should we teach?


“I think there should be a little bit of uneasiness in everything, because I do think we're all really in a sense living on the edge. So much of life is inexplicable. . . . The things that happen to you are usually the things that you haven't thought of or that come absolutely out of nowhere. And all you can do is cope with them when they turn up.”

Edward Gorey, BOOK: Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey


This Education series got off to a fiery start. I discussed in detail who and what I thought the problem was and who should be responsible. My main idea was, however to create an uneasiness in us so that we can start moving into action in this difficult time.


The old Fordism model of Education.


For the lovers of history out there, allow me to take you on a journey to education in the past. Henry Ford revolutionized the production of cars, and pretty much the production of everything after that, in such a manner that the entire educational system was built on his idea. The premise of the theory was that skills required for the workforce of that time were simply taught and measured by the educational system. Based on one's ability to achieve the mentioned skills, you would be rewarded and subsequently 'promoted' into a career which you would then practice until retirement. Interesting.


Fast forward to today, where the job market looks somewhat different and slightly more flexible. There are a lot more adjectives to describe the workplace, but the word flexible will allow me to draw a comparison between it, and the educational sphere later on. John Carter, an academic writer and educator, wrote a piece in the British Journal of Sociology of Education in 1997 called: Post-Fordism and the Theorisation of Educational Change: What's in a Name?


Why did I take the time of placing the year Carter's piece was written in italics, you ask? Well, His article was on post-Fordism and how we should approach it...in 1997. Although countless people and institutions made massive headway in the right direction, we still find ourselves (some 20+ years since) not completely sure how to adapt to the 'new' system. This predicament we find ourselves in then, points out to the inflexibility of our world-wide educational system. Various arguments Carter raised in the article have to some extent still not been resolved yet. This is worrying because of the following:


The new, not-Fordism model.


Gorey spoke about uneasiness in such a manner that I can't help but think his statement was somewhat sadistic. To simply 'cope' with something unexpected is far from a comforting sentiment to leave us with and up until now, it seems, we haven't done so well with 'coping'. What makes matters worse, is that we can hardly find our feet in class before a new curriculum is placed on our tables with the magic word 'revised' written on it every single time. Whatever 'model' we find ourselves in at that time, should then be pointing to a new and exciting venture for teachers and learners everywhere...but it doesn't. What post-Fordism promised, it most certainly hasn't delivered...but thanks to who?


It's interesting to find that it's not only Education struggling with whatever post-Fordism needs to look like and that is the frightening part of this whole scenario. If no one actually knows what we are doing, we are actually just following a crowd that's following another crowd who heard about someone leading another crowd (my head is spinning after that sentence too, don't worry). Our inability to deal with globalization, decentralization and the new order of control, has become evident in the current crisis we are facing. When it's unclear whether we should wear masks or not wear them or if they work or not...how are we supposed to decide what to teach? The trickled-down confusion on what to call our new industrial revolution and what plan to follow next has left us (Education) in the dark.


The very clever diagram of what I just mentioned.

In the above graphic, I try to illustrate the increasing gap between what we are teaching and what is required of the workforce these days. The real question then becomes how we start dissecting the problem and where we start fixing it. Up until now we have done the 'leaking boat, water bucket' method, and I will let you be the judge on how good that's going by attaching reports of the last few year's passing rates: https://mybroadband.co.za/news/government/334832-school-pass-marks-in-south-africa-vs-the-world.html.


Furthermore, throwing water out of a boat with a bucket is becoming increasingly difficult if the captain of the boat has lost direction long ago. Is he going to 'Tablet and Internet land' or 'Old school, under the tree mother-tongue Town'? We are spending more time arguing about whether a three year old should be doing calculus or speaking five languages than we are actually teaching her useful and applicable skills she will need when entering the minefield we call the workforce when she grows up. You can only say 'Looking for work' in so many languages.


Enough Moaning, let's get teaching.


Since I started this series I have targeted various groups of people, institutions and realities facing us. For the most part, although I hope it has been informative, the general tone might have communicated a hint of negativity towards education as a whole; but let me assure you...it 100% is. The idea behind my "life's work", however is to combat inefficiencies in education and leave the world a more 'bookwormed' place. All I needed for you to join me in this journey, was to create the same unrest and discontent about our current situation than I have. If you are still reading this, then...let's take on the next phase of the series with the cautious optimism and vigor only a blog post can offer.


We have a genuine buffet of non-curricular activities and/or values we can teach children and young adults these days. The problem the 'institution' has with most of them however is that, up until now, these values were impossible to assess. I beg to differ. Teaching creativity, not arts and crafts, but genuine creativity only requires more effort on the educator's side. It's clear then, that the problem was not with the topic, but with the effort it would require to implement and assess it. How absurd does that sound? Allow me to stick with Fordism for creating a comparison of absurdity:


Henry Ford (when thinking of inventing the model T): I have an idea that would change the world.

Random Guy: "Sure, please tell me?"

Henry Ford: "Ah, never mind, it would be way too difficult to execute. Let's just stick to the way we've been doing things."


Luckily for us, the above conversation never happened. We've moved on and came a long way since then...so why not do it in education as well?


Henry Ford's actual quote that mattered.


"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are absolutely right." We can continue in the same way we have always done and keep widening the gap, or we can start moving in a new direction...one where we pick our own model of teaching, think outside the box and become 21st century educators. Start teaching (and assessing) leadership, confidence and teamwork...among others. Start somewhere, anywhere...but just start. You can do it, you magnificent person, you!


Till next time.


TF

















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