Robinson: New education paradigms require a transformation of public education

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The Cooperative Catalyst team this morning introduced the uniquely creative mind of Ken Robinson, whose animated presentation on new education paradigms made its way on YouTube in October and has since enjoyed more than 2.4 million hits. 

Calling for a radical rethinking of public education today, Robinson argues that we’re “educating people out of their creativity” in an education system “modeled on the interests of industrialization, and in the image of it.”

“Schools are still pretty much organized along factory lines — ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects,” Robinson says in his presentation. “We still educate children by batches, we put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are.”

To paraphrase, we still falsely assume that children have identical needs, and we assume one school works for all students. A top-down, assembly line model. The critique is similar to one made by sociologist James S. Coleman 50 years ago in The Adolescent Society:

The same process which occurs among prisoners in a jail and among workers in a factory is found among students in a school. The institution is different, but the demands are there, and the students develop a collective response to these demands. This response takes a similar form to that of workers in industry …

Author Zoe Weil, in her post on Cooperative Catalyst, takes Robinson’s arguments one step further and proposes five solutions to develop new education paradigms. As Coleman did decades ago, Weil calls for a reassessment of the way schools are financed and structured so that education can flourish in an environment of choice:

Restructure how schools are paid for and create real school choice for every family; public funding for schooling based on zip code is inconsistent with our core values. Providing equal and adequate funding for every child that can travel with the child to any school will provide opportunities for creative school approaches to flourish and a variety of teaching and learning styles to meet the needs of each child.

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