On changing paradigms, with help from Sir Ken Robinson

My post tonight is about changing the paradigm of education & learning in our culture.   Sometimes before I begin writing about a particular topic I do a little on line research, to see what others are saying or if there is any recent ‘buzz’.

When I searched ‘on changing paradigms’ the first thing that popped up was this animated video of a speech by Sir Ken Robinson.    Normally I insert videos at the end of a post, but not this one.   This one explains how the current paradigm of education came about and why it is no longer working… and it is brilliant.

Amazing, right?

Sir Ken is an amazing guy.   One of my very early blog posts (when I didn’t use WordPress, so it’s not catalogued here) dealt with his TedTalk on how schools kill creativity.   After I saw that I went out and read his book  The Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.    If you haven’t read it yet, you should move it to the top of your list.   It’s that good.

As for paradigms of learning and education, as you saw in the video, our model is outdated.  It no longer functions to the benefit of children (by and large).   As Sir Ken mentioned, we are actually anesthetizing kids so that they can get through school.  We are killing their ability to think divergently and their creativity.

We need a new paradigm.

But how to go about it?   That’s the billion dollar question, isn’t it?

It’s not ever going to happen from the top down.  All the talk by politicians about school reform?   Just chuck all that in the trash.  Never going to happen.   There is far too much money being made from the system as it is for it to change in any significant way.    The companies that put out standardized tests make billions every year.   They have a very high stake in making sure there is always more testing, not less.   And that’s just one aspect of our current educational system.

Forget waiting around for the right President or a better Congress or reform to the Department of Education, or Ron Paul.

In the early 1970’s John Holt realized that school reform would never happen  but still wanted to advocate for change, which is why he became a supporter of unschooling at a time when homeschooling in any form was still illegal in many states.

30+ years later,  homeschooling is legal & growing which means that we are heading in the right direction, albeit at a snail’s pace.   Family by family is the only way this paradigm shift we’re talking about ever has a chance of happening.   Yes, we’ve made some progress.  We need to make more.   The message needs to get out that learning is not something that kids are doing much of in school these days.  At least, not in any way that will benefit them in their lives.

But that’s only half the message.  The half that defines the problem.  The other half of the message should tell people about the solution, which is unschooling, or life learning.

Life learning is not a method of education, it is, as the name implies,  a way of approaching life.   A way in which learning becomes as much a part of that life as is breathing or eating.   The way humans learned for thousands of years, for the most part, until the industrial revolution.   It is all about self-education.    It does not respond well to standardized testing, because there is nothing standard about it.   It is different for every family, every child.  It requires us to take responsibility for ourselves and not simply do as we’re told.

And by the way, it’s only difficult for those of us brought up in the old industrial paradigm, which is to say, everyone but the 50,000 or so unschoolers out there; but for those kids, and I’ll use mine as an example because they’re close by, it’s easy.    Sometimes when I tell Maya & Ben about some great article I’ve read that says kids are quite capable of determining on their own what they most need to learn, they look at me like, “Yeah, and?”   It’s like telling them that someone wrote an article about how kids can breathe on their own, without help from anyone.  It’s a given.

So our hardest job, us ‘school-brained’ people, is to change our minds and get out of our kids’ way;  to trust them and support them.  Ah, how easily such things are written but how very difficult to put into practice.

But we can do it, one family at a time, until we reach that crucial “tipping point”  and the paradigm changes at last.

Leave a Comment