Stop! Do Not Read If You Like Ruts!

It is interesting to me how that stability in life is often associated with the repetition of doing things over and over with little change over time. We follow those who have been before us without asking questions of “have things changed?” This seems to be happening in our educational system.

Photo by: Phil Konstar on Wikimedia
Photo: Oregon Trail by Phil Konstar on Wikimedia

A rut is defined as “a groove or furrow in a soft road, caused by wheels.” Within the Oregon Trail is a .5 mile preserved section of trail that has been formed by multiple wagon wheels, people, and animals following each other over and over. This rut into the sandstone ridge pictured above did not happen in a day or a week. It occurred over 25+ years of consistent usage.

A rut is also referred to when we get into a predictable way of life. And not all ruts are bad – they often provide comfort and a sense of “sameness” when many other things around us are changing. But one area that seems to have fallen into a rut is education and it is a rut that must be examined within this twenty-first century.

In a prior post I gave three three ideas to boost your summer as a teacher and one of those ideas was the proliferation of reading over the summer. Reading the viewpoints of others will challenge your assumptions and in many cases create worthy change. One of my favorite reads that I would recommend is Seth Godin’s  Stop Stealing Dreams. It is free and it is worthy of your summer reading list.

 In my estimation, education has fallen into a terrible rut and it is primarily affecting our students, their thinking, and their dispositions in life. Over 150 years ago, education went through a dramatic shift in purpose during the Industrial Revolution. Families moved from an agrarian culture to one of city life and factories. And young children became the low-wage workers of the day while taking jobs away from hard-working adults.

With compulsory education, education for that day and time necessitated that workers be obedient and compliant, to be segregated by age, to sit in rows and learn how to go back into factory life where one just did as he or she was told. Everything from that time has changed except much of what we do in our schools. Kids are still divided by age and grade, students still sit in rows and columns, and there is high expectation just to be obedient and compliant. Students learn in solo and are tested in isolation. Lectures are primarily one way.

The problem is that we do not live in the Industrial Revolution anymore; we live in a connection economy, where connecting people and ideas are paramount. Godin reminds…

In the pre-connected world, information was scarce, and hoarding it was smart. Information needed to be processed in isolation, by individuals. After school, you were on your own. In the connected world, all of that scarcity is replaced by abundance—an abundance of information, networks, and interactions.

Do you see my point? The needs of our students have changed, yet our methodologies and structure too much resemble an outdated model of the past. And we as teachers should feel empowered to create change in our classrooms and prepare our students to create change once they leave our classrooms. Create your own Education Revolution.

Community Input: Do you think education is in a rut? Why or why not?


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