I'm Tom Johnson. I'm fictional and I live in the nineteenth century. Here's my blog. I love pencils, but I love learning even more.
Heads nod in agreement.
I flashback to my childhood. Our one-room school house was just that - a house, a second home of sorts. We sat together and learned together, with the older students mentoring the younger ones. Our teacher was not a professional. He was like a second father to me. Call it paternalistic. Call it parochial. Call it small and narrow-minded, but my mind expanded in that narrow context.
The school house was an extension of the community. It wasn't created to mimic a factory or an office or any other economic institution. It wasn't meant to "prepare students for the technological advances so desperately needed in an industrial age." It was a democratic community where we learned to think critically about all subjects.
Don't get me wrong, there were some dark sides to this. Though our teacher avoided the paddle, I know most teachers believed in corporal punishment. Though our environment was positive, I've heard of places where bullying was the norm. Though our desks were arranged in a circle, many school houses were arranged in rows.
Perhaps I'm being nostalgic, but I'm wondering if, before we adopt new models of 20th century learning, perhaps we need to look back and see what we've already lost:
- a connection to the local community
- a connection to the land
- multi-age learning opportunities
- mentoring and apprenticeships
- school as a civic rather than economic institution
- a connection to classical learning - slides an telegraphs are great, but so is Aristotle
- the teacher as a leader rather than a cog in an educational factory
I'm not suggesting we bulldoze our schools and build schoolhouses. Progress has its place. But moving forward for the sake of moving forward is not innovation. It's novelty and I have a hunch that the novelty of factory learning will someday fade.