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Tag: normal

There’s No Normal to Return To

In a recent edition of his excellent daily blog post, Seth Godin correctly notes that Americans are frustrated with the slow economic recovery and angry with politicians for not making the return to normal happen faster.

However, Godin says normal isn’t coming back. The 80 year run of the industrial revolution, that “brought ever-increasing productivity, and along with it well-paying jobs for an ever-expanding middle class”, is coming to an end.

Some people insist that if we focus on “business fundamentals” and get “back to basics,” all will return. Not so. The promise that you can get paid really well to do precisely what your boss instructs you to do is now a dream, no longer a reality.

It doesn’t take more than a cursory reading of the news over the past couple of decades to know that he’s probably right.

At the same time we in education are also doubling down on the “back to basics” and on teaching kids how to follow someone else’s instructions. Our leaders, both political and business, want us to think that if we just combine greater effort with more standardization that we can recreate the glorious old days where every kid was above average and US test scores topped every other country.

The former, of course, is statistically impossible (only in Lake Wobegon) and the later a myth, but we spend large chunks of money, instructional time, and public discourse trying to make it happen.

So when do we acknowledge that our current education system, built to support that industrial society, also needs to change?

Please Stop Saying That

As 2009 and the aughts come to a close, lots of people are presenting retrospectives on the year and decade past.

A few pundits and experts (not necessarily the same thing) are offering predictions of what to expect ahead.

This rant is neither of those.

Instead I have a request in the form of a short list of phrases that need to be retired from the public lexicon as we begin 2010.

21st Century skills

As we enter the second decade of the century, this is a cliche that has lost whatever meaning it might have had. Mostly it’s used by politicians and education experts as a catch-all for whatever concept they’re currently pushing.

The skills most often included – creativity, critical thinking, communication, etc. – are nothing unique to this century.

And they are, for the most part, the diametrical opposite of the test-driven crap that has been passed off as education reform during the past decade.

digital native/digital immigrant

As outlined in the original 2001 article, Marc Prensky’s concept of how kids differ from adults in their use of technology had some validity.

Today, it’s degenerated into another edtech cliche, far too often used by adults to excuse themselves from having to learn about the every expanding array of tools for communication and collaboration that have become part of daily life for many of us, not just kids.

web 2.0

New rule: anyone who wants to use this term, must first identify what on the web isn’t “2.0”. That should kill it fast.

And finally…

back to normal

This phrase has been used excessively during discussions about the economy but it is also invoked by leaders of companies and organizations (including those in our overly-large school district).

However, isn’t “normal” where we were when the wheels came off the bus?

In education, “normal” is the traditional system most people remember growing up with – and which isn’t working for a growing number of kids.

When it comes to teaching and learning (as well as the rest of American society), instead of longing for something called “normal” we should be working to rebuild into something better.

Ok, that’s my list. What would you add or delete?

There Must Be Something Better Than Normal

Recently I was watching an interview with some financial expert who was asked when he thought we would recover from whatever we’re now calling this economic mess.

He said something about it taking at least two years before we would be back to “normal”.

Normal? Is that really our goal?

It seems to me that the conditions from the past few years that this and many other “experts” would consider normal are exactly what we don’t want, exactly the stupid conditions that caused the problems in the first place.

So, is “normal” our goal or should we aim for something better?

I recall someone recently being quoted as saying that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”. In many ways, that makes a lot of sense.

A crisis, at least one that doesn’t involve immediate life or death situations, can be a great opportunity to do a complete re-evaluation how things are done.

It should force us as a society to do that and then make some very necessary major alterations which, in normal times, would not happen.

And then we have the American education system, one of the few significant parts of our society that has changed very slowly, if at all, over the past half century.

I wonder if our current financial crisis will have any effect our traditional system for educating children.

Or, once the problems with the economy get fixed, will we go back to normal.

I’m not sure I’m optimistic, considering that the near total upheaval in the way information is processed and communicated over the past decade hasn’t done much to push things outside of the education box known as “normal”.

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