So far in reflecting on the Purpose of Education, meeting the challenge that Mike Wesch set us, we have had some stimulatingly personal views from Lou, Stephen and Cristina. But Ewan gave us a Scottish perspective taking in the policy horizon, highlighting the collaborative nature of their Curriculum for Excellence.
Pat Kane elaborated on this collaborative quality in Scottish education at the Really Free School on Friday and situated it in a deeper tradition he called the Democratic Intellect. He challenged the audience, most of whom were sharp, newly radicalised students, to describe how they saw the relationship between Citizenship and Education. Unsurprisingly, to me, no one gave him an answer; why?
This is because in England we are subjects, not citizens. We are educated for servility and obedience; happily accepting this soma-based life-style choice that we are given. In England we have so perfected this art, of following leaders and believing what we are told, that we created a national consensual hallucination, at the time I called it the National Curriculum Society, and sleep-walked into the Credit Crunch; and we still deny that it happened, because education hasn’t equipped us to think otherwise.
Because of my multiple failures within the education I developed sufficient resilience to achieve just enough success to become a teacher. However I felt I should use the smarts I had gained to help students understand the system for themselves, not punish them with it. Having taught Politics to rich kids in the USA and then Computing to poor kids in Lewisham I concluded that the only difference between them was that the poor kids expected to fail. I decided that I should focus on motivating them to believe in themselves rather than burying them with curriculum facts.
Not unlike Mitra’s work on Granny Clouds, which reflects Luckin’s work on More Able Partners in an Ecology of Resources, I found techniques to support their learning, freeing them up to think. In fact I used to say I taught thinking. A key element of this is interest-driven learning, finding what excites learners and helping them follow it, creating social inclusion in the process. Whereas a curriculum-driven high-stakes assessment education creates social exclusion and a populace brutalised by ‘personal’ failure, or high on the narrower ignorance of exam success.
Keri asked us for our vision of the good society, having worked as an education professional for 30 years, and with technology for 15 years I value the participative affordances that new media and social networks offer. This enables collaborative, discursive learning, the kind of learning that creates a healthy, open and participative society. So to answer Pat Kane’s question, you get the citizens that you educate for. Personally I don’t want the socially excluding, emotionally-damaging recreation of hierarchy that an Oxbridge PPE automatically legislates for. I want to educate for participation.
Exactly 500 words