Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Compliance or Cooperation?

Innovation is so hard in our world. Recently I was listening to the podcast of NPR's Science Friday for October 24, 2008 Judy Estrin was the guest and she was bewailing the fact that schools aren't innovative. Well no duh..., teaching is largely about transmitting cultural values. Not really the place innovation takes place. Now, do I believe schools should be innovative? YES! But schools are a reflection of the society, culture and communities they exist in. Despite the various complaints that schools should solve our problems the reality is they aren't designed to do that.

There is often a disconnect between what teachers, and schools want and what is actually expected of them. We are supposed to teach standards and prepare students for passing tests based largely on what students have 'banked' intellectually. I have seen some well made tests that are more geared towards students demonstrating that they are skilled in specific types of thinking, and learning, but they are the exception not the rule. Basically our testing is still about what kids 'know' not about whether they can create, innovate, think, explore and innovate.

Another great challenge is that despite my personal desires to do things differently I found that I fell into something I call the compliance trap. We want to encourage students to think independently, be createive and question the norms, but that doesn't lead to a very compliant group. I have seen that there is a basic expectation that students comply with what they are asked to do. I wish that I could have done a better job of cultivating cooperation without compelling compliance.

What does it take to cultivate cooperation? If I am going to have students go along with me for this ride called education how do I do it without beating out of them the creativitiy and independence needed for innovation.

I was frustrated very much with Judy Estrin's scatthing rebuke of education as a failed system which I don't think she has adequately analyzed. School is much more than a factory for new innovators. More of my students will end up in prison than as PHd's a sad, sad, sad, but true (probably) fact. We educate everyone, but not everyone is going to be the cutting edge of our society, some many will contribute to society simply by being informed consumers and citizens.

Related posts: Judy Estrin's Site

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