Change and the Rear View Mirror

A home decorating project revealed this message from the former owner underneath the kitchen wallpaper. I quite liked the pattern actually but it was time to move on.

Change in education is not as simple as stripping a wall but there are always messages from the past. The pendulum swings back and forth while we lurch into the future re-discovering and re-inventing the past as if we created it ourselves.

In a recent post Toward a Creative School Bruce  Hammonds of Leading and Learning lamented:

It is sad to see schools happily ‘driving into the future using their rear vision mirrors’. Just as our students are entering a world beyond our comprehension we are busy ensuring they will be able to cope with a past age. There is more than a whiff of Victorian three Rs around our schools as teachers focus on testing children in what are considered the two areas of concern literacy and numeracy. All this conformist formulaic ‘one size fits all’ teaching is leading us back to the standardisation of Henry Ford who one said, ‘you can any colour you like as long as it is black’.

What is in our rear view mirrors of course is a very mixed bag. In another post The Good Old Days of Creative Teaching Hammonds traces the history of creative teaching in New Zealand and recalls his time spent in the long-gone, Plowden-era British primary school where inquiry driven learning flowed from children’s interests and the arts, sciences, self expression and multiple skill development ruled.

To the extent that this has devolved to formulaic, prescribed and endlessly assessed targets this is a rear view mirror of a golden age.

That Victorian whiff was certainly around in my childhood and it is  still around today as the curriculum is narrowed to enable children to spend more time rehearsing the basic skills of passing narrow tests at the expense of their education and preparation for a life of learning.

There are many terrific scenes of the bad old days of schooling in The 400 Blows ( Les Quatre Cents Coups directed by François Truffaut 1959.) The recipient of the “blows”, Antoine Doinel, suffers mightily from the injustice meted out by the teacher nicknamed Sourpuss. The film portrays so many poignant disconnects and misunderstandings between adults and the reality of children’s perceptions, lives and experience.

In this early scene Antoine Doinel is unfairly punished by Sourpuss for a pin-up that fell from the sky.

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