Friday, May 28, 2010

Education needs reform- not revolution

flickr CC image via Wildebeast1

I hear teacher-types speaking about education reform a lot, and this is good, however it seems to me that the more vocal so-called reformists among teachers aren't really reformists at all; they're revolutionists.

Reform means to put or change into an improved form or condition; to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses. In education, this should be a perpetual process. Education reform should be contextualized as a process of continuous improvement that doesn't include an end to the means; it should be a wagon we jump on, but never jump off.

Revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. Revolution connotes radical change; a shift in power. We don't need a shift in power within education. We need a perspective that understands reform as a more viable and achievable alternative. Reform would be better applied as a shift in paradigm without altering the fundamentals of the system. We don't need a wholesale overthrow of the education system... educators need simply to adopt an attitude that seeks to perpetually improve the system as it stands.

There is nothing so sacred that it should be considered invulnerable to change defined as improvement. It's all about context. If teachers were to perceive change as a positive process, (a constant that we embrace as opposed to fear,) one targeting perpetual, incremental improvements to everything we do, I fail to see how this could be bad for teaching and learning.

On the contrary, revolution generally leads to conflict. Fueling revolution is the desire for power, and power struggles are characterized inevitably by adversarial confrontation. There is no issue within education that can be more effectively addressed through the quest for power than it can through the quest for improvement.

Teachers- there are no emergencies in education. It's not about us; it's about teaching and learning, and we should always be aspiring to improvement in both contexts. I think we should understand change as an asymptote process... one that perpetually approaches the perfect state, but that will never achieve it. There is always some element that can be improved, however precisely. Otherwise, once we get to our preferred state, we've already begun to think of the next preferred state. There is always something to refine, no matter how small.

We don't need radical thoughts leading to revolutionary actions seeking power over the teaching and learning process. We do need rational and reflective thoughts leading to reformist actions seeking constant improvement of the teaching and learning process.

I can't wait to hear from the reformists on this one.
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