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Be less productive…

“We need changes in education.”

“There needs to be a change in how we assess students.”

Changes to the curriculum are necessary to prepare students for the future.”

I have been wondering  for the last month about a word that has been showing up a lot in the Blogosphere and in the Twitterverse.  Every once in a while I would open my blog and jot down some of the wonderings into a draft post hoping to someday “put it all together.”  What follows are those wandering, wondering thoughts in somewhat the same order they occurred in my head…without the “putting it all together.”

“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.”
Gerry Spence

“I need more time to be less productive.”
Paul Bogush

“To attain knowledge, add things every day; to attain wisdom, subtract things every day.”
Lao Tzu

I “change” more after long periods of unproductive time than I do when I am productive. When I am unproductive my mind wanders, I explore, I dream…I wonder. When I am productive I am accomplishing predetermined goals… it leads to stronger beliefs, or simply changes in a belief I already had.

People nowadays always seem to be preparing for something, trying to squeeze more productivity into their day. I heard someone once say that they were going to get certain audio books so that they can listen to them while they drive to work so that they can be more productive.

Being more productive leads to more thinking about a pre-existing idea. Working to improve a pre-existing idea  just ends with an  improved version of the original idea.  As soon as you start thinking about what needs to be changed and then work to improve the original idea, it stifles the “change.”  You have already determined that the core of the idea will remain.  It does not lead to a change, just an improvement—did I already say that?  After all of the talk of changing education, and after all of the actions based on the talk, at its core the education system will still remain the same because we will have based the changes and reforms on the existing core ideas.

For over a century we have had the same engine in automobiles. Yes, it has changed a lot, but it is still at its core the same…same engine with a lot of improvements.

We are stuck in a mode of thinking how to change education, and we have lost our ability to wonder about what it could be. People who wonder get a lot of funny looks from the thinkers. Thinkers are stuck on ideas, they are stuck on improving them, deepening their understanding of the idea. They are stuck on beliefs and trying to find ways to realize their beliefs instead on wondering about something completely new…wondering about an answer that does not yet exist, and then working to make that a reality.

Next time you are in a conversation about “changing” education offer up ideas that don’t exist and prepare for the looks…
Grades…how about if we removed grades completely.
Assessments…how about if there were no assessments.
Homework…how about if there was no homework…how about if there were no classrooms, no discipline plans, no administrators, no books, no scheduled school hours, no set classes, no curriculum, or no required skills to master.
How about…if there were no schools.

That’s a lot to wonder about all at once. And some folks might have read some of those and said no way can “that” be eliminated.  Others read those and said I know a perfect alternative.  How many did you read and were able to wonder what could be, without the core of the original idea remaining in any way shape, or form.  How many did you immediately dismiss because it does not fall in line with your thinking. Can you wonder about just one?

We need to stop waiting for research to back up what we wonder. We need to stop waiting for someone to tell us that something is alright to do because it has become popular and is a “scientifically based research program.”  We need to stop constantly preparing ourselves for what is already out there. We need to stop constantly thinking. We need more time to wonder…we need subtract some of the time we spend thinking each day and spend more time wondering.  We don’t leave room for imagination, for play, for dreams. We follow the path of others, their sources, their links, their book recommendations, their blog posts, their tweets and follow people that are on the same path as ourselves…people going in the same direction.  We spend more time singing with the chorus instead of writing our own tunes.

We need to not just follow the less traveled paths burned in the past, but create the trails that lead to the future. Get off your path. Wander. Talk to people going in different directions from yourself. Stop preparing, stop researching a single idea. Just wander.  Ignore your blog reader for a month. Wander. Ignore others book recommendations when you walk into a book store. Wander. Don’t look for an explanation for why you should change, or proof that an idea you read about is worthy of doing. Wander and explore your own ideas…and maybe let your kids wander and wonder a bit more too.

“When convention and science offer us no answers, might we not finally turn to the fantastic as a plausibility?”
Special Agent Fox Mulder 😉

Don’t rule out the fantastic. Don’t ignore the new idea that seems implausible because your thoughts tell you it is implausible. Stop, be less productive, and let your mind wander.  Prepare yourself for the arrows that that will be fired at you. We do not need changes in education or educational reform. We need an educational revolution.

UPDATE:
After posting, I stumbled upon a video in which Sir Ken Robinson ends an interview about the “History of Education” with basically the same sentiment that I ended this post with.  Sir Ken says that:

“…and my whole point about this is that the future and the present are not like the 18th and 19th centuries when these systems were put together. We are a revolution now and education has to be revolutionized there’s no point changing it a bit, that would be like, we have a steam engine, let’s see if we can make it better, let’s have a better steam engine than the one we’ve got, see if we get some better valves on it and paint it more nicely, but it’s still not going to get us where we need to go, I mean we need a warp engine these days and education is still locked in to the steam age, I think.”

So what have you been wondering about?


2 comments

  1. Whoa, Paul, whoa! I haven’t watched the videos, but I’m going to make a stab at replying anyways. While I agree on many fronts (and, hey! I’m one of those people imcreasing productivity by listening to books), but would to do all this simply be asking too much? I mean, it’s great to talk about it, read about it, and listen to it, but the reality of dropping everything and starting with a clean slate seems to leave us with the insurmountable task of recreation in a what, 3-month summer break period? This was for the entirety, now for the pieces…

    We do, we surround ourselves with like-minded people and media, because we sleep better at night knowing we are not alone. But what good does it do us if we never branch out? Not much good, other than better sleep.

    My wife and I have this conversation every year, “Why do you always spend so much time on schoolwork, can’t you just use what you did last year?” My answer is never well recieved.

    We need to talk less about change, and do more changing. We’ve ground “21st Century (insert noun here)” to the point of cliche, and we are beginning to do that with “change” as well.

    Don’t tell me to change, show me what you’re doing and I’ll compare it to what I’m doing and I’ll realize you’ve changed, and I havent for years.

    Every year when we get our classroom budget, I always get heckled because of what I try to spend money on. I’ve stopped looking in Scholastic catalogues, Really Good Stuff catalogues, why? Becasue it’s the smae old steam engine, just will more paint and new valves.

    Eliminate these phrases/words from your spoken vocabulary: ’21st Century’ and ‘change’. Now, infuse them in your practice. I mean, the teacher who do things old-school don’t go around preaching about 20th century pedagogy and staticity, why should we?

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