Friday, May 28, 2010

Are Schools a Production Line?

“... we have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education. And it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.” – Sir Ken Robinson.

When I was in grade 5, my teacher constantly told my class that we needed to start preparing for university now.

For him, the entire K-12 system was merely prep for that final goal. Not once did he talk about why university was so important, or what life after university might look like. Not once did he consider any alternatives, such as the trades or the arts.

Of course, my grade 5 teacher was not alone in his views. Our education system is built around the idea that you pass from grade to grade until you ultimately go on to post-secondary education.

But what effect does this myopic focus have on students?

Linearity and Conformity

These are the two diseases plaguing our education system according to Sir Ken Robinson in his latest TED talk, "Bring on the Learning Revolution!"

Like David Williamson Shaffer’s egg-crate school, Robinson argues that our schools are modeled on an outdated system that is focussed on creating cookie-cutter workers.

Schools that are designed to simply move a student from grade to grade to college to job are not part of an education system. They are part of a production line. 

So, what’s the answer? 

Robinson advocated moving from an “industrial model of education” to one based “on principles of agriculture”:

“We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process, it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development; all you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”




What do you think? Is our education system in need of a revolution?

And if you haven’t already, check out Robinson’s previous TED talk on creativity and education!


Collette Jackson, Content and Marketing Specialist at BlackCherry Digital Media, is writing on behalf of On the Path of the Elders, a free online educational resource that explores Cree and Ojibway history and culture, and the signing of Treaty No. 9.

Check out On the Path of the Elders at pathoftheelders.com.

For more information, email us at info@pathoftheelders.com.

Created in partnership with BlackCherry Digital Media, Archives Deschâtelets, the Doug Ellis Collection at Carleton University, Our Incredible World (Pinegrove Productions), the Mushkegowuk Council, Neh Naak Ko, the Archives of St. Paul University, Carleton University, and Wendy Campbell, Educational Consultant (Learning Methods Group).

This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy. Created with additional financial assistance from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the Inukshuk Fund.

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