bob dylan

Unoccupy Schools To Occupy Minds?

Education systems worldwide are in drastic need of not just reform but a complete re-imagining. But with so much red tape in the way of such change, its hard to see it happening before we see the full potential of yet another generation go to waste. So perhaps its time for the many students and educators and parents who are disillusioned with current practice, to make themselves heard, and make their concerns visible.

Why not hold a day (or more) of organized truancy –  hear me out – where rather than going off smoking, drinking and causing trouble – we show the educational establishment how it should be done. We try out methods that fit the neuroscience of how we learn – action based learning, peer-to-peer learning, the use of technology. Where we make learning fun and colorful and spectacular. All we need is a large enough space with an internet connection and we can hold our own conference where students, parents and educators discuss what they really want and need from education and how best we can achieve that.

This would be far from an angry ‘spit-in-the-eye’ of authority type event, but I do think it should happen on a school day. That way more people are likely to sit up and take notice, and when they see that we’re all learning more from these protests, or conferences, than we are at school – they’re bound to be more sympathetic to our cause. Like Mark Twain said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” And we all want to raise historically quotable younglings right?

Seriously though – maybe a number of similar events could be coordinated around the world?Perhaps big names like Ken Robinson and Seth Godin would partake. Perhaps education ministers would show up. But we can’t let it turn into a speech fest with luminaries hogging the limelight. They’re already luminaries, they don’t need lights to stand out. It should be a place where the big names speak to the dissenting students and old school teachers at the same time, and all on equal footing.

Recently the world became alive with discussion as the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement spread around the world. Angry at the disparities between rich and poor, or as their slogans put it, “The 1% and the 99%”, the Occupy Movement as a whole experienced a lot of internal debate over what it actually wanted. Some members pointed at Income inequality and corruption on Wall St. While others debated whether the movement should have any concrete demands at all. Some on-the-ground participants I spoke to myself in Dublin seemed to have no more than a vague but powerful feeling of dissatisfaction at ‘the system’. All they knew was they longed for something more humane.

People like this attracted a lot of criticism, as Bob Dylan sang “I’ll know my song well before I start singing”. These people, it was said, should have known exactly what they wanted or what was wrong before they started demanding our attention with protests. But had they not had the courage to go out on the streets and give expression to their gut feeling of unease, how many dinner table conversations would not have happened? How many new and interesting thoughts would have gone unprovoked? And how many times less might the status quo have been challenged? Later in his career Dylan also sang “One of these days and it won’t be long, I’m going down in the valley to sing my song, I’m gonna sing it loud, sing it strong, let the echo decide if I was right or wrong.”

The courage of those people in expressing themselves, even if it wasn’t in the most articulate fashion, started a conversation and brought the issues into focus. Bringing an issue into the focus of the collective social consciousness is a very important step towards solving it.

That’s what we need to do – bring the problem of education into the public focus. Give it some pizzaz! If we can invite some official types and celebrities to give the protest or conference or whatever more news worthiness than all the better! But this is a grassroots movement and its down to teachers and learners and parents on the ground to take our fate into our own hands, not look to so-called higher-ups to fix things for us.

Please leave your thoughts, suggestions and criticisms in the comments. Providing the best education possible is not a pet peeve of some boarded up blogger, its important to our whole society! It affects every one of our nearest and dearest, and as for our enemies – perhaps we’d get along if we’d learned more effectively from the beginning how to communicate and treat others? So get involved, as Edmund Burke said. “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for men(and women) of good will to do nothing”.