“Falling Behind” Is A Dangerous Myth of Compliance and Control in Education

The phrase falling behind — regardless of what it is — implies you are involved in a race that has been branded important by someone other than yourself. It also implies a velocity to catch-up/stay in the race.

Races are to be won and lost. Trophies given out to the winners and medals of regret, shame, and loss of self-worth to the losers. Be wary of people who utter these phrases. They usually don’t know the whole sphere of what is truly happening in our world, and their best interest lies in ensuring that these races are first aligned to their belief systems.

This phrase has been used repeatedly in education. This article is probably the best one at really resetting the lens on it.

But, I want to dig a bit deeper, because there is something desperate and nefarious with education carelessly issuing this false edict. All institutions are failing. But, that is good news.

This means that the traditional vertical distribution of trust/dissemination of knowledge — and the embedded hegemony — is giving way to horizonal distribution of trust among us. Is education unaware of collaborative consumption and the sharing economy that has been going on for the better part of a decade?

Rachel Botsman Predicted The Sharing Economy 10 Years Ago

When education says students are “falling behind”, there is not only a institutional reminder of how their reaction to disruption is to either ignore or fight it, there is a loud and false proclamation of how behind they are in the changing world. Regardless, it’s going to be the same painful result — obsolescence.

This is 2021, not even 2001. When I went to high school, I was at the mercy of school and its libraries to give me information. Just like FM radio stations were big in the 70’s to 90’s. I don’t need radio to inform me of new artists or what I should be listening to. I have a whole universe of dials with social media to allow me to into the nooks and crannies of my interests.

Similarly, do you think that education owns knowledge in 2021? Do you really think that the institution of education has cornered the market of robust and colorful mathematics? Eh, no. They are still playing Styx and Journey, and telling you that there hasn’t been any good music created since the era of those groups. Worse, if you don’t try and keep up with all the up and coming bands like Foreigner, Boston, etc., you are going to…fall behind(insert heavy sigh and big eyeroll).

The only reason that this comparison isn’t laughable(well, it still is) is because education has power with its institutional infrastructure — which also makes it deaf to much of the changing world. It believes its powers of accreditation, diplomas, and academic awards constitute expertise.

Nope. It constitutes experience with control and power. All my knowledge of mathematics — anything for that matter — came OUTSIDE of school. It came labeled with In Spite Of

This past weekend, I had another robust Board meeting with The Human Restoration Project.

In that meeting was the seed for this blog.

The falling behind is beyond a myth, it is a dangerous myth which infects the psyche of students and their parents, creating unnecessary concern for obsolete ideas. It’s like asking them to be worried about the VHS player that is going to get destroyed in a fire.

Students are not falling behind. Education is. Students are not failing. Education is. I will leave it here with that sober clarity.

Author of Pi of Life: The Hidden Happiness of Mathematics and Co-Author of Math Recess: Playful Learning in the Age of Disruption. Speaker. Amplify and Mathigon

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