It Took a Pandemic to End 20th Century Education Ideas

Aims of Education, 1929

A pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19 in the ever-evolving Information Age has a sobering way of giving massive doses of perspective, bridging as much socio-economic disparity to earnestly find the broad stroke priorities of living with hope, connection, and kindness. For example, standardized testing is effectively dead. It might still march on for the rest of this decade, but the only ones trumpeting and parading around its importance will be the shallowest and most self-serving government and education officials.

Anyone who will still have the temerity to haul out inert data on standardized tests as some yardstick to measure education’s value will be so out of touch, that they will make people who still have a Blockbuster Video membership look like Early Adopters.(there is one Blockbuster store still left)

But, standardized testing is just the symbolic failure of education, and by association, society. The mavericks of early education thinking in the 20th century like Whitehead and Russell, built their ideas on Rousseau.

This sounds quite familiar to the quote that was used by Paul Lockhart to pen his first book “A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form”

Unfortunately, all too often, wisdom sits on the sidelines of life, watching status and productivity objectives play and compete to produce winners and losers. Wisdom just patiently waits it out — until there is a disturbance so profound that anything which does not have a foundation built with humanity and grace will be left to toil in ignominy, pointing to a philosophical direction of 20th century rust.

While all educators like myself are in self-isolation, relying heavily on social media, video communication, and online learning, we are seriously thinking about what the post-virus educational world will look like. Many students, who come from more challenging situations socio-economically, might have spent months being disconnected from the normalcy of schools, and more heavily reminded of the impoverished world they inhabit — and is generally overlooked by so many of us. These students did not deserve the education system of rampant testing and inert knowledge before this pandemic.

Giving it back to them after the pandemic will be the one of the biggest mistakes that we could ever make — to blithely ignore the humanity that was probably needed to save us physically and emotionally during this global health crisis.

Socio-Emotional Learning, Mindfulness, Storytelling, Kindness, Empathy, and Curiosity, perhaps seen as things to optionally shade in educational goals, will now have be seen as predominant colors of how and why children learn and teachers teach.

Regardless of what subjects are taught, they will all have to be taught with care and compassion that got us through this most difficult period. We always complain about not having enough time, especially to sketch out ideas that are revolutionary. Well, we have lots of it now.

Let’s unearth a more powerful humanity in our education…



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