I was amused by this blog post – Ballpoint pens… the ruin of education in our country – that Jane Bozarth shared on Twitter. It points out some absurdities from educational resistance to change over the last couple of centuries.
Quoting the book Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America the Nick Sauers has the following list:
- From a principal’s publication in 1815: “Students today depend on paper too much. They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?”
- From the journal of the National Association of Teachers, 1907: “Students today depend too much upon ink. They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil. Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.”
- From Rural American Teacher, 1928: “Students today depend upon store bought ink. They don’t know how to make their own. When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words or ciphers until their next trip to the settlement. This is a sad commentary on modern education.”
- From Federal Teachers, 1950: “Ballpoint pens will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then throw them away. The American values of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Businesses and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries.”
- From a science fair judge in Apple Classroom of Tomorrow chronicles, 1988: “Computers give students an unfair advantage. Therefore,students who used computers to analyze data or create displays will be eliminated from the science fair.”
It’s fun to note that the book could have continued much further into the past, to Socrates who is often cited as lamenting that writing causes forgetfulness, and thus permanently harms the value of education.
For extra giggles, as a constant reader you will remember all the hoohaa a couple of years ago about how Google makes us stupid. There were so many copycat articles, I’m not even sure I could find the original if my life depended on it 🙂
The fact of the matter is that humans are very resourceful, and somehow we keep fumbling along, learning stuff, making stuff, inventing new stuff, in spite of our seemingly constant efforts to destroy education as we know it and make our children stupid. What do you mean we don’t? It must be true, because I read it a thousand times.
So anyway, Nick Sauers‘ blog post inspired me to write the following on Facebook, and I thought it was worthwhile sharing here – it’s high time I stuck with my occasional promises to blog more consistently anyway!
I remember being told that if I didn’t learn to write as beautifully as my sister, then I would never get a decent job.
Thank goodness for computers, phones, tablets!
I think the only thing I regularly write these days are cheques, and my writing is still horrible 🙂
More seriously, it seems that many of us agree that we do have some deep-seated issues with eduction that need to be addressed. Education in America gets constant bad press for being more expensive and less effective than in other industrialized nations.
IMHO, at least some of the cause, as suggested above, is with teachers and their resistance to change. The trouble with many teachers (not all – I am well aware that there are many great teachers!) is that, on average they are an ‘older’ generation, they were taught by an even older generation and they don’t have time or motivation to truly learn, master and integrate new-fangled technologies and techniques into their workflow.
Therefore I think teaching is about to go through a painful revolution as a few things converge, particularly here in America:-
- The personal cost of higher education, and the return on that investment is just not equating to value.
- There is a loud hubbub about moving to something akin to an apprenticeship model in education – teaching to a career rather than teaching to a square peg and rarely-used specialities.
- The Internet means everyone knows they can get great learning resources for free, so why pay $60,000+++?
- Technologies like tablets really are changing how we interact with information and technology, making learning more instant, and critical thinking more important than Industrial Age teaching methods require (the flaws of Industrial Age teaching wonderfully explained by Sir Ken Robinson, full version here ).
- Classrooms make less and less sense.
- As does the rigid timetable of formal education. More parents work from home these days, so why can’t kids ‘school from home’? I use this phrase as a distinction from ‘home schooling’.
- It might just require a revolution in education to keep unemployment below 10%. It seems like too many young people leave education without being able to turn their schooling into employment.
I’m not saying anything new here. In the eLearning, Teaching and Business worlds, people are saying similar things and have been for a while.
I really have enjoyed the bloom of technology over the last two decades, and the effect of it in our learning solutions, in particular how we can all now be constant and instant learners. I am excited by the changes that are ahead of us, even as I recognize that for many of us, these changes will bring all sorts of trauma as our view of learning gets turned upside down, inside out and spat out as something new and (hopefully) effective for at least a couple of generations before our next learning revolution.
Do share your thoughts in the comments. This is a subject that fascinates me, and affects us all!