Education’s next radical reformer!

Symen van der Zee[i] (translated and expanded by Paul Kirschner)

Since the beginning of the 20th century, ‘radical’ educational innovators have appeared from time to time. They all use the same child-oriented de-schooling or unschooling rhetoric over and over again. Do you want to be Education’s Next Radical Reformer’? If you do, then here are 11 tips to get you there!

1. “The System”
Consistently point out that the system is the problem. But don’t criticise those involved. Teachers, students, and management are all victims of ‘the system’. At most, you can blame ‘politics’.

2. Change course. Now!
Say that everything has to be completely different. And now! No time to wait! Crisis! A paradigm shift! Flip the system! And don’t forget to contrast the new with the old, especially using strawmen and extremes. There’s no middle ground.

3. Romantic Child Image
Every child is pure and good, but the system destroys their pure goodness. And also the creativity; schools kill it. Otherwise, take a look at Ken Robinson and repeat his plea.

4. Tests and testing are wrong!
Every child is unique and therefore can’t be compared. And what does a test do? Exactly, it compares. And that’s terrible, child-degrading. Emphasize this constantly.

5. Follow, follow, follow
Because the child is pure as the driven snow and corrupted by ‘the system’, we don’t have to steer their learning. They know for themself what’s good. Just watch the beauty unfold and be there as a human being.

6. The good (feeling)
How do you know if you’re doing it right? If it feels good to you as a wise professional, then it’s good. Inspection, especially from the government, doesn’t do justice to the uniqueness of the practice.

7. So do away with…
A teacher who explains, the sage on the stage, learning goals and objectives, acquiring knowledge, etc. Emphasise that real education bends towards the child.

8. Effectiveness, effectiveness…
“This is about humanity!” That’s a good answer to the question of whether the education you advocate is effective. Another option is to say there are no average kids. If necessary, you can compare effect research with the bio-industry or a factory.

9. Playful puns
Punny is funny, so look for puns, such as “from teacher-led to learner fed.”

10. Catchy acronym
Think of a catchy acronym and then think of the words to punch them home (Progressive Academic Curriculum Enrichment, PACE of Child Affirming Revitalised Education, CARE) or if you can’t do that use alliteration (The 7 Cs: Communication, Compassion, Child-centred, Creative, Cooperative, Co-created, Connected). The last is also a pun/play on words, namely The Seven Seas (see the previous tip).

11. The website
Provide a landing page on your website with not too much text. Combine tip 1 ‘the system as problem’ and tip 3 ‘every child is pure’. Provide a button with course offerings. Do walks, retreats, weekends, and educational tastings and emphasise that it is about ‘meeting, trusting, reviving’.

So, those were the tips. Follow them for attention in both the educational world and the press. Use them to get applause and to register a lot of likes. But don’t use them not for better education. Better education is balanced, moderate, and nuanced. It’s Child and curriculum. Send and release. Science and tact. Better education is traditional and innovative. It is education that is well thought out rather than radically unschooled.


[i] Symen van der Zee is professor of Innovative Education at Saxion University of Applied Sciences. Together with his research group, he conducts research into traditional innovation schools and innovations in education, such as citizenship education, learning with the help of technologies and self-directed learning.

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