Children will revolt

- Please teacher what did I learned today - That's a peculiar - They will ask me when I get home

Boy – “Please, teacher, what did I learn today?”
Teacher – “That’s a peculiar question”
Boy – “They will ask me when I get home”

While preparing a contribution on the future of Open Education, I discovered a dialogue between Seymour Papert and Paulo Freire that took place at the end of the 1980’s.

Papert mentioned in his conversation with Freire a cartoon from the Punch Magazine that gives much to think about the  importance of learning vs. teaching. Papert links it to what he understands school is about, i.e.  “learning by being told” or better said “by being taught” as opposed to  “learning by exploring”. According to him, “many children are destroyed by that, strangled”. 20 years later we keep arguing upon the ways for creativity to enter the classroom.

We could say, reinterpreting Papert, that the transformation we required for education is about changing the balance between learning and teaching. In the coming years, education should and will be more about learning than teaching.

Can this change occur quietly and progressively? Seymour Papert argued at the time that “the children will (no longer) sit quietly in school and listen to a teacher give them predigested knowledge. They will revolt.”  The revolt didn’t take place at the time and our schools haven’t changed (much).

There are some good reasons to think that times are riper for a “revolt” of grand magnitude. In countries like Spain or Portugal, the more than 30% of early school leavers and almost 60% of unemployed youth over 18 question the very meaning of school education. In the USA, we have just seen the first cases of higher education students prompting a lawsuit against their law school for having created false expectations regarding their future employability. The failure of our societies to provide work to youth and fully integrate them in social life may mark the end of school education as we have understood it until now: a continued process that should lead children and youth to become progressively prepared for their future as both successful professionals and responsible citizens. Do we have time until 2030 to adapt our school education systems to avoid a complete failure ? Will we able to control the change?

2030 is only a generation away and many wonder why this deep transformation didn’t take place before. The last 20 years have shown us how long it takes educative systems to adapt themselves to the requirements of a changing environment in all its social, cultural and economic dimensions. Why should we succeed in the next twenty years in changing systems that have shown such strong resistance to change?

This question will be central in the upcoming debate on the Open Education initiative that will be launched next June by the European Commission.

One Response to “ “Children will revolt”

  1. maruja gutiérrez says:

    Change in education systems will succeed in the next twenty years because “the times are a-changing” (Bob Dylan, more or less around the same time as Papert and Freire´s conversation). Who or what will succeed, that is another question, certainly in need of debate – and revolt.

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