A Paradigm Shift

Grace Lee Boggs on a democratic, Deweyan approach to education reform, vs. top-down, corporate education reform:

“The mainstream media has created the myth that community people are waiting for Superman, the White House, or state-appointed Emergency Financial Managers to resolve the escalating crises in our schools. The truth is that concerned parents and citizens, especially in deindustrialized cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia, are beginning to resolve this crises by making a paradigm shift in the U.S. concept of education. John Dewey, this country’s most important social philosopher, advocated this paradigm shift many years ago. His vision of a more democratic educational system was widely known and discussed prior to the Second World War. But as long as U.S industry was flourishing, it was marginalized. The U.S. educational system, Dewy explained, is too top-down. It is undemocratic. It disempowers children, stifles their natural tendencies to explore, to manipulate tools,and to construct and create. It is a sorting mechanism with standards, goals, tests, and sordid comparisons, rooted in an attitude of acquisitiveness or capitalist ethos. It separates the school and schoolchildren from the community.”

From page 57 of the Detroit Reader.

I would suggest that not only are concerned parents making this shift, but concerned students are doing so also. (Familiarize yourself with Nikhil Goyal.) With the ability students now have to use technology in order to make connections outside of the realm of institutional boundaries, Dewey’s approach to authentic learning is not only just as relevant, but is occurring whether we educators are involved or not. More and more, students are engaging the world (though too often without guidance, mentoring, and an understanding of context) outside of the institution of schools. The question is, will educators in schools break free from the constraints of the top-down approach in time to support students, and to help them engage the world in meaningful ways, or will educators continue to reinforce outmoded silos and superficial “achievement,” even as the time wasted doing so becomes more and more obvious?

Courage all, courage…


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