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Guest Writer: Paige Satcher
How often do we walk by middle, high school, or college classrooms with students sitting perfectly still in neatly aligned rows, eyes fixed on a textbook or on a teacher in the front of the room? How often do we see those teachers whose classrooms are always pin-drop silent and whose students are expected to be on-task robots during every second of the day? How often do we question if this type of teaching is truly meeting the needs of our kids?
One thing is for sure: we’re not questioning it enough.
At the dawn of the 20th Century, the United States was changing. The population was shifting due to one of the biggest influxes of immigrants the country had ever seen. The U.S. was becoming the world’s largest industrial power. Children worked long hours in horrible conditions in the nation’s factories to support their families.
Flash forward to 1918. Every state has passed a compulsory attendance law to keep children out of factories and in an educational setting.
Unfortunately, those educational settings did not function much differently than the oppressive conditions of the factories from which they were removed. Teachers demanded conformity. Students were solitary. Lessons were memorized and repeated. Learning was passive.
At the time, this educational model was perpetuated by leaders like Ellwood Cubberly who famously stated:
“Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of 20th Century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.” – Ellwood Cubberley, Dean of Education at Stanford, 1905
One hundred thirteen years have passed. Our country no longer thrives on the work of manned assembly lines and in-the-box thinking. It’s now quite the opposite! Our present and future depend on those who think creatively -- who break the mold of the ways that things have always been done.
Still, the question remains: Why are many educators still necessitating the silence, conformity, and traditionalism of the factory model of schooling? Is it fear of change or sheer stubbornness that is holding us back from embracing this much-needed cultural shift in education to meet the ever-changing needs of our world?
Regardless of any excuse or reason, we must push forward. Allowing students to be mentally present and engaged in their own learning will require us all to alter our views of what a successful classroom looks and sounds like. Creative classrooms may be a little noisy. They may even be a little messy. They should absolutely have visual art, music, and movement. They must demand that students construct knowledge from within themselves to become analyzers, designers, and problem solvers. These new-age classrooms will differ greatly from the classrooms of yesteryear. Education has to change. We have to help change it. We have to do it for our kids.
“The principle goal of education is to create humans who are capable of doing new things -- not simply repeating what other generations have done – humans who are creative, inventive, and discoverers.” – Jean Piaget
Abandon the factory model of education.
Embrace creativity and non-conformity.
Because creative thinkers and non-conformists will change the world.