Monday, October 01, 2012

Old School

The CD is thirty years old today. (Okay, technically, thirty years ago today the first CD players were announced, but close enough.) Depending on your age, this either makes you feel old . . . or young (I would be in that first category). I don't have anything too profound to say about this, but it did get me thinking about a few things.


Think how amazing the CD was in so many ways thirty years ago, and yet how short the lifespan turned out to be (yes, CD's are still around, but clearly their time has passed). I think it's another indication of the changes in our current era, where the pace of everything is accelerated. At first CD's were resisted, then broadly accepted, and now they are all but extinct - all in the span of thirty years. I can't help but make the inevitable comparison to schools. 1982 happens to be the year I graduated from high school. When I walk into a classroom today the technology is certainly different, but the curriculum and the pedagogy haven't changed all that much. Sure, there's more content to cover, but the basic premise of schools and classrooms is the same.


Which brings me to today's second anniversary. Today also happens to be the 104th anniversary of the Ford Motor Company completing the first production Model T. Now if I compare schools from 1908 to today . . . well, in fairness, they are very different in many important ways. But the basic premise? Not so much. It was already sixteen years old.


I was part of a discussion with some seniors at my high school last week where several of them made a heartfelt argument in favor of busy work. They said that sometimes "old school" was the best way. I agreed that sometimes that was true, but that there was a reason that "old school" was called old school, and if they'd ever wondered about that. They had not.


The teacher who invited me into class for that discussion closed with one last question. What do you want high school to look like when your kids are here? The general consensus was they wanted it to look pretty much the same. On the one hand, that's comforting, because it means they generally like our high school and think we're doing a good job. On the other hand, it was incredibly depressing, and makes me feel like the last few years of my life have had very little impact here. (Yes, I know, cue the tiny violins. It's a selfish way to look at things, but it's my blog and I'll wallow if I want to.)


Perhaps I could get them all to read Why School? and then we could continue the discussion. But I fear it would be like trying to teach a fish about water. The "muscle memory" our culture has about school is a powerful thing.


  1. Karl,
    As to what people want high school to look like when their kids get there. For the most part, people aren't imaginative. They don't have the facility, or don't take the time, to think through what might be. It takes concerted effort to think of new, better ways of doing things.

    In short, most people operate on the principle of "we've always done it this way and I'm comfortable with it."

  2. Karl, love your writing and your efforts to bring change to the way we are teaching and learning. Keep talking about Why School!

  3. I have a question about this "learning everywhere" future we're seeing for students (students = all of us)...

    I absolutely agree that mobile learning is rising rapidly, is a great opportunity for learning, has many advantages, and will dramatically change our traditional concept of schools. However, what I see often is that many parents' perception of school is "daycare".

    How is the disappearance of brick-and-mortar school buildings going to affect workers, families, daycare providers, etc..... ? Both parents working is the norm now in our society.