Why, why why… don’t we ask the right questions?

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Those involved with education reform  in Australia, the UK and US seem to focus on what we should teach students, when we should teach our students & how we should teach, assess and compare our students with their international counterparts.

To me, it appears that those leading educational change* neglect the most important questions of all.

Why should we teach our students that?

Why should we teach our students then?

Why do we assess kids in manner we do?

Why are we comparing our students to kids (particularly in Asia) who are being educated to staff factories and call centres?

I believe we really need to get to the WHY of education.

I was fortunate to be in a room the other day when Susan Groundwater Smith posed a great question (in the style of TV quiz show Jeopardy):

“To what question is School the answer?”

I don’t know if there is one particular question that fits the bill here, but I do know that most politicians aren’t courageous enough to even think about it.

*In this post, the word change is used with a great deal of poetic license.

0 Comments on “Why, why why… don’t we ask the right questions?

  1. Made me stop and think, thanks.
    We also often ask folks to consider these 3 questions:
    What is teaching?
    What is learning?
    Where is school?
    (the where is school is sometimes greeted with quizzical looks!)
    Love the Q from S G Smith btw! Might use that.

  2. What a great answer you posed. I’m sure every teacher began their career with the question in mind, whether it was conscious or not. I have been teaching for a few years and have just written my philosophy of education where I answered the question of what is education, what is the role of the teacher, and what is my vision as a teacher. I am still grappling with the concepts that you talk about in your blogs, and my answer was still school, but now that I have made conscious – and in writting – my most fundamental beliefs about education my actions can be more closely aligned with my values and I can be more intentional in my classroom.

    • Hey Stephen, thanks for the comment. I hope u enjoy the grapple… I don’t believe for a minute I’m necessarily right about everything I say, but my aim is to be provocative in orde to start discussion…

  3. Dan,
    Great questions and I’d like to keep pondering on them. My first thoughts around Susan’s question are: “What skills, strengths and qualities will a child born today need to acquire in order to be able to make a positive contribution as a local and global citizen in 25 years time and which of these lend themselves better to being “taught” rather than “caught?” I’ll use that as a “starter for 10” with my colleagues and see what they come up with.

    • Peter, great to hear from you and I look forward to hearing how u are progressing with your projects!
      Keep in touch.

  4. Love the questions you’ve posed, Dan and that asked by Susan Groundwater Smith. Definitely agree that there needs to be more focus on the “Why” – this comes down to a deep-rooted question of “What is the purpose of education?”. What sort of skills and capabilities would we hope that students have when emerging from school as young adults?

    I would like to suggest that students have a liberal multicultural awareness. That is, they are autonomous young adults (i.e. capable of making independent decisions about their own life choices), who are respectful of the life choices of those around them. The multicultural refers to intra- and inter-individual levels of difference – as individuals, there are many facets of our own identity that we must understand; and within our society there is great difference (socio-economic, geographic, ethnic, religious, educational, gender, etc).

    What the School can do to produce this liberal multicultural awareness, is then in itself extremely broad!

    • Hi Michaela, thanks for comment…
      I agree incredibly broad concepts that I believe are integral to the sustainability of society… And yet often only given tokenistic attention in school as we are too caught up with the “important” stuff…
      Cheers Dan

  5. You’re on the right track Dan – so too is Peter and Michaela –
    Surely the better question is “In what way are humans superior to compouters?”
    It won’t be long before computers take over the supermarket check-out operators –
    Computerised manufacturing – computerised marketing – computerised transport –
    “Where will the human of 2040 find a job?” That’s where education ought to be headed.
    But more importantly “Where will the human of 2040 get his esteem?”

    • Hey Don.
      Thanks for the comment.. indeed the rise of tech (and Asia) has completely turned the academic path to a career on its head… But how have we reacted?

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