Friday, February 23, 2007

Assembly-line Schooling

Alvin Toffler declaims outdated, regimented educational systems, "designed to produce industrial workers." Worse, it appears the assembly line is not only the end, but also the means, of traditional (one-size-fits-all) schooling. So Toffler asks:
Why is everything massified in the system, rather than individualized in the system? New technologies make possible customization in a way that the old system -- everybody reading the same textbook at the same time -- did not offer.

Richard Florida agrees:
Our schools are the opposite of what is needed: hierarchical, mind-numbing, creativity-squelching machines. So the need for transformation: But, what exactly comes next? ...

It's hard to sketch the system out in advance, but the core principles to build around are readily apparent: a shared curriculum on a technology platform that enables flexible and asynchronous learning anywhere, anyplace, anytime; challenge and intrinsic reward over grades (and ridiculous standardized tests); community based engagement and socialization; and a wide range of ala carte instructional offerings. [Link added]

Perhaps schools have simply heeded The Onion's warning:
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a series of guidelines... titled "Boundless Imagination, Boundless Hazards: Ways To Keep Your Kids Safe From A World Of Wonder"...

Although the exact number of child fatalities connected to an active imagination is unknown, experts say the danger is very real. According to a 2006 estimate, children who regularly engage in imagination are 10 times more likely to suffer injuries such as skinned knees from mythical quests, or bruises and serious falls from the peak of Bookcase Mountain...

"To truly protect your children, you must go to great lengths to completely eliminate their curiosity, crush their spirit of amazement, and eradicate their childlike glee. Watch for the danger signs: faraway expressions, giggle fits, and a general air of carefree contentment."


  1. I dont think these people are ofering a absolutely better strategy than the current orthodoxy, what they are offering is a different objective.

    they want creative people, diversity, etc
    They seem to be challenging those who want a method for allocating human resource across society.


    worst case scenario
    1)you could have a world of creative people who have no idea what they are good at and no idea how that relates to what society needs of them.
    2) you could similarly have a world of wrote learn people who know exactly what society needs of them (as an individual having been sorted by the system) and are good at delivering it but are not very creative.

    maybe there is a balance between the two, or possibly as long as a certain group of people are the pragmatic ones who wil make the money and have most of the power and prop up society; the rest of us can be creative as much as we like.


  2. Not exactly - they also think that creative workers are precisely what's needed for the post-industrial "information economy". (I think Florida's written books about "The Rise of the Creative Class", or some such.)

  3. Hmmm it sounds good, but I wonder if that is true. There is always a danger of somthing that sounds good not being true but being perpetuated anyway...

    I guess it depends on what we mean by creative but i'd say actors and artists are the most creative industries and they still get paid next to nothing. Meanwhile there are a huge number of wrote learned tasks including things like plumbers or official roles that get paid quite a lot.

    One argument would be the more advanced we get the more difficult it wil become to "out-smart orthodoxy".

    Another would be that we get an artificial impression that creative industries are the future as china whips the non creative manufacturing jobs away from us, but that could just be an illusion if china is just about to take the creative jobs as well (which will leave local service jobs).


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