Are we educating conformists

This post was going to be about pit toilets…..but I had an interesting conversation with my friend Megan about what schools should be like. This post is now going to be about the need for a paradigm shift in education.
I decided to become a teacher for very selfish reasons; I enjoy seeing children discover something new. I enjoy seeing the joy that glows on their faces when they discover that they CAN reason their way through and solve their own problems. I am discovering a dark side to the current system though; the insistence on conformity, from the highest levels of management to the students themselves. There is a written code of conduct for teachers in NSW, it lays out the behavior and duties of teachers and it makes a lot of sense, but there is also an unspoken code which consists of things like being called ‘miss’ or ‘sir’, even if being called ‘miss’ makes you look guiltily over your shoulder for the teacher, expecting to get into trouble for playing when you should be working. What is it about being called by a title that gives a person power? Why do we want to drive students to learning by the judicious use of this power, rather than trying to lead them to learning by making it fun?
I am just a student of the art of education, I don’t know all the answers and never will (my perception is too small for that), but I do question what I can do to change education from inside the system and wonder if my musings are even valid.
According to Sir Ken, the modern education system is designed to inhibit divergent thinking; a talent which we need to continue to grow as a species.
This Clip of Sir Ken Robinson brings up some very interesting points; not least of which is the cookie cutter system we have evolved to teach our children what we think they should know in order to get a job. We can’t know what the world will be like when our current students leave school so how can we prepare them for it?
I would like some opinions about what a good education looks like.
Whay are the most important subjects to teach?
Should we make full use of all the technology available to teach (iPhone, iPod, social media)?
Is the old fashioned way of teaching values valid or do we need to change?

4 thoughts on “Are we educating conformists

  1. This is exactly why we homeschool. But the Board of Studies has just changed the way we homeschool and it pulling the leash a little tighter. They have no idea how children all learn at different paces and it is very frustrating. We have every right to teach our children as we see fit.
    Thanks for a great post!


  2. What a minefield!
    My thoughts are – I believe the current education system is to varying degrees a conformity factory, with private schools being the worst offenders. For our son, we want an environment where his individuality, his uniqueness and his interests and abilities are valued. Where he will be nurtured, not ruled. I had always thought we would like a steiner school for this reason, however I've been looking into steiner preschools, and from what I've seen – they are still conformity factories! Just coming from a different perspective.
    Ultimately I believe the best education our son will receive is from us (his parents), supplemented with the schooling system he attends. We've got a few years to decide exactly which school. I'm not ruling out homeschooling as an option either. If we still live in this small town, he could go to a tiny rural primary school with less than 30 kids across the grades. I like that option. But we will never encourage him to study anything simply for the purpose of getting a job; we want him to study what it is he enjoys and is interested in.
    As for use of technology – we can't shield kids from technology, it exists and is part of their world. I think we need to help them use it wisely, and know that whilst it can be fun and useful, it will never be as good as getting outside and playing in the dirt.
    Bit of a random assortment of thoughts thrown in there. Big topic!
    Go you for doing what you can from the inside. Great questions to be asking. I'm sure the kids you teach benefit greatly from your perspective.

  3. Hi Mel, I can appreciate our sentiments; I struggle with the whole social conformity thing in every aspect of my life. I do have to say that two small local schools have employed me though, and while they both pay me as an SLSO, at one I am the garden coordinator for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Project (teaching subjects like moon planting, taking the perspective of other life forms, Permaculture techniques and wholistic chook care) and at the other I work with students with autism (using brain gym, outdoor therapy and good old fashioned bribery) so I can't really fault my local schools (both public) but I do rail against the system in general and realise that because we are in an isolated rural area with tiny school enrollments we can 'get away' with offering a more diverse education. Thank you for your comment; I appreciate hearing others points of view.

  4. Philosopher (well, I consider him to be), Seth Godin, delivered a Ted Talk that asks the question, “What is school for?” His conclusion is that most of us have pretty strong intuitions on what school is for but when challenged they don't hold. And even if they did, school proves to be a pretty ineffective method of achieving those ends.

    The video can be found here:

    Of particular interest to me is what Godin says about lecturing. It is bizarre and unfortunate that the same lecture is delivered over and over again by different people, some good at it, some not. Why have one really good person deliver the same really well written lecture via technology? I say this as something that has undertaken by undergrad studies through OUA (distance education). I have taken plenty from this course without the need to sit in a lecture hall. Materials are delivered online, tutorials are delivered by way of online discussions, and offline study groups are available through self-management.

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