I've long advocated to people that the greatest difficulty schools face in engineering change is public opinion. You see, we've ALL been to school and therefore feel entitled to an equal share of the debate on what makes a good school and indeed what constitutes a bad one. We've used the system and are therefore qualified to enter the debate, as experts, about it ... right?
My metaphor for explaining the folly in this is that it's parallel to claiming that because you've been to the toilet you are automatically a qualified Plumber. (It's true that I sometimes use some more colourful language to emphasize the point).
It doesn't make any sense. But beneath it there are some competing values and beliefs that won't die easily.
The first is that the collective opinion on schools must be right. If we all believe that schools are failing, that certain schools are terrible, that literacy is at an all-time low, the violence is rife, that teachers are woeful, etc etc then we must be right. That needs to be challenged. Despite a proven historical file as thick as the phone book that the responsibility of schools has increased exponentially for decades, schools are still improving student outcomes moderately. No mean feat considering they are now also responsible for Sex Ed, Teen Suicide Prevention, Childhood Obesity Elimination, Social Skills, Road Safety, Swimming Ed and everything else along the road to shaping well-rounded citizens.
The unending list of other assumptions would make a great book. And it seems that Chris Bonnor and Jane Caro have made a decent fist of it with "What Makes A Good School". You can read an article from The Age (Melbourne, Australia) to introduce the book by clicking here
. I'll be ordering this one today.
In the meantime, take a moment to consider your own assumptions about schooling in your country. What are you contributing to the public debate? Could you be one of the amateur Plumbers who are holding back genuine school reform by entering the debate with any pearl that commences with "Well, when I went to school ...."?You may have enjoyed Jane's school advocacy performance on ABC's Q&A last week - follow her on twitter by clicking here.
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