School’s Out Forever

I’m still plugging away on my book, tentatively titled “School’s Out Forever” – a play on the famous cry of the immortal Alice Cooper, “School’s Out For Summer“. My recent attendance at TESOL Colombia has inspired me to get my head down and finish the book. It’s a labor of love. Fernando Valenzuela‘s plenary there “Irreversible” certainly inspired me.

My idea is to think fresh, think anew and have a grasp that exceeds my reach. To paint a picture of what education could really be like if we started fresh and unburdened by the concepts, ideas, the past of “school”.

While on this journey, came upon this delightful talk by Ricardo Semler. He’s a business guy and born with a golden spoon. Normally I don’t pay attention to or raise an eyebrow over these types parading as gurus and spending money on exotic ideas. You know the types with a big wad of cash but really not about disruption but control and the establishment.  But Semler’s different. Watch the video and you’ll see why. He invokes  a very refreshing humility.

He asks the good question for us teacher, us parents, us principals – all stakeholders in education

“What are we doing this for?”

He doesn’t really offer any ideas that aren’t out there already. But he packages them well. I agree with most of them except for the idea that we still need “school”. We don’t. A lot of his points suggest the same.

Where his ideas and my own meet are on the following points.

1. Place.  We don’t need students to show up at one place, day in and day out. What is this need for control other than a continued babysitting role for education/educators? Students should be able to visit multiple locations and “get their education”, be tested, be motivated, connect. Online or off.

Students need to learn with those of the same interest, drive – not those of the same age. Let’s doff the one age and one size fits all mentality of present day education. Children shouldn’t be dumped into a place based on their size or age.

We need a complete re-design and re-engineering of our schools as a place. 

2. People.  The role of the teacher needs to be based on supporting learning not forcing learning. Teachers inspire and we need passionate people in that role who can organize learning. No more teaching – please!

Plus, we must use the people of our communities and keep the doors of our educational places open and full of fresh air. It is the community that ultimately teaches our students. As Semler advocates, let’s fill the new role of teachers with those with the most wisdom, love and time/experience – our elderly.

We need a different kind of relationship happening in education. 

3. Time.   How students spend their time needs to be rethought. So much wasted time, like the line from Richard Brautigan

“My teachers could easily have ridden with Jesse James, for all the time they stole from me.”

Why do we continue to have students punch a clock, like they are all irresponsible truants? What does learning have to do with the time of day?  Can’t we use precious time more wisely? If we rebuild the idea of school as a place, we can also rethink the idea of school as X number of hours / year / subject. Students should be able to learn at their own pace, to the beat of their own drummer. Then time wouldn’t matter, learning would be an ongoing event and opportunity, not at an uninteresting play watched at a set time.

We need to melt the idea of school into the larger ideal of education.

4. Power.   Yes, and here is the rub and what it’s all about. Control.  Semler hints at this during the interview portion at the end. Change does not happen because there is no incentive 1. At the end of the day school/education is controlled from the top down   2. Those in control have no stake in change. It’s too big a risk.  It will take time or eventually change will happen from the bottom up and kids just won’t show up or people will in large numbers abandon ship and go elsewhere.

We need to allow choice by parents, teachers, students. Get rid of compulsory education. 


If you liked this post, you may like – Is School Necessary?

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