Letter Four

Hi X,

You’re absolutely right. We’re all on the edge; living in times of revolution. As much as teachers and learners feel throttled by the gallows of a sour system, we will have to sharpen and open our senses to the remarkable environment of change we now inhabit. There has never been a time of greater promise or greater peril. It requires us to listen. In order to learn, we have to listen. How different will the future of learning be from its past? Are there any elements from the past we’d like to retain? 

Right now, there are dynamics and forces at play in the world that have no precedent in human history. If we’re to meet this revolution, we will have to think differently about our students, teachers and our children.

And we have to therefore, do things differently. It was Che Guevara who said, “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.”

So, yes, I do feel responsible. As a teacher. As a civilian. As a student. And if you really want to know what role I’d like to assume, it would be The Transformer. I don’t see how we could be any other way.

Education is filled people who pronounce on education and know nothing about it. Teachers have a problem approaching creativity because they themselves aren’t in touch with their own creative possibilities. If you don’t value or recognize your own affinities, how will you ever value or help discover someone else’s, leave alone trusting it could give anyone wings to fly?

Here’s what happens: The problem starts to take root. The young generation becomes disengaged, disenfranchised, uninterested and detached from its own abilities; its own leanings; its own communities even. Because if you can’t identify and pursue what you’re cut out for, how will you contribute to the society you live amidst.

Education is the way in which we invest in our own future and the futures of our children. We have to ask our children, “How do you want to contribute to the world when you grow up?” Because a life about meaning and contribution has endless possibilities.

It is education that we depend upon to cultivate the sensibilities, talents, abilities, outlook and aptitudes upon which we all successively depend. Both our children and ourselves. It’s the way in which we pass on our traditions, our histories, it’s the way we engage in the present, it’s how we prepare for the future. At the moment, we have an education system that is seriously divorced from the way the world is actually functioning. And the lives our children are actually leading.

And the current system doesn’t need to be tweaked or improved, it needs to be replaced. It needs to be transformed into something else. That’s why we call this transforming education, not merely making it a little bit better.

People teach themselves if you create the right conditions for it. Education happens at the point where teachers and learners meet. You have to recognize that relationship. If it doesn’t happen there, it doesn’t happen at all in formal organized education systems. So, you can’t improve education by ignoring that relationship or demeaning it or vilifying it. But it also means that if you are in that relationship, you hold the tools and power right in your hands. You can change this system. Yourself. You don’t need to wait for anybody.

The problem is that our current systems of education were conceived, organized and implemented at the height of the industrial revolution in the 19th Century and they are modeled on the principles and procedures of industrial production. They are based on conformity, compliance and linearity. The problem is that human life is diverse, creative and organic. And apart from that, it’s a perfect fit.

We’re all different. All unique. Human life is predicated on diversity. Human life is heavily creative. Human life is not linear.

We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion. And I’m glad you and I are confused.

In our culture, not to know is to be at fault, socially, isn’t it? People pretend to know lots of things they don’t know. Because the worst thing you can do is appear to be uninformed about something. To not have an opinion. And our news media fuel that idea. They bring people on for instant opinions about the things they know nothing about.

Let’s give ourselves a while to think about this. To acknowledge our ignorance and acquire the wisdom that lies somewhere, holding solutions for our current predicament.

Of course we need to personalize education to the needs of every child. To bring them more in touch with their unique selves. I know I hold that power and how I wield it could make or break a child. It could keep or destroy a student’s faith in education.

I’ll leave you with this:

On the border of Nevada, Death Valley’s the hottest place in America. Nothing grows there because it doesn’t rain. In the winter of 2004, it rained in Death Valley. 7 inches of rain fell in Death Valley. And in the spring of 2005, the whole floor of Death Valley was carpeted in flowers. People came from all across America to see this extraordinary sight that they thought wasn’t possible. That Death Valley was alive. Well, what it showed is that Death Valley isn’t dead, it’s dormant, waiting for the right conditions to come. And if the conditions are right, life is inevitable. That’s the way it is with organic systems. And it’s exactly the same way with school districts. If you create the conditions for growth, growth is inevitable. If you create barring conditions, things shrivel and pull away and shut themselves off. The real challenge, I think, for the transformation of our education systems is not to perpetuate the model of command and control but to delegate responsibilities creatively to the schools who do the work, to believe in the abilities and powers and hopes and aspirations of the students and of the teachers who work with them, to invest in that process and to see the overall isn’t command and control, it’s climate control – to create a new climate of possibility in which you reap and harvest creativity, innovation and engagement across the whole state. By the way, even if you get it right, you still won’t be able to predict the future. Because life isn’t like that. But working collaboratively and collectively creates a future that we’d all want to live in.

The change we are in the middle of isn’t minor and it isn’t optional.

Let me dig deeper and drill through the dirt to pilot that shift on fresh soil. You do that too!

At work,

Yours,

With a fist bump right back,

Prof. Gyaan.

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