Saturday, June 19, 2010

Time for new thinking

Charlie Chaplin recognised early last century in his film 'Modern Times' that there were faults in the mass production dream of the industrialists. Now is the time to reject the Henry Ford standardisation of Mrs Tolley ( 'Tolley's folly') and begin to imagine what a personalised education system might look like; time to replace Henry with John Dewey.

'The Answer to No is Yes' is the title of an interesting new book by Peter Block a business philosopher.

Block believes we have become obsessed with a 'how to' mentality with its basis in efficiency and rationality and, in the process, avoiding the more important issue of purpose. Managers who keep their heads down, stick to the rules and get sidetracked in amassing doubtful data and evidence lose their souls and never have the courage to voyage into uncharted waters.

I would place a number of managerial type principals in this category

Peter Block challenges us to say 'yes' and then have the faith in our ability 'to work it out as we go along - there are no right answers'. He believes we have the leadership and the ideas within us; all we need to do is to affirm our idealism and let our values guide our actions. Block asks us to 'live like artists', to 'find our voice', 'to choose freedom over safely' and use our combined talents 'to question and confront those who would impose their ideas on us'.

And the doubtful National Standards fit into this category and so do those 'mad Hatties' who see teaching based on testing rather than insight and imagination.

In his book, Block says we have been led for too long by the 'economists' and the 'engineers' and that this has limited our potential. The strategy of the 'economists' and 'engineers' is to control, to set goals and targets, to measure and predict. They love efficiency, competition, standards, performance indicators and feedback.Sounds familiar!! This is the technocratic mindset of those in the Ministry - including those recently converted like apologist for the standards Mary Chamberlain. Integrity is for sale these days.

One voice, Block believes, that has been ignored in the past, is that of the 'artist'. Artists are ideas people and are unhappy in a too ordered world, often feeling like outsiders. They are into personal meaning and depth and seeing things with 'fresh eyes'. Many 'artist' teachers feel like outsiders. Many have left.

A fourth group, Block writes, offers real hope of synthesizing the energy of the 'economists' and 'engineers' and the creativity of the 'artists' - the 'social architects'. An architect combines beauty and practicality; aesthetics and utility, serving the soul as well as the market. 'Social architects', Block believes, work with others to develop common visions and values, integrating in the process individual and collective possibilities. 'Social architects' are concerned with purpose and the realization of the talents of all citizens.

As educators we are 'social architects'

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