Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Wall - Pink Floyd (1982)

Pink : I’m waiting in this cell because I have to know... have I been guilty all this time ?

Pink : Is there anybody out there ?

Mother : [singing] Hush now baby, baby, don’t you cry. Mother’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true. Mother’s gonna put all of her fears into you. Mother’s gonna keep you right here under her wing. She won’t let you fly, but she might let you sing. Mama will keep baby cozy and warm. Ooooh babe, ooooh babe, oooooh babe, of course Mama’s gonna help build the wall.

Prosecutor : Good morning, Worm, Your Honour ! The crown will testify that the prisoner who stands before you was caught red-handed showing feelings. Showing feelings of an almost human nature. This will not do.

Judge Arse : [disgusted] The evidence before the court is incontrovertible, there’s no need for the jury to retire ! In all my years of judging, I have never heard before someone more deserving of the full penalty of law !

The social engineering goals of British education may have served a specific need at a specific time and in this light may have been ‘well-intended’. The industrial society is gone and so is the need for the kind of human being this system was designed to produce. But the intent imbedded in the original design remains and, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, keeps grinding out the same kind of human being year after year.

Traditional parenting and educational models assume that children must be trained in certain skills, embody certain information in order to become productive citizens, which is a nice way of saying, “to get a good job”. This translates into curriculum, standards, tests and grades; measurements to ensure that the assembly line is producing properly.

Standardized curriculum and ‘teaching to the tests’ create industrialized human beings which are increasingly out of date in today’s fast changing world. Reformers tinker with the conveyor belt, starting children earlier each year. Play time, games, physical education, art and music have been decreased, making room for more tests and drills. Despite these efforts the assembly line falls further behind. Large scale social institutions can not meet the demand. They can not adapt fast enough.

Visionaries have long proclaimed that the system can not be fixed. Educational reform, like recycling, is a bad idea that looks good. Recycling is a bad idea because it promotes the manufacture, use and disposal of wasteful toxic products. A deeper response would be to create products that are not toxic or wasteful. Reform is not the answer. The time has come for a deeper response to parenting and to education.

We are faced with a breakdown of general social order and human values that threatens stability throughout the world. Existing knowledge cannot meet this challenge. Something much deeper is needed, a completely new approach. I am suggesting that the very means by which we try to solve our problems is the problem. The source of our problems is within the structure of thought itself.

Our traditional factory-conditioning model of education values content and asks: “Did we get it right ? What is our score ?” Every evaluation implies a degree of failure. This potential failure is implicit in every learning experience.

The very structure of factory model implies anxiety, a relative degree of defensiveness as we approach each new challenge. Failure is built into the system, which cripples learning and performance.

Only by following intelligent, adaptive, creative, learning adults, something our present systems discourages, will our children develop the capacity to lead humanity into a sustainable future. Developing competent adult learners, passionate individuals who are learning explosively right alongside the children they love, this is the next frontier.