How About a School Debunking Boot Camp for Parents, Educators, and Students?

In my last article, I posed a simple thought experiment. What if were to create a schooling detox program for parents, educators, and students? What if this exposed these people to the breadth of rich learning possibilities and models that are void of most to all the modern trappings of schooling? Might that spark greater interest in more significant and sustainable education reforms? That resonates with me, and I’ve experienced people’s philosophies and views of education change after experiencing something that they deem better and different. At the same time, most of our education reforms are what I described in the last article as trimming the weeks and not pulling them up from the roots. As such, I will use this short article to consider something other than the schooling detox concept. Instead, what might be the benefits of a school debunking boot camp?

What do I mean by that? I’m not entirely sure, but it is starting to take shape in my mind. I envision this as a rich and engaging set of learning experiences that allow parents, educators, and students to critically analyze and critique the history, challenges, affordances, and limitations of the dominant models and practices of schooling today. Unlike the detox which exposes people to the alternatives, this idea instead seeks to surface the flaws in the current system, helping us to directly encounter the negative and limiting effects of status quo policies and practices in education. This approach doesn’t necessarily show us alternatives as much as it makes sure that we face the sometimes harsh facts about the consequences of what we have built.

  • How have our policies and practices elevated compliance over curiosity and a love of learning?
  • How has preservation of the system become a greater priority than pursuing the best education of each learner?
  • How has our approach to assessment and evaluation boxed us into something less authentic and meaningful experiences, drawing our attention away from what really matters?
  • How have we created a model where compliance is valued more than agency, and where complacency is preferred to self-sufficiency?
  • How have we institutionalized and deepened inequality and opportunity divides through our school designs?
  • How does our system unintentionally muzzle the deepest held beliefs and values of families?
  • Why is categorization, grading, and ranking such a dominant priority in the system and what are this limitations of such a system?
  • How do some formal schooling practices actually diminish self-education and informal learning, and why is that problematic?
  • How do some of our policies prioritize mediocre education of the masses to a pursuit of education that honors the rights and distinctives of every single learner?

There are so many other similar questions to explore, and a school debunking boot camp would be a wonderful place to explore such themes. Of course, the people most likely to attend would be those who already have concerns with the dominant system, but maybe there is a way around that. Maybe, in the spirit of being open-minded and willing to learn from diverse viewpoints, such a boot camp could help us face more the the harsh realities and inequities of what we have built into the modern education system.

As John Kotter and many other scholars on change management point out, there needs to be a compelling motivation for change before we actually see it begin to occur. That is likely why many wonderful alternative schools today come from disappointed parents or students, disenfranchised educators, and others who experience something that makes it hard to ignore the problems in the system. Is it possible that a school debunking boot camp could help conjure some of that motivation?

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Posted in blog, education reform

About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, professor of education, Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, and Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology. He is passionate about futures in education; educational innovation; and social entrepreneurship.