This gets scary pretty quickly, for some – change can do that. Remember, Thomas Jefferson really threw a curve ball at the traditions of governing society when he formally put down that “government by the people” bit in a world of monarchies. This is radical terrain. Many will claim that the new education paradigm is madness. Many will claim that it is “untried” or “unfamiliar”. But, if it is RIGHT, as in “derived from nature”, then it is worthy of us, of humanity. We have to keep in mind the context of how unique this proposal is because it will be dismissed (like most innovative, ahead-of-their time, ideas). Many people resist change, we know that.
In my last post I wrote, “let’s start with one basic fact: all living organisms grow/develop according to specific linear steps and stages but these steps and stages are NOT attached to a fixed, predetermined timeline.” Since people are living organisms this is true of us too. We don’t just need to follow the logic, we can also see that this is what we see when we look at human life developing. From the moment of conception nothing happens because a fixed amount of time has passed. Birth does not take place “9 months” from conception. Infants do not walk on their first birthday, etc.
How long does it take to learn how to ride a bicycle? To learn how to read? To play tennis or the cello? The answer on everyone’s mind is “it’s different for everyone”. And it is.
If we take just this “revelation”, which is common sense, we can see a fault with conventional education. It presumes to know “how much a child of a certain age can learn in a given amount of time”. This is called segregating children by age and running them through the curriculum assigned to that age level/grade. “Nine years old? That’s 4th grade”. And the 4th grade curriculum is fixed. Need more time for something that year? Less time? That’s not an option. Every child in 4th grade moves along at the same pace – “this is how we do it” (sing it with me!). But, this flies in the face of that common sense observation available to all: that “it’s different for everyone”. Why is it okay to acknowledge that we all learn in our own time how to walk, ride a bike, and so on, but somehow when it comes to geometry or spelling we’re all supposed to learn at the same pace. That’s NOT how nature made us – living things. No living thing develops like that, following a metronome.
So there’s our first challenge or defining principle. We need an approach to education that acknowledges and respects this fact of nature. It’s not a “theory” or opinion. Nature has spoken: each individual of a living species takes the time that it requires to move through the stages of development/learning. Let our schools work with this principle. It will have implications and cannot be applied in isolation. What we are defining in this space is an integrated system. It will require ALL elements to be put into practice simultaneously, just like your car engine: all the parts working in concert to serve a purpose. You cannot eliminate some parts and you cannot put them in action a few at a time.