Recasting Education: the problem of continuity.

Recasting Education: the problem of continuity.

Gattaca album cover
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I was just thinking about one of my favorite movies, Gattaca. In it, Ethan Hawke is trying to assume a genetic identity in order to fulfill his dream of being an astronaut. This intrigues me as a premise, but it isn’t what got me thinking. I started thinking about how through the convention of flashbacks we are expected to believe that at least 3 different human beings at various ages are all the same character. The “child” version of Hawke’s character looks approximately like what he looked like as a kid, but that isn’t Ethan Hawke as a kid. Even less plausible is the semi-adult version of the character that is running away from home. He could pass for a younger version of Ethan Hawke, but they are two separate and distinct people. We are just expected to believe that they are the same. Our brains, in fact, want them to be the same so that the story works.

I started to think that this is the same thing that we do with education. We have one idea of what education looks like (whatever version of education you received), and we pretty much expect every version of education to have continuity with the version that we know. It is as if there were a movie that was started a long time ago and education was cast in a certain light: proud and resilient, stubborn but hopeful, an all around good person with a lot of emotional baggage. This movie has been playing forever, and we can’t seem to shake this typecasting effect. We need this character to look the same in every scene or at least have it be plausible that this is the more “grown up” version of education. It can have more wrinkles or become wiser, but recasting is just out of the question.

Perhaps I am taking the metaphor a little to far in saying that I think it is time to recast education. We need to have a new face to tell the story. We need something that is so unrecognizable as “education” that it doesn’t get confused with its former version. Perhaps we need to take a look at the “James Bond” model for recasting. Although each character is named James Bond, no one would ever confuse the Daniel Craig with Sean Connery. They may have similar catch phrases (“shaken not stirred” or “authentic learning”), but they behave in a different way entirely.

So, who is education now, and how do we make sure that people don’t confuse the kind of change the connected learning advocates are promoting with the education that no longer works for the majority of our connected population. How do we recast education?

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  1. So – describe to a lay person what this recasted version lois like. What are the ‘signature phrases’ that should stay and what does the new character look like? What are the essential qualities of the new education in real life examples – not in broad terms.

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