The end of schooling?

Classroom schooling does not work in every situation. It depends on the circumstances. To disturb any complacency you may be harboring about the continued viability of schooling, let me use some extreme examples. Schooling cannot work in the middle of the night while the children are sound asleep. Teaching in classrooms breaks down when the alarms are ringing loudly because the school is on fire. Schooling cannot happen on a battlefield where munitions are being fired and bombs are getting dropped. Classroom teaching cannot occur when the teachers are getting handcuffed, summoned into court or jailed while awaiting trial. Schooling cannot succeed when the students are making fabulous money as sex workers, child porn stars or drug dealers to support parents who are more childish than the children.

If we take these examples literally, we can dismiss them. It's easy to say that schooling is not faced with this much dysfunction, disruption and deterioration. However, when we regard these examples as metaphors, dismissing these disruptions to schooling looks more like denial than a realistic appraisal. Then the solutions to perpetuate schooling based on misdiagnoses will backfire -- like putting water in a fuel tank and gasoline on a fire.

Students are showing up sound asleep in a manner of speaking. When they have lost their curiosity, courage, imagination and creativity, they are like zombies in their seats. When the boring content puts them to sleep, they cannot pay attention, recall what was said or care to consider it's significance. They are not about to tap into their inner teachers when knocked unconscious by formal instruction.

Schools are getting evacuated because they appear to be on fire in one way or another. The phenomenally high attendance problems, drop out rates, and home schooling percentages all make it obvious how many consider being in school as dangerous. The stress has 4 to 5 children with chronic headaches showing up in pediatricians' offices each week, compared to 4 to 5 cases per year a decade ago. It's increasingly easy to get burnt by violence, criticism and many other forms of social harm. Cyber-bullying of classmates seems increasingly hostile, hurtful and inflammatory. The constant handling of disruptions makes it impossible to create stability, order and safety for useful learning to happen. Instead, everyone is learning to live in fear.

Classrooms are in the midst of raging battles more frequently than the occasional school shootings. School Board members, parents, TV stations or newspaper reporters -- will drop a bomb on the school by uncovering some story to blow up out of proportion. Outbreaks of contention occur over particular textbooks, school policies, teachers and incidents involving students. Sidelines at sports events reveal more outrage at referees, coaches and player mistakes. Extremely filtered and limited access to internet is the result of administrator fears of reprisals from parents and higher ups in the school districts. Grown-ups are turning schools into a war zone.

Teachers are increasingly handcuffed, held under suspicion and tried in the courts of public opinion. They are no longer free on recognizance to care for particular students, to share their own passion for specific topics, or to inspire learners to be more inquisitive. Teachers are coping with increasing pressures to submit and concede to district controls. Their professional stature, trust, respect and credibility has eroded in our society as it has become increasing litigious, hostile and intolerant.

Lots of children feel they are more mature than their parents. Techno savvy kids have many new ways to feel superior to those grown-ups raising to raise them. They have more friends, have lived more lives and built more empires than their parents. Experiences with online role playing games and simulations gives them far more confidence in some kinds of unfamiliar situations. Tremendous familiarity with wicked side of life so consistently and vividly portrayed by the pop culture eliminates any naivete, innocence and gullibility in kids that parents still harbor. Grown-ups always appear out-of-it to the with-it kids across the generation gap, but this era may be the most extreme version of that pattern.

Inner teachers see all this as a good thing. Much needed changes are occurring through these breakdowns. What's coming about by falling apart will make all these painful problems simply vanish. There's no need to fix classroom schooling or pretend that schooling even remains a possibility. There's some really good alternatives in denial, as well as the truth about how bad things are going to get going down this road we're on with great determination.

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