Believe in school work

Work has not changed. Work is still hard to accomplish. Work continues to take focus, practice and skills. Work always requires stamina, dedication and determination. Work persistently offers pride in workmanship when it's done right. Work remains the opposite of play; work is productive and play is unproductive. Work gets results that don't happen if we don't work at it. Work is what gets rewarded in a free market.

School work prepares students for real work. There's no reason to change school work and every reason to oppose educational reforms. Any change in school work would make it less productive, less rewarding and less difficult. Reforms could make future workers soft, lazy and lacking in determination. Less hard work could only weaken the free market economy.

Doing school work in classrooms is good preparation for real work. Good soldiers have been prepared by the regimentation of school work. Laborers and factory workers have been readied by the mandated productivity and requirements that build stamina and determination. Office workers have been groomed by the mountains of paperwork and long hours of sitting in classrooms.

It easy to oppose educational reforms by simply believing in school work. Don't listen to wild speculations about the Internet changing the nature of work. Don't fall for the temptation to make learning fun and less preparatory for real work. Don't consider how networks, ecosystems and communities get work done with cooperative and reciprocal contributions. Don't expect anyone sitting on their butt playing games will become prepared for field maneuvers, combat or construction work. Don't allow innovators to breed laziness into our future workforce. Please take this permission at face value.


  1. Unfortunately, this is what I hear on a regular basis in the media. However, think there is something to be said for requiring "discipline". Many of my students are not prepared for the riggers (read: busy work or boring routine tasks, having to interact with people you don't like, being given tasks you are either over or under prepared to do) of the workplace.

    Likewise, I have had long discussions with my students about what to do when a situation is not fair (within the workplace) or you are asked to do something unethical. I am surprised at how many of them take the same approach they take when faced with an unfair academic situation: have someone else fight the fight, or complain, yet do nothing.

    It is important to discuss options students will have when they are in the workforce (e.g. look for another job, negotiate, refuse to do something they feel is unethical or even illegal, create a political support system within the organization, and document, document, document.)

    (By the way, by following the link, I am assuming this posting was being use to make a point and you don't really believe these pronouncements).

  2. Virginia, Thanks for your insights. You're right that I don't believe in the points I'm making when taken at face value. I believe the opponents to educational reform need to be understood and that these talking points are a way to understand the opposition.

    It's not surprising to me that you encounter so much passivity and dependence on others to "fight the fight" among students in a classroom. In their experience, they cannot define what they want to study in ways that could change course or degree requirements. They cannot alter when the class meets that could impact class schedules and room assignments. They cannot revise the text they read or ways they get tested that would revise book orders and handouts. They are adapted to being controlled, coerced and confined to compliance with imposed authorities. People act powerfully when they are framed as capable of deviating from conformity and as respected for their initiatives. By raising ethical considerations with your students, you are framing them in these ways.

    I believe the nature of work is changing, (unlike these pronouncements above). The kinds of work it took for me to write this blog post and for you to add your valuable comment are representative of that change. The work involved both of our initiative, self motivation, creativity, personal discoveries and reflective practice. Neither would have happened if it took time away from required reading, submitting assignments and studying for tests. Yet it happens all the time in the emerging work of peer to peer collaboration, crowd sourced innovations, tagging and commenting on others writing, uploading videos & slides, etc.