To truly understand what we are as “educators” we need to understand how we got here. How did our educational system as it exists today come to be?
Let’s consider a typical school day here in the US. Students sit for seven hours in large brick and mortar buildings, segregated by age and subject matter. Success is measured by rote memorization of facts not necessarily pertinent to adulthood. Teachers are bound to standardized test parameters with no ability to veer off into areas of wonder. Free play, inspiration, and creativity are all lost to standardized testing, assessments, and GPAs.
Education norms of today are a complete by-product of history and societal agendas. In some countries compulsory education was to instill ideal citizenship and nationalism among the masses. In England, reformers forced compulsory education as a way to free children from forced child labor and horrific factory conditions.
In the mid 1600s, Massachusetts became the first colony to mandate at least some form of schooling, the purpose being to turn the children into good Puritans. Since “salvation” was dependent on an individual’s adherence to the scriptures, every child had to know how to read. The Commonwealth would certify the teacher, control the message and maintain social order. Obedience, the breaking of their will, and moral training were all goals of this system.
As the years continued, the curriculum became increasingly standardized. Due in part to the influx of immigrants, children of all ages, once learning together were now segregated by age. Male principles told female teachers what to teach, and the children, had no say.
Through acculturation, this system of education is accepted as the norm. Our history of religion, agriculture, child labor, nationalism, immigration, and gender hierarchy created today’s schools. The norm is wrong.