Sunday, February 10, 2013

What is the Paradigm Shift and Why is it So Essential To Your Child?

When I began teaching in the late 1980's in a medium size school district located in Central Wisconsin, the world of education was much different than it is today.  The battles I fought with the infamous "Ditto" machine resulted in more purple ink on me and the surrounding floor rather than the worksheets being copied.  Like the "Ditto" machine that served us well in another time our classrooms have evolved.  When you walk into the main office or copier room of any school you'll find copy machines that not only copy.  But today's machines fax, staple, hole punch, send directly to email, send to multiple recipients, copy in booklet form and so on. 
Like those worksheets and tests handed out by the millions in schools throughout the nation, our  methodologies, strategies and resources for educating children has changed.  The traditional classroom with rows of desks and a teacher lecturing before complaisant students was an educational paradigm that served the mid-twentieth century industrial American educational system. (Video:  "How Quiet Helps the Classroom")  Let's examine that system and paradigm for a moment.  Who were the builders and craftsmen that established this approach to education?  Hmmmm....well truth is our Post-World War II business world and military had a heavy hand in what education was to look like here in America.  The Quiet Classroom is evidence to this statement.  Watch the video and listen for the number of times the word "work" is used to describe the expected outcome for the classroom.  Learning is secondary, the amount of work defined the level of success attained.  For industrial America in the 1950's work ethic was a prized characteristic (and still is) that often was part of what defined success.  Work, dirt under the fingernails, sweat, was the measure of success.  So the fact that our public schools goal was to create good "workers" was understandable.  The only problem is work is not synonymous with learning, and isn't the most conducive environment to learn.  Industry giants today no longer carry this paradigm either.  Creativity, and critical thinking are the two most desired qualities the business community currently seek in their workforce.  The top down structure has been replaced by the grass roots approach to business.  In his book The Global Achievement Gap, author Tony Wagner cites Ellen Kumata, who is the managing partner at Cambria Associates who consuls Fortune 200 companies.  Kumata states, "When I talk to my clients, the challenge is this:  How do you do things that haven't been done before, where you have to rethink or think anew, or break set in a fundamental way-it's not incremental improvement anymore."  She furthered, "Fortune 200 companies face all kinds of challenges everyday - globalization challenges, talent challenges.  The idea that a company's senior leaders have all the answers and can solve problems by themselves has gone completely by the wayside.  Leaders expect employees to help them figure out what to do."  (Wagner 20-21)
For our children to be successful in this new millennium the traditional education must evolve into a paradigm that allows for them to be active, engaged learners where exploration and the art of asking the right questions are just as if not more important than the answer. This is the paradigm shift before us and the urgency to answer it's call.

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