Schooling: What Should It Look Like Today & In The Future?

I ask that question because I don’t think I really ever thought about it deeply, or certainly long enough, until I began my course work for my doctorate. Over the past three years I have been challenged to think about curriculum theory, curriculum design, social and cultural contexts affecting how we construct and gain knowledge, ways of knowing, and how language structures our world. I’m in my final semester of coursework and I only now have begun to realize how many branches within our social structure are attached and affected by the ideologies of education as an institution, and how our social structure is constantly influencing and changing what happens within our classrooms.

I don’t think anyone can argue the immense impact of digital technologies and the Internet on globalization, and how our world has become connected in real time and space. What we know, how we learn information, and who or what we learn information from changes with each new advance in technology, and the tools we use to gain information. So, to get to my point about schooling…what does all this technological advancement affecting real time and space, and utilizing digital devices and tools mean in how we “do” school? I think we should all spend time thinking about how we are doing school, and ask if what we are doing in school parallels and intersects with the needs of a globalized and internationalized networked world. The landscape of communication has changed and so must what we do in school to reflect that landscape.

As I have been studying different theorists with different perspectives, I can’t help but understand why education and schooling continues to be so complicated. Those in power within the social structure maintain the ideologies of what education should be, and for many that live in a democratic society, believe (through our social and cultural structure) that education is an equalizer for its entire people. Here again I ask, “What do we mean by education, and what should schooling be, and for what purpose?”

I believe every educator should ponder the answers to those questions. What are the realities of our world and is what we do in our classrooms giving our students the foundation to navigate a world that is digitally connected with access to overwhelming amounts of information. In other words, are we giving our students the foundational skills to critically evaluate, communicate, and understand the multitude of messages and ways of being and knowing that may be very different from our own experiences?

Do we discuss why it is important to know how cultures different from our own operate within their own social structures? As we discuss different cultures and social orders, do we discuss how each of these systems (including our own) creates winners and losers based on a norm in which individuals are measured? What are the ideologies that are the basis and foundation for what we “do” in school? Whose ideologies are they?

As our societal structure and means of communication are changing daily due to technological advances and tools, should we not have at the forefront of our thinking what our ideologies are that guide what we do in school, and how we do school to attempt to provide learners with the necessary strategies and skills to navigate the world outside of school in this new and complex digitally connected world?

I listened to a webinar from Gerard van der Ree recently; he states that in many ways all reality is textual and meaning can only exist through the use of language and its multiple narratives. He asserts that it is through these meta-narratives and discourses that we create meaning in our world. He gives an example of the meta-narrative of Christianity in the west, and how much of our understanding in the world of Christian believers is one where there is an absolute right and an absolute evil. Science is one of absolutes in regard to what is true and what is false. What discourses and meta-narratives reflect what we do in school? Understanding that these meta-narratives function as a cornerstone of our culture, are we embedding a meta-narrative within schooling where one must be constantly measured against a framework of what has been deemed the societal “norm”? Do we ever try to see beyond all the meta-narratives that we create within our society and other worldwide cultures? Is it that search for Utopian ideals and values within a society that I’m shooting for? I believe it is, and a desire to create an awareness of the true reality that exists within and outside our social order, with the objective to make change for a better world.

I don’t believe we should think poverty, starvation, and social injustices are part of our norm. I do believe we need to ensure our students have an awareness of the world around us without a veil hiding the true reality of our world. I believe it is only then we can create a generation of citizens that will work to change the world for the better, and schooling can and should play its part to create critical thinkers that are aware of the world, as it exists. Understanding we all are a reflection to some degree of our own social experiences and structure, we need to believe we can and should be purposeful in our actions to bring about positive changes in the social order for all people.

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