5 Questions…

zzzzzzzzzzzzIn my mind, I have written this blog many times; editing as I discover more about the process of education.  Yes, education, like it or not, is a process.  As with any process, there are many parts.  Perhaps education can best be described using a simile…education is like Eastman Kodak or education is like the record industry.  Confused or intrigued?  Well, as my 3rd grade students so appropriately put it…read on to find out more!

Eastman Kodak Company, commonly referred to as “Kodak”, is (was) a company that produces imaging products with its historic basis on photography. It is best known for photographic film products. Kodak was founded by George Eastman and Henry A. Strong on September 4, 1888.   Those of us that are a little older remember taking our film canisters to the little shanty in the middle of the mall parking lot.  Then, we waited, sometimes for days, to get our pictures back.  Often, disappointed in the results, but unable to go back in time, we posted our images to a photo album (that’s the paper kind) and called them memories.  Kodak was an important fixture in American Society.  Then came the digital age.

Refusing to recognize the shifting tides, in January 2012, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Kodak failed to embrace the digital revolution and thus they are now but a footnote in world history.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the recording industry.  Some may argue that I am comparing apples and oranges but just stay with me.  The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a continental North and South American trade organization that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors.”  The RIAA was formed in 1952. Its original mission was to administer recording copyright fees, work with trade unions, and do research relating to the record industry and government regulations.  Much like Eastman Kodak, the RIAA produced media that people could touch and feel, all be it a different sense than pictures.  However, the recording industry saw the writing on the wall.  In 2004, the RIAA added a branch of certification for what it calls “digital” recordings.  The RIAA went digital and is therefore still relevant today.

So, what does this have to do with education?  Well, it all comes down to direction.  To tie things together I (we) must ask some questions.

  • Which direction do we, as educators, want to go? Do we want to be Kodak or the Recording Industry?
  • At what level does the change need to take place?
  • What does change look like?
  • Should we, as educators, be worried?
  • Does change mean educators are a thing of the past?

Let’s start with the first question.  I have no doubt we all want the same thing, what is best for each student.  The issue comes when we try and define what is best for every student.  Some want to push students, making them think deeper, challenging them at every turn.  Some want to eliminate stress, making the curriculum hit the required elements, letting students guide themselves to their future.  Both sides have their pros and both have their cons.  As with any higher order question, there is no simple answer.  One thing for sure, we must look forward to the short and long-term future in mind.

Personally, I subscribe to the Elon Musk theory of education.  Of course, we all know the quote: “It’s important to teach problem-solving, or teach to the problem and not the tools,” at the root of Elon’s Ad Astra School.  Teaching students to problem solve is radical and I do not understand why.  Life is about solving problems, why wouldn’t our education system mirror that?  I can see the other side of the coin.  Education should be about what is best for every student and not every student is good at solving problems.  These students need structure; they need to learn about the tools before they solve the problem.  Hence the true issue.  There is no single way to solve the education issue…regardless of the method.

Tomorrow I look at the other questions…stay tuned.


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