by B. Keller

Many  reformers and educrats speak and act as if education and its problems are brand new, as if they have never existed before now. The fact of the matter is, ”Ain’t nothin’ new under the sun.”

Students have always cut classes, failed tests, not done homework and dropped out of school. These things didn’t just start now. As long as there have been schools, these problems have existed. The solutions to these problems are not new. The wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented. All we need to do is to use and apply the solutions that already exist, that have been tested and tried, and in those cases where the older solutions don’t work, you can create newer solutions.

The words and the terms are 20th and 21st century, but the ideas that address them are old school and old world. There is nothing that much new under the sun. New ideas are inspired by ideas that already exist. Someone may add a new twist to it or build on it, but even a “brand new” idea isn’t completely brand new.

Which, if any, of these rules would you say would be valuable or vital in the 21st century?

  • The love of learning
  • The pursuit of knowledge
  • The ability to think for oneself
  • The ability to stand alone against the crowd
  • The ability to work persistently at a difficult task until it is finished
  • The ability to know the consequences of one’s actions on others
  • The ability to consider the consequences of actions on one’s own well-being
  • The ability to recognition of higher ends than self-interest
  • The ability to comport oneself appropriately in all situations
  • The willingness to ask questions when puzzled
  • The readiness to dream about other ways of doing things
  • The ability to believe that one can improve one’s life and the lives of others
  • The ability to believe in principles larger than one’s own self-interest
  • The ability to speak well and write grammatically, using standard English

I’m just guessing that you picked all of them, and if you did, that’s funny because these rules which you picked as vital for the 21st century, were actually the rules in a schoolroom in the 19th century! (Courtesy of Diane Ravitch’s website).

Today so much emphasis is placed on technology when people speak about education. Are they really indispensable if students are to succeed academically? Technology changes almost daily. Unlike truth, technology never remains the same, it always changes- it has to- that’s why I tell students not to depend on it.

Truth be told, not only do many students have access to it, they are even more expert at it. They get technology! Here’s the problem. Their use of technology isn’t academically based. They are expert at it, but how they use it has little or nothing to do with anything they are learning in school. Only if its use as a tool is directed to facilitate or to complement learning can technology have any positive impact on education.

No matter how technology changes, the basic truths are still the same. Schools still must do what schools were created to do which is to provide access to education and knowledge and to afford students the opportunity to obtain the education and the life they are willing to work to achieve. They must still offer their students challenging and competitive subjects and courses of study in order for them to successfully compete in the world in which they live.

The answers for most of the problems that exist in education today are already available. You do not need visible signs of “impact” demonstrated on the classroom walls, or proficiency ratings of 80% for the whole class, or multi-paginated, multi-tiered evaluations and assessments. All you need are the solutions that have been tested and tried since the beginning of time, and the will to put them into practice, even though they are not as sexy or as exciting as the “new”.