A recent post by Will Richardson on The Steep "Unlearning Curve" suggests ten things that we need to unlearn as we adapt classrooms and education to global changes. Here are a few items from his manifesto:
- We need to unlearn the premise that we know more than our kids, because in may cases, they can now be our teachers as well.
- We need to unlearn the idea that learning itself is an event. In this day and age, it is a continual process.
- We need to unlearn the notion that our students don't need to see and understand how we ourselves learn.
I've used the word "unlearning" myself, often when suggesting the very same changes as Will. After reading some of the excellent comments on Will's blog I might agree that this is perhaps not the best word for what we want to say. I was gratified that one of the comment writers in fact reminded Will of Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society, a favorite author of mine, and that might actually enlighten us here.
We sometimes use negative words (unlearn, deschool, deconstruct) in the context of a process that seeks a positive outcome: recognizing where we have learned (and taught?) the wrong thing, and finding new words, thoughts and actions that correct the wrong and move us forward.
Will (and many of his commenters) are basically saying, "This is what's wrong with schooling" but with words that also carry the seeds of the solution. When talking about our spirituality we often use words like "reflect," "repent" and "reconcile" to say that we were on the wrong track, and we want to change. In both cases, this process requires self awareness, humility, and a recognition of our responsibility to ourselves and those around us as we seek what Illich calls conviviality.
Maybe that's not such a new idea, but it's the hard ideas that bear repeating. Thanks Will.
(By the way, Will is author of an excellent book I just got and have started sharing among our teachers.)