Where did our current education model come from?
Sugata Mitra contends, quite convincingly, that it’s modeled after the Victorians (no surprise) and their need for a global “computer” to run their empire, which ran on paper moved by people and ships. The bureaucratic administrative system was created, and that machine required legions of identical workers who know how to write neatly, do mental math, and read.
"To do this," Mitra says, "they built another machine: the school."
The school I taught in in DC was all about this Victorian model— teach kids how to read enough to comprehend (a relatively low-level task), write neatly (in cursive, preferably!), and memorize math facts.
Arguably some of those skills are handy, but how many are really necessary today? I used to joke that my school was stuck in 1972, but maybe it’s more accurate to say 1872.
Now the Age of Empires is gone and information isn’t transmitted on paper by ships, and yet the education system that was necessary for that time is still in place in ours.
"It’s quite fashionable to say that the education system is broken. It’s not broken— it’s wonderfully constructed. It’s just that we don’t need it anymore."
What do we need in an education system now? Why does changing this outdated system seem so revolution, even scary, to some folks?
(For more on this, check out NPR’s TED Radio Hour episode on “Unstoppable Learning,” where I first heard this talk.)