The Eduspire Presuppositions

The twelve Eduspire Presuppositions are designed to provide the basis for a paradigm of education that can support the societal paradigm shift that is already taking place (see my post What is the purpose of school? for more on this). While schools continue to prepare children for a bygone Industrial Society, we are currently in the midst of a transition from Knowledge Society to Innovation Society.

The interrelationship and overlap between these presuppositions is intentional; they are to be viewed collectively, as befitting a model of education designed to support a multi-dimensional, synergistic and co-creative view of life.

All my interactions with children are guided by these twelve presuppositions. I live my own life according to these twelve presuppositions. I am committed to supporting the design and development of Creative Learning Environments that operate according to these twelve presuppositions.

Presupposition #1:
Every child is a unique, divine spark of unlimited creative potential.

Presupposition #2:
The simplicity and wonder of childhood is real life.

Presupposition #3:
Learning is as natural as breathing; it is a by-product of living.

Presupposition #4:
Education is the pursuit of passion.

Presupposition #5:
The purpose of education (and life) is to be yourself.

Presupposition #6:
A child’s inner guidance is infinitely more reliable than any external source of authority.

Presupposition #7:
Children and adults are equals; co-teachers and co-learners on the co-creative journey that is life.

Presupposition #8:
The only constant in life is change.

Presupposition #9:
Failure is feedback; we always succeeds in achieving an outcome.

Presupposition #10
The purpose of technology is to enhance human experience. It is in nature that we find our answers to life’s questions.

Presupposition #11:
A Creative Learning Environment is one that fosters creativity and innovation through its defining values of autonomy, play and collaboration.

Presupposition #12:
Providing a rich ecology of educational options and opportunities is a collective responsibility of the whole community.

Comparing paradigms of education

Following on from my previous post (Introducing the “education spectrum”), I have listed in the table below some of the key values (i.e. what is considered important) held by those operating at either end of the education spectrum. For each word or phrase listed on the LEFT, I have done my best to find a corresponding word or phrase on the RIGHT so that the reader can see how an idea or concept in the Paradigm of Control translates (transforms) in the context of the Paradigm of Trust. It is my hope that in doing so the reader may get a sense of the journey required to “mind the gap” between these two paradigms.

These lists are by no means exhaustive. Some of the words or phrases listed under the same paradigm might be considered synonymous (e.g. “autonomy” and “personal responsibility”) and none can be considered in isolation since they are all interrelated. For example, it could be argued that “productivity” contains the four values listed below it. A focus on productivity – that is, on product, or results – gives rise to a need for “efficiency”, which in turn gives rise to a need for “quantitative measurement”, and so on and so forth. Also, a linear relationship between the two paradigms does not truly exist and my choice of corresponding words in the right hand column is entirely subjective. This table is best viewed as a metaphor for aiding understanding of the difference between the two paradigms. As mentioned in my previous post, it is impossible for me to reach out to those ready to make the transition from Control to Trust without the help of such tools. Otherwise, I am speaking a foreign language. Well, not strictly a foreign language. We may be using the same words (e.g. “learning”), but with very different meanings! The syntax might be identical but the semantics are worlds apart.

Paradigm of Control Paradigm of Trust
Teaching Learning
Hierarchical organisation Heterarchical relationships
Compartmentalisation Self-organising networks
Compliance Autonomy
Subservience to authority Personal responsibility
Productivity Creativity and innovation
Efficiency Effectiveness
Quantitative measurement Qualitative evaluation of outcome
Evidence and paperwork Freedom to be
Prescribed curricula Pursuit of passion
Learning by rote Learning by doing
Linearity Synergy and synthesis
Conformity Celebration of diversity
Reward and punishment Self-motivation
Acquisition of knowledge Real world application of knowledge
Academic ability Talents/multiple intelligences
IQ Emotional intelligence/social skills
Logic/reason Intuition/gut feeling
Standardisation Self-directed learning
Specialisation by subject Interdisciplinary learning
Individual achievement Collaboration
Competing and comparing with others Being true to oneself
Segregation by age Free age mixing
External evaluation and assessment Self-evaluation
Work Play
Success Meaning and purpose
Risk-aversion Learning from mistakes
Recreating the past (tradition) Co-creating the future (change)
Certainty Embracing the unknown

In summary, the Paradigm of Control is an “outside-in” model of education that gives rise to a linear, hierarchic, mechanistic and deterministic view of life. The Paradigm of Trust is an “inside-out” model of education that gives rise to a multi-dimensional, self-organising, synergistic and co-creative view of life.

Questioning assumptions

Are you ready to make “The Shift” from the outside-in paradigm of control to the inside-out paradigm of trust? Here is a list of myths about education and learning that are supported and propagated by the prevailing school education system. For many adults, these assumptions remain deeply buried in the unconscious mind, courtesy of their own schooling as children. Consequently, they take them for granted and it does not even occur to them to question them.

You need to have examined, questioned and dismissed every one of these myths before you can consider yourself “de-schooled”:

  • Education means “going to school”
  • Education is the sole responsibility of schools
  • The experts (teachers, scientists, doctors, politicians, psychologists, etc.) know best
  • Adults are authority figures for children
  • There is a clear distinction between “teacher” and “student”
  • Learning means “being taught”
  • Learning takes place in classes
  • A “teacher” is a certified professional who imparts knowledge
  • Children must be forced to learn
  • Learning is a solitary process
  • Talking interferes with learning
  • A standardised curriculum is needed (to cover “the basics”)
  • People are motivated by reward and punishment
  • Learning is a formal, linear, step-by-step process
  • Children are best processed in batches according to their date of manufacture (age)
  •  Proficiency in a given subject is dependent on age (i.e. the younger a child learns to read, the better)
  • Failure is to be avoided
  • Children must “fit in”
  • Some children have Special Educational Needs
  • The rational mind rules
  • Tests measure degree of mastery in a given subject
  • The best measure of teachers’ effectiveness is students’ performance on standardised tests
  • Play is a reward when work is done
  • Not going to college or university implies poor job prospects
  • Children need formal qualifications to succeed in life
  • The purpose of education is to get a job (to pay the bills)

What is the purpose of school?

Firstly, it is pointless to discuss the purpose or usefulness of school without considering it in the context of what is happening in society. I see a paradigm shift taking place: a fundamental change in the way in which we view life and ourselves. Although this shift is being facilitated by technology, I see it, first and foremost, as an inner shift. A society is made up of individuals. This shift is occurring within individuals, one mind at a time.

We might compare this shift to Ivan Illich’s notion of “deschooling”. It is a shift from an outside-in paradigm of life (“the experts know best”) to an inside-out paradigm of life (“my inner guidance knows best”). But it is a personal process, initiated by the individual. It cannot be externally imposed on anyone. My own de-schooling process began in 2006 when, as a school maths teacher, I started to listen to my students’ questions about the school system. It was clear that it made no sense to them. And the more I listened, the less sense it made to me. I realised I was contributing to a system of education that prepared children for a world that no longer exists. Consequently, all my energy is now directed toward the creation of alternatives.

A revolution in learning is already taking place outside the established education system. Everywhere – in living rooms, cafés, offices, on public transport – individuals are taking learning into their own hands. That is because knowledge is now freely available. Teachers are no longer the only ones holding the (clay) tablets. The internet, the tablet and the smartphone have all transformed our way of life. They are externalised manifestations of the inner paradigm shift that I describe above. All have come about as a result of the efforts of individual innovators (e.g. Steve Jobs) who are already living in the inside-out paradigm. And these technologies have transformed society, not through the sweeping decrees of governments, but through the individual choices of ordinary people.

This is why I say there is a need to redefine our understanding of the word “learning”. Learning is not (and, in reality, has never been) something that happens only in school. In fact, I would argue that any learning that does happen in school happens in spite of, not because of, school. Learning happens anywhere, at any time and with anyone. Learning is as natural to humans as breathing. It is a by-product of living. Learning is a personal activity, making it largely “invisible”. Learning is also an organic process. It is not something that can be broken down into a linear, step-by-step process. It cannot be measured in a test or recorded on a spreadsheet. And it is not the result of teaching. The assumption that “learning = being taught” (which remains an unexamined and unquestioned axiom for people living in the outside-in paradigm) is a direct result of the school system. Indeed, the school system was created for the purpose of propagating this myth. Anyone buying into this myth has been schooled to do so.

Do we all need to agree on the purpose of school? No. This is a world of infinite diversity and contrast. That diversity and contrast is a wondrous gift in that it gives rise to the birth of personal preference. It would be rather boring if we all agreed on everything. Each to their own. People still living in the outside-in paradigm of life are going to continue supporting schools and sending their children to them, regardless of anything I, or anyone else, says. And they have every right to do so. Who am I to question their life choices (even if they are unconsciously programmed from the outside)? This is why none of the major educational experiments – Montessori, Steiner, Sudbury, etc. – have brought about a revolution in education. You can’t force people to make an inner paradigm shift. Indeed, this very idea of forcing others to do anything belongs to the outside-in paradigm of life!

From my perspective, the purpose of school is simple: to prepare children for an outside-in paradigm of life. Given the aforementioned societal paradigm shift, school in its present form is therefore obsolete. No amount of reform or tinkering with the school system will make any difference until the fundamental assumptions that gave rise to its existence are questioned. Attempting to improve the system is like polishing a gramophone with the intention of connecting it to iTunes.

However, as I said above, it is not my job to convince anyone that this approach to education and life is obsolete. I trust that people will open their own eyes, when they are ready. The schooled mind cannot be convinced of an alternative to universal education. It has to de-school itself before it can see clearly. In the meantime, I will continue setting a different example by raising awareness of alternatives to school and supporting the development of what I call “Creative Learning Environments” (CLEs), characterised by autonomy, play and collaboration.

In time, I believe that most schools will evolve into CLEs. I predict that hundreds of thousands of children will “abandon ship” during the next ten years, leaving schools with no choice but to flatten their hierarchical organisation and to abandon their attachment to standardised curricula teaching and testing. Education will be freed of any centralised state control or influence and become the collective responsibility of local communities. Learning itself will be embedded into every day community life. School sites will transform into interactive spaces and “homebases” of learning where people of all ages come together to work on real world projects.

But let’s face it: this will not be happening any time soon. The school machine will not be disappearing overnight. Thus, continued bottom-up disruptive innovation outside the established system is the way forward.