Aprendizagem Sem Hora Marcada

RECOMENDO, sem reservas, o livro cuja capa aparece na foto a seguir e cuja resenha é acrescentada como Anexo.

Timeless Learning

Seu título é Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. O título é meio difícil de traduzir para o Português, mas eu o traduziria livremente como Aprendizagem sem Hora Marcada: Como a Imaginação, a Observação, e uma Abordagem Teórica que Começa do Zero Mudam as Escolas. Seus autores são Ira Socol, Pam Moran, e Chad Ratliff e o livro acaba de ser lançado em 2018 pela Jossey-Bass, uma marca inovadora da tradicional casa editorial, John Wiley & Sons, fundada em 1807, duzentos e onze anos atrás (https://www.wiley.com/). Esse fato já é, em si, simbólico: ele mostra que tradição e inovação não são necessariamente abordagens incompatíveis. (Um pouco mais sobre isso, abaixo.)

Clicando no link abaixo você vai para uma excelente resenhado livro escrita por Will Richardson, que me foi enviada por meu grande amigo, o educador australiano Bruce Dixon (do qual fui colega durante dez anos, de 2003 a 2013, no International Advisory Boardda iniciativa global da Microsoft na área da Educação conhecida como Partners in Learning (PIL). Ambos, Will e Bruce, coordenam o importante site Modern Learners (https://modernlearners.com/).

Há muito tempo que eu estou totalmente convicto de que a escola tradicional / convencional (a praga que temos espalhada por aí, em todo canto) já viveu pelo menos meio século, ou, talvez, mais de um século, de total anacronismo.

Ela é se tornou anacrônica já há algum tempo porque foi criada para a Civilização Industrial— a civilização das coisas padronizadas e estandardizadas, do cada coisa “a seu tempo”, “em série” e na “ordem certa”, a civilização dos grandes estoques, e não da produção “Just in Time” e “Just Enough”… – e essa civilização já acabou e está morta, faltando só enterra-la definitivamente.

Nessa Civilização Industrial todo mundo, quando chegava a uma determinada idade (sete, seis, cinco anos, por aí), era internado em uma mesma instituição, a escola, para aprender as mesmas coisas (uma grade curricular inflexível, composta de informações e conhecimentos organizados em matérias e disciplinas, centradas em linguagem, matemática e ciências – e que não era chamada de “grade” por acaso…), da mesma forma (assistindo a aulas monótonas e cansativas ministradas por professores / ensinantes entediados por estarem aulando as mesmas coisas pela enésima vez), na mesma sequência (séries), as séries sendo “casadas” com as idades das crianças / adolescentes / jovens, e a “aprendizagem” destes (entendida como a absorção das informações e conhecimentos que lhe eram passados) sendo avaliada mediante testes, provas e exames.

A vida das pessoas, na Civilização Industrial, também era segmentada: uns poucos anos para brincar(de um a seis, cinco ou quatro), vários outros anos supostamente para aprender(mais quatro, cinco, seis, dez, quatorze, dezoito) para aprender, cerca de trinta a quarenta para trabalhar, e, ao fim, o que sobrar para finalmente desfrutar a vida, e/ou preparar-se para a morte, ao longa da aposentadoria.

A razão pela qual a internação na escola precisou ser gradualmente estendida – a escolaridade obrigatóriaera de quatro anos, inicialmente, hoje é de cerca de dezoito – deveu-se ao fato de que se acreditava que, na vida, havia uma fase dedicada exclusivamentea aprender, durante a qual se deveria aprender tudo aquilo que pudesse vir a ser necessário nas fases posteriores (num processo semelhante ao de estocagem), em especial na fase dedicada ao trabalho produtivo. Assim, além de se estender o número de anos de internação na escola, também aumentou-se o número de dias passados na escola durante o ano (o calendário escolar também foi espichado), e o número de horas passadas na escola durante o dia se ampliou – o ideal passando a ser a “escola de tempo integral” – em que crianças / adolescentes / jovens passam internados durante cerca de dezoito anos na melhor fase da vida! Assim a educação das crianças / dos adolescentes / dos jovens foi escapando das mãos da família nuclear e estendida, e da comunidade imediata em que essa família vivia, para passar para as mãos do estado, a ponto de o nosso nefasto Supremo Tribunal Federal há dias ter negado aos pais o direito de conduzir a educação dos filhos sem interna-los na prisão escolar.

Essa civilização começou a ser suplantada e substituída pela Civilização da Aprendizagem(que recebe vários outros nomes, como Civilizaçãoda Criatividade, ou, com base em seu insumo básico, Sociedade da Informação e Sociedade do Conhecimento) desde o final da Segunda Guerra, ou, pelo menos, a partir de meados dos anos 1950, quando mais pessoas passaram a trabalhar na área de serviços, relacionamentos, informações e conhecimentos(o chamado setor terciárioda economia) do que nas áreas da extração de matérias primase da agropecuária(o setor primário da economia) e da indústria de transformação (o setor secundário da economia) COMBINADAS.

Tomei conhecimento desse fato em 1980, quando li pela primeira vez o livro The Third Wave/ A Terceira Onda, de Alvin Toffler, publicado naquele ano, dez anos depois do seu também muito bem sucedido Future Shock/ Choque do Futuro, de 1970). Assim que li o livro resolvi dar um curso eletivo sobre ele no Curso de Pedagogia aa Faculdade de Educação da UNICAMP, da qual havia me tornado diretor naquele ano, e fiz exatamente isso (apesar de o Diretor ser dispensado de aular).

Desde então, passei a estudar regularmente esse ingresso do nosso mundo ocidental civilizado na Terceira Onda. Aqui no Brasil nós, apesar de avanços, estamos sempre atrasados. Nossa economia ainda é tremendamente dependente de atividades de Primeira Onda (extração de minerais e petróleo, agricultura, pecuária, etc.), nossa atividade na área da Segunda Onda (indústria de transformação) é relativamente pequena e oscilante, e ainda não ingressamos de forma generalizada na Terceira Onda, exceto em grandes cidades da linha de frente da economia, como, no Estado de São Paulo, a capital, São Paulo, Campinas, São José dos Campos, Ribeirão Preto, etc. e, fora do Estado de São Paulo, principalmente Curitiba.

Inicialmente, defendi a tese de que era preciso radicalmente transformar a escola, para adequa-la à Civilização da Aprendizagem e da Criatividade. Escrevi um livro, em 1998, a pedido do Ministério da Educação (MEC), com o título Educação e Tecnologia: O Futuro da Escola na Sociedade da Informação. Por desentendimento com o MEC acerca de direitos autorais, o MEC acabou não distribuindo o livro – e eu o distribuí muito mal, colocando em meu site uma versão PDF, a partir do ano 2000. Ao longo de 2001-2002, escrevi outro livro, em decorrência de minhas consultorias à Microsoft Brasil e ao Instituto Ayrton Senna, que acabei não publicando, depois de já estar aprovado pela editora (SENAC), porque meu pensamento estava evoluindo muito rápido naquela época, em especial em função de minhas conversas e discussões com dois educadores de escol, Rubem Alves e Antonio Carlos Gomes da Costa. O título que dei ao livro foi Educação e Desenvolvimento Humano: Uma Nova Educação para uma Nova Era. Ele foi usado para uma formação que dei aos primeiros constratados pelo Ricardo Semler e pela Helena Singetr para serem os tutores e mestres iniciais da Escola Lumiar. (Para os interessados, estou presentemente a tomar providências para publicar esses dois livros em formato de e-book através da Editora Kapenke, de meu sobrinho, Vítor Chaves de Souza).

A partir de alguns anos atrás tenho defendido a tese illichiana da Descolarização da Sociedade, que eu chamo (com algumas nuances de sentido) de Desescolarização da Educação, como se pode constatar em meu blog / site Deschooling Education (https://deschooling.education/).

Temos tido, minha mulher e eu, interessantes discussões sobre a questão da viabilidade da escola hoje. Ela, Paloma E M C Chaves, ainda acredita que a escola tem algum futuro, desde que radicalmente transformada. Eu, da minha parte, prefiro lutar diretamente por uma Learning and Creative Society– uma Sociedade da Aprendizagem e da Criatividade, em que livremente se aprende anytime, anywhere and anyhow, ao longo da vida inteira, em função das necessidades e dos interesses de cada um, sem que a aprendência e a criativivência sejam institucionalizadas.

Note-se que John Dewey(e discípulos brasileiros seus, como Anísio Teixeira), embora ainda não estivessem prontos para considerar a desescolarização ou desinstitucionalização da educação, defenderam uma educação centrada nos aprendentes (não nos ensinantes) e entremeada com a vida, os interesses, e a experiência desses aprendentes, tanto dentro como, especialmente, fora da escola. Esse tipo de educação foi chamado de Educação Ativaou Educação Progressista. Mais recentemente (começando uns trinta anos atrás), li com o maior interesse as obras de John Holt, considerado o pai não só do movimento chamado de Home Schooling, um nome que considero inadequado, mas também do movimento denominado, mais apropriadamente, Unschooling. Mas esses dois movimentos ainda são bastante minoritários.

Hoje em dia temos, em movimentos majoritários, temos duas tendências.

De um lado, defensores da escola tradicional / convencional, apoiados em algumas iniciativas reformadoras, mas quase nunca radicalmente transformadoras, e em geral centradas no uso controlado (ensinante) e domesticado da tecnologia (uso esse não-disruptivo do currículo e da metodologia escolar), têm procurado reforçar a tese de que a escola deve centrar sua atenção nas matérias e disciplinas básicas, que, para eles, são Linguagem, Matemática e Ciências – talvez com uma breve pitada de Solução de Problemas, para os mais inclinados para as Ciências Naturais, as Engenharias, e as Tecnologias em geral.

Do outro lado, temos defensores de uma educação escolar liberal, focada na leitura dos Clássicos e das Grandes Obras Filosóficas e Literárias da Civilização Ocidental, que hoje também não prescide do uso da tecnologia, mas que é voltada para os mais inclinados para a área de Humanidades e Ciências Humanas (como certamente é o meu caso).

Lembram-se do tempo em que o Segundo Ciclo do Ensino Secundário, o chamado Colegial, era dividido entre Científico e Clássico? Eu comecei a cursar o Científico e o abandonei depois de um semestre apenas: fui cursar o Clássico, em que me realizei. A divisão de alguma forma continua…

Mas eu evoluí…

Se você está entre aqueles que, como eu, acha que a Educação não deve preparar apenas para uma carreira e uma profissão, mas para a vida, e que sempre ficaram, nos últimos tempos, em que as ideias de John Dewey ficaram em baixa, espremidos nessa briga entre Cientistas Naturais e Engenheiros, de um lado, e Bacharéis e Intelectuais, do outro, o livro resenhado é um alento.

Depois de passar os olhos, em leitura dinâmica, pelo livro resenhado, estou quase a concluir que não é preciso decidir, primeiro, se a escola, enquanto tal, é recuperável ou se ela está definitiva e irrecorrivelmente condenada à morte, sem direito a sursis. O futuro decidirá isso.

O que é preciso fazer com urgência é refocar a educação na Vida e no Desenvolvimento Humano. Para isso, a tecnologia (hardware + software) é importante, mas não é essencial. Essencial é entender a educação como desenvolvimento do nosso mindwarepara que possamos viver vidas realizadas e felizes. Por isso publico este artigo também nos meus blogs Mindware Education(https://mindware.education/), EduTec Space (https://edutec.space/), e no meu Portal de Blogs, Chaves Space(https://chaves.space/).

Em Cortland, OH, 1º de Outubro de 2018.

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ANEXO:

Choosing Progressive Education for Modern Learning

By Will Richardson

July 31, 2018

https://modernlearners.com/choosing-progressive-education-for-modern-learning/

While it’s hard to count the number of profound thoughts and insights that frequent Timeless Learning, the absolutely powerful new book from Ira Socol, Pam Moran, and Chad Ratliff that’s coming out next week, this one particular passage had my inner and outer edu-activist pumping his fist:

Adults may argue about this – they do argue about it – but despite the historical victories of industrial education, the fundamental utility of school has now firmly shifted to the progressive educational ideal, what John Dewey wanted” (97).

Finally, some well-respected voices who categorically state that for this modern era, for the sake of  today’s kids living in today’s world, we must choose Dewey over Thorndike, not the other way around.

To be sure, I know many progressive educators in classrooms and schools right now. Heck, there are actually a smattering of fully functioning and fully committed progressive schools where absolutely amazing things are happening with kids and teachers who are all passionate learners. That said, too many in and out of education have long been hesitant to embrace that “progressive” moniker, partially because of the baggage it carries (it’s “soft,” you know) and partially because not enough people really understand what the word means in the context of learning.

Ira and Pam and Chad, all from the Albemarle (Va) School District, don’t just know what it means. With Pam’s guidance as superintendent, over the last 13 years (she retired this spring) Albemarle has moved from a fairly traditional public school district to one that is a living, breathing exemplar of a) what schools can become if we truly put kids at the center of our work, and b) what professional practice looks like when it’s deeply rooted in a commitment to beliefs and values and, importantly, a clear understanding of the opportunities and challenges of the modern world. In other words, “progressive.”

For that reason alone, this book is important. The story that the authors tell is not one about buzzwords, cool new technologies, some new acronym-forced strategy, or vague word salads about whatever new innovations or new pedagogies or new skillsets are the flavor of the month. Instead, as the title suggests, it’s a story about the timeless knowledge that we all share about how kids learn, how adults learn, and how we learn together in schools. I hesitate to say that you won’t read anything especially surprising in this book; you’ll likely be nodding your head on every page. But if you read it to the end, you may be surprised at how high your bar gets set when thinking about where to take your own work in schools and classrooms, even for those of you for whom “change” has been a focus already.

The inspiration here is this: It can be done. The message is this: It must be done. We have to stop hewing to the systems and structures that have for so long defined “school” and start seriously articulating and living a different vision. And it’s the living part that makes this book so special. As the authors say, it’s not a “how to;” every school is different. It is, instead, a model for what can happen when you commit fully over time to build from a deep understanding of how powerful learning happens for kids.

So let me share a couple of let’s-not-mince-any-words snips that speak to the progressive ideal, to the urgency for change, and to the realities of the system today.

“In our observations, we’ve discovered that educators with a bias toward the child—those who embrace children’s engagement, happiness, agency, and strengths—share a core belief that the essential role of school communities is to empower children through a multitude of learning pathways. Such progressive educators support children to develop life competencies through a wide bandwidth of democratic and experiential learning opportunities in both formal and informal settings—projects, maker learning, collaborative exploration of interests, technologies of all kinds used to produce learning, and exhibition of learning to authentic audiences. These educators speak with conviction about the value of knowing children as individuals rather than focusing on the data inherent in traditions of scientific management. They do not represent the norms of educational systems developed over decades through “cells and bells” structures, direct instruction, and bell curve expectations. In short, they work hard to free the child from the shackles of the compliance-based system they’re trapped in” (40).

And another:

“There are societal changes that now enable educators to leverage making as a tool – or as a philosophy inside compulsory education that we can leverage as a pathway toward a progressive education model. When people say, “Well, we all shouldn’t be makers,” we ask, “How do you define making?” Should everybody need to know how to use a 3D printer? We don’t think so. Should everybody need to know how to come up with their own ideas, and then know how to learn what they need to know about those ideas, and how then to make those ideas real, and introduce them into society in some authentic way, whatever is meaningful to the individual? Then yes, yes. Every learner should learn to do that – and they shouldn’t only have their one cool government teacher to do that. We have 13 years of iterative experiences through which we are working to do that. We are pushing back at nurturing the compliance that America’s present-day schools are built upon” (139).

And, finally, just one more to get you thinking:

“Incremental shifts in practice are not the focus of our work. We are committed to significant transformation of the teaching and learning culture in our schools. We know from our work that for individual teachers and whole faculties to change pedagogies, they themselves must commit to learning how to learn in today’s world. This means reflection, inquiry, and study in collaboration with colleagues and mentors. Provocation of thought and processing drives professional growth beyond superficial change of little magnitude to deep change that results in substantively different learning experiences for young people. We have seen this occur when professional learning opportunities shift from the normative top-down, program-driven professional development to experiential learning that gets educators out of the box we call school. When our educators come to embrace and own their own learning in a context of seeing themselves as designers, creators, and makers, it changes the game in how they approach working with learners” (159).

Change in schools is not about teaching. It’s not even about education. It’s about learning. And, ironically, that’s what makes it so challenging. The unpleasant truth is that schools were not built for learning. To change them to actually be about learning is hard, difficult work. It’s work that honestly, most people don’t want to tackle at scale. It’s easier to drive numbers. It’s easier to offer more AP tests or carve out a “Genius Hour.” It’s easier to try to keep parents and policy makers and union reps happy by just tweaking the recipe a bit than it is to peel back all the layers and start asking the deeply important questions about what’s actually best for all kids, every day, today.

But just remember: “The fundamental utility of school has now firmly shifted to the progressive ideal.” You may not believe that…yet. You may not think that shift is about your school. But it is. Your kids are writing a new story of learning outside of school that at some point will require your full embrace inside of school. That is the story of  Timeless Learning, and you ignore it at your own peril.

And to your kids’ detriment.

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Reinvent the School or Deschool Education?

[This is the paper I presented, on February 19, 2018, at the Problem-Based Learning Conference of 2018 (PBL-2018) that took place in Santa Clara, CA. The Conference was organised by the PAN-PBL Association. A link to the the slides used in the presentation of this paper are available in the next article of this blog.]

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” (Mark Twain)

“My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.” (Margaret Mead)

“The school is now identified with education as the church once was with religion.” (Ivan Illich)

1. Introduction

The main thesis of this paper is that it is possible and advisable to promote and improve education by creating a society where learning – active, interactive, collaborative, problem-based, project-focused, meaningful learning – is stimulated and facilitated, but in which schools play no significant educational role.

A society in which this happened would be appropriately called a learning society: it would itself be the main learning environment.

This thesis has a main corollary: attempts to change, reform, transform, innovate, rethink,  reinvent the school in order to improve the quality of education are a waste of time, effort and money. These resources (time, effort, money) should be reallocated to the task of effectively renewing education in the context of a learning society.

In the last decades there have been innumerable alerts that:

  • the school has become a place where children’s natural curiosity is blocked and their initial passionate desire to learn is gradually killed;
  • by forcing children to learn what they are not interested in learning, and to refrain from learning what they do want to learn, the school subjects them to a form of “mental rape” or, still worse, to an “amputation of their spirit”, for which there is no prosthetics;
  • by treating all children as if they are alike, not unique, the school transforms them into a standardized group of adults whose mindset makes them unable to creatively and competently address, within a reasonable time frame, the most serious problems the world faces;
  • the school has become a prison to which we sentence, every year, an incredible number of children with multiple and valuable talents to twelve-year terms, out of which they emerge, when their term is completed, totally dumb, with their minds dulled and their creativity destroyed;
  • the solution of our educational problems will not be found in allocating more money to school systems, paying teachers better, training teachers longer and more effectively, finding or inventing alternative curricula, methodologies and evaluation means, creating better libraries, media rooms and laboratories, injecting modern technologies into the classroom, extending the amount of time children stay in school (more years of schooling, more school days in the year, more hours in the school day, etc.), or any of the other myriad of “solutions” proposed every year);
  • the school is dead: it has outrun its utility and no amount of “tweaks” or “fixes”, small or large, humanistic, technical, or technological will be able to bring it back to life.

And yet, public and private educational agents, at the local, regional, national and international level, dedicate, every year, considerable time, enormous efforts and fantastic amounts of money to the goal of improving education by changing / reforming / innovating / transforming / rethinking / reinventing schools.

To the attentive observer of the scene, it is no surprise that results have been dismal or even null.

This paper will propose a different route for the solution of the problem of quality education – a route, however, which clearly is not in any way new.

2. Roots of a Clear Alternative to Schooling

A. Closer Roots

In the very early seventies, when the main digital technologies we use today either did not exist or were not fully available, Ivan Illich (1926-2002), a Croatian-Austrian philosopher and Roman Catholic priest, working out of a monastery-like center in Cuernavaca, Mexico, proposed something similar to what his good friend, Brazilian popular educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997), had demanded only a couple of years earlier: that we educate one another through interaction, dialogue, personal exchanges, collaboration, “mediated by the world” – i.e., in the places where we really live our lives, without resorting to schools, professional educators, encyclopedic curricula, sophisticated teaching methodologies, elaborate testing instruments, etc. [1].

Illich’s Deschooling Society [2], published in 1970, is a powerful summon to renew education in a learning society where the school plays no role.

Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, published in English also in 1970, contains powerful passages with the following message (here in a somehow free translation that joins passages found in more than one place in the book):

Nobody educates anybody, but nobody is capable of educating himself alone, either. We educate each other through a continuous dialogue, mediated by the world, in which we use resources that, in traditional education, are owned by the teacher alone. Education is a mutual, world-mediated process in which unfinished beings, conscious of their incompletion, attempt to become more fully human. [3]

B. Intermediary Roots

Any person or institution interested in education must have, if not a precise definition of what education is, at least a clear and definite understanding of the concept.

Education, in the recent past, basically meant transmission or delivery of information and knowledge. Education, in this context, was organized (in the form of schools involving teachers, curricula, methodology, evaluation) to implement this understanding.

This understanding of education may have made sense in a context where information and knowledge were scarce and access to them was difficult. That context no longer exists. Thus we must look for a different understanding of education. We could try to invent, out of nothing, a totally new concept. Or we could recapture insights that, in bits and pieces, have already been with us, sometimes for a long time, but never found real resonance. That is what will be done here in this paper.

Take, for instance, this quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Émile (originally published in 1762), that is, perhaps, the most important essay on education written in the 18th Century, more than 250 years ago, before industrial civilization became widespread and the modern public school appeared to emulate the industrial assembly line:

“All that we lack at birth and need when grown up is given us by education” [4].

This statement feels refreshing today because it emphasizes an important thing, often neglected in our times: everything (“all”) that we need to live our life and that is not innate to us (“that we lack at birth”) must be acquired through education.

Translated into more contemporary language, this means that education has to do, not with the transmission and delivery of encapsulated bits of information and knowledge, but with the very process of human development, that centrally includes capacity or competency building – that is, learning (not teaching). Rousseau proposed and defended a negative education, a laissez-faire education, an education in which the learner is the scriptwriter, the director, and the main, active protagonist.

Development is not the same thing as growth. Development is the product of learning. Someone can grow and not develop as human being. Mowgli, the boy in Rudyard Kipling’s jungle stories, grew up, but did not develop as a human being. If we can speak of development in his case, it is more in terms of wolf development than human development.

Rousseau reminds the reader also that education is not limited to intellectual development. Education involves also other dimensions of human life: psychomotor, social (interpersonal), affective (emotional), aesthetic (sensible), ethical and perhaps even spiritual. This is what is meant today by the expression “human development”. To add “full” or “integral” to this expression is almost pleonastic.

Rousseau does not say it in this passage, but even the things that are innate to us (whatever they may be) can be exercised, extended, improved, perfected through education – in all the dimensions specified.

This means that education will be considerably impoverished if it is conceived only (or primarily) as intellectual development, even if mastery of competencies and skills is added to absorption of information and knowledge.

Education is still more impoverished if it is reduced to preparation either for the job market in the digital economy or for effective citizenship in a democratic society, even though education as human development may include these two things. But it includes much more, such as, for instance, the development of characteristics that culminate in one’s self-realization – what the Greeks called eudaimonia. Achieving eudaimonia implies defining, choosing and actualizing one’s life project.

C. Older Roots

Discussing the concept of education among the ancient Greeks and Romans, James L. Jarrett states, in his magnificent The Humanities and Humanistic Education:

Indeed, neither Greek nor Roman was in the least likely to share the modern confusion that identifies education with schooling. We are shaped and formed by the totality of our environment: it follows that we cannot afford to be careless about any aspect of that environment, architectural, legal, ceremonial, erotic, whatever. [5]

If education has to do with human development in all of its dimensions, and if it takes place throughout the life of the individual, it cannot be accommodated within the confines of a single (and often one-dimensional) institution, namely, the school, without losing its essential richness, its ubiquitous nature, and its personalized focus.

Thus, when UNESCO tries (as it recently began to do), if not to obliterate the distinction between formal and non-formal education, at least to reduce its present importance, it is taking us back to a view already espoused by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

But the point of view defended by the ancient Greeks and Romans went beyond giving equal attention to formal and non-formal educational initiatives. They did not favor the schooling of society. They favored making society as a whole the environment in which we learn and thus educate ourselves. According to this view, to be concerned with education is not equivalent to creating and maintaining a good school system (public or private, it makes no difference), much less to extending the time people remain in school (freely or under compulsion). Instead of proposing that the school should become a totalitarian institution in society, the ancient Greeks and Romans proposed that all the institutions and activities of society have an educational focus – that is, that society should become a truly educational (i.e., learning-centered) environment. That is the true meaning of Paideia.

The richness of this idea is mind-boggling. The ancient Greeks and Romans were not contemplating the educational role of only a few institutions of society, such as the family, the church, local community organizations, the communication means, industrial and commercial enterprises, cultural and leisure-focused organizations – not even of the school. They meant that every institution and every activity of society, from the way cities are planned and built, passing through how they organized and governed (including, necessarily, their laws) and through how they are maintained through free economic activities, and arriving at how time for play and leisure is promoted and organized, that all of this be learning-focused – that is, be educational.

Rather than proposing a totalitarian schooling of society, they proposed the total deschooling of society (à la Ivan Illich), because learning should become society’s overall focus and concern. If the ancient Greeks and Romans had known the present digital information and communication technologies, they would probably have emphasized their point much more strongly and realistically.

D. Socratic Roots

Socrates was the first great educator of the human race (at least in the West) – and, arguably, its greatest. It is important to consider how he viewed and practiced education:

  • He did not have a school: he worked in the main square of the city;
  • He did not have a classroom: he worked in the open air;
  • He did not work with groups: he worked with one person at a time;
  • He did not have students: he had partners in dialogue and in learning;
  • He did not have a curriculum: he discussed anything in which his dialogue partners were interested;
  • He did not really answer the questions of his dialogue partners: he replied to a question always with another question, to stimulate them to find the answer themselves;
  • He saw his task as similar to that of the midwife: to draw out successfully, through plain conversation, what is already inside the mind of his dialogue partner, because it is there, in the mind, that ideas are conceived;
  • He did not use any learning resource except interaction and dialogue;
  • He was suspicious of rhetorical oratory, speech making, lecturing, and teaching, because these methods go all in a single direction, are not two way, and so do not favor interaction and dialogue;
  • For the same reason, he was suspicious of books, because they likewise do not favor interaction and dialogue. [6]

Here we have, in a nutshell, the way Socrates viewed and practiced education, almost 2,500 years ago. What Socrates thought and did in the area of education is much closer to the “Ubiquitous Education Through the Learning Society” paradigm than anything anybody thought or did ever since. Whatever else this paradigm may contain, it is a clear defense of personalized education –  and in Socrates’ thought and practice we do find truly personalized learning.

E. Digital Information and Communication Technologies

Many educators, today, when they are not constrained to defend the present educational paradigm, find Socrates way of thinking congenial and admire his educational practice. That explains the partial and relative success of “constructivist” or “constructionist” proposals.

The only legitimate criticism that can be made of Socrates is that his way of viewing and practicing education is impractical in a large society that is committed to universal education, since it is based on one-to-one interaction and dialogue. In other words: it does not seem to be scalable. In a small city such as Athens, that was not committed to the education of its women and its slaves, it may have worked, but how to implement this kind of personalized education in a 21st-Century megalopolis?

What happened in the intervening 2,500 years since Socrates, especially in the 250 years since the Industrial Revolution, to make the education of today a standardized mass undertaking centered on the school was, on the one hand, a gradual but considerable increase in the number of those society felt committed to educate and, on the other hand, lack of resources, human and technological, to continue to educate the way Socrates did.

Today, however, we have fantastic technologies that allow us to achieve “horizontal learning” much better than ever before. They allow us easy access to the Internet’s universal library and to one another – as well as to people with sophisticated knowledge and competencies, that are willing, on a one-to-one basis or in more general environments, to share what they know, and know how to do, in order to help us learn what we are interested in learning, what we want or need to learn.

It is now possible, through social media and networks, to bring the maieutic learning methodology proposed by Socrates to scale, offering everyone a personalized education that satisfies their interests, wants and needs.

Technology, especially by creating social media and making global social networks possible and viable, is also making personalized education possible and viable in large scale. Because global social networks are not only places where we gather information, share information, and entertain ourselves (although they are certainly that), but also places where we learn what we want and need to learn, as defined by our interests, they have become a macro Learning Environment. As a matter of fact, the virtual space has become the embryo of the “Ubiquitous Education Through the Learning Society” paradigm.

F. The Focus on (Redefined) Learning

The focus of traditional education was on teaching. The focus today is on learning – but learning has been redefined.

In the past we worried about teaching methodologies – didactics. It is now more than time that we move on to worry about learning methodologies, or mathetics, as, among others, Comenius, in the 17th Century, and Seymour Pappert, in the twentieth, proposed [7].

To learn, as Peter Senge [8], among others, has shown, is not to accumulate information, but to become capable of doing that which we could not do before. As simple as that. To learn is to build capacity and develop competencies. To learn is to gradually make fully sculpted human beings out of our original selves, to become that which we want, choose and decide to be.

But learning, to be effective, must take place in the context of one’s life project: it must help learners:

  • discover their passions and talents;
  • define and build a life project around them;
  • develop the competencies, skills, values, attitudes and habits, as well as acquire the knowledge and information, that, together, will make it possible to effectively transform their life project into reality.

3. Education as Human Development

When we, humans, are born, we do not know much and do not know how to do almost anything. That is why we have to depend on others for quite some time. But fortunately we are born with three characteristics that are essential to human development:

  1. our genetic programming is minimal and open: within limits, we can become almost anything we want;
  2. our innate capacity for learning (in the sense seen above), which includes the capacity for language acquisition, is incredibly large, flexible, and quite effective;
  3. otherwise we have quite an unique set of individual features, built upon a basic common human substratum, to differentiate us from one another.

Given these features, mass education, education of the type “one size fits all”, should be banned. Personalized education is imperative. And, today, we all can achieve it, with the help of already available technologies.

But personalized education must necessarily be focused on what each individual wants and needs to learn. This means that personalized education must be focused on what each individual chooses and defines as his life project.

School-based mass education ignored the issue of one’s life project because it was intent on manufacturing standardized human (?) products undifferentiated from one another. That is why it came to defend and practice a “one size fits all” education.

Education as human development, however, aims at helping people (children as well as adults) find their “element”, as Sir Ken Robinson emphasized [9].

4. Is this Utopian – or is this Something Doable Beginning Now?

Some people will read this paper and say “Nice and fine… but too bad it is unrealistic…” Others may even say “Beautiful, fantastic… but unfortunately it is totally utopian!”  I assure you that what I propose is not unrealistic or utopian: it is fully doable, and it is doable now – if only we choose to do it [10].

But it will not be done easily, or quickly.

It will not be easy. There will be resistance. Resistance from people who make money from schools, or who achieve power organizing or unionizing teachers, or who make money and achieve power publishing and selling textbooks, videos, lab equipment and materials, sophisticated technologies, or who find their calling to be organizing conferences and giving lectures to educators… But it is doable, if we truly believe in it and chose to do it.

And it will not be quick. It took about 250 years for people to consider a society without schools something inconceivable [11]. Several generations will come and go before we can see the first fruits of these ideas, and still more for people to consider it unimaginable that we one day needed schools to educate… Home education could help… if it didn’t see itself as home schooling! Unschooling is a good start – but it needs to be conjoined with positive efforts to make society a truly learning environment.

There is a secret – a rather simple secret. Learning takes place best when we are doing something else: playing, working, living our lives in the world, solving problems small or large: fixing a leak in our bathroom or finding a way to rid the world of poverty, disease, ignorance, injustice, violence, war… Jean-François Rischard, in his important book High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years To Solve Them [12], has a list of twenty major life-and-death problems which we don’t know how to solve because we never learned how to approach them in our so-called educational institutions. He said we had 20 years to solve them. That was when he wrote it: in 2007. If he was right, we have only 10 years in which to learn how to develop the new mindset that will allow us to solve them. And the world is the stage where we must live and the place where we must learn – and the place where we will die when 2027 comes and we haven’t learned it yet. Education is not preparation for life. Education is the process through which we learn to live as autonomous and competent human beings. And hopefully survive. And more hopefully still, flourish as human beings.

There are many people interested in technology here. Let me say just one more thing to them. The technology that is most relevant to learning is the technology that helps us do the things we want and need to do in life. It makes no sense to speak of learning or educational technologies, as such, that is, technologies that only help us learn.

So, the time is ripe to deschool and personalize education and make ours a true learning society. PAN-PBL’s focus should continue to be concentrated on Problem-Based Learning, Project-Focused Learning and Other Active Learning Methodologies – but it should give preference to the use of these methodologies in learning environments that go beyond the school.

The school is dead – long live learning and education.

5. Conclusion

In this spirit, I leave you with a great quote from Erich Fromm, taken from his Introduction to Celebration of Awareness, the book by Ivan Illich already mentioned in the notes:

[Ivan Illich] has [through the years] remained true to himself in the very core of his approach and it is this core that we share. ( . . . ) This approach can be characterized by the motto: de omnibus dubitandum; everything must be doubted, particularly the ideological concepts which are virtually shared by everybody and have consequently assumed the role of indubitable common-sensical axioms. To ‘doubt’ in this sense does ( . . . ) imply ( . . . ) the readiness and capacity for critical questioning of all assumptions and institutions which have become idols under the name of common sense, logic and what is supposed to be ‘natural’. ( . . . ) Radical doubt is an act of uncovering and discovering; it is the dawning of the awareness that the Emperor is naked, and that his splendid garments are nothing but the product of one’s own phantasy. Radical doubt means to question; ( . . . ) radical doubt is a process; a process of liberation from idolatrous thinking; a widening of awareness, of imaginative, creative vision of our possibilities and options. ( .  .  . ) [Illich’s approach] questions every idea and every institution from the standpoint whether it helps or hinders man’s capacity for greater aliveness and joy. ( . . . ) The importance of [Illich’s] thoughts lies in the fact that they have a liberating effect on the mind by showing entirely new possibilities; they make the reader more alive because they open the door that leads out of the prison of routinized, sterile, preconceived notions. By the creative shock they communicate ( . . . ) they help to stimulate energy and hope for a new beginning. [13]

6. Notes

[1] It is curious that neither of these men had their original cultural roots in mainline Western European countries or in the United States: Illich was Eastern European (Croatian) and Freire was Latin American (Brazilian).

[2] Ivan Illich (1970), Deschooling Society, New York: Harper & Row, passim. An earlier book by Illich is also worth consulting: (1969-1970), Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional Revolution, New York: Doubleday (which contains an Introduction by Erich Fromm), chapters 7 (“The Futility of Schooling”) and 8 (“School: The Sacred Cow”). It is from this book, p. 125 (chapter 8), that the third motto of this paper was taken.

[3] Paulo Freire (1968), Pedagogia do Oprimido, Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra (original publication, in Portuguese); (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Herder & Herder (first edition in English, translated from Portuguese by Myra Bergman Ramos, with preface by Richard Shaull); (2000), New York: Bloomsbury (Thirtieth Anniversary Edition of the First American Edition, with introduction by Donaldo Macedo); (2018, March), New York: Bloomsbury Academic (Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of the Original Brazilian Edition, with an updated introduction by Donaldo Macedo and interviews with several important educators and other personalities). The quotation incorporates a conflation of various passages freely translated from the Portuguese edition by me.

[4] Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762), Émile ou de l’Éducation, originally published in French, available in innumerable editions; available in English, also in various translations, the title using one or more of the following words: The Emile: Treatise on Education. The translation from the French here provided is that of William Boyd (1962), The Emile (Bi-centennial Edition), New York: Teachers College Press, Book I, apud Jarrett (1973), p. xiii.

[5] James L. Jarrett (1973), The Humanities and Humanistic Education, Reading: Addison-Wesley, p. 11 (italics added).

[6] The story and the pedagogical views of Socrates can be found scattered in several of Plato’s Dialogues (available in innumerable translations and editions), but especially in Theaetetus (approximate date 369 BC) and Phaedrus (approximate date 370 BC). The first discusses his views on method, the maieutics (or midwifery), the second, his views on writing, of which he was quite critical (as compared to orality: talking or speaking or dialoguing or debating, which he preferred).

[7] John Amos Comenius (1680), Spicilegium Didacticum, originally published in Latin, of very difficult access; for an accessible discussion of the concept, see Seymour Pappert (1993), The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer, New York: Basic Books, especially chapters 5-7.

[8] Peter M. Senge (1990, rev. ed. 2006), The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, New York: Penguin / Random House, passim. See also Peter M. Senge et alii (1994), The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization, New York: Doubleday, and Peter M. Senge et alii (2000), Schools that Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education (2000), New York: Doubleday.

[9] Sir Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica (2009), The Element: How Finding your Passion Changes Everything, New York: Penguin, and Sir Ken Robinson (2014), Finding Your Element: How to Discover your Talents and Passions and Transform your Life, New York: Penguin.

[10] Peter Buckman (1973) asserted this in a sensible manner almost 45 years ago, in his Introduction to the book he edited, Education Without Schools, London: Souvenir Press. This book, out of print for many years, contains and important article by Ivan Illich and is very difficult to find.

[11] Ivan Illich’s observations on Puerto Rican society, made in 1969, are truly remarkable: “Only if we understand the school system as the central myth-making ritual of industrial societies can we explain the deep need for it, the complex myth surrounding it, and the inextricable way in which schooling is tied to the self-image of contemporary man. ( .  .  . ) Puerto Rico has been schooled. I don’t say educated, but, rather, schooled. Puerto Ricans can no longer conceive of life without reference to the school. The desire for education has given way to the compulsion of schooling. Puerto Rico has adopted a new religion. Its doctrine is that education is a product of the school, a product which can be defined by numbers. There are the numbers which indicate how many years a student has spent under the tutelage of teachers, and others which represent the proportion of his correct answers in an examination. Upon the receipt of a diploma the educational product acquires a market value. School attendance in itself thus guarantees inclusion in the membership in the community of saints. From governor to jibaro Puerto Rico now accepts the ideology of its teachers as it once accepted the theology of its priests. The school is now identified with education as the church once was with religion.” From “School: The Sacred Cow”, chapter 8 in Celebration of Awareness, op.cit., p.125 (emphases added). The last phrase is, of course, the third motto of this paper. The second part of the quotation comes from a graduation speech that Illich was invited to give at the University of Puerto Rico, in Río Piedras, in 1969. About this same line of thought the reader ought to consult the book by John Abbott (with Heather MacTaggart) Over Schooled but Under Educated: How the Crisis in Education is Jeopardizing our Adolescents (2010), London and New York: Continuum.

[12] Jean-François Rischard, High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years To Solve Them (2007), New York: Basic Books. Rischard, an economist, was the first European Vice President of the World Bank from 1998 to 2005.

[13] Erich Fromm (1970), “Introduction” to Ivan Illich’s Celebration of Awareness, op.cit., pp. 7-10.

©    Eduardo Chaves & Mindware Technologies, December 2017, São Paulo, Brazil (chaves@deschooling.education).

In Santa Clara, February 19, 2018

1 – Looking Anew at Education (*)

Many animals instinctively rear their children – but only humans educate them in a conscious, deliberate, intentional way.

Looking anew at education could mean simply looking once more at it, but in the same manner, as something that has always been with us. But it can also mean looking again at it, but this time, in a fresh and innovative manner. That is the sense in which the expression “looking anew” is intended in this article.

Education does not take place in a vacuum. It always takes place in a specific context: a given place, a given time, for given reasons and with given resources. When this context changes drastically, we must look again at education in a fresh and innovative manner: as a matter of fact, we need a paradigm shift.

There is no doubt that the in the last seventy years (from 1945 up to now) the context in which education takes place underwent profound changes. The emergence of digital information and communication technologies (digital ICT) radically transformed this context. Until World War II the context was one in which information, communication, and therefore knowledge were scarce, and access to them was difficult. Now the context is one in which information, communication, and therefore knowledge (knowledge that and knowledge how) are abundant, and access to them is easy, at our fingertips, anywhere, anytime – often instantaneously.

Given this radical change of context (and only one aspect of it was focused), education cannot, and will not, remain unaffected today. We need to change how we conceive it and how we implement it.

1) Understanding Education

Any person or institution interested in education must have, if not a precise definition of what it is, at least a clear and definite understanding of the concept.

Education, in the recent past, basically meant transmission or delivery of information and knowledge. Education, in this context, was generally organized (in the form of schools involving teachers, curricula, methodology, evaluation, etc.) to implement this understanding.

This understanding of education made sense in a context where information and knowledge were scarce and access to them was difficult. That context no longer exists. Thus we must look for a different understanding of education. We could try to invent, out of nothing, a totally new concept. Or we could recapture insights that, in bits and pieces, have already been with us, sometimes for a long time, but never found real resonance and never were brought together in a unified and coherent concept. That is what will be done here.

Take, for instance, this quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Émile (published in 1762), that is, perhaps, the most important essay on education written in the 18th century, before industrial civilization became widespread:

“All that we lack at birth, and need when grown up, is given us by education”.

This statement feels refreshing today because it emphasizes an important thing, often neglected in our times: everything (“all”) that we need in order to live our life, and that is not innate to us (“that we lack at birth”), must be acquired through education.

Translated into more contemporary language, this means that education has to do, not with the transmission and delivery of information and knowledge, but with the very process of human development.

Development is not the same thing as growth. Development is the product of learning. Someone can grow and not develop as a human being. Mowgli, the boy in Rudyard Kipling’s jungle stories, grew up, but did not develop as a human being. If we can speak of development in his case, it is more in terms of wolf development than of human development.

Rousseau reminds us that education is not limited to our intellectual development. Education involves also other dimensions of human life: psychomotor, social (interpersonal), affective (emotional), aesthetic (sensible), ethical and perhaps even spiritual. This is what is meant today by the expression “human development”. To add “full “or “integral” to this expression is almost pleonastic.

Even though Rousseau does not say it in this passage, the things that are innate to us (whatever they may be) can be exercised, extended, improved, perfected through education — in all of the dimensions specified.

This means that we considerably impoverish education if we conceive it only (or even primarily) as intellectual development, even if we add the mastery of skills and competencies to the absorption and assimilation of information and knowledge.

Education is still more impoverished if we see it primarily as preparation for the job market in the digital economy or for effective citizenship in a democratic society, even though education as human development may include both of these things. But it includes much more, such as, for instance, the development of characteristics that culminate in one’s self-realization — what the Greeks called eudaimonia. Achieving eudaimonia implies defining, choosing and actualizing one’s life project.

2) Formal, Non-formal and Ubiquitous Education

Human development, thus conceived, begins, it goes without saying, at birth – and ends, most likely, only at death.

In an important article written in 2010, Ecuadorean educator Rosa Maria Torres welcomes UNESCO’s recognition that education (that she correctly considers synonymous with learning, not with teaching) is a lifelong process that begins at birth and ends only at death (“Lifelong Learning: Moving Beyond Education for All”, International Forum on Lifelong Education, Shanghai, China, May 19-21, 2010).

Her text shows that, by changing the theme from “Education for All” (that really meant schooling for all) to “Lifelong Education”, UNESCO changed the challenge that government educational policy and private educational programs around the world must face. In this case, the distinction between formal and non-formal education loses importance, since education is no longer synonymous with schooling and teaching, and learning takes place both in formal (school-like) and non-formal contexts. Concern with education must begin much earlier than regular schooling and involve the whole life of the person in its multiple dimensions. Education becomes an “anytime, anywhere endeavor” that lasts throughout one’s life. In other words, education becomes ubiquitous. Something ubiquitous is everywhere at the same time, i.e., is anywhere, anytime.

3) Society as the Learning Environment

Discussing the concept of education among the ancient Greeks and Romans, James L. Jarrett states, in his magnificent The Humanities and Humanistic Education (p.11):

“Indeed, neither Greek nor Roman was in the least likely to share the modern confusion that identifies education with schooling. We are shaped and formed by the totality of our environment: it follows that we cannot afford to be careless about any aspect of that environment — architectural, legal, ceremonial, erotic, whatever“.

If education has to do with human development in all of its dimensions, and if it takes place throughout the life of the individual, it cannot be accommodated within the confines of a single (and often one-dimensional) institution, namely, the school, without losing its essential ubiquitousness.

Thus, when UNESCO tries, if not to obliterate the distinction between formal and non-formal education, at least to reduce its present importance, it is taking us back to a view already espoused by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

But the point of view defended by the ancient Greeks and Romans went beyond giving equal attention to formal and non-formal educational initiatives. They did not favor the schooling of society: they favored making society as a whole the environment in which we learn and thus educate ourselves. According to this view, to be concerned with education is not equivalent to creating and maintaining a good school system (public or private, makes no difference), much less to extending the time people remain in school (freely or under compulsion). Instead of proposing that the school should become a totalitarian institution in society, the ancient Greeks and Romans proposed that all the institutions and activities of society have an educational focus — that is, that society should become a truly educational (i.e., learning-centered) environment.

The richness of this  idea is mind-boggling. The ancient Greeks and Romans were not contemplating the educational role of only a few institutions of society, such as the family, the church, the local community, the communication means, industrial and commercial enterprises, cultural and leisure-focused organizations — not even of the school. They meant that every institution and every activity of society, from the way cities are planned and built, passing through how they are organized and governed (including, necessarily, their laws) and through how they are maintained by means of free economic activities, and arriving at how leisure is promoted and organized, that all of this be learning-focused – that is, be educational.

Rather than proposing a totalitarian schooling of society, they proposed the total deschooling of society (à la Ivan Illich), because learning should become society’s overall focus and concern. If the ancient Greeks and Romans had known the present digital information and communication technologies, they would probably have emphasized their point much more strongly and realistically.

4) How Learning and Education Take Place

Paulo Freire, Brazil’s best known educator, said in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed the following (here in a somehow free translation that joins ideas found in more than one place):

“Nobody educates anybody, but nobody educates himself either. We educate each other through a continuous dialogue, mediated by the world, in which we use resources that, in traditional education, are owned only by the teacher. Education therefore is a mutual, world-mediated process in which unfinished beings, conscious of their incompletion, attempt to be more fully human”.

5) Our Role in Education

What do these reflections, that mix the thought of the ancient Greeks and Romans with the thought of a leading Enlightenment figure and of a 20th-century Brazilian educator, have to say to us, who live in the 21st-century? What does it have to say  to governments, private companies, non-governmental organizations, etc., in fine, to anyone concerned with making a contribution to education, and thus to the betterment, of society?

First, we would do well to set our view, in education, way beyond traditional targets such as digitalizing present curricular content so it can be delivered through digital channels, or preparing present teachers to use digital tools to better deliver content that is in digital format. If we confine ourselves within these traditional limits, we deny ourselves the alternative of following the suggestion of the ancient Greeks and Romans that the whole of society be educational – the learning environment par excellance in which human development takes place.

Second, we would do well to stop viewing our target audience as being only either students or teachers (that is, school-bound people). Our target audience clearly includes present students and teachers, as long as they exist as such, but also, as a matter of fact, everyone engaged in the educational task of, through dialogue, overcoming their unfinished, incomplete condition and becoming more fully human. And we ought to become fully aware that educational work is done in the world, not necessarily in schools.

Third, Bill Gates, in one of his books, underlined an important contribution technology companies can make to the digital economy. However, in line with what I just said, he might as well be underlining the main contribution technology companies can make to education, conceived along the lines here described. Here is what he said:

“Digital tools magnify the abilities that make us unique in the world: the ability to think, the ability to articulate our thoughts, the ability to work together to act on those thoughts.  I strongly believe that if companies empower their employees to solve problems and give them potent tools to do this with, they will always be amazed at how much creativity and initiative will blossom forth” (Bill Gates, with Collins Hemingway, Business @ the Speed of Thought – Using a Digital Nervous System, 1999, p. 415, last paragraph of the book).

If we apply this reasoning to education, we will stop thinking only of companies and their employees and start thinking of society and everyone that inhabits it…  “Digital tools magnify the abilities that make us unique in the world: the ability to think, the ability to articulate our thoughts, the ability to work together to act on those thoughts”. If society empowers its members to solve problems and gives them potent tools to do this with, we will all be amazed at how much creativity, initiative and genuine learning will blossom forth.

If the analysis here made makes sense, then it makes no sense to think of technology companies as entities that do not need (or even ought not) to have a stand on substantive educational issues, since they (as some have argued) cannot get involved with the “pedagogical black box” with which only professional educators would be authorized to deal. In what is here proposed, technology companies become a very important part of the overall educational environment that is our society, and, even if we do not take into account their philanthropic and/or corporate social responsibility activities, their products and services still are part of the educational (i.e., learning-centered) environment which society makes available to its members.

It is clear, therefore, that technology companies would be contributing their due share to our society as its corporate citizens even if they only (as if this were little!) continued to offer to society quality digital tools and services that help bring forth the required creativity, ingenuity and initiative that will help us solve many of our problems. (See Jean-François Rischard, High Noon).

Fourth, the initiatives in the area of formal (school-focused) education and in the area of community affairs, supporting programs and organizations that work with digital inclusion and non-formal education, that most of the main technology companies have taken, are also part of their educational effort, if education is understood in the broader perspective that is suggested here.

Fifth, in the broader perspective that is suggested here, the description that Microsoft, one of the major technology companies of our time, used to make of its “core mission” as a “corporate citizen” of our society is not mere rhetoric: “to help people and businesses around the world realize their full potential”. Realizing one’s full potential is equivalent, in the case of individuals, to achieving self-realization — which is the goal of human development, that is, of education.

But this is a general statement. We are specific individuals, each one with their own interests and passions, gifts and talents, levels of ambition, motivation and energy. The central initial focus of education must be the definition and choice of one’s life project. After that comes the effort to transform that project into reality. In this process, monitoring and evaluation are invaluable to show the need of small course corrections or, eventually, of drastic revisions in the plan of action.

Education, it can be summarized, is equivalent to the strategic planning of one’s life and to the execution of this strategic plan. We do not do it alone: we do it collaboratively.

São Paulo, on the 7th of October, 2012, revised in São Paulo, on the 22nd of August, 2017

(*) I thank Microsoft’s Brazilian subsidiary for the authorization to use in this article material that I wrote at her request five years ago.

Deschool Education or Change/Innovate/ Transform/Reinvent the School?

The main objective of this blog is to show that we can promote and drastically improve education by creating a learning society in which schools play no role (except, perhaps, that of temporary custodians of people who have no other place to be).

An enormous effort and a fantastic amount of money are dedicated nowadays to attempts to promote and improve education by changing / innovating / transforming / reinventing schools. The results are dismal.

This blog will propose a different route – which is not in any way new.

In 1970 Ivan Illich wrote his path-breaking book Deschooling Society. At that time the information and communication technologies (ICT) we have today still did not exist. And yet Illich proposed something very similar to what his friend Paulo Freire was demanding, more or less at the same time, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed: that we educate one another through interaction, dialogue, collaboration, personal exchanges – without any need of schools and professional educators.

Today we have fantastic ICT that allow us easy access to the Internet’s universal library and, more important, that allow us easy access to one another, to people with sophisticated competencies, knowledge and expertise that, incredible as it may seem, are often quite willing to communicate with others, on a one-to-one basis or in more general environments, to share what they know and know how to do, in order to help them learn what they are interested in learning, want or need to learn.

It is now possible, through the many social networks and media, to bring the maieutic learning methdology proposed by Socrates to scale, offering everyone a personalized education that satisfies their interests, wants and needs.

In times past (and present) we worried about teaching methodologiesdidactics. It is now more than time that we move on to worry about learning methodologiesmathetics, as Seymour Pappert proposed (and he was a good friend of Freire and Illich as well).

In 1983 I wrote an article questioning those who viewed ICT as ways to automate  teaching through teaching machines and programmed instruction and proposed instead that we view ICT as tools to enable and facilitate humam learning. At about the same time Bill Gates, in his first book (Business @ the Speed of Thought), insisted that the revolutionary potential of ICT in Education was in that it put people in contact with people, and gave them access to information so they could do whatever they wanted or needed to do to promote their interests and transform them into reality.

To learn, as Peter Senge showed in The Fifth Discipline, is not to accumulate information (to become “mentally obese” with information, as Rubem Alves said, in more than one place): to learn is to become capable of doing that which we could not do before (and, often, wanted to do). As simple as that. To learn is to build capacity (capacity building). To learn is to develop competencies (competency development). To learn is to gradually make of ourselves fully sculpted or sculptured human beings, to make ourselves that which we want to become, to define a life project for ourselves and to effectively act to make it a reality.

Differently from many other animal species, we are born not knowing much and not knowing how to do almost anything. We are born “inautonomous” (not to say incompetent), unable to take care of ourselves. That is why we have to depend on others for quite some time – until we start learning things and, most importantly, until we start learning how to do things. We take about one year to start walking, two to three years to start communicating verbally in a minimally effective manner… Some kids (?) in our society require about 25 to 30 years to find out what they want to make of themselves and to become financially (and otherwise) autonomous in the care of themselves.

Toddlers

Fortunately we are born with three characteristics that are essential to human development:

a) our genetic programming is minimal and open: within limits, we can become almost anything we want;

b) our innate capacity for learning (in the sense seen above) is incredibly large, flexible, and quite effective;

c) otherwise we have quite different individual features from one another added to our basic common human substratum.

Given these features, mass education, education of the type “one size fits all”, should be banned. Personalized education is imperative. And, today, we all can achieve it, with the help of already available technologies. Today we can bring socratic maieutic to scale so it can benefit everyone.

So, the time is ripe to deschool and personalize education and to make ours truly a learning society.

São Paulo, on the 22nd of August, 2017

 

What I Think

It took me several long years to convince myself of the truth of several theses that I find extremely important today:

(01) That education has to do with learning (not with teaching);

(02) That what happens to children in schools, as a result of teaching, is not learning, being, in the best possible case, nothing more than information absorption and assimilation — which may be important, in certain contexts, but otherwise make people “mentally obese” (Rubem Alves), and certainly is not education;

(03) That learning, as such, has to do with capacity building and competency development, that is: to learn is to become capable of doing things which one was not capable of doing before;

(04) That important, relevant and “significative” (meaningful) learning takes place through active observation, emulation, interaction, dialogue, collaboration, mediation, etc. in the context of projects that challenge children (or any other would-be learners) to solve problems related to their interests and concerns in the process of living their lives in the real world;

(05) That this kind of learning is more impeded than promoted in artificial ghetto-like environments such as schools, even if these environments are effective in achieving the conventional objectives schools normally seek to promote, and even if they are reduced in scale to operate in one’s own home, but try to replicate the schools that exist outside, as most home schooling initiatives do;

(06) That what we need today is a radical unschooling (in the line of Ivan Illich’s “deschooling society”) that definitively breaks the factual link that exists today between education and schools (a conceptual or necessary link never having existed);

(07) That home education (provided it does not emulate what goes on in schools in terms of its goals, contents, methods, approach to evaluation, etc.) is clearly part of the solution, since the home certainly must become again a meaningful and coherent educational environment, but is only a portion (though a significant one) of the large-scale solution that is presently required;

(08) That home education must be complemented by educational efforts by the extended family, the community (neighborhood), the church, the club, all the other places of leisure and play, the places of work, the social networks, the media, etc. — in one idea, by the society at large, that must become a learning society – without any overall effort at coordination by governments or the like;

(09) That the fundamental content of this education is basically contained, as far as cognitive (or hard, or basic) competencies are concerned, in the Medieval Trivium (the first three Liberal Arts: Language, Logic and Rhetoric), and, as far as the so-called non-cognitive (or soft, or 21st-century) skills, in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Very Effective People;

(10) That the mastery of numerical, geometrical, symbolical, scientific and artistic competencies (that make up the Medieval Quadrivium) can be gradually inserted, in a personalized manner, into the education of learners that demonstrate interest and aptitude in these fields and to the extent that their passion and talent permit.

(c) Eduardo CHAVES, 2017

In Ubatuba (SP/BR), on the 9th of July of 2017

Postscriptum of June 16th, 2018:

I wrote this Decalogue one year ago, in June 2017, while I prepared a paper for the PBL-2018 Conference on Problem-Based Learning and Other Active Methodologies, which received the title “Reinventing the School or Deschooling Education?” (The Conference took place in February 2018 in Santa Clara, CA, in the campus of the Santa Clara University).

Although I wrote this Decalogue only one year ago, the ideas that came into it had been taking shape for well over 50 years, ever since I started High School in 1961 in a boarding school in Brazil, the Institute José Manuel da Conceição, located in a small community in Jandira, SP, in the neighbourhood of São Paulo. These ideas were fairly well completed, in a coherent educational outlook, by the time I was President of the Lumiar Institute, responsible for the Lumiar Schools, during 2007-2009.

I originally shared this Decalogue in my blog “EduTec Space” (https://edutec.space) on the 9th of July of 2017. I share it again, in the same blog and in a different blog (“Chaves Space”, https://chaves.space), for the benefit (I hope) of those who didn’t read it then.

EC