I believe that many of us have noticed that learning starts when people are inspired, their imagination is flourishing and they have the possibility to follow their intuition. Learning begins when people feel the possibility of creative experimentation. Usually it happens when there are other creative people around and it is possible to get fully engaged with the surroundings and oneself, totally forgetting about other things, the world outside the space. Anyone who is able to provide the kind of experiences to others, is a wonderful teacher.
In 1991 proposed French philosophy professor Jacques Ranciere that teaching should “be performed by someone who effectively knows no more than the student, who has never made the voyage before him: the ignorant master.” (1991:29-30). It is two decades ago when his book “The Ignorant Schoolmaster” was first published in France, only now the wider educational audiences are getting to know about his works and starting to grasp some of the ideas presented there. The main idea of the book was to question the underlying power structures and assumptions in education that are rarely touched by most of the people self occupied in the field.
A quiet opposition by mainstream educational theorists was facing Edith Cobb, a women who spent her whole life researching poets imagination and how it develops, when she published her book “The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood”. She writes that “… individual men and women ultimately create cultural and social history in terms of their particular world imagery and their capacity to lead others to participate in the world as they see it, politically, aesthetically, philosophically, or otherwise.” (1977:18). Similarly to Ranciere she is stating that we, the learners and the teachers, have the power over ourselves. We are able to co-create the world with each other when we wish to do so.
Why is nothing happening in schools, in the numerous classes all around the world? Why do most of the people continuously think that education is all about the government rules, school regulations, tests and boring workbooks without the right answers? Is it because most of the people believe that in education there are always someone who knows and many others who will never be as clever?
This picture presents us with a sentimental stage of expertise in educational research. As I am the one who took the picture just a few weeks ago in Norway, I know that the audience mainly consisted of women. It is a typical picture of educational conferences held in Europe. An old man talking about his work, talking about something that has been done a long time ago and having a lot of women carefully listening and making notes. This is a picture of expertise in the field of education, where most of the people occupied with the work are women but the know-how still belongs to men. I would argue that the expert in education often looks like an old white Western male presenting himself, having only very little to do with the actual field of the research. The gap between educational theory and practice is therefore profound.
One of the most courageous school critics in USA, Everet Reimer, noted already back in 1970, after years of working with disadvantaged children in poor areas, that the school is dead. That statement was the title of his book “The School is Dead: Alternatives in Education”. It has been 40 years since but the school is still alive. The critique towards the school system has grown to be more profound than ever before and it makes one wonder what will happen in the future. How long is it possible to carry on?
In April this year I took another picture, this time in Sweden. I was again taking part of a conference about education and its future. This time I could see people on stage, people being active agents in the processes. The papers being read are the collected presentations from several workshops where the future of Waldorf Education in Sweden was discussed earlier the same day. The two conference days were full of lively discussions organized in different open formats and frame works led by people themselves.
After the conference was over I met women and men on their way back home, they were excited and felt empowered to continue their work in kindergarten groups and school classes. These people had experienced their voice having a meaning for the wider audiences; they had had a possibility to make a difference and continuously to do so. It made them feel as being part of the change taking place, it gave them lot of hope for the future and plenty ideas how to proceed.
Where is the change in education we have been talking about for so long? Where is the change we have been anticipating for decades? I would like to share with you a provocative thought: Perhaps the educational realities have already changed but it is just us who have not noticed it yet? As being very actively travelling Europe and visiting schools, conferences, meetings, numerous online networks and webpages, I witness school change taking place every day. This change manifests itself in these moments of “ordinary” people having the possibility of making their voice heard and actions visible. Until we continue to worship the golden experts and have faith only in fame and titles, and “official” “peer reviewed” research, the change will not be noticed and it will feel as we were living in old times and old paradigms forever.