We are living a dilemma in education (Basic Education, K-12 Education).
This is the dilemma: Many educationalists seem to think that:
- We must change the way people get educated.
- If we want to change the way people get educated, then we must change schools.
- If we want to change schools, then we must change teachers.
- If we want to change teachers, then we must change the way they are formed.
- If we want to change the way teachers are formed, then we must change schools of education.
- It is impossible to change schools of education.
- Therefore, it is impossible to change the way people get educated.
This argument is formally valid. It is a complex instance of the famous modus tollens argument.
In premises 2-5 we have a chain of four conditional statements. The consequent of the premise 2 is the antecedent of premise 3, the consequent of the premise 3 is the antecedent of premise 4, and the consequent of the premise 4 is the antecedent of premise 5.
Premise 6 denies the consequent of premise 5, and therefore (through the chain) denies the antecedent of premise 2. This denial is the conclusion of the argument.
So, according to this argument, we must change the way people get educated but it is impossible to do it.
The argument is formally valid, but it it has not been proved that it is sound. To be sound, it must be formally valid and all of its premises must be true. In this case, its conclusion must be necessarily true.
Since premises 1 and 7 seem to be contradict each other, we have a dilemma: it is impossible to do what we must do.
The only way out of the dilemma is to deny that the argument is sound. To do so we must claim that at least one of the premises of the argument is not true.
We could reject the truth claim of premise 2 by arguing that we can change the way people get educated without changing schools. Schools could simply be bypassed and ignored in a new kind of education. It could be replaced by a learning society, where people learn anywhere and anytime, in non-formal interactions, face-to-face or virtual.
We could also reject the truth claim of premise 4 by arguing that we can change teachers after they are formed – that is, after they are out of the chains of schools of education. In this case, even though their initial preparation is flawed, we can correct it through alternative forms of continuing education.
We could also deny the truth claim of premise 6 and show that schools of education can be changed – incredible as it may seem at first sight.
So, what do we do?
I want to offer another solution to the dilemma.
In the spirit of Thomas S. Kuhn’s famour 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that introduced the discussion of paradigms and paradigm shifts, I suggest:
- A group of very intelligent young people and very wise retired folk, without any ties to present education systems and present schools of education decides, after as much discussion and deliberation its members consider necessary, what sort of education we need to have in the Learning Economy, what sort of organizations and what sort of people are best equipped to manage and implement it;
- The same group decides how to build these organizations and how to recruit the people that are going to be involved in it, both as mentors and “mentees”;
- Governments decree (the way they decree other unpopular measures, that is, not very democratically) that new mentors (“teachers”) will henceforth be prepared exclusively in these organizations in the form chosen;
- The rest of society patiently waits for present teachers and professors of education to retire or die – and offers them attractive plans for early retirement.
That will be it. In due time the educational paradigm will be changed.
In São Paulo, April 16, 2013
(*) A version of this paper was presented today in the Education Leaders Roundtable, sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, as part of its HP Catalyst Academy Program’s Summit in São Paulo, Brazil.