Ask Dr Blank:“How do we tap into all learners’ sense of agency, idealism and their social imaginations, i.e. their capacity to imagine the world, as it should be, and the tools and capacities to act?”

Over the past several years, the approach to “reforming” education has consisted largely of criticism and condemnation. As a result, we often lose sight of the enormous good that education can and does achieve. Great thinkers over the centuries have recognized this as is evident from sayings such as:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” – John Dewey

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Aristotle

” The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” Abraham Lincoln

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

Of course, one might say that statements such as these are simply nice rhetoric which fails to tell us how these ambitious thoughts may be transformed into reality. But the fact of the matter is that we do have the information we need.  Educational leaders over the years have paved the way for us—leaders such as Maria Montessori from Italy (whose work led to the creation of the Montessori Schools), Rudolph Steiner from Germany (whose work is reflected in the Waldorf Schools) and Alexander Sutherland Neill from Scotland (creator of Summerhill). These are but a few of the visionaries who have shown us how to provide children with exciting, productive experiences that enable them to flourish. This is not to say that elaborations and modifications are unnecessary. Modern curricula have to incorporate advances brought about by the high tech revolution.  But in the main, the ideas of leaders such as those cited above still hold. The difficulties rest not with developing the information, but rather with the willingness of the “establishment” to implement that information.  Admittedly, some of the ideas have been incorporated into traditional educational settings, but they are usually isolated bits and pieces that do not change the core of what children are exposed to. So the key issue is: how do we alter bureaucracies so that they become more responsive to the abilities, potential and interests of children?

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