Shouldn’t our learning be attuned to the rhythms of the world around us rather than isolated from them? And not just at the margins, but at the core? How many teachers, given a blank score upon which to compose their lesson-learning would select the same march they taught 20 years ago, and how many would choose to co-create jazz with their students?
Frequency and periodicity measure how often something changes. We measure sound waves or electrical current by the number of cycles in a second: 60 Hertz means that 60 peaks and troughs pass in a single second. On an assembly line, cycles are measured by the passage of units, parts, completed items, the coming and going of the day and night shifts. We program the machinery and the people to work in rhythm to efficiently cooperate in order to achieve our manufacturing goals.
Traditional education is, unfortunately, essentially the same. We program the system to instill a pre-determined quantity of knowledge into our learning units (students) over a certain period of time. External influencers program the process. Re-programming is difficult, and therefore rare. Teachers transmit the programming. The rhythm beats on.
But we know this is utterly wrong. We bristle at the rigidity of AP courses that are challenging but rarely changed; unyielding standardized exams that look almost the same today as they did 50 years ago; static curricular sequences in a rapidly changing world; teaching methods left untouched by the radical influence of modern brain research. Think of the world outside our school walls in the last twenty years: a complete upheaval of world politics driven by an expired Cold War; the meteoric social and economic rise of China; instant communication by and amongst half the population of the planet; the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world from one set of nations to another; a ballistic increase in technological and scientific discovery; a massive economic upheaval that has re-written the legacy of the American Dream; the longest-running war in American history; and unprecedented global environmental change. As this was going on, how much of our learning inside of school changed? 10%? 20%? Less? Much less?
After September 11, arguably one of the most important watershed events in the history of the country, our schools paused for a few moments or days of sorrow and reflection, put our heads back down, and re-joined the rhythm of education.
Ecosystems are firmly connected to the world in which we live. Not only do they respond to the rhythm and cycles of the world, they are strengthened by those responses. The natural cycles of sunlight, seasons, warmth and cold, birth and death, famine and surplus, flood and draught, migration, growing and molting—these are embedded in the organisms and processes that thrive, and the system is strengthened by them. Successful species and healthy ecosystems are not programmed by an external force in response to environmental change; they self-evolve and adjust in concert and connection with the beat of the dynamic world in which they live.
(Partly borrowed and modified from a post in August 2012)