The myth of Pandora’s Box tells us that we can unwittingly unleash terrible and unexpected things into the world through rash action. Might we re-construct this metaphor just a bit for the future of K-12 schools?
“Terrible” and “unexpected” are two very different categories. We should not be afraid of the unexpected. The world changes and we have to prepare ourselves and our students to deal with that change, uncertainty, and ambiguity. “Terrible” is, of course, a different matter. There are bad things in the world and we don’t want them in our lives.
But what if some of those things we immediately see as “terrible” are really just uncomfortable, dissonant, or quirky? Don’t we find opportunities for growth, change, and value-laden innovation in those?
Let’s take some liberty with this myth and think about opportunities for your school to change with the world around us. Imagine a version of Pandora’s Box in which you collectively crack the lid and allow some of those uncertain, uncomfortable options to emerge. Allow the questions to flow out at a manageable rate, and deal with them…and their spin-offs. Problems, opportunities, “terrible”, and unexpected events never come alone; they are part of complex systems that we understand and exploit through a patient, intentional, transparent process of systematic problem solving.
Schools are becoming less afraid of opening The Box. This fall I am dealing with several schools that have opened The Box by asking deep questions about their use of “time”. Asking that question authentically, not just to marginally tweak a daily schedule that is completely at odds with great learning, but to really align “time” to “learning”, is to open a Box of interlinked questions that ultimately lead to a much larger re-imagination of the basic operating system of your school.
Sound scary? Want to keep the lid slammed shut? Sorry; you can’t have it both ways. The real message of the myth of Pandora’s Box is that the Box is either open or shut. I vote for open.