This is especially true in high schools, where school systems base education on the principles of the assembly line and the efficient division of labour. Schools divide the curriculum into specialist segments:"some teachers install math in the students; and others install history. They arrange the day into standard units of time, marked out by the ringing of bells, much like a factory announcing the beginning of the workday and the end of breaks. Students are educated in batches, according to age, as if the most important thing they have in common is their date of manufacture. They are given standardized tests at set points and are compared with each other before being sent out onto the market.
Too often the changes made over the years to education have been simply trivial. In his book The Red Pencil, Ted Sizer writes:
Most of it is not only recognizable; it is still fully accepted and honored today as a representation of what we call secondary school: a class of twenty or so adolescents gathered by age into grades to learn together a subject both for its content and for the skills embodied in that content taught by a single teacher who is responsible for delivering that material, assigning homework, and assessing each student's performance in a uniform manner, all this proceeding in sequential blocks of time of forty to sixy minutes each in a specialized school building primarily made up of a succession of identical rooms taht are used for six hours for fewer than half the days in a year... This is what school is.
What makes the persistence of this routine even more interesting is that its effectiveness has long been known to be weak, "effectiveness" defined as the students' ultimate resourceful use of the content and skills being studied. Nonetheless, the form of such a "good" school is widely accepted, and today's students assembled in classes... surely have palms as sweaty as mine were. The red pencil has, perhaps, been replaced by the machine-graded standardized test, a trivial difference. Tradition in the framework of schooling has remarkable momentum.
School simply has not changed very much since the turn of the century - and I'm not referring to 1999 to 2000. I would wager Sir Ken Robinson's description of school would ring just as true for my grandfather who was born in 1916 and my father who was born in 1953, as I who was born in 1978.
My greatest fear is that my daughter, who was born in 2008, will understand all too well the system that Sir Ken Robinson describes.
If she responds to the above descriptions of schooling with anything less than shock and awe, we will know we have failed her.