I read an article today with the following headline: „We must teach kids AI now! The why, the what and the how“ I discovered this article via the wonderful weekly newsletter Dalith & Andy | SwissCognitive. The explanations about the impact of AI are excellent, professional and very well understandable for me. The author is writing about the urge for us as individuals and as societies to understand what artificial intelligence is, what it is able to do, what the opportunities and risks are. And as always, when a solution is sought, school is immediately resorted to. Why this will not work but even increase the problem is the subject of my post.
The author of the mentioned article describes the speed and exponentiality of change in society, technology and economy. These real changes and developments are not only taking place outside of school, but strictly speaking without it. The change we are in is complex, while school is a haven for complexity reduction. Change is ambiguous and characterized by enormous interactions, while school (among other things) simulates unambiguity and celebrates causality with its system of subjects and grading. Those who fail at school do not fail because of its complexity, but because of its complication. Those who can cope with it have seen through the latter.
If technological or other change were dependent on schools, we would be sitting somewhere in nowhere today. This should give us pause for thought: Why do we need the concept and system of school anymore – except to gather children in one place so parents can go about their business? If they still have a job …
Why do we hold so stubbornly to the belief that school will one day really help young people find their way into these new worlds, which to date are developing not because of the power of school, but beyond its grasp? We are wrong if we believe that competencies and skills required today actually come on their way through school.
What school is made for
School is not made or invented for change or to enable it. Neither in itself nor in society and economy. School was invented to stabilize and homogenize, not to strengthen diversity. The task is to reproduce cultural beliefs, not to provoke new ones. School is not made to support change or to empower for change. Therefore, it is unsuitable as a system and as a concept to support people to develop the skills to shape the change we are in.
School will always only be able to reproduce the old concepts, never to bring forth new ones. Perhaps that is why more and more people are trying, almost frantically, to implement innovative concepts in schools. But this will neither change school nor its purpose. It has been doing and proving that ever since it existed. Innovation and innovative people are not and have never been a consequence of school and school education. They have existed and continue to exist today despite school.
Even the promise of prosperity and social advancement through school is a lie – which, by the way, is not a child of the current pandemic, but much older. The pandemic is merely accelerating this drama, in part because schools are unable to organize education under conditions of digitality. That’s why even more children and young people are stuck now than ever before. This once again exposes the fairy tale of equalizing social inequality through school – along with the narrative of the permeability of the education system, which has long been empirically disproven.
We need a completely different, a whole new learning system that has nothing to do with the concept of school and teaching as we know it today – and we need it as soon as possible. But this is likely to be all the more difficult if even experts on the future cling to the conviction that this can only be achieved with the help of schools and teaching.
This is the Gordian knot of our present. In my view, it’s the biggest problem we suffer from today: That the belief in the social and economic redeeming function of schools is unbroken.
We have to get rid of this belief now.
Why we have to overcome schooling
Overcoming the concept of school and giving a decent burial to the hope that any veritable solution for the education of the future will come from the school system, or that it will be the place of such education. These are the next steps. School does not have any connection to solving our current and future challenges. It simply does not interface. It gets in the way of those solutions, and at the same time, it fills our kids‘ backpacks with tons of baggage that unnecessarily complicates their path to their future.
Neither education nor school policies and administrations are willing or able to take this on board and look at alternatives that already exist: to support and explore those to the best of their ability. Instead the traditional framework remains sacrosanct. Teacher education and training, that is, the academic-pedagogical environment of schools, is also despondent, bureaucratized, and lacks vision.
But the social mission is clear: to launch a fundamentally new system of learning and competence development that makes obsolete and replaces the outdated structures and concepts and ideas of school, teaching and education.
The difference between the old culture, from which school originated, and the new one, in which we have long since arrived, can only be understood by doing and experiencing. Only this makes it possible to understand and admit that this radical cultural change actually exists, which is still pending in the education system because they haven’t heard the bang there yet. Therefore, they are just adding new tools to the old workshop. It’s like acknowledging or denying climate change, where electric motors are now being installed in a mobility concept that actually has to be overcome: Crisis management is the disease of which it thinks it is the therapy, as Martin Burckhardt writes.
The new culture cannot be grasped, mastered and co-created with the routines of the old. She has long had her own.