Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Groundhog Day - Insanity, Change and Education!

February 2nd is Groundhog Day. Tradition suggests on this day groundhogs emerge from their dens and, if they see their shadows, they are frightened back into hibernation and there will be six more weeks of winter. Canada's most famous groundhog is Wiarton Willie of Ontario. Turns out the original Willie died in his sleep during the winter of 89 (bet that made for a long winter!) and his replacement Wee Willie, passed away in the 90's. Canada now relies on Willie III for his prognosticating prowess. Its all just fantasy however. Groundhogs don't really care much for their shadows. Their emergence in February has far more to do with being hungry than with any desire to predict the weather.

Groundhog Day is also a 1993 movie starring Bill Murray. Murray plays a cynical weatherman assigned to cover the Groundhog Day story. By fantastic circumstance he ends up doomed to relive the day over and over again, until he accepts his fate and truly changes into a better man. Murray is also linked to a ground dwelling rodent in the film "Caddyshack". He plays a crazed greens keeper who repeatedly tries to rid his golf course of a pesky gopher. In both films, the Murray character experiences the futility of trying to achieve different results with essentially the same approach over and over again.

It was Albert Einstein who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” He also said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  His comments, made over half a century ago, resonate for education today. The world is changing and education systems are changing too. BC recently released its new Plan for Education. Honoring past accomplishments and citing the relative strength of BC's public school system, the plan points out that to stay strong education needs to adapt and explore new ways of preparing students for a future that is increasingly hard to  predict. The plan seeks public input and illustrates instances where innovative thinking is already being used. 

The plan has its critics. Change is scary, and it comes hard when people are not convinced that the methods of the past shouldn't just be maintained into the future. There is a reluctance from some to accept that the students of today are not just as well served by time tested methods of the past. The problem lies in the fact that today's learners are different. Armed with technology like ipads, cell phones and easy internet access, students are increasingly able to tune out and follow their own interests if school fails to engage them. The challenge is how to combine the strengths of the past with the opportunities and challenges of the future, and keep public education vital to everyone. 

Education cannot stay trapped in a Groundhog day loop with every year rolling out like the one before. Nor can it subscribe to the insanity of always doing things the same but expecting different results. Instead, it needs to innovate and reinvent itself, to find ways to change that honor and preserve the best of what has always worked well, but also engage students of the present and future. Responding to BC's Plan for Education is a good start in that direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment