I found this really interesting blog about the whole idea of the “factory model of education” and its origins from the economic circumstances surrounding the industrial revolution. Of particular interest is this little extract taken from Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock that was mentioned in the author’s post:
Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialism to produce the kind of adults it needed. The problem was inordinately complex. How to pre-adapt children for a new world – a world of repetitive indoor toil, smoke, noise, machines, crowded living conditions, collective discipline, a world in which time was to be regulated not by the cycle of sun and moon, but by the factory whistle and the clock.
The solution was an educational system that, in its very structure, simulated this new world. This system did not emerge instantly. Even today it retains throw-back elements from pre-industrial society. Yet the whole idea of assembling masses of students (raw material) to be processed by teachers (workers) in a centrally located school (factory) was a stroke of industrial genius. The whole administrative hierarchy of education, as it grew up, followed the model of industrial bureaucracy. The very organization of knowledge into permanent disciplines was grounded on industrial assumptions. Children marched from place to place and sat in assigned stations. Bells rang to announce changes of time.
The inner life of the school thus became an anticipatory mirror, a perfect introduction to industrial society. The most criticized features of education today – the regimentation, lack of individualization, the rigid systems of seating, grouping, grading and marking, the authoritarian role of the teacher – are precisely those that made mass public education so effective an instrument of adaptation for its place and time.
It is uncanny and quite frankly a little disturbing how accurate this description is. The good thing is that there is a wind of change. This video from RSA Animate (one of my favorite youtube channels) gives a really good overview of the history of the factory model of education and the changing paradigm shift. What I found particularly interesting (not surprising!) was the correlation between ADHD diagnosis (of almost epidemic proportions) and the rise of standardized testing. Watch the rest of the video (especially the bit on Divergent Thinking)! As a bonus here is another video I found particularly useful in helping me understand the history of education.
It’s time to leave behind the century-old education system andTurn the Page