Fall in line.
Shudder. To be honest, when listed together like that, that’s a set of words that kind of give me the heebie-jeebies (in a robot-human, 1984-esque dystopian kind of way). I’ve started referring to these type of words as the “Command and Comply” approach to classroom management and even to school management (more to come in a future post on the connection between the ways we manage kids, the ways we manage adults, and the trickle-down effects that can occur). “Command and Comply” is a common approach– dare I say even the most common or prevailing approach out there. It’s what most of us grew up with in both our homes and our schools, which leads many to the “…but I turned out fine” argument fallacy. It’s an approach that somehow got frozen in time and remains intact today, reminiscent of a bygone era while time continues to pass it by.
Unfortunately, that set of words listed above gets hurled around a lot– not only by education outsiders, but sadly insiders as well– when talking about what ”kids these days” lack and what we need to give them to teach them a lesson. Our human nature leads us to fear what we don’t understand, and let’s be real– there’s a lot going on in the 21st century world that many of us just plain do not understand.
But do these words really represent what “kids these days” need? Let’s take a look at the top 10 skills that the World Economic Forum (WEF) indicates are most needed for the workforce of today and even tomorrow:
On the flipside, if there were one word we could use to sum up the goal of 21st century discipline, it would be autonomy. The 21st century brings with it what the WEF calls a 4th industrial revolution, characterized by a “range of new technologies that combine the physical, digital and biological worlds. These new technologies will impact all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenge our ideas about what it means to be human” (Forbes).
Now that the “4th revolution” is upon us, it’s time to update not only our curricula, our buildings, and our views on teaching and learning, but also our views on discipline and behavior. A new era requires a new approach; new goals require new strategies. To butcher a wonderful quote by John Dewey, “If we [discipline] today’s students as we [disciplined] yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” Such is the case when we practice 19th century discipline in a 21st century world; it’s a classic square-peg-round-hole situation.
Based on the WEF list, the one skill that stands out most to me when I think about our ever-changing world is “cognitive flexibility,” which I would pair with resilience. This pair of dispositions will become more and more critical over time since “65% of children entering primary schools today will ultimately work in new job types and functions that currently don’t yet exist.” We are preparing students for a world that we can’t even visualize. A “do as your told” approach to discipline isn’t sustainable when we don’t even know what to tell them to expect.
In the same vein as the WEF study above, a second study was conducted by nonprofit research group The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which Forbes highlighted in 2013:
Writing for the blog A Fine Parent, educator and parent Lisa Anderson elaborated on this concept from a parenting standpoint as well:
Did you ever hear, “Because I say so, that’s why!!” or “Do what I tell you, or else!!” at some point in your childhood? Intimidation was the tool of choice used in those days to create compliant children.
This may have worked then, and probably still does in some households, but at what cost? Fear-based parenting is one way to get children to cooperate, but there are other tools that are far more effective in the long run.
If you want to raise strong children who are able to make decisions, they need to practice actually making those decisions. Allowing children to make decisions about things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things will give them confidence, build your relationship and ultimately, lead to more cooperation at home.”
Should any of this be surprising though when the environment in which these classes take place communicates to students around every turn that they cannot be trusted to think for themselves? How could we expect sophisticated reasoning in a STEM context when we don’t even let students make decisions about meeting their own basic needs? Everything from their eating schedules to their bathroom breaks are heavily regulated and outside their control. If we want critical, reflective thinkers, we have to stop micromanaging their every move.
SO IF THE OLD WAYS OF DISCIPLINING WON’T LEAD TO NEW WAYS OF THINKING, WHAT WILL?
Sometimes complex ideas are best summed up in chart form. Here are a few ways to give your 19th century discipline a 21st century makeover:
19TH CENTURY WAS…
21ST CENTURY IS…
DISCIPLINE & EQUITY: CHOOSING TO WIDEN OR CLOSE THE GAP
Why change? How will we escape our addiction to “that’s the way we’ve always done it?” What is going to be motivating enough for us to overcome our innate fear of change and do things differently?
Perhaps the economic reasons above have captured your attention. The employment landscape is drastically changing as technology progresses, and schools must prepare the future workforce to further our economy and our society.
Or maybe you would consider the issue from the standpoint of moral development, as Kohlberg did in the 1950s. We want students graduating to higher levels of moral reasoning to make their lives and the world a better place. Imagining a society made up of individuals with intrinsic moral reasoning capabilities could be a convincing motivator to reconsider how we are designing and running our schools.
WEF sheds light on a stark realization:
In addition to being a key economic concern, inequality represents the greatest societal concern associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The largest beneficiaries of innovation tend to be providers of intellectual and physical capital—the innovators, shareholders, and investors—which explains the rising gap in wealth between those dependent on capital versus labor. The demand for highly skilled workers has increased, while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased. The result is a job market with a strong demand at the high and low ends, but a hollowing out of the middle.
Change is hard, and we get that. Updating a centuries-old model requires a serious investment of both time and money. As we’ve mentioned before, mindsets might be the hardest thing in the world to change. Concerns range from budget, to PR, to risk assessment, to district support, to parent education… the list of “why not”s could go on and on, but it’s the “why”s that we are interested in. We’re not saying it’s easy. We’re saying it is worth it.
And lastly, what do we do as Co-Creators to face these issues and make change happen?
We look forward to hearing from you!