I haven’t read A Place Called School. Yet. But it’s one of those books that comes up when I talk to and listen to and read folks who talk, listen and write about what schools are and what they might yet be. And this piece on its author, John Goodlad, who died earlier this month, helped me remember that I need to get that book on my reading list. Here’s the choice bit:
The project convinced Mr. Goodlad that education reformers cannot simply take a successful education innovation and ‘install’ it in a new school, he told Education Week shortly after A Place Called School was published. ‘Several years ago,’ he said, ‘I gave a talk in Beverly Hills to a very sophisticated, bright audience. It was on the dynamics of educational change and the change processes. After it was all finished, the first question was, ‘All right, can you tell us what it is you’re supposed to do to bring about change?’ ‘And I’d just finished,’ he continued. ‘This woman didn’t even begin to grasp the notion of what it’s like for people to empower others to make their own decisions, how that requires trust, and that people will do dumb things. What she was looking for was: Tell me, one-two-three, how to do it. And there are no one-two-threes.’
“There are no one-two-threes.” A hard, but humbling, reminder from someone who paid close attention to schools and education for most of a century. Better still was the list of criteria for meaningful change:
- empowering others to make their own decisions
- building trust
- allowing people to make mistakes and, from time to time, “do dumb things”
I’m so cool with that list. Wish I saw more efforts focused on those things. On my mind of late: How do we help to build good structures for people who need structures to help them learn how not to need other people’s structures1? How do we build schools and classrooms and learning experiences like that? I wonder if some of that answers are in that book I need to read.
- Okay, this has been on my mind for most of my career. [↩]