Why I won’t be signing the Manifesto15

Last year I wrote a blog post explaining why I didn’t want to sign the open letter against PISA. There is a new call for signatures with the Manifesto15 and for the past 3 days I have been thinking and making up my mind. And no, I won’t be signing it.

There are several reasons, but first let me begin with the parts I agree with:

  • not unlike the open letter against PISA I agree with the danger of a too big influence of  the OECD on education worldwide, although I still think that as one source of information it can be very interesting. There is also an economic focus the writers of the manifesto have troubles with, one I can agree with too, but they aren’t that consequent in this, as I will explain later.
  • the plea for less focus on technology, even the idea that it has to become invisible as being a normal part of education, is something that I can understand and even subscribe, iPads aren’t books, smart boards shouldn’t be blackboards,… Accessing new possibilities of technology is a good goal, although it shouldn’t mean abolishing ‘older’ stuff that works.
  • Kids are people too, of course. But as Paul Kirschner added on twitter: @P_A_Kirschner: And while kids are people, others (teachers?) might have a better idea of what can/should be learnt.
  • The importance of trust in schools and communities I can only applaud.

Still, I have several issues that prevent me from signing:

  • First of all: the day that I use a concept such as “kids 3.0” just slap me. Kids are no software! And please don’t use kids 3.0 to describe anything besides kids. In the manifesto the concept is used to describe a contradiction between education 1.0 and society today, not the children. So it’s not an example of digital native-thinking, but there are other misconceptions. There are more differences inside generations than between generations, so labelling kids as one group, well, is talking about mankind 3.0. And I think that for some parts we’re still mankind 1.0 and for many other mankind 7.9. Also, schools 5.8 or something similar would be more adapt. In the manifesto education 1.0 is the factory-based model from the 18th century. But schools go back way further. Compulsory education is something from the 18th century – and the 19th and 20th depending of the region. But schools have been around from ancient times and have developed throughout the middle-ages and Renaissance, and have been changing steadily throughout. The manifesto made me reread Comenius who described schools as “the slaughterhouses of minds” and “places where minds are fed on words” something that the authors seems to subscribe. These weren’t the factory-based schools, as he wrote it in 1657 almost a century before the first factory was established. But schools nowadays have changed, a lot, influenced by Comenius, Rousseau, Dewey, and many others. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. The grammar of schooling remained, is this what the subscribers are attacking or is it something else?
  • The fact that education is compulsory is not something that the manifesto is attacking, I hope? I don’t think that making education not compulsory anymore will benefit all kids from all layers of our society. Or maybe they are attacking the compulsory curriculum? Could be, many of the original signatories have a background in Sudbury schools. Still, I think that Biesta is correct in describing 3 functions of school: qualification, socialization, subjectification. A compulsory curriculum is therefor needed imho.
  • Although the manifesto speaks about the importance of networks, referring to Siemens and connectivistic thinking, the emphasis in the manifesto is highly individual. Combining individualism with entrepreneurship or entreprenerds is a bit to neoliberal to my taste. The individual is important, I agree, but the group as such too. And although the entreprenerd should look for solutions that benefit all , “creating futures with positive outcomes that benefit all people in the world”, even when discussing this form of learning together it is dominantly individual-based: “We must center on the ability of individuals to navigate this space and make connections on their own, discovering how their unique knowledge and talents can be contextualized to solve new problems.” A bit more social, group and together would have benefited the manifesto.
  • Asking for trust in educators and at the same time describing schools as built on “cultures of obedience, enforced compliance, and complacency”, well is showing that the authors of the manifesto distrust present educators themselves claiming them as lazy “It is easier to be told what to think than to think ourselves” This is a very old rhetorical trick, making a parody of what you’re attacking, but it doesn’t help their case. I’ve met too many great teachers, principals and policy makers actually thinking for themselves, working their hearts out to sign something claiming the opposite.
  • If schooling was so brainwashing and creativity killing as the authors describe how come we have seen so many developments? Is it despite schools? Don’t think so.

Don’t think I don’t want change, certainly not, as I think that education is changing all of the time. And I do appreciate the fact that people get together to think about education. I appreciate the fact that it kept my mind busy for 3 days. But no, I won’t be signing.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Why I won’t be signing the Manifesto15

  1. Reblogged this on X, Y of Einstein? and commented:

    Er is ondertussen ook een Nederlandse vertaling van Manifesto15 en daarom plaats ook mijn reactie op deze blog met de uitleg waarom ik het manifest niet zal tekenen.

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