It’s really not difficult to criticize schools. Just pointing at anything that happens in schools and then stating something like: “That sure looks old, why hasn’t it changed?” is enough, really. You might want to add: “Does this [random thing in school] adequately prepare students for the future?” Since nobody knows the answer to such a rhetorical question, the answer might as well be: no. The TED talks with the most views and likes are about exactly this, the most famous of which are the talks by Sir Ken Robinson. I analysed those a few years ago. What struck me most about these talks was the use of many rhetorical devices to get the point across. When you remove all those elements, what you are left with is a fairly bland argument about, for example, the lack of attention to particular talents in schools. Hold the revolution. In my view, talks like this make people believe that everything is wrong in education, and that therefore everything should change. To someone like me, who knows a thing or two about educational research, this never ceases to irritate. To a teacher, it must be even more annoying to be put in one’s place by someone who is usually far removed from the field of education. In any case, if everything is so wrong in education, it sure is a miracle most of us have turned out to be fairly successful in life. Still, Ken Robinson is very popular. His ideas certainly touch a nerve. Criticism of the school system is probably as old as the school system itself. Undoubtedly, criticism has been a driving force behind many reforms and innovations in teaching and learning. My own work is, to a certain extent, based on criticism of educational practice. Still, I try to approach educational questions from a scientific viewpoint, something that can’t be said for everyone.
Some time ago, a video appeared on Youtube with the interesting title: “I just sued the school system!” (in all capitals). It quickly gained over a million views. The video was created by Prince Ea, an American spoken word artist, poet, rapper and filmmaker (wikipedia). If you haven’t yet done so, you might like to watch the video first.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The cinematics, lighting, the acting, and the music are all first-class (there’s even a ‘making of’ video). Prince Ea makes a persuasive case for educational reform Or does he? In this blog post, I analyze the case Prince Ea makes. Let’s say I’m the lawyer representing the school system (a devil’s advocate, indeed!)
To be able to comment on the case Prince Ea makes in this video, first I transcribed the whole movie to focus on the words themselves. The transcript is written below (in italics). I have divided the text into different parts (unrelated to cuts or camera changes in the movie), and my specific comments on the movie are written below each part. So bear with me, and let’s see if I can persuade both you and the presiding judge that Prince Ea is wrong in sueing the school system.