Friday, February 4, 2011

Do we need a slow school movement?

The other day I read a thoughtful response to one of my blog entries on 21st Century Learning ( In it was a comment about the speed of technological change and how that is impacting the world.

The author is not alone. A common adage in the 21st Century literature is the "pace of change" and the need for students to be able to adapt to that pace. But perhaps, just like the need for a "slow food" movement, we will have a need for a "slow school" movement.

A few years back it was all the rage to discuss how children were sent to so many activities, so many after school lessons, so many weekend classes, that no time was left for simple play. I read recently about a parent group trying to win back recess time at their school. Some argue that the prevalence of ADHD is related to the amount and speed of stimuli in their environments - that children become acclimatized to an incredibly fast response time. The introduction of new technologies - texting, twitter, hand-held computers - is only increasing the amount of multi-tasking children do.

Maybe we have it backwards, and what is needed is not the ability to adapt to very fast change, but rather the ability to attend to and enjoy slow activities.

Evidently I am not the first educator to have these thoughts. A web site on "slow schools and slow education" describes the movement this way:

"Slow schools and slow education can refer to different aspects of education. Some people use the term slow schools to refer to schools that are attempting to bring slow food to the cafeteria or dining room.

For others it has far more implications and includes aspects of connection to knowledge, tradition, moral purpose and all that is important in life. In this sense it refers to the curriculum, the way it is delivered, the process of learning, management of the school, and even if school is the best vehicle through which to educate our children. So in this sense, it refers to bringing the slow movement into education....

Slow education is also about connection to knowledge and to learning – real learning. It is about leading a skilful life – doing no harm – and having respect for all living and non-living things. Slow education is a concept of 'ecological literacy'." (


  1. Definitely some food for thought! I would be great if we could find a way to integrate both schooling in rapid, interactive, multi-tasking environments with time and space designed to respect "slow education".

    Right now, the tech world exists pretty much entirely outside of the classroom, and with the depth and breadth of the curriculum, I don't feel as though we have the time required to pursue "slow schooling". We need to bridge these two worlds and welcome them into our schools.

  2. That's very interesting! I was talking to a teacher today about this very subject. We were talking about how we enjoyed some of our university courses because it allowed us to think about 1 or 2 ideas or topics for a long time. We could focus on those ideas and have a chance to explore them. Conversely in school for both the teacher and the student we're forced think about 100s of concepts and we get very little time to think about them.

  3. I am so glad to see this blog. As a language teacher (adult ESL, community college) I consider the trend toward faster and shorter education self-defeating. We treat education as thought it involved merely the transference of information. But it's a process of maturation, of becoming more human, and that takes time, practice, and reflection. I, however, represent a minority (and not truly welcome) voice in our community college district.